Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Bo's Cafe" Book Review and Giveaway!

Three friends get together and write a book that they hope will have spiritual impact on people's lives. What are the spiritual truths that they hope to convey? Grace. Yes, they go into the deep addictions and weaknesses we carry in our lives and even more importantly, how to overcome them. I love that they do not deal with anything superficially. There are no bandaids that will fall off and end up on the bottom of someone's shoe. It is about relationships, which lead to vulnerability which in turn can lead to honesty and then healing which is found in God. This is a huge part of the story and so well done. But the root of it all boils down to grace and how unwilling we are to accept it for ourselves. It's not about saying I'm sorry, but about forgiveness and repentance.

Steven Kerner is an amazing lead character, not because he's a great guy, he's amazing because of his flaws - the man has some major anger issues and he does not spare those around him, especially his wife. We get to watch him explode and lose his temper in all his stupidity (more than once) and yet you can't help pulling for him ("Come on Steven, calm down before you blow it. Don't say it, don't say it... NO! He said it!"). You feel for his longsuffering wife, Lindsay and his poor daughter Jennifer who is stuck in the middle of it all just praying that her parents don't get divorced.

Andy Monroe enters the picture and things start to change... or do they? Andy tries to befriend and mentor Steven but somedays he just doesn't want to be helped. Andy takes Steven to Bo's Cafe and introduces him to a cast of characters - Cynthia, Bo, Hank and Carlos. Steven can't believe that Andy thinks any of them are going to be able to help. It's not about help, it's about having a safe place. That is what Bo's Cafe is.

Walk with Steven as he tries to deal, mess up, deal, mess up, apologize and finally get real. Can his marriage survive? Can his new friendships survive? And what about his relationship with his daughter? Good storyline, but this book is definitely a thinker book, not cerebral like you think so hard you can't even enjoy it, but like the kind of book you can't possibly read and not ponder and ponder and ponder. If you are fortunate, this is the kind of book that will change who you are.

For a chance to win a copy of this book (there may be multiple winners!!!) leave a comment with your email telling me why you would want to read a book that will make you ponder things (think The Shack, So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore, etc...). I will enter you in the drawing! Good luck! And don't forget to learn more by visiting -

Book Overview
High-powered executive Steven Kerner is living the dream in southern California. But when his bottled pain ignites in anger one night, his wife kicks him out. Then an eccentric mystery man named Andy Monroe befriends Steven and begins unravelling his tightly wound world. Andy leads Steven through a series of frustrating and revealing encounters to repair his life through genuine friendship and the grace and love of a God who has been waiting for him to accept it. A story to challenge and encourage, BO'S CAFE is a model for all who struggle with unresolved problems and a performance-based life. Those who desire a fuller, more authentic way of living will find this journey of healing a restorative exploration of God's unbridled grace.

About the Authors
Bruce McNicol is president of Leadership Catalyst, Inc. and an international speaker and consultant. He holds a master's in theology and a doctorate in organizational and leadership development. Previously he served for ten years as president of the international church planting organization Interest Associates.

Bill Thrall serves as vice-chair of Leadership Catalyst, mentor, and coauthor of the bestselling TrueFaced resources (, The Ascent of a Leader, and Beyond Your Best.

John Lynch is a national conference speaker and writer for LCI, holds a master's of theoology from Talbot Seminary, and has twenty years' experience as a teaching pastor of Open Door Fellowship. He's also cofounder and playwright of a theater troupe in Phoenix.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow" Book Review and Giveaway!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow

Abingdon Press (September 2009)


Joyce Magnin

This is quite possibly one of the odder books I have reviewed this year. Right off the bat, in the
first chapter I am caught off guard. The central character in the book is Agnes Sparrow (as the title indicates) and we meet her immediately through the eyes of her sister, Griselda, the narrator. We see how she is the primary caregiver for Agnes who is 700 lbs and can't get around on her own. In the opening pages Agnes declares to Griselda that she will no longer leave their house, its just too hard. It was touching to see the dedication Griselda has for her sister, she was young when she decided that she would make Agnes her priority in life because she was so tired of people making fun of her and she wanted to be there for her.

The whole town reveres Agnes because she spends all day everyday in front of her living room window with her notebook praying for the people of the town. Miracles have happened and people attribute it to Agnes. Of course she hates that attention and tries to relay that it is God answering the prayers, not anything she is doing. Much of the beginning of the book is commotion over the townspeople wanting to erect a sign on the interstate that proclaims, "Brights Pond - Home of Agnes Sparrow". They also want a statue in the middle of town. She wants none of it and it is up to Griselda to stop it from happening.

The town characters are so well done - what a kooky cast to support Griselda and Agnes! Cora, Zeb and Vidalia are their closest friends while Eugene is a royal pain in the butt and Stu and Boris are Agnes' biggest fans and are the ones trying to get the sign up and the statue erected. Hezekiah comes into the picture after he hears about Agnes' miracle working powers in another town and he comes to find Agnes and get his miracle.

Hezekiah stumbles onto one of Agnes' secrets all while hiding some secrets of his own. This is where the book got off track for me. It's like all of a sudden it goes from being a cozy little character book to trying to be all things to all people... mystery, murder, suspense... and it lost its charm.

The funny thing is that when the book ended I was crying for the characters because they really did click with me... it was just that the story itself never seemed to find its niche. I know from experience though that many people will probably love this book, it just wasn't up my alley.

Since I have learned from experience that this book will be a blessing to someone else, I am giving my copy away. My favorite part of this book was the characters that live in Brights Pond, so leave me a comment telling me what one of your favorite characters in a book was (especially the quirky sidekick or secondary characters) along with your email and I will enter you in the drawing. And look for lots of winners this weekend as I start drawing for the giveaways I have going on right now! Good luck!

Joyce Magnin is the author of short fiction and personal experience articles. She co-authored the book, Linked to Someone in Pain. She has been published in such magazines as Relief Journal, Parents Express, Sunday Digest, and Highlights for Children.

Joyce attended Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship. She is a frequent workshop leader at various writer’s conferences and women’s church groups.

She has three children, Rebekah, Emily, and Adam; one grandson, Lemuel Earnest; one son-in-law, Joshua, and a neurotic parakeet who can’t seem to keep a name. Joyce leads a small fiction group called StoryCrafters. She enjoys baseball, football, cream soda, and needle arts but not elevators. She currently lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is her first published novel.


The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is the story of an unusual woman, Agnes Sparrow. No longer able or willing to leave her home, where she is cared for by her long-suffering sister Griselda, Agnes has committed her life to the one thing she can do-besides eat. Agnes Sparrow prays and when Agnes prays things happen, including major miracles of the cancer, ulcer-healing variety along with various minor miracles not the least of which is the recovery of lost objects and a prize-winning pumpkin.

The rural residents of Bright's Pond are so enamored with Agnes they plan to have a sign erected on the interstate that reads, "Welcome to Bright's Pond, Home of Agnes Sparrow." This is something Agnes doesn't want and sends Griselda to fight city hall.

Griselda's petitions are shot down and the sign plans press forward until a stranger comes to town looking for his miracle from Agnes. The truth of Agnes's odd motivation comes out when the town reels after a shocking event. How could Agnes allow such evil in their midst? Didn't she know?

