Friday, November 23, 2012

"Walking In Trust"


WALKING IN TRUST: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog

BOOK DATA: Paperback 208 pgs, 5.5" x 8.5"
Illustrated with many Bl/Wh Photos $14.99
 Available at: Amazon.com BN.com Cladach.com Kindle e-book format

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Spending time in this book with Gayle and her dog, Sage, will help you listen more closely to what Creator God may be saying to you through your experience of the world around you. Gayle shares stories of her life with Sage, then draws out principles from the stories and from scriptures that apply to our daily lives. Chapter titles include: Patience, Wisdom, Obedience, Forgiveness, Purity, Friendship, Courage, Loyalty, Confidence, Joy, Compassion, Humility, Mystery, Goodness, Praise, Generosity, Love, Faithful, Respect, Self-Control, Contentment, Gentleness, Kindness, Hope, Peace, Reliable, Trust, Rest, Gratitude, Perseverance. Thirty topical chapters lend themselves to a month of daily readings. Each chapter closes with a prayer that makes the lesson personal. Photos of Sage and her escapades, interspersed through the book, illustrate the stories. Our Creator has many ways of walking with us and teaching us. He can even use a blind dog named Sage!

 READ EXCERPT PRAISE for the BOOK:

"Readers will laugh and cry - I certainly did! Mrs. Irwin's reflections are deep and always focus on glory to God. She shows how God interacts with us, how His instruction and His wisdom have such impact on our lives. She richly connects Sage's journey through life and God's path for us. I will be rereading and reflecting on each chapter to deepen my walk with God!" ~ Kari Nordahl, Bible Study Facilitator and Elementary School Educator, San Bernardino, CA

 "Readers will laugh and cry - I certainly did! Mrs. Irwin's reflections are deep and always focus on glory to God. She shows how God interacts with us, how His instruction and His wisdom have such impact on our lives. She richly connects Sage's journey through life and God's path for us. I will be rereading and reflecting on each chapter to deepen my walk with God!" ~ Susan Bulanda, author of God's Creatures and Faithful Friends

 AUTHOR BIO:
Gayle Irwin has worked as a journalist, and as an educator in conservation and humane treatment of animals. She is the author of two children's books, and several of her stories appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Mrs. Irwin writes regularly for Our Town Casper, a monthly community magazine, and for The River Press, a newspaper in Fort Benton, Montana. Mrs. Irwin sees God's handiwork in his creation and believes great lessons can be learned by observing nature. She shares those lessons with students and others when she speaks. Mrs. Irwin was raised in Iowa. She and her husband, Greg, a videographer, currently reside in Casper, Wyoming. Get to know Mrs. Irwin better at http://www.cladach.com/Irwin.html

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:
We did something different this time, and we asked Gayle to fill in the blanks in the following statements:
1. My husband and I were looking to adopt a Springer Spaniel because we liked the size and personality of the breed.
 2. Two years after we adopted Sage, she became fully blind. This presented many challenges. The hardest part for me was trying to not feel sorry for her, wondering if she missed being able to see. But, as we shared life together, I came to understand that dogs are very resilient and that her other senses helped her navigate her surroundings, even those with which she was not familiar (i.e., school buildings, hotels, etc.) .
 3. One thing that triggers my memory of Sage is when we spend time at our cabin. Not only is this the area where we lost her for two days, but it's also a special place where we shared long walks in the forest, a cozy fire in the woodstove during spring and autumn, and evenings with friends and family. .
4. If I won a reality TV show where my winnings would go to a charity, I would choose Best Friends Animal Society of Utah because they do so much to help homeless pets, not only those that come to their sanctuary, but numerous others around the country, through workshops, conferences, and other guidance. They also respond to pets in need during a natural disaster. .
5. I feel like I'm really getting something done when I pray before my day begins and read my devotional, then focus on the goals I've set for the day and not let the phone or other potential interruptions distract me; that sometimes means closing my office door and letting the voicemail pick up the phone .
6. Outside of my own home, the place where I spend the most time is the cabin and property on Casper Mountain. Our acreage has become my sanctuary, a place of solitude, a place to write, a place to spend time with God. Because it's located only 20 minutes from our house, I'm able to go up there frequently, even if only for a few hours after work one evening. I am thankful for this lovely, quiet place! .
7. My favorite sport to watch is basketball, but I sometimes sit through a baseball game with my husband, as that is his favorite sport. .
8. If I had the time and money, I would donate to and volunteer more with children's charities and companion animal groups, and also start my own pet foundation and animal sanctuary, particularly for disabled pets.

MY REVIEW:
      This is a touching book that is full of spiritual truths as revealed to Gayle through owning her dog Sage. If you are a dog lover, make sure you have kleenex nearby while reading.  

"Judge" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Judge
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
by
R.J. Larson

MY REVIEW:
     I love this series of books! Prophet was wonderful and Judge is a tremendous follow up. I love the return of all the characters from the first book and the new dimensions of who they are. I think my favorite part was seeing the parallel to Jonah with Kien Lantec - that was awesome! Love the romance that is destined to fail, and I absolutely bawled through part of the book but I can't tell you why. I can just say that my husband tried to console me and I was practically inconsolable. I loved revisiting Kien and Ela in this book and honestly I can't wait until the next book comes out!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as Women's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. Prophet marks her debut in the fantasy genre.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Kien Lantec, you will bear witness to my followers in ToronSea.

The last thing Kien Lantec expects on his first day of military leave is to receive marching orders from his Creator, the Infinite. Orders that don't involve destroyer-racing or courting the love of his life, Ela. Adding to Kien's frustration, his Infinite-ordained duties have little to do with his skills as a military judge-in-training. His mission? To warn the people of ToronSea against turning their backs on the Infinite to worship a new goddess.

Tell them I see they are beguiled. Tell them I seek their hearts. The wise will hear Me.

But why Kien? Isn't this the role of a true prophet, such as Ela of Parne? Seeking answers, Kien visits Ela and finds her stricken by a devastating vision of her own. Her birthplace, Parne, has forsaken their Creator and will soon suffer judgment. Pulled in separate ways, each must seek to follow the Infinite's leading...and hope He will reunite them again soon.

Child of dust, will you be My servant?

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Starflower" Book Review




This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Starflower


Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)


by


Anne Elisabeth Stengl


MY REVIEW:
       This is such an interesting series of books. They would be perfect to purchase and read all in a row. My issue is that I have been reading them one at a time as they are released.  This means that I enter the world of Goldstone Woods and then I leave it and upon returning it takes me the first 5 or 6 chapters to reorient myself to the Woods and the characters and what the heck is going on. It is a fascinating place to go, but a long visit would be better than a short vacation.  It is a very unique world that has been created with amazing characters and allegorical storylines that are beautiful, just very hard to reenter after a long break. At some point I will sit down and read them in a row so I can fully appreciate the beauty of these fairytales.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she enjoys her profession as an art teacher, giving private lessons from her personal studio, and teaching group classes at the Apex Learning Center. She is married to the handsome man she met at fencing class and lives with him and a gaggle of cats. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.


Anne Elisabeth is also the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a series of fantasy adventure novels told in the classic Fairy Tale style.







ABOUT THE BOOK





The Black Dogs Are on the Hunt, But Who Is Their Prey?



When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps fairest Lady Gleamdren, the Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.



But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?


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



Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Placebo" Book Review




Product Description

Presto! The Bowers Files disappear and James's new series explodes onto the fiction stage with Jevin Banks, an escape artist who tragically loses his family and his nerve for his craft. Now he uses his background as an illusionist to debunk fake psychics and televangelists by replicating and exposing what they do on his television show. When he and his sidekicks, Charlene and Xavier, delve into a pharmaceutical company's research into mind-to-mind communication and therapies that could radically extend life, the worlds of big drug companies, counter-terrorism, and government collide.James's brand of high-end suspense distinguishes itself as Christian through characters that stare evil in the face and don't back down because of their faith, despite doubts and confusion. The writing, pacing and plot lines are impeccable, the author always pulling up the shade a bit for a shaft of light and redemption to make gruesome scenes somehow bearable. Much isn't fully resolved, but that's why readers like series and are happy to let money vanish and reappear in the pockets of masterful novelists like James.
MY REVIEW:
      I am a HUGE fan of the Patrick Bowers series by Steven James - HUGE! So when I knew Steven James was writing a new series I was excited but tentative. Change can be hard for readers sometimes, but it isn't always a bad thing. In this case I found Placebo to be very interesting and cerebral, with a new cast of characters that were fun to get to know. I had trouble letting go of Patrick Bowers at the beginning and embracing Jevin Banks - though I really liked his sidekicks Charlene and Xavier immediately. The plots that interwove in the book were a little hard to track for awhile, but was very intriguing. Once my head was able to wrap around what was going on I really liked what I was reading. This is going to be an interesting series and I think each book will get stronger as Jevin Banks starts stepping into his own. 
 

"Journeys to Mother Love" Book Review

JOURNEYS TO MOTHER LOVE: Nine Women Tell their Stories of Forgiveness & HealingCompiled by Catherine Lawton

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/COMPILER:
Catherine enjoys getting outdoors and observing wildlife in the Rocky Mountains and on the north Pacific coast. She cherishes moments of quiet reflection and communion with the Creator, laughter with friends, worship with other Christ-followers, and music-making with her husband (he sings, she plays piano). Born in Colorado, Catherine grew up in California, moving from one town to another as a preacher's daughter. With a BA in English and training in music, she has worked as a substitute teacher in public schools, a private piano teacher, and as a freelance writer and editor. In Journeys to Mother Love she shares a personal story of trauma, grief, and healing. Through fiction and memoir she explores the depths of our relationships with--and need for--God, each other, and nature. She sees life as a journey, an adventure, an unfolding story.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS:
A.R. Cecil
Treva Brown
Verna Hill Simms
Kerry Luksic
Kyleen Stevenson-Braxton
Ellen Cardwell
Ardis A. Nelson
Loritta Slayton
Meet all the Contributing Authors

Visit the Journeys to Mother Love
BLOG
to read posts by the contributors, share the story of your personal journey, and find helps for healing in mother/daughter relationships.