Well, the prayers of Agnes Sparrow have more to do with Agnes than God. Agnes has been praying to atone for a sin committed when she was a child. After some tense days, the townsfolk, Griselda, and Agnes decide they all need to find their way back to the true source of the miracles-God.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, go HERE

"Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah" Book Review

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Three Weddings & a Bar Mitzvah

David C. Cook (2009)

Think "Sex in the City" meets Ivory soap. Four 20 somethings live in a house together and are as different as they can be while they deal with situations that would make a soap opera spin on its head only they are just a little squeaky cleaner than they might be on daytime tv. Kendall is the self-centered, obnoxious one whose grandma owns the house they are living in. Leilani is the quiet, studious one with lots of secrets in her past. Anna is the daughter of a very traditional Mexican family who believe that she should live at home and wait to marry the right man while all she wants is to work on her career and have some independence. Megan is kind of the glue that holds them all together while she tries to figure out what to do with her life.

This is the fourth and final book in the series and it does a good job wrapping up all the loose ends and bringing closure to everything and everyone. I enjoy this series though I do think it is written for the adult bracket and not the YA grouping (it never claims it is written for YA, but a lot of the Melody Carlson books I read are). I won't be letting my daughter read it anytime soon. These girls are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and so there are situations that my daughter doesn't need to be reading about yet. In this book Leilani has gotten her daughter Emma (out of wedlock from before the series started) back from her parents in Hawaii and is raising her as she plans to marry Gil, who is Anna's brother. Kendall is pregnant (also out of wedlock though this one happens through the course of the series) and hoping for a proposal soon, also from someone that is not the baby's father. Neither Megan or Anna are in those kind of situations, but are both dating... or are they. In each scenario the girls find that they are incomplete without a man. I enjoy this series for the fluff and fun that it is.


Melody Carlson has published more than one hundred books for adults, children, and teens, with many on best-seller lists. Several books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Gold Medallion and the RITA Award. She and her husband live in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and have two grown sons.

Visit the author's website.

Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah, by Melody Carlson from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 1589191080
ISBN-13: 9781589191082


Megan Abernathy

“Okay, then, how does the second Saturday in June look?” Anna asked her housemates.

Megan frowned down at her date book spread open on the dining room table. She and Anna had been trying to nail a date for Lelani and Gil's wedding. Megan had already been the spoiler of the first weekend of June, but she'd already promised her mom that she'd go to a family reunion in Washington. Now it seemed she was about to mess things up again. “I'm sorry,” she said, “but I promised Marcus I'd go to his sister's wedding. It's been scheduled for almost a year now, and it's the second Saturday too. But maybe I can get out of it.”

Lelani just shook her head as she quietly rocked Emma in her arms, pacing back and forth between the living room and dining room. The baby was teething and fussy and overdue for her afternoon nap. Megan wasn't sure if Lelani's frustrated expression was a result of wedding planning or her baby's mood.

“Is it possible you could do both weddings in one day?” Anna asked Megan.

“That might work.” Megan picked up her datebook and followed Lelani into the living room, where she continued to rock Emma.

“Or we could look at the third weekend in June,” Anna called from the dining room.

“Shhh.” Megan held a forefinger over her lips to signal Anna that Emma was finally about to nod off. Megan waited and watched as Emma's eyes fluttered closed and Lelani gently eased the limp baby down into the playpen set up in a corner of the living room. Lelani pushed a dark lock of hair away from Emma's forehead, tucked a fuzzy pink blanket over her, then finally stood up straight and sighed.

“Looks like she's down for the count,” Megan whispered.

Lelani nodded. “Now, where were we with dates?”

“If you still want to go with the second Saturday,” Megan spoke quietly, “Anna just suggested that it might be possible for me to attend two weddings in one day.”

“That's a lot to ask of you,” Lelani said as they returned to the dining room, where Anna and Kendall were waiting expectantly with the calendar in the middle of the table and opened to June.

Megan shrugged as she pulled out a chair. “It's your wedding, Lelani. You should have it the way you want it. I just want to help.”

Anna pointed to the second Saturday. “Okay, this is the date in question. Is it doable or not?”

Lelani sat down and sighed. “I'm willing to schedule my wedding so that it's not a conflict with the other one. I mean, if it can even be done. Mostly I just wanted to wait until I finished spring term.”

“What time is Marcus's sister's wedding?” asked Anna.

“I'm not positive, but I think he said it was in the evening.” She reached for her phone.

“And you want a sunset wedding,” Kendall reminded Lelani.

“That's true.” Anna nodded.

“But I also want Megan to be there,” Lelani pointed out.

“That would be helpful, since she's your maid of honor,” said Anna.

Megan tried not to bristle at the tone of Anna's voice. She knew that Anna had been put a little out of sorts by Lelani's choice--especially considering that Anna was the sister of the groom--but to be fair, Megan was a lot closer to Lelani than Anna was. And at least they were all going to be in the wedding.

“Let me ask Marcus about the time,” Megan said as she pressed his speed-dial number and waited. “Hey, Marcus,” she said when he finally answered. “We're having a scheduling problem here. Do you know what time Hannah's wedding is going to be?”

“In the evening, I think,” Marcus said. “Do you need the exact time?”

“No, that's good enough.” Megan gave Lelani a disappointed look. “I'll talk to you later, okay?”

“You're not thinking of bailing on me, are you?” He sounded genuinely worried.

“No, but we're trying to pin down a time and date for Lelani.”

“It's just that I really want my family to meet you, Megan. I mean all of my family. And I want you to meet them too.”

“I know, and I plan to go with you.”

“Thanks. So, I'll see you around six thirty tonight?”

“That's right.” Megan told him good-bye, then turned to Lelani with a sigh. “I'm sorry,” she told her. “That wedding's at night too. Maybe I should blow off my family reunion so that you--”

“No.” Anna pointed to the calendar. “I just realized that the first Saturday in June is also my mother's birthday.”

“So?” Kendall shrugged. “What's wrong with that?”

Megan laughed. “Think about it, Kendall, how would you like to share your wedding anniversary with your mother-in-law's birthday?”

Kendall grinned. “Oh, yeah. Maybe not.”

“How about a Sunday wedding?” suggested Megan.

“Sunday?” Lelani's brow creased slightly as she weighed this.

“Sunday might make it easier to book the location,” Kendall said. “I mean, since most weddings are usually on Saturdays, and June is a pretty busy wedding month.”

“That's true,” agreed Megan.

“And you gotta admit that this is short notice for planning a wedding,” added Kendall. “Some people say you should start planning your wedding a whole year ahead of time.”

“Marcus's sister has been planning her wedding for more than a year,” Megan admitted. “Marcus says that Hannah is going to be a candidate for the Bridezillas show if she doesn't lighten up.”

They all laughed.

“Well, there's no way Gil and I are going to spend a year planning a wedding.” Lelani shook her head. “That's fine for some people, but we're more interested in our marriage than we are in our wedding.”

“I hear you.” Kendall laughed and patted her slightly rounded belly. She was in her fifth month of the pregnancy. They all knew that she and her Maui man, Killiki, were corresponding regularly, but despite Kendall's high hopes there'd been no proposal.

“I really don't see why it should take a year to plan a wedding,” Megan admitted. “I think that's just the wedding industry's way of lining their pockets.”

“So how much planning time do you have now anyway?” Kendall asked Lelani. “Like three months?”

“Not even.” Lelani flipped the calendar pages back. “It's barely two now.”

“Which is why we need to nail this date today,” Megan said. “Even though it's a small wedding--”

“And that remains to be seen,” Anna reminded her. “My mother's list keeps growing and growing and growing.”

“I still think it might be easier to just elope,” Lelani reminded them. “I told Gil that I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.”

“Yes, that would be brilliant.” Anna firmly shook her head. “You can just imagine how absolutely thrilled Mom would be about that little idea.”

Lelani smiled. “I actually thought she'd be relieved.”

“That might've been true a few months ago. But Mom's changing.” Anna poked Lelani in the arm. “In fact, I'm starting to feel jealous. I think she likes you better than me now.”

Lelani giggled. “In your dreams, Anna. Your mother just puts up with me so she can have access to Emma.”