BOOK INFO:
Paperback
224 pgs, 5.5" x 8.5"
ISBN: 9780981892955
Illustrated with Bl/Wh Photos
$12.99

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Mother love is a beautiful thing. But giving and receiving mother love doesn't always come easy. So many obstacles can get in the way. What do we do, then, with mother wounds and losses, and the unmet needs we carry? Women readers are sure to find themselves in one or more of these true stories filled with grit and grace. The courageous authors of Journeys to Mother Love aren't merely venting about their mother wounds. Neither are they giving pat answers. The hurts were real and the healing was real. From manipulation to abandonment, from neglect to favoritism, from mental illness to emotional distance, from abortion to Alzheimer's, these nine women from several generations, tell their personal stories with heart-wrenching honesty. Each had hurts and conflicts in their mother/daughter relationship that left them wounded and affected their relationships with others. Each tells how, with God's help, they experienced healing and new freedom to give and receive love. Women with broken places in their relationships with mother or child can begin their own healing journey as they read.

MY REVIEW:
     This is a beautiful book that would make a great gift for a special woman in your life - a healing tool to be walk women through different painful or hard times in their lives. Nine different women tell their stories about different issues many women may have with their mothers. Anger and frustration, unmet emotional needs, playing second fiddle, feeling inadequate, and more like abortion and cancer - these are just some of the topics they cover. It is like Chicken Soup for the Soul for mothers and daughters only so much deeper. If there have ever been times that you have struggled with your relationship with your mother, this book is for you. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Courting Cate" by Leslie Gould

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Courting Cate
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
by
Leslie Gould


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Even though I knew I wanted to write fiction by the time I was in the sixth grade, as I grew older I pursued other things instead, such as majoring in history and communications, and then working as a museum curator, then a public relations specialist, and finally as a magazine editor. Once I finally started writing fiction, it was another ten years until I sold my first novel. By that time I’d been married for nearly 20 years and had four children of my own to read to.

In the decade since my first contract I’ve written fifteen books, from Beyond the Blue, a story about international adoption set in Vietnam, to Courting Cate, a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. No matter what I write, I aim to reveal truths about God’s love, beauty, and redemptive work in our lives. My goal is to connect more deeply to God, family, and friends through my writing. My hope is that my stories encourage readers to deepen their own connections too.



ABOUT THE BOOK

When Amish farmer Pete Treger moves to Paradise Township, Pennsylvania, seeking a better life, he meets sisters Cate and Betsy Miller. Both are beautiful, but older sister Cate is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Betsy, on the other hand, is sweet and flirty--and seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!

However, the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard and fast rule: elder sister must marry first, before the younger can even start courting. Unfortunately for poor Betsy, and for the men who want to court her, her older sister, Cate, doesn't have any suitors--until Pete comes to town, that is.

Though he finds both sisters attractive, something about Cate's feisty demeanor appeals to him. Soon the other bachelors in the district convince Pete to court Cate. She hardly seems receptive to his overtures, though. Instead, she's immediately suspicious of his interest.

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Breath of Dawn" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Breath of Dawn
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
by
Kristen Heitzmann


MY REVIEW:
    Somehow I missed that this is actually book #3 in a series, I'm glad I didn't realize that. Because I haven't read the first 2 and I might have passed on this one because of that. The fact is that the characters are so deep and the storyline so intense that it stands on its own two feet just fine. Jill and Morgan meet under unusual circumstances and proceed to get thrown together and start spending time together. He is still reeling from the unexpected death of his wife and daughter while raising his little girl. She is dealing with a whole different situation as a man seeks revenge against her for sending him to prison. They find an unusual way to help each other out and only end up in more danger than before. Packed with romance, mystery and a lot of great characterization... this book is gripping.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

From the time my dad taught me to read at sit-on-the-floor school when I was four—launching me past kindergarten into 1st grade—I have loved learning and expressing what I know through art, music, and especially writing. Education came easily, and I grew accustomed to having my work read and displayed. But breaking out of the family mold, I left college to marry my husband Jim (celebrating our 29th this year.) Since then, life and all kinds of research have provided the grist for my stories. We have three awesome adult kids, and one incredible teenager. (You might think I’m biased, but ask anyone who knows them.)

While home schooling my four kids, I wrote my first novel. I pitched it for publication, and it became the first of a five book historical series. Since then, I have written three more historical novels and nine contemporaries. The Still of Night was nominated for the Colorado Book Award. The Tender Vine was a Christy Award finalist and Secrets won a Christy in 2005.

People often ask why I started writing, and I say to get the stories out of my head. Some say they’d like to write a book, but I say if you’re not wracked with labor pains, there are easier ways to express yourself. Being a writer is a solitary, eccentric, and often compulsive path. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Kristen Heitzmann Delivers Powerful New Romantic Suspense

Morgan Spencer has had just about all he can take of life. Following the tragic death of his wife, Jill, he retreats to his brother's Rocky Mountain ranch to heal and focus on the care of his infant daughter, Olivia. Two years later, Morgan begins to make plans to return to his home in Santa Barbara to pick up the pieces of his life and career.