They all laughed about that. Everyone knew that Mrs. Mendez was crazy about her soon-to-be granddaughter. Already she'd bought Emma all kinds of clothes and toys and seemed totally intent on spoiling the child rotten.

“Speaking of Emma”--Kendall shook her finger--“Mrs. Mendez is certain that she's supposed to have her on Monday. But I thought it was my day.”

“I'm not sure,” Lelani admitted. “But I'll call and find out.”

“And while you've got Granny on the line,” continued Kendall, “tell her that I do know how to change diapers properly. One more diaper lecture and I might just tape a Pamper over that big mouth of hers. Sheesh!”

They all laughed again. Since coming home from Maui, Kendall had been complaining about how Mrs. Mendez always seemed to find fault with Kendall's childcare abilities. In fact, Mrs. Mendez had spent the first week “teaching” Kendall the “proper” way to do almost everything.

To be fair, Megan didn't blame the older woman. Megan had been a little worried about Kendall too. But to everyone's surprise, Kendall turned out to be rather maternal. Whether it had to do with her own pregnancy or a hidden talent, Megan couldn't decide, but Kendall's skill had been a huge relief.

“Now, back to the wedding date,” said Lelani.

“Yes,” agreed Megan. “What about earlier on Saturday?”

“Oh, no,” Anna said. “I just remembered that I promised Edmond I'd go to his brother's bar mitzvah on that same day--I think it's in the morning.”

Lelani groaned.

“Edmond's brother?” Megan frowned. “I thought he was an only child. And since when is he Jewish?”

“Remember, his mom remarried,” Anna told her. “And Philip Goldstein, her new husband, is Jewish, and he has a son named Ben whose bar mitzvah is that Saturday.” She sighed. “I'm sorry, Lelani.”

“So Saturday morning is kaput,” Megan said.

“And Lelani wanted a sunset wedding anyway,” Anna repeated.

“So why can't you have a sunset wedding on Sunday?” Kendall suggested.

“That's an idea.” Megan turned back to Lelani. “What do you think?”

Lelani nodded. “I think that could work.”

“And here's another idea!” Anna exclaimed. “If the wedding was on Sunday night, you could probably have the reception in the restaurant afterward. I'm guessing it would be late by the time the wedding was over, and Sunday's not exactly a busy night.”

Lelani looked hopeful. “Do you think your parents would mind?”

“Mind? Are you kidding? That's what my mother lives for.”

“But we still don't have a place picked for the wedding,” Megan said.

“I have several outdoor locations in mind. I'll start checking on them tomorrow.”

“We'll have to pray that it doesn't rain.” Megan penned 'Lelani and Gil's Wedding' in her date book, then closed it.

“Should there be a backup plan?” asked Anna. “I'm sure my parents could have the wedding at their house.”

“Or here,” suggested Kendall. “You can use this house if you want.”

Anna frowned. “It's kind of small, don't you think?”

“I think it's sweet of Kendall to offer.” Lelani smiled at Kendall.

“I can imagine a bride coming down those stairs,” Kendall nodded toward the staircase. “I mean, if it was a small wedding.”

“I'll keep it in mind,” Lelani told her. “And your parents' house too.”

“It might be tricky getting a church reserved on a Sunday night,” Megan looked at the clock. “And speaking of that, I better get ready. Marcus is picking me up for the evening service in about fifteen minutes.” She turned back to Lelani. “Don't worry. I've got my to-do list and I'll start checking on some of this stuff tomorrow. My mom will want to help with the flowers.”

“And my aunt wants to make the cake,” Anna reminded them.

“Sounds like you're in good hands,” Kendall sad a bit wistfully. “I wonder how it would go if I was planning my wedding.”

“You'd be in good hands too,” Lelani assured her.

“Now, let's start going over that guest list,” Anna said as Megan stood up. “The sooner we get it finished, the less chance my mother will have of adding to it.” Megan was relieved that Anna had offered to handle the invitations. She could have them printed at the publishing company for a fraction of the price that a regular printer would charge, and hopefully she'd get them sent out in the next couple of weeks.

As Megan changed from her weekend sweats into something presentable, she wondered what would happen with Lelani's parents when it was time for the big event. Although her dad had promised to come and was already committed to paying Lelani's tuition to finish med school, Lelani's mom was still giving Lelani the cold shoulder. Make that the ice shoulder. For a woman who lived in the tropics, Mrs. Porter was about as chilly as they come. Still, Lelani had friends to lean on. Maybe that was better than family at times.

“Your prince is here,” Kendall called into Megan's room.

“Thanks.” Megan was looking for her other loafer and thinking it was time to organize her closet again. “Tell him I'm coming.”

When Megan came out, Marcus was in the dining room, chatting with her housemates like one of the family. He was teasing Anna for having her hair in curlers, then joking with Kendall about whether her Maui man had called her today.

“Not yet,” Kendall told him with a little frown. “But don't forget the time-zone thing. It's earlier there.”

“Speaking of time zones,” Lelani said to Marcus. “Did I hear you're actually thinking about going to Africa?”

Marcus grinned and nodded. “Yeah, Greg Mercer, this guy at our church, is trying to put together a mission trip to Zambia. I might go too.”

“Wow, that's a long ways away.” Kendall turned to Megan. “How do you feel about that?”

Megan shrugged as she pulled on her denim jacket. “I think it's cool.”

“Are you coming with us to church tonight, Kendall?” Marcus asked. “Greg is going to show a video about Zambia.”

“Sorry to miss that,” Kendall told him. “But Killiki is supposed to call.”

“Ready to roll?” Megan nodded up to the clock.

He grinned at her. “Yep.” But before they went out, he turned around. “That is, unless anyone else wants to come tonight.”

Lelani and Anna thanked him but said they had plans. Even so, Megan was glad he'd asked. It was nice when Kendall came with them occasionally. And Lelani had come once too. Really, it seemed that God was at work at 86 Bloomberg Place. Things had changed a lot since last fall.

“So are you nervous?” Marcus asked as he drove toward the city.

“Nervous?” Megan frowned. “About church?”

“No. The big interview.”

Megan slapped her forehead. “Wow, I temporarily forgot. We were so obsessed with Lelani's wedding today, trying to make lists, plan everything, and settle the date … I put the interview totally out of my mind.”

“Hopefully, it won't be out of your mind by Monday.”

“No, of course not.”

“So … are you nervous?”

Megan considered this. It would be her first interview for a teaching job. And it was a little unsettling. “The truth is, I don't think I have a chance at the job,” she admitted. “And, yes, I'm nervous. Thanks for reminding me.”

“Sorry. Why don't you think you'll get the job?”

“Because I don't have any actual teaching experience.” She wanted to add duh, but thought it sounded a little juvenile.

“Everyone has to start somewhere.”

“But starting in middle school, just a couple of months before the school year ends? Don't you think they'll want someone who knows what they're doing?”

“Unless they want someone who's enthusiastic and energetic and smart and creative and who likes kids and had lots of great new ideas and--”

“Wow, any chance you could do the interview in my place?”

“Cross-dress and pretend I'm you?”

She laughed. “Funny.”

“Just have confidence, Megan. Believe in yourself and make them believe too. You'd be great as a middle-school teacher.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Because I remember middle school.”


“And most of my teachers were old and dull and boring.”

“That's sad.”

“And I would've loved having someone like you for a teacher.”


He chuckled. “Yeah. If I was thirteen, I'd probably sit right in the front row and think about how hot you were, and then I'd start fantasizing about--”

“Marcus Barrett, you're pathetic.” Just the same, she laughed.

“What can I say? I'm just a normal, warm-blooded, American kid.”