Quinn Riley has been avoiding her past for four years. Standing up for the truth has forced her into a life of fear and isolation. After a "chance" first meeting and a Thanksgiving snowstorm, Quinn is drawn into the Spencer family's warm and loving world, and she begins to believe she might find freedom in their friendship.

The man Quinn helped put behind bars has recently been released, however, and she fears her past will endanger the entire Spencer family. As the danger heightens, she determines to leave town for the sake of the people who have come to mean so much to her.

Fixing problems is what Morgan Spencer does best, and he is not willing to let Quinn run away, possibly into the clutches of a man bent on revenge. But Morgan's solution sends him and Quinn on an unexpected path, with repercussions neither could have anticipated.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Breath of Dawn, go HERE.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Hidden in the Heart" 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:

OakTara (September 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Catherine West for sending me a review copy.***

MY REVIEW:
      Just finished this book and was almost surprised at how much I enjoyed it and how satisfying it was for me. Women's fiction is not always my first choice but I was excited about this book because for one thing, the cover is stunning and totally drew me to it. 
      Cathy West creates amazing characters in heart wrenching situations trying to deal with the problems they created through decisions they made (or were born into). Its quite a cast from Claire, the woman whose life has fallen apart and believes that finding where she came from will fix everything. Michelle, the woman who gave up her daughter and wants nothing to do with her past ever again. James, Claire's husband who has suffered some of the same losses but doesn't want to give up on his marriage. Mac and Jessie, the owners of a B & B in Maine where Claire runs off to when she needs to escape and maybe find some answers. Rick, the caustic neighbor who helps Claire. And many more. There are more twists and turns in this book than I expected and that pleased me. The fact that you might consider this book the story of Cathy's heart makes it even more moving. I enjoyed it and look forward to going back and reading her first book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Everything Claire wants seems to be beyond her reach...

After losing her mother to cancer and suffering a miscarriage soon after, Claire Ferguson numbs the pain with alcohol and pills, and wonders if her own life is worth living. Adopted at birth, Claire is convinced she has some unknown genetic flaw that may have been the cause of her miscarriage. She must find a way to deal with the guilt she harbors. But exoneration will come with a price.

With her marriage in trouble and her father refusing to answer any questions about her adoption, Claire begins the search for her birth mother.

For the first time in her life, she really wants to know where she came from.
But what if the woman who gave her life doesn’t want to be found?

For all those who have loved, experienced loss, and lived life’s roller-coaster



Product Details:
List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: OakTara (September 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602903298
ISBN-13: 978-1602903296



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Claire Ferguson stood outside Baby Gap, unable to look away from the Christmas display. Red velvet dresses and miniature-sized plaid waistcoats. Tiny suede boots, tiny patent leather shoes, tiny colorful striped hats and scarves.

Everything was tiny.

Claire stared at a little red dress, her eyes filling as she imagined and wished for the impossible.

People filed in and out of the store, smiling, laughing. Happy. An ordinary day filled with ordinary tasks and lists of things that must be accomplished. She had no such list—just an overwhelming need to pass time quickly on this day that was not so ordinary.

Claire steadied herself and glanced at her watch. Late afternoon. Shoppers jostled by, oblivious to her pain, all in a hurry to get their purchases and conquer the next store in the mall.

If only she had a reason to hurry.

‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ crooned from the mall loudspeakers. Claire bit her lip and cursed Bing.

Christmas would be merry when it was over.

Claire tightened her grip around the numerous bags she carried and slowly moved forward. Her heel slipped on a slick patch of tile. She regained her balance before falling, but the effort shook her and sent her pulse racing.

After walking a bit, her arms began to burn. Her overflowing shopping bags were heavy, but gave a sense of accomplishment. She’d gotten out of bed and had the purchases to prove it.

“Claire? Hey…yoo-hoo!” A woman’s greeting floated above the noise of the crowd.

Claire lowered her head and rummaged through her purse. She popped a few breath mints into her mouth and chewed as she weighed her options.

Pretend she didn’t hear. Pretend to be someone else. Or turn around and face the owner of the vaguely familiar voice still calling her name.

Curiosity won out and Claire turned.

“Hi, Claire! I thought that was you.” The woman waved and hurried over. Platinum blonde hair swooshed around her shoulders. “Long time no see. You do remember me, don’t you?”

“Um…” No. Claire pushed through the tangled cobwebs in her brain. “Ashley…right? High school?” The woman’s Colgate-bright smile never faltered. She could have been on the cover of a magazine. Or a toothpaste commercial.

“Amanda. Barrington.” Blue eyes twinkled as though she held some untold secret. “Gosh, it’s been a while. How are you? Have time for a coffee?”

“Coffee?” Claire screwed up her nose. Vodka tonic would be more enticing, but whatever. She didn’t have anywhere to be. Not really. “Sure.”

They settled around a table at Starbucks. Amanda insisted on buying, which was fine with Claire. A few minutes later she sipped an Espresso and managed a smile. “So. Amanda. What have you been up to since high school?”

“Oh, not too much, you know. Busy. You?”

Claire nodded. “Same. Busy. Very busy.” Busy not answering the phone. Busy surfing channels. Busy ignoring the whole world.

Amanda stirred another packet of sweetener into her Caffè Misto. “You got married a few years ago, didn’t you? You and James?”

A bizarre image of Guy Smiley from Sesame Street flashed before her and Claire wondered what she’d done to win a spot on This Is Your Life. She suppressed a giggle. That third drink at lunch probably hadn’t been such a great idea. “Yep. Me and James.”

“Any kids?”

As if on cue, a mother walked past them pushing a toddler. The kid looked her way and released a blood-curdling wail. Claire let out her breath. “Didn’t you go to Vassar?”

“Oh.” Amanda’s pretty smile petered out as she fiddled with the top of her cup. “Yes, but I dropped out. Had a breakdown of sorts.”

“Of sorts?” Maybe that was the same as being a little bit pregnant. A ripple of anxiety washed over Amanda’s face and Claire felt a pinch of guilt. “Hey, it’s cool. I’m the last person to be throwing judgment around.” She pulled at a loose thread on her sweater.

Getting out of bed this morning had been tiresome enough, she hadn’t given much thought to her wardrobe. Just grabbed a pair of yoga pants and a long sweater that covered her butt, and pushed her feet into a pair of Uggs. She took in Amanda’s pristine appearance, fumbled with her hair and tried to remember whether she’d even brushed it. “Are you…okay now?” Stupid question. Of course she was.

“Oh, yes.” Amanda answered too quickly. “Right as rain.”

“Funny, that.” Claire couldn’t stop a grin. “Right as rain. People always complain when it rains, don’t they? I mean, what’s right about it, really?”

Amanda didn’t hide surprise well. She opened her mouth but no words came. She nibbled on a bran muffin and dabbed cherry lips with a paper napkin. “Um. I heard your mother died. Last year, was it? I’m sorry.”

Of course she was sorry. Everybody was sorry. God was probably even sorry.

Claire studied her nails. The pink polish was chipped and faded, most of her nails worn down by her chewing on them. Another habit she couldn’t seem to break. “She had cancer. Only lived a few months after her diagnoses.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Yup.” Claire nodded, still pondering Amanda’s mysterious breakdown. She really wanted to ask how the accommodations were at the funny farm, because if things got any worse she might just be heading there herself. “So, what are you doing now, you know, now that you’re…okay?” Small talk seemed more appropriate.

Amanda perked up at the change of subject. “Oh, a bit of this and that. I’m planning a wedding, so you know how that goes. I got engaged a few months ago.” She waved a hand, a diamond the size of a small country in Africa almost blinding Claire. “You know, Claire…when I saw you, I remembered. You were adopted too, right?”

Hot liquid sloshed out of the small hole in the plastic lid and Claire put her cup down in a hurry. She dabbed at the mess and tried to think what an appropriate response would be. ‘None of your business’ probably wouldn’t go over so well.

“Too?” As Claire lifted the top off her paper cup to clean it, the lid on her memory slid off with it. “That’s right. You were the only other kid I knew who was adopted. Our mothers were friends for a while, weren’t they?”

“When we were in eighth and ninth grade.” Amanda’s eyes got misty. “I used to love going over to your house; you were so much fun. But then we…drifted apart I guess. You ran with the cool kids. I was a geek.”

“Oh.” Claire pushed down the lid of her cup and prayed she hadn’t been completely horrible to this poor girl who had apparently once been a friend.

“Anyway. I found my birth mother.” Amanda sat back, a small smile set in place. “That’s what I wanted to tell you. I thought you…well…that you would understand.”

“Your birth mother?” The words slammed into Claire, went straight for the gut, held tight and twisted. “No kidding?” She took another sip and hoped Amanda wouldn’t notice the tremor in her hand. “How?”

“It wasn’t that hard, really.” Amanda blinked and gazed across the crowded room for a moment. A bizarre heavy metal version of Jingle Bells blasted through the speakers and they shared a smile. “I suppose I just got tired of looking in the mirror and wondering. You know?”

Boy, did she know. Claire shrugged. “When was this?”

“Two years ago. I talked to my parents first, and they were okay with it. I wrote away for my non-identifying information and next thing I knew, Social Services was calling to put me in touch with her.”

“How’d that go?” A slow pounding began in her temples and Claire swallowed down the urge to puke. There was something wrong about this—having this conversation—today, on the anniversary of her mother’s death. Amanda of course, couldn’t know that. Couldn’t know that Claire had, of late, thought of doing the very same thing.

Searching.

Searching for answers. Searching for truth. As if somehow knowing the circumstances concerning her birth would help her get her life back.

Thoughts of whether or not to proceed had become an obsession.

Maybe her best friend, Melanie, was right. “There are no coincidences, Claire. Only Godincidences.” Claire could hear her Melanie now. “It’s a sign. You should do it.”

The only sign Claire wanted to see was the one that said BAR.

She turned her attention back to her long lost friend and hoped she hadn’t missed anything earth shattering.

“We’re not that much alike, and after the first meeting…” Amanda prattled on. “But you know, did you ever think about it? I mean, your mom’s gone now and…”

“Me? Oh, no.” Claire checked her watch and frowned. She was supposed to meet James for dinner. “Hey, this was great, but…you know. My husband…we have plans.”