“Give me a break!” She punched him in the arm.

“Is that your phone?” he asked as he was parking outside of the church.

“Oh, yeah, a good reminder to turn it off.” She pulled it out to see it was Kendall. Megan hoped nothing was wrong. “Hey, Kendall,” she said as Marcus set the parking brake. “What's up?”

“Guess what?” shrieked Kendall.

“I have no idea what, but it sounds like good news.” She stepped out of the car.

“Killiki just called.”

“That's nice.”

“And he asked me to marry him!”

Megan raised her eyebrows and looked at Marcus as he came around to meet her. “And you said yes?”

“Of course! Do you think I'm crazy?”

“No. Not at all. Congratulations, Kendall. I mean, I guess that's what you say.”

“So now we have two weddings to plan.”

Megan blinked. She walked with Marcus toward the church entry. “Oh, yeah, I guess we do.”

“And I'm getting married in June too!”

“That's great, Kendall. I'm really, really happy for you. And Killiki seems like a great guy.”

“He is! Anyway, we just looked at the calendar again. And we finally figured that I should just get married the same day as Lelani, only I'll get married in the morning. That way we'll all be able to go to both weddings.”

“Wow, the same day?”

“Otherwise, you'll be at your reunion or Marcus's sister's wedding. Or Anna will be at the bar mitzvah. Or Lelani and Gil will be on their honeymoon.”

“Oh, that's right.”

“And I want all of you there!”

“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”

“It'll be busy, but fun.”

“Definitely.” Then Megan thanked Kendall for telling her, and they said good-bye. Megan closed her phone and just shook her head. “Wow.”

“Kendall's getting married?” asked Marcus as he held the church door open for her.

“Yes. Can you believe it?”

“Good for her.”

“And her wedding will be the same weekend as your sister's and the same day as Lelani's.”

Marcus held up three fingers and wore a perplexed expression. “Three weddings in one weekend? That's crazy.”

“Yep.” Megan nodded. “Three weddings and a bar mitzvah.”

“Huh?” Marcus looked confused, but they were in the sanctuary, and Megan knew she'd have to explain later.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Poker Face Dance by the Pearlz Dance Team

Here is the video of my Pearlz Dance Team performing at a local antique car show earlier this month. We don't normally perform dances to non-Christian music, but I choreographed this piece for a local Jr. High dance team that I did a summer workshop for and these are the girls that helped me teach it to them. When this performance came along they asked (okay, maybe begged) me to let them do it and I finally agreed. They did really well and I am proud of them. The girls are Chloe - 9, Sarah - 13, Jessie - 13, Skye - 13 and Lauren - 12.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guest Blogger Allie Pleiter and the chance to win her new book!

Introducing Allie Pleiter...

Joining me today is Allie Pleiter. She is the author of the Love Inspired Kentucky Corners Series, which I like to think of as the Bluegrass Series (Bluegrass Hero, Bluegrass Courtship, Bluegrass Blessings, Bluegrass Christmas) in addition to many other books. She has agreed to be a guest blogger today and share with us some of her favorite Christmas memories. Here is Allie...

An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, eight novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website at or her knitting blog at

I have not read the other books in Allie's series, but from this one alone I have gathered what an amazing community she has built in this little town. Great characters (with Mary being the new girl on the block in this book) stand out in addition to some great plot lines. A charming book that will make you want to get all of Allie's Kentucky books!

Back Cover Copy:



ISBN 13# 978-0-373-87556-6

An Old Fashioned Christmas...

That’s what led new believer Mary Thorpe to start over in quaint Middleburg, Kentucky. As director of the church’s Christmas pageant, Mary’s job is to bring the townspeople together, to remind them what the season is really about. But everyone is all riled up over one very handsome man: the man daring to run against Middleburg’s popular long-standing mayor. Mac MacCarthy wants change. Mary wants things to stay as they are. Is there a happy medium? Both Mac and Mary are in for one very big Christmas surprise.

A word from Allie...

Christmas memories linger with such strength. We remember the gift gone horribly wrong as vividly as that wondrous “just what I wanted” present. Most of our most precious Christmas memories center around gifts or experiences we had as children or with children, and I think that’s because they retain the wonder we all wish we still possessed.

My very favorite gift wasn’t the “must have” gift that shapes Bluegrass Christmas’ story. I think most of us realize those fad gifts fade as quickly as they come. As I examined my Christmas memories, I was delighted to discover my two favorite gifts--both ones I received as a child--were handmade. It helped me remember that I won’t find my ideal holiday at Best Buy--it resides someplace without a gift-card, a layaway plan, or a last-minute 50% off clearance.

When I was in the midst of my Barbie phase, my father evidently stole my Barbie every night after I’d gone asleep and custom fit me a dollhouse. And not just any dollhouse, Dad made me one completely of styrofoam, so that I could cart it all over. What a treasure! We have film of me showing it off to the family camera with all the flourish of a showroom model--precious memories! In my later teen years, I had an obsession with bean-bag frogs (how much more 70’s can you get???). For some wild reason I wanted one with red eyes, and my mother made one for me. I called him Moog, and he was my constant companion through most of my teen years.

I don’t have the dollhouse or Moog; they are lost to history. But now, over thirty years later, I have vivid memories that bring a smile to my face. And that is the real point of gift-giving, isn’t it? Old and tired as the cliche is, it really is the thought that matters.

If only we’d actually learn that lesson, hmm?

Thanks, Allie! Like you I have wonderful memories of my Christmases growing up. I didn't know it at the time, but we didn't always have a lot of money. There is one Christmas that really sticks out in my mind, I think I was about 8 or 9 at the time and we had THE BEST Christmas! I remember specifically that we got a child's size record player (it was blue!) and it played our read along book/records. We used that thing all the time! There were a lot of presents that year and it was great. What I didn't know until just a couple years ago (20 odd years after the fact) is that we weren't even supposed to have a Christmas that year. My parents had no money for presents. Period. So my dad's sisters (my Aunt Becky and Aunt Mary) and their husbands stepped in and bought presents for all 4 of us kids so that we would have a Christmas. And as my mom told me recently, "It was much more than we ever would have gotten you anyway!" I think one of the reasons that sticks out in my mind so much now is not necessarily the presents that they purchased, but the fact that in anonymity my aunts and uncles stepped in and made sure that it would be a Christmas to remember. Isn't that what the spirit of Christmas is really about?


For a chance to win a copy of Allie's book, leave a comment telling me what your favorite Christmas present has been and when my post comes up with my review of this book, I will announce the winner! But leave your comment here with your email address... good luck!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Francesca Battistelli, Brandon Heath, Leeland concert!

Francesca singing...
It was a night of worship!
Brandon Heath, "Give Me Your Eyes"
No back up vocals for Francesca, she rocks by herself!
The opening number was Brandon, Leeland and Francesca altogether!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009.

A troop of us drove up to Norfolk, NE (4 hours away) to see a concert. Francesca Battistelli was going to be there and we had been planning for over a month to go. That would be me, my daughters - Sarah, Chloe and Paige, my mom, my friend Sapphira, and two of my dancers - Jessica and Skye and Skye's mom, Tracy. We are all huge Francesa Battistelli fans, and it didn't hurt that Brandon Heath and Leeland were going to be there too. It had been so long since I'd been to a concert, but if I was going to go - it was going to be to a concert I really wanted to be at. Boy do I have good taste! The concert was amazing and I wanted to share a little of it with you...

The girls anxiously awaiting the start of the show in our reserved seats (in row 7!!!)
Sarah, Jessica, Skye and Chloe ready to go!
Skye, Jessica and Sarah with Paige heading to the concert!