“Yes, of course. Well…” Amanda foraged in her Marc Jacobs bag and came up with a gold-embossed business card. “Give me a call sometime, Claire. And if you change your mind, you know, about searching, I’m here to help.”
“Thanks. It was great to see you.”

“Merry Christmas.”

“Sure. You have a good one.”

Claire waded through the sea of shoppers until she reached the doors to the parking lot, and stumbled outside. Cold air brought clarity and she breathed deeply. She clasped her elbows and willed the trembling to stop, willed the world to stop spinning as she tried to get her bearings and headed in the general direction she hoped she’d parked.

She needed to get out of here. But to what?

Claire stopped walking and stared at the slush beneath her feet. The knot in her stomach pulled tight. James would be expecting her.

He wanted to talk. Again.

Claire had run out of words a long time ago.

She turned toward the warm building again, scanned the area inside the doors and spied a TGI Friday’s. It was a bit too early for food, but that didn’t matter.

She wasn’t planning on eating.

Two hours later, Claire peered at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Maybe she should call a cab. She splashed some water on her face, spritzed a little perfume on her neck and picked up her bags.

After waiting half an hour for a cab to come into sight, Claire’s feet were frozen. She gave up and headed back to her car. It would be fine. She hadn’t had that much to drink.

She maneuvered her car down the back roads as carefully as she could. Snow started to fall and got heavier by the minute. Claire shook her head and cursed the snow. Cursed herself for being so stupid.

Staying in bed would have been the more sensible solution.

She’d been doing better. Almost convinced she could make it through the holidays. Now all she could think about was Mom, and that stupid conversation she’d had with Amanda.

Pain rushed her with such force she considered pulling off the road to expel the liquid sloshing around in her stomach. She was re-living it all over again. That long, dark night when her world had shattered like a Christmas ornament dropped from the highest branches of the tree.

“She’s gone, Claire…”

They all thought death was something you could prepare for. Thought if you read up, prayed up and clammed up, it would all be okay.

Her father read books and retreated into silence.

James went to church, put them all on the prayer chain and talked to God.

And Claire just ignored it and hoped the day would never come.

But it had, come and gone, and taken her mother with it.

A blast of sirens jolted her back to the present. Her SUV swerved and she pulled on the wheel, slowing until the vehicle straightened. Obnoxious blue and red flashers intensified the pain in her head. Claire swore, flicked on her turn signal and pulled over. Great. Just what she needed to make a crappy day even crappier.

“Ya better watch out, ya better not cry…” The modern version of the classic blasted from the radio. “Ya better not pout, I’m tellin’ you why…” The Boss’s raspy voice belted out the warning.

Claire almost grinned. Too late, Bruce. Already on the black list this year.

Through the rear-view mirror she watched the officer step out of his vehicle. He sloshed through gray snow, his burly frame shadowed in the setting sun, but she’d recognize that bear-like gait anywhere.

Definitely not Santa Claus.

Claire shook her head, her throat drying up. Why did it have to be him?

She shoved her hand in her purse, pulled out her breath mints and put a few in her mouth, wishing she’d had a second cup of coffee. She chewed quickly and shoved another couple in just before he reached her car.

Robert Ferguson tapped on her car window, a scowl set in place. His dark blue jacket was zipped halfway, his badge glinting. Claire returned the scowl and prayed for an apocalypse. He rapped again and Claire knew she had no choice. She pressed the button and the window slid down.

“Hello, Claire.” Her brother-in-law stepped back and folded his arms over his chest.

A blast of cold air smacked her face as she shifted to face him, tightening her grip on the wheel. “Robert. What a pleasant surprise.” Not. She forced a smile and thought about sending up a quick prayer, but what would be the point?

God wasn’t listening. Not to her.

Not anymore.

“You okay?” He studied her in silence, suspicion settling in his eyes.

Okay? She had a wet butt from falling in the parking lot, lived through that strange conversation with Amanda and had a case of major indigestion, but whatever. “Sure, I’m okay. Sweet of you to ask.” Her heart rate jumped in time to the music as he let out a sigh.

“Can you turn off the stereo, please?”

“Sure.” Claire blinked at the dash and squinted. The silver buttons were so small and they all looked alike. “Ah. There. Better?”

“Where’ve you been, Claire? You were driving a little erratically.”

“Erratically?” She widened her eyes, surprised he knew such a big word. “Oh, back there, you mean? Yeah, black ice. Thought I was done for.”

His scowl deepened, forming a crater above the bridge of his nose. “Black ice, huh? You were all over the road. Going too fast, then too slow…I’ve been following you about a quarter mile. I guess you didn’t notice.”

“Seriously? Guess I didn’t. You know, female drivers. We never check the rear view mirror unless we’re putting on lipstick.” Her palms grew moist despite the cold air flooding her car.

His bland expression told her he wasn’t buying it. “Have you been drinking?” Robert narrowed his eyes, leaning in a little closer.

Claire shook her head and the interior of the car spun. She covered her mouth with one hand and took a minute. “Of course not. I’m not stupid. I wouldn’t do something like that.”