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Cowboy Christmas" 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:

A Cowboy Christmas

Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoy Mary Connealy's books? She is one of only a handful of authors where I feel that if they write a book, I must buy it. Period. Everything she writes brings me joy and makes me laugh, and in today's society I'll take my laughs anyway I can get them... so bring on Mary's new book!

Cowboy Christmas is her new stand alone book and it is great. Two broken, hurting people meet on a stagecoach where sass and sparks fly, but roles are laid out. Annie is the innocent young woman setting herself up for disappointment as she travels back home to her father after years away and is hoping for a happy ending. Elijah is the rancher that is recovering from his father's death a year ago at the hands of his then fiancee who is now languishing in prison. He has lost his faith, is full of guilt and to top it off he is now falling into the role of protector over this young thing that he knows is going to be heart broken when she gets out to her father's ranch.

Annie is hiding some secrets of her own (a boatload of them really) and is being tracked by some people that do not have good intentions for her. Can Elijah protect her when she doesn't want protecting and can he save his heart from hurt again? In typical Mary style, we travel the road to the answers with many smiles along the way. I will add this book to my Mary Connealy shelf and at the rate that she writes, it will be full very soon!


As an award-winning author, Mary Connealy lives on a Nebraska farm with her husband and is the mother of four grown daughters. She writes plays and shorts stories, and is the author of two other novels, Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon. Also an avid blogger, Mary is a GED instructor by day and an author by night. For more information on Mary Connealy, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601453
ISBN-13: 978-1602601451


A mining camp in Missouri, November, 1879

“You’ll wear that dress, Songbird.” Claude Leveque grabbed Annette Talbot’s arm, lifted her to her toes, and shoved her backward.

Annie tripped over a chair and cried out as it toppled. The chair scraped her legs and back. Her head hit the wall of the tiny, windowless shack, and stars exploded in her eyes.

Stunned by the pain, she hit the floor, and an animal instinct sent her scrambling away from Claude. But there was nowhere to go in the twelve-by-twelve-foot cabin.

Her head cleared enough to tell her there was no escape, so she fought with will and faith. “Never.” Propping herself up on her elbows, she faced him and shouted her defiance. “I will never go out in public in that dress.”

“You’ll sing what I tell you to sing.” Claude, in his polished suit and tidily trimmed hair, looked every inch civilized—or he had, until tonight. Now he strode toward her, eyes shooting furious fire, his face twisted into soul-deep rot and sin.

“I sing as a mission.” Annie tried to press her back through the unyielding log wall. “I sing hymns. That’s the only thing—”

A huge fist closed over the front of her blouse, and Claude lifted her like a rag doll to eye level, but he didn’t strike.

He would. He’d proved that several times over since he’d come here with his disgusting demands.

She braced herself. She’d die first. Claude might not believe that, but he’d know before long.

“So, you’re willing to die for your beliefs, heh?” Claude’s fist tightened on her blouse, cutting off Annie’s air.

“Yes!” She could barely speak, but he heard. He knew.

“Are you willing to watch someone else die, Songbird? Maybe your precious friend, Elva?” He shook her and her head snapped back. “I can always find another piano player.”

“No!” Annie had to save Elva. Somehow. Of course Elva would be threatened. Annie hadn’t had time to think that far.

Elva would never stand for this. Elva would die for her beliefs, too.

A wicked laugh escaped from Claude’s twisted mouth. “She’s easily replaced. But I’ll never”—he shook her viciously—“find another singer like you.”

How had it come to this? God help me. Protect Elva and me.

“My answer is no! Elva wouldn’t play the piano for me if I wore that.” Her eyes went to the slattern’s dress hanging, vivid red, near the door. “She would refuse to play the piano for those vulgar songs.”

“We’ll see, Songbird.” Claude laughed again.

Annie saw the evil in him, the hunger to hurt. He wasn’t just hurting Annie to get his way. He was enjoying it. Her vision dimmed and blurred as she clawed at his strangling fist.

“I’ll go have a talk with your frail old friend and then we’ll see.” He shoved Annie backward, slamming her against the wall.

She hit so hard her knees buckled. What little air she still had was knocked away.

Claude charged out, shutting the door behind him.

Annie heard the sound of a padlock snicking shut as she slumped sideways.

She became aware of her surroundings with no idea how much time had passed. In the falling darkness, she could barely make out blood dripping down the front of her dress. Tears diluted the blood and she wept.

“Do something, idiot! You can’t just sit here crying.”

Annie proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was indeed an idiot by burying her face in her hands and sobbing her heart out. The tears burned. She swiped at them and flinched from the pain in her blackened eye.

Shuddering, she lifted her battered face from her hands and looked at the dress. It seemed to glow in the dim light, as if the very fires of the devil gave it light. Indecent, vivid red silk with black fringe. No bodice worth mentioning, the front hem cut up nearly to the knees. The garment was horrible and disgusting, and Annie’s shudders deepened. She shouted at the walls of the tiny, solidly locked cabin, “I won’t do it!”

Claude had known before he’d asked that Annie would never wear that sinful dress and sing those bawdy songs. Touching gingerly her throbbing, swollen cheek, Annie pulled her hand away and saw blood. Her lip was split, her nose bleeding. She knew Claude’s fists had been more for his own cruel pleasure than any attempt at coercion.

“Beat me to death if you want,” she yelled at the door. “I will never again perform onstage for you!” She felt strong, righteous. Ready to die for her faith.

Then she thought of Elva. Annie’s elderly accompanist was maybe, right now, being punished because Annie hadn’t fallen in line.

Claude’s cruel threats rang in her ears even with him gone.

For all her utter commitment to refusing the Leveques and singing only her beloved hymns, how could Annie watch Elva be hurt? Could Annie stand on principle while Elva was beaten?

The welts on Annie’s arm, in the perfect shape of Claude Leveque’s viselike hand, along with Annie’s swollen eye and bleeding lip, proved the hateful man knew how to inflict pain. He’d proved he had no compunction in hurting a helpless woman.

Noise outside her prison brought Annie to her feet. He was coming back! Annie was sick to think what the couple would do to the elderly woman who had spent her older years worshipping God with music.

Sick with fear that they’d force Annie to watch Elva being battered, Annie clenched her fists and prayed. God would never agree that Annie should wear that tart’s dress, sing vile, suggestive songs, and flash her legs for drunken men.

But Elva!

Please, Lord, guide me though this dark valley.

A key rattled in the doorway.

Annie braced herself. If she could get past Claude, she would run, find Elva, and get away. Go somewhere, somehow. Throw herself on the mercy of the men in this logging camp—the very ones Claude said would pay to see that dreadful harlot’s gown.

The wooden door of the secluded, one-room shack swung hard and crashed against the wall. Elva fell onto her knees, clutching her chest. “You have to run!” Elva, eyes wild with terror, lifted her head. Annie saw Elva’s face was battered; a cut on her cheek bled freely.

Expecting Claude and Blanche to be right behind the gray-haired woman, Annie rushed forward and dropped to Elva’s side. “Elva, what did they do to you?”

“I heard. . .I heard Claude making plans, awful plans for you. He caught me eavesdropping. He thought he’d knocked me cold, but I lay still and waited until he left. He’d hung the key on a nail, and I stole it and slipped away to set you free.” Elva staggered to her feet, every breath echoed with pain. She stretched out a shaking hand, and Annie saw Elva’s black velvet reticule. The one the sweet pianist, who made Annie’s voice sound as pretty as a meadowlark, carried always. “There’s money. All I’ve saved.” Elva coughed, cutting off her words. She breathed as if it hurt. “T–Take it and go. There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town. Enough.” Coughing broke her voice again and Elva’s knees wobbled. She clung tight to Annie. “Enough for one train ticket.”