“Claire,” he growled, placing his big hands on the ledge of the open window, “level with me.”

There might have been a hint of compassion in his eyes but it faded too soon. Claire stared at the falling snow and wondered what she’d look like in orange. “I…um…went out for lunch. I might have had a glass of wine. That’s all. Really. I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine.” He took a step back. “Want to get out of the car?”

“No,” she squeaked. “Come on, Robby. I just told you, I’m okay. Thanks for checking up on me though.” The back of her neck prickled and her throat constricted. He couldn’t possibly be serious.

Robert yanked the door open. “Get out.”
“Please, Robert. I’m begging you. I’m not drunk. You can follow me home if you want to.”

“Get out of the car, Claire.” Anger dripped off his tongue and she knew she’d pushed his limit. Maybe if she pretended to pass out she’d wake up and find this was all some weird dream. Maybe she’d just pass out anyway.

“Claire. Today. If you wouldn’t mind.”

“I’m coming.” She struggled to stand, slipped on the slush beneath her and he caught her elbow before she fell. The towering pines across the road blurred into one big green snowball, hurtling toward her. She steadied herself and tried to focus on Robert. This was a nightmare. It had to be.

But no, she’d definitely had too much to drink and now she was busted.

Served her right.

There was always a price to pay.

She just wished Robert didn’t have to be the one to collect.

He barked instructions at her and Claire tried to follow what he was saying, but the buzzing in her ears made it hard to understand him. And she really had to pee.

“You’re a mess,” he muttered. He leaned forward, his eyes blazing into her. “You’re going to blow over, you know that, right?”

“Maybe we should just skip it then.” Claire held out her wrists toward him and smiled.

“Just get in the patrol car. I’ll drive you home.”

“What? You’re not going to arrest me? You’re actually going to give me a break?” Claire stared in disbelief. “That’s…so…unlike you, Robby.”

He shifted and put his hands on his hips, his stance wide. “Claire, seriously? I’m trying to be nice here.”

“Just spreading a little Christmas joy, huh?” Her eyes landed on the butt of his revolver, his hand dangerously close to it. Tears welled and one rolled down her cheek into the corner of her mouth.

“All right.” He zipped up his coat and propelled her toward the police car. “Let’s get you off the road before you kill somebody.”

“I don’t need your help, Robert.” She tried to squirm out of his grip but he was too strong.

“Do you want me to bring you in, Claire? Honestly, it would be a real pleasure. I’m only giving you a break out of respect for my brother. If you want to throw your life away, fine, I really don’t care, but don’t take him down with you.”

Claire whirled to face him. “Then arrest me! Go on. It’s what you’re supposed to do anyway, right?” The words flew out before she could stop them. She watched his mouth twitch.

“Get in the car.” His glare was enough to silence her into submission.

Claire climbed into the back of the black and white patrol car. It reeked of sweat, cigarettes and coffee. She leaned her head against the plastic-covered seat and waited. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him retrieve her purse from her vehicle while he talked on his cell phone. Her heart raced as she tried to second-guess him. He wasn’t going to arrest her. That was the good news.

Maybe she could get home without her father or James finding out. She’d sleep it off and be fine in the morning.

And never, ever, do anything so stupid again.

Done with his call, Robert tossed her purse onto the seat beside her and slammed the door. The car shook from side to side. Claire winced and closed her eyes. She pulled her knees up, resting her boots on the divider as he pulled back onto the road. “Excuse me?” She rapped on the plastic glass between them. “Can you maybe have my car taken home? There’s a lot of stuff in there. I just went shopping.”

“Before or after you stopped at the bar?”

“Robert!”

“Relax, Claire.” He cracked his gum and sniffed. “There’s a tow-truck on the way. It’ll be impounded. You’ll get it back eventually.”

“Stop kidding around. You can’t do this to me. Come on…”

He slowed at a stoplight along Main. Claire inched down on the seat, searching the faces on the sidewalk. “Where are you taking me? The exit is the other way.”

“I know where the exit is.”

He hated her. He was going to arrest her after all.

Claire swallowed back nausea and chewed on a torn fingernail. “So, um…how’s the family?”

Robert’s shoulders stiffened and he cleared his throat, glancing back at her through the mirror. “Claire?”

“Yes?”

“Stop talking.”

“Sorry.” Claire foraged through the jumbled mess of things inside her purse and came up with a lipstick. Didn’t bother checking the color. After applying a generous amount to her dry lips, she smacked them together. Bad idea. Her stomach rolled again and she popped a couple more mints in her mouth.

When he parked the car at the back of the precinct, Claire glared at the three-story gray building, crumbling in places. She swore it would fall down one of these days. With any luck Robert would be inside when it did.

“You said you were going to take me home.” Claire stared at the back of his big head, watching a fly settle on the short dark hair. Maybe she could smack it for him.

He cleared his throat and she pushed aside the idea.

“You’re staying at your dad’s house now, right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s what I thought. That place is at least a half hour out on the other side of town. That would be going way beyond my family obligations. You can wait here until somebody comes for you.”