Annie realized what Elva was saying. “No, I won’t leave you.”

“It’s my heart.” Elva sagged sideways, clutching her chest. Annie couldn’t hold her dead weight, slight though Elva was. They both lowered to the floor. “When Claude landed his first blow, I felt my heart give out. Oh, Annie, the things he threatened for you. The evil, ugly words from a serpent’s mouth. My precious girl. Run. You must run.”

“I won’t leave you. They’ll kill you, Elva.”

“No. My heart. I’ve felt it coming for months and tonight’s the end. They can’t harm me anymore.”

“Elva, don’t talk like that.” Tears wanted to fall, but Annie had no time for such weakness. “You’re all I have!”

“Your father. Go home.”

“He doesn’t want me. You know that.”

Elva’s hand closed over the already bruised place on Annie’s wrist. Elva clearly saw what Annie had already suffered at Claude’s hands. “Go. There’s no time. What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

Annie gasped. Those words could mean only one thing. She glanced at the indecent dress. A harlot’s dress.

“God is calling me home, my beautiful girl. He’s taking me b–because He knows you’d never leave me. God in heaven is rescuing us both. I’ll go home and so will you. I believe that.”

Annie looked into Elva’s eyes, and even now they clouded over.

“Go. Please. It’s my fault you’re in this place. I thought we’d bring the Lord to these people with your beautiful singing. I convinced you to stay when the Leveques took over. If you stay I will have died for nothing, Sw–Sweet Annie.”

Elva’s grip tightened until Annie nearly cried out in pain. Then as quickly as the spasm had come, it was gone.

And so was Elva. She sank, lifeless, to the floor.

Annie saw the very moment Elva’s spirit left her body—a heartbreaking, beautiful moment, because now Elva was beyond pain.

But Annie wasn’t.

“If you stay I will have died for nothing.”

A loud snap of a twig jerked Annie’s head around. She gazed into the nearby woods surrounding the sequestered shack she’d been locked in. The Leveques were coming.

“What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

As if God Himself sent lightning to jolt her, Annie clutched Elva’s reticule, leaped to her feet, and ran.

“There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town.”

Annie gained the cover of the woods and, without looking back, began moving with painstaking silence.

She heard Claude’s shout of rage when he discovered the cabin door ajar.

Poor Elva. No one to bury her. No one to make her funeral a testimony to her life of faith.

Annie hated herself for running away. It was cowardly. There had to be some way to stay and pay proper respect, see to a decent Christian burial. Every decent part of herself said, “Go back. Face this.”

She kept moving. Elva had insisted on it. Common sense confirmed it. God whispered it in her heart to move, hurry, be silent.

Silence was her only weapon and Annie used it. She’d learned silence in the mountains growing up, slipping up on a deer or an elk. Slipping away from a bear or a cougar.

As much as Annie had loved her mountain home, she’d never learned to hunt. Pa fed the family. But she loved the woods and was skilled in their use.

Heading for the trail to town, she was careful to get close enough to not lose her way but stay off to the side.

Not long after she’d started out, she saw Claude storming down the trail toward town. He’d catch the wagon Elva spoke of long before she did. And, she hoped, insist on searching it. Once Claude assured himself that Annie wasn’t there, she’d have her chance.

Annie felt the bite of the cool night air. She heard an owl hoot in the darkness. The rustle of the leaves covered tiny sounds she might make as she eased along. She knew the trail. She knew the night. She knew the woods.

All of it was filled with treachery.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Fields of Grace" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Fields Of Grace

Bethany House (October 2009)


Kim Vogel Sawyer

I own some Kim Vogel Sawyer books, but I've been waiting to get the whole set before reading them, so I have never actually read one of her books. I decided it was about time. So Fields of Grace is the first book of hers I've actually read, but it certainly won't be the last. I am excited to see that she has a wonderful voice for her characters and her storytelling. She has been compared to Beverly Lewis and Janette Oke and I can see the resemblance in both cases.

In Fields of Grace, Kim takes us to a Mennonite village in Russia in 1872 as a family is immigrating to America so their soon to be 18 year old son, Henrik, does not have to join the military which is against their religious beliefs. Tragedy strikes on the voyage over and lives are changed forever. Henrik feels guilt over everything since he views the immigration as his fault in the first place. Lillian, the mother, adjusts but then deals with guilt, anger, abandonment and betrayal by God and those around her. Is it possible to experience a fresh start in America? To have their slate wiped clean? Can God make good things out of horrible circumstances? This is a beautiful story of grace and God's provision as He never abandons us, even when we turn our backs on Him.

Just a note... Kim actually won the ACFW Book of the Year award at conference this year for "My Heart Remembers" in the Long Historical Category. I purchased a copy at the conference bookstore so I can see for myself what it has to offer - so go get a couple of her award winning book!


Best-selling, award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, speaker, singer of songs and lover of chocolate... but most importantly, she's a born-again child of the King!

A former elementary school teacher, Kim closed her classroom door in 2005 to follow God's call on her heart to write and speak. Now blessed with multiple writing contracts with Bethany House, Barbour, and Zondervan Publishing, Kim enjoys sharing her journey to publication as well as the miraculous story of her healing from a life-long burden of pain and shame.

Kim's gentle yet forthright testimony lends credence to the promise of Ps. 117:2--"Great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever."


Will their Mennonite faith be shaken or strengthened by the journey to a new land?

With their eldest son nearly to the age when he will be drafted into military service, Reinhardt and Lillian Vogt decide to immigrate to America, the land of liberty, with their three sons and Reinhardt's adopted brother, Eli. But when tragedy strikes during the voyage, Lillian and Eli are forced into an agreement neither desires.

Determined to fulfill his obligation to Reinhardt, Eli plans to see Lillian and her sons safely settled on their Kansas homestead--and he's equally determined that the boys will be reared in the Mennonite faith. What he doesn't expect is his growing affection for Lillian--and the deep desire to be part of a family.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fields Of Grace, go HERE

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"One ImPerfect Christmas" Book Review

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Imperfect Christmas

Abingdon Press (September 2009)


Myra Johnson

I'm not quite sure why, but I was under the impression that this book was going to be kind of humorous and a light-hearted read... maybe it was the way that the little "IM" is added in red on the cover, but anyway, I was way off base. The good news is that this misconception did not change the fact that this is a really good book, it just changed the way that I looked at it. This is actually a pretty heavy women's fiction book that is full of lots of issues and twists.
Natalie is married with a young teenage daughter when her mother suffers a stroke that she feels guilty about. She completely withdraws from her family and eventually her marriage falls apart because of the strain it puts on her and her husband. The story looks at not only Natalie's side of things, but her husband's and daughter's and even her mom's as well. I wasn't sure that I was going to like how this book ended, I just didn't think it was possible for such an emotional book to have a good ending. But I was wrong, Myra does a great job of wrapping this story up with an ending that will satisfy and leave you longing for more all at the same time.


Making up stories has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember. A select group of trusted friends back at dear old Mission High waited eagerly for the next installment of my "Great American Spy Novel" (think Man from Uncle) and my "All-American Teen Novel" (remember Gidget and Tammy?). I even had a private notebook of angst-ridden poetry a la Rod McKuen.

The dream of writing persisted into adulthood, although it often remained on the back burner while I attended to home and family and several "real" (read paying) jobs along the way. Then in 1983, while recovering from sinus surgery, I came upon one of those magazine ads for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I knew it was time to get serious, and the next thing I knew, I'd enrolled in the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course.

Within a year or so I sold my first story, which appeared in the Christian publication Alive! for Young Teens. For many years I enjoyed success writing stories and articles for middle-graders and young adults. I even taught for ICL for 9 years.

Then my girls grew up, and there went my live-in inspiration. Time to switch gears. I began my first women's fiction manuscript and started attending Christian writers conferences. Eventually I learned about American Christian Romance Writers (which later became American Christian Fiction Writers) and couldn't wait to get involved. Friends in ACFW led me to RWA and the online inspirational chapter, Faith, Hope & Love.

So here I am today, still on this crazy roller-coaster ride. Still writing. Still hopeful. Writing, I'm learning, is not about the destination, it's about the journey. My current projects are primarily women's fiction and romance . . . novels of hope, love, and encouragement. Novels about real women living out their faith and finding love in the midst of everyday, and sometimes not so everyday, situations.


Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she's allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves-most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she's one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit's end. Nothing he's done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa's adolescent rebellion isn't helping matters. As Daniel's hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Imperfect Christmas, go HERE

Watch the trailer:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"A Cousin's Prayer" by Wanda Brunstetter

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:

A Cousin’s Prayer

Barbour Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)


Wanda E. Brunstetter is nationally recognized as an expert on the Amish community, and her book sales have topped the three million mark. Her books White Christmas Pie, A Sister’s Hope, and Allison’s Journey topped Publishers Weekly Paperback Religion Bestsellers lists in 2008. Her books have also received other honors, including the 2006 Reader’s Choice Award and the CBD Book of the Week. Brunstetter enjoys an uncommon kinship with the Amish and loves to visit their communities throughout the country.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602600619
ISBN-13: 978-1602600614



Katie Miller’s stomach churned as she read the letter she’d just received from her cousin Loraine:

Dear Katie,

Wayne and I will be getting married the last Thursday of April. I’d like you to be one of my attendants.

Katie’s heart pounded. There was no way she could go to her cousin’s wedding, much less be one of her attendants.

“Who’s the letter from?” Katie’s grandmother asked, taking a seat on the porch swing beside Katie.

“Loraine. She’s getting married in April, and she wants me to be one of her attendants.” Katie almost choked on the words.

“That’s wunderbaar. I’m sure you’re looking forward to going.”

Katie shook her head. “I don’t want to go.”

“Think how disappointed Loraine would be if you weren’t at her wedding.”

Katie’s gaze dropped to the floor. “I can’t go back to Indiana, Grammy.”

“Loraine and Wayne have been through so much. Don’t you want to be there to share in their joy?”

Katie shivered despite the warm Florida breeze. If Timothy hadn’t been killed on their way to Hershey Park last fall, she’d be planning her own wedding right now.

“Katie, did you hear what I said?”

Katie nodded, hoping she wouldn’t give in to the tears pushing against her eyelids. “If I hadn’t freaked out about a bee in the van, Timothy, Paul, and Raymond would still be alive.” Katie drew in a shaky breath. “Jolene wouldn’t have lost her hearing, either, and Wayne would still have both of his legs.”

“You’re not to blame, Katie. It was an accident. It might have happened even if you hadn’t been afraid of the bee.” Grammy touched Katie’s arm. “You need to accept it and go on with your life.”

“I–I don’t know if I can.”

“Timothy wouldn’t want you to continue grieving for him. He wouldn’t want you to blame yourself for the accident.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“Then you ought to listen.” Grammy took hold of Katie’s hand. “Let’s go inside so you can write Loraine and let her know you’ll be at the wedding.”

“I–I’m afraid to go. The thought of traveling alone scares me. I don’t think I can deal with all the painful memories that are there.”

“Will you go to Loraine’s wedding if I go with you?”

“What about Grandpa? Would he go, too?”

Grammy shook her head. “He has things to do here.”

Katie couldn’t imagine what things Grandpa would have to do. He was retired and spent a good deal of his time at the beach.

“What about it, Katie?” Grammy asked. “Will you go to the wedding if I go along?”

Katie sat for several seconds, thinking things through. Finally, she gave a slow nod. It would be easier going back to Indiana with Grammy along, and as soon as the wedding was over, they’d come back here.

Chapter 1

“It sure is good to have you home,” Katie’s father said as they headed down the road in his buggy toward Uncle Amos and Aunt Priscilla’s house. He glanced over at Katie and smiled. “Your mamm said Loraine was real pleased when she got your letter saying you’d be one of her attendants.”

Katie clutched the folds in her dress as she stared out the window. She didn’t know why she felt so edgy. She hadn’t felt like this when she was in Florida. She’d been depressed after Timothy died, but not quivery inside the way she’d been since she’d climbed into Dad’s buggy. She was grateful they didn’t have far to go.

Dad motioned to what was left of the barn they were passing. “Take a look at the devastation from the tornado that hit this past winter. That terrible storm affected nearly everyone around these parts in some way or another.”

“No one was killed, though, right?”

“No, but some were injured, and the damage was great. Many, like Wayne’s folks, lost their homes, barns, and shops. It’s a good thing the house Wayne started building before he lost his leg didn’t sustain any damage from the tornado,” Dad said. “Several of the men in our community finished it for him, and Wayne’s folks have been livin’ in it ever since.”

“Will they continue living there after Loraine and Wayne get married?” Katie asked.

Dad nodded. “At least until their own house is done.”

Katie knew from some of the things Loraine had said in her letters that she and Ada hadn’t always gotten along so well. She wondered how things would be having them both living under the same roof.

“Look at the Chupps’ place.” Dad pointed to the left. “They lost their barn, his buggy shop, and the house. Only those who’ve actually seen the destruction of a tornado like we had here can even imagine such a sight.”

Katie gripped the edge of the seat. “I don’t understand why God allows such horrible things to happen.”

He shrugged his broad shoulders. “It’s not our place to question God. His ways are not our ways.”

Katie clamped her teeth together in an effort to keep from saying what was on her mind. Dad wouldn’t understand if she told him how angry she was with God for taking Timothy. He’d probably give her a lecture and say it was Timothy’s time to die, like he’d said to her on the day of Timothy’s funeral.

“Do you know how long you’ll be helping at Loraine’s?” Dad asked.

“Probably most of the day, since I’m sure there’s a lot to be done before the wedding. You can come by sometime before supper and pick me up, or I can ask someone to give me a ride home.”

“I don’t mind coming back for you. I’ll be here around four, okay?”

“That’s fine, but if we get done sooner, I’ll just ask for a ride home.”

“Sounds good.” Dad guided the horse up Uncle Amos’s driveway and directed him toward the barn. When they stopped at the hitching rail, Dad turned to Katie and said, “Have a good day, and don’t work too hard. You’re lookin’ kind of peaked today.”

“I’ll be fine, Dad.” Katie climbed out of the buggy and headed to the house. She wasn’t fine at all. It seemed strange being back here again. She’d only been gone from home a little over six months, but it seemed a lot longer.

She noticed several people in the yard, pulling weeds and planting flowers, but didn’t see any sign of Loraine or her folks. She figured they must be in the house.

When she stepped onto the back porch, she drew in a shaky breath. She wished Grammy or Mom would have come with her today, instead of going shopping in Shipshewana. Katie figured since Mom and Grammy hadn’t seen each other for several months, they probably wanted to spend some time alone.

Just as Katie lifted her hand to knock on the back door, it swung open. Loraine stepped onto the porch and gave Katie a hug. “It’s so good to have you home! Danki for coming. It means a lot for me to have you and Ella as my attendants.”

“Danki for asking me.” Katie forced a smile. In some ways, it was good to be here, but she felt as out of place as a chicken in a duck pond.

“I just wish Jolene could be here, too.”

“She’s not coming?”

“Huh-uh. Her aunt’s been dealing with carpal tunnel on both of her wrists, and she recently had surgery to correct the problem. Jolene thought it’d be best if she stayed in Pennsylvania to help out.”

“That makes sense. But do you think Jolene will ever come back to Indiana?” Katie asked.

“I hope so.” Loraine opened the door and motioned Katie inside. “Ella and her sister Charlene are in the kitchen. We decided to have a snack before we head out to the barn to help decorate the tables for the wedding meal.”

When Katie entered the kitchen behind Loraine, she saw Ella and Charlene sitting at the table.

Ella jumped up, raced over Katie, and gave her a hug that nearly took Katie’s breath away. “It’s so good to see you! We’ve all missed you so much!”

Katie smiled. “I’ve missed you, too.”

“Would you like a glass of iced tea?” Loraine asked.

Katie nodded and took a seat at the table.

“How about a piece of my sister’s appeditlich friendship bread?” Charlene motioned to the plate of bread on the table.

“I’m sure the bread’s delicious, but I’m not really hungry right now.”

“As skinny as you are, you oughta eat the whole loaf.” Charlene’s eyebrows lifted high. “Are you sure you’re not hungry?”

Katie shook her head.

Ella shot her sister a look of disapproval, but Charlene didn’t seem to notice. She was busy cutting herself another hunk of bread.

“Didn’t you have a birthday last month?” Charlene asked, her mouth full.

Katie nodded. “I turned twenty.”

Charlene grabbed her glass and took a drink. “You’d sure never know it. Why, you don’t look like you’re more than sixteen.” She pointed to herself. “I look older than you.”

Katie groaned inwardly. She didn’t need the reminder that she looked young for her age. She couldn’t help it if she was short, petite, and had the face of a teenager. At least I act more mature than my sixteen-year-old cousin, she thought.

“I got a letter from Jolene last week,” Ella said. “She won’t be coming to Loraine’s wedding because—”

“She already knows,” Loraine interrupted. “I told her about Jolene’s aunt when we were out on the porch.”

“I wonder if Jolene’s using her aunt’s surgery as an excuse not to come home. She might be afraid that she won’t fit in with the rest of us now that she can’t hear,” Charlene put in.

Ella shot her sister another look. “I’m sure that’s not the reason. Jolene would never make up an excuse not to come to the wedding.”

Katie’s shoulders tensed as she shifted her gaze to the window. What would her cousins think if they knew she hadn’t wanted to come home for the wedding? Did they have any idea how hard it had been for her to make the trip? Even with Grammy along, Katie had felt anxious on the bus ride. Every horn honk and sudden stop had sent shivers up her spine. She knew she couldn’t have made the trip home alone. Even though she wasn’t looking forward to riding the bus again, she looked forward to going back to Florida where there were no painful reminders of the past.

Loraine stood. “Would anyone like to see my wedding dress?”

Charlene’s hand shot up. “I would!”

“Me, too,” Ella said.

Katie nodded as well.

“I’ll be right back.” Loraine scurried out of the room.

Charlene nudged Katie’s arm. “What’s it like in Pinecraft? That’s where your grossmudder lives, isn’t it?”

Katie nodded as she fiddled with the edge of the tablecloth. “As you know, Pinecraft is the section of Sarasota where many Plain People have homes or come to rent. It’s a nice community.”

“Is it true that there are no horses and buggies?” Charlene asked.

Katie nodded. “Unless they’re going out of the area and need to hire a driver, everyone either walks or rides a bike.”

“Do you go to the beach very often?” Ella questioned.

“Jah. Grandpa and I go there a lot. We enjoy looking for shells, and Grandpa likes to fish.”

Charlene sighed. “I wish I could visit Florida sometime. I’m sure I’d enjoy being on the beach.”

“Maybe you can visit me there sometime.”

Ella’s eyes widened. “You’re going back?”

“Of course. My home’s in Pinecraft now.”

The room got deathly quiet. Ella and Charlene stared at each other as though in disbelief.

Katie figured it was time for a change of subject. “Who did Wayne choose to be his attendants?” she asked.

“Jolene’s bruder, Andrew, and Freeman Bontrager,” Ella replied. “Wayne and Freeman have become good friends since Freeman and his sister, Fern, moved back to Indiana a few months ago.”

“Freeman opened a bicycle shop,” Charlene added. “Mom and Dad bought me a new bike for my birthday in February.”

“Oh, I see.” Katie stifled a yawn. She’d had trouble falling asleep last night.

“Freeman won’t be helping here today because he has lots of work at the shop.” Charlene sipped her iced tea. “You should see all the bikes he has. I’ll bet he’d do real well if he had a shop in Sarasota, since so many people ride bikes there.”

“Here it is,” Loraine said, sweeping into the room with a khaki green dress draped over her arm. “I’ll wear a full white apron over the front of the dress, of course.” She held it out to Katie. “What do you think?”

With trembling fingers and a wave of envy, Katie touched the smooth piece of fabric. “It–it’s very nice.”

“Are you okay?” Loraine asked with a look of concern. “Your hand’s shaking.”

Katie dropped both hands into her lap and clutched the folds in her dress. “I’m fine. Just a bit shaky because I didn’t have much breakfast.”

“Then you oughta have a piece of this.” Charlene pushed the plate of friendship bread toward Katie. “You’ll blow away in a strong wind if you don’t put some meat on your bones.”

Katie ground her teeth until her jaw began to ache. One of the first things Mom had said to her when she’d arrived home was that she needed to gain some weight. Of course, Dad had mentioned it, too.

“Charlene’s right.” Ella spoke up. “If you’re feeling shaky, then you should eat something.”

“Maybe you’re right.” Katie grabbed a piece of bread and took a bite. Then she washed it down with a sip of iced tea.

Bam! The screen door swung open, causing Katie to nearly jump out of her seat. Walking with a slow, stiff gait, Wayne entered the room. His face broke into a wide smile when he saw Katie. “Wie geht’s?”

“I’m fine.” The lie rolled off Katie’s tongue much too easily. She was getting used to telling people what she thought they wanted to hear.

Wayne moved across the room and stood beside Loraine’s chair. “We’re sure glad you could come for the wedding.”

Katie forced a smile and nodded.

“Would you like to see my new leg?” Before she could respond, Wayne pulled up his pant leg, exposing his prosthesis.

Katie bit back a gasp. “D-does it hurt?” She could hardly get the words out.

“It did at first, but I’ve pretty well adjusted to it now.” Wayne took a seat beside Loraine. “It could have been worse, and I’m grateful to be alive.”

Uneasiness tightened Katie’s chest, and she blew out a slow, shaky breath. Seeing him like this was a reminder of what she’d caused—and what she’d lost.

Wayne reached around Ella and grabbed a piece of bread. “Looks like you’ve been baking again, huh, Ella?”

She nodded. “It keeps me busy when I’m not helping my daed in his business.”

“Those wind chimes he makes are so nice,” Loraine said. “I might buy one soon, to hang on our porch.”

“You won’t have to do that,” Charlene said. “Dad and Mom are planning to give you one of his nicest sets of wind chimes for a wedding present.”

Ella poked her sister’s arm. “It was supposed to be a surprise.”

Charlene covered her mouth. “Oops.”

Loraine poured another glass of iced tea and handed it to Wayne. “How are things going outside?”

“Pretty good. By the end of the day, I think your folks’ yard will look like a park.” He grinned and lifted his glass to take a drink. “This sure hits the spot. It’s getting mighty warm out there. Much warmer than normal for April, I think.”

“That’s fine with me,” Loraine said. “A warm spring day is exactly what I wished we’d have on our wedding day. I hope the weather stays just like it is—at least until Thursday.”

Katie stared out the kitchen window, blinking back tears of envy and frustration. I’d give anything if it were me and Timothy getting married in two days. Oh, Lord, please give me the strength to get through Loraine’s wedding.