“Who’s coming? Who did you call?” Claire pushed herself out of the car but he ignored her and escorted her through the back doors. She walked slowly, determined not to slip. Or fall over. They passed a couple of officers in the hall. Claire saw some raised eyebrows and one of the men let out a low whistle. Wonderful. She’d be the talk of small town Connecticut within the hour.

Robert stopped outside a small office at the far end of the corridor. He kicked the door with his black boot and it swung open. He walked in, checked out the room and glanced her way. “Take a seat. Nobody will bother you. Unless I tell them to.”

Claire’s feet wouldn’t move. “Look, I can just call a cab…I…”

“Nope. You’ll stay right here until you sober up.”

She marched to the desk, threw her purse down and turned on him. “You can’t just shove me in here, Robert! I know my rights! Which you haven’t even read me by the way, and…”

“Claire.” He breathed out her name, sounding tired and beyond reasoning. “Sit down, and for the last time, shut up.” Fury ran across his face. “I told you, I’m not arresting you. But I should be. You should be thanking me, not yelling at me like you haven’t done anything wrong.” Robert stood near the door, his eyes softening. “You’ve got to start dealing with life, Claire. You can’t go on like this.”

She pushed hair off her face and pinched her lips together. “Where do you get off telling me how to ‘deal with it’?” Familiar anger coiled inside her stomach and the dull ache returned. She sank into the chair behind the desk. “First my mother dies; then I have a miscarriage. Why does everybody expect me to just forget, just get over it?” Claire leaned back and closed her eyes.

“That’s not what I meant. But it’d be nice if you started acting more like a mature adult instead of a spoiled, out-of-control teenager.”

“Are you done?” She put her head in hands.

“I’ll be back in a while.”

“Fine.” Claire gazed up at him, unsmiling. “Thank you.”

“Sure. Whatever.” He turned and slammed the door behind him. The noise reverberated around the small room and pierced through her skull.

Claire rubbed her temples and wondered if she could down a couple of Tylenol without water. Robert was probably enjoying every minute of this. He’d hold court later at his favorite watering hole and regale his buddies with the story of how he finally one-upped his wayward sister-in-law.

Claire groaned at the thought. Since Mom’s death, things just seemed to go from bad to worse. Her family, her husband, the whole world was against her. Every single day she had to endure some trial.

She slumped down, put her head on the desk and took a deep breath.

Robert was right though. This time.

She was guilty. She should have known better than to drink and drive. But once she got started, it was so easy to keep them coming. She just wanted to get rid of the pain. But whatever the amount she’d consumed today, it wasn’t enough.

It was never enough.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

"The New Recruit" Book Review





THE NEW RECRUIT
BY
JILL WILLIAMSON 




Forced to choose between military school and a Christian spy organization, skeptic
Spencer Garmond signs on with the Bible geeks. But before he even boards the plane
for Moscow, Spencer realizes this is no Bible club.

These guys mean business.

Stumbling onto a case involving a gang of homeless boys, a chilling tattoo, and the
always beautiful Anya Vseveloda, Spencer struggles to find the faith needed to save
the Mission League from enemy infiltration.

MY REVIEW:
     I absolutely LOVED Jill Williamson's trilogy - Blood of Kings. Loved it! So I was super excited to see what she was going to do with this new book. Intrigue and espionage in the name of spiritual warfare with a cast of eclectic youth with different motives and assignments. Spencer is trying to figure out who to trust and what exactly is going on. He isn't even a Christian, but he is told that he is called... he just wants to know how exactly that is supposed to work. So Spencer joins some really cute girls, some guys, his worst enemy from jr high and a couple sponsors on a missions trip to Moscow. He somehow manages to land himself right in the middle of a huge drug ring and more. It is a wild ride with Spencer when you follow him as he becomes The New Recruit.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"The Restorer's Journey - Expanded Edition" Book Review







THE RESTORER'S JOURNEY
*EXPANDED EDITION*
BY
SHARON HINCK 

His choices have the power to save or destroy.


With a loved one’s life at stake, Jake charges through the portal into Lyric to stage a dramatic rescue, trusting that the signs that mark him as Restorer will guarantee success. But everything familiar in Lyric has vanished, swept away by deadly lies and a corrupt king. As inexorable forces conspire to turn him from his purpose, Jake finds his path leading to places beyond his courage.

While he confronts the temptation to flee his calling, Susan struggles in brutal captivity. Can she gain freedom before the enemy destroys her spirit, and will Jake choose to follow his destiny before everything is lost?

** The original version of this book won an ACFW Carol Award. Enjoy this author’s preferred edition to get the full experience.

MY REVIEW:
    I can honestly say that this trilogy ranks in my top 10 of all time favorite books that I have read. It it absolutely ground breaking and eye opening. Rich characters, settings that span two worlds vividly and a storyline so gripping my life would go on hold whenever I picked one of these books up. When I heard that Sharon Hinck was doing the series in expanded editions I was so excited! I am one of those people that like to watch all the extras on the expanded dvds of my favorite movies and will even watch the movies with the director's or actor's voice overs. This is like being able to do that for your favorite books. There are lots of bonus chapters and insights that make the whole book more enriching. For instance, there are chapters from the viewpoint of other characters so you can get inside their heads and see what they were thinking in that instance. At the beginning of this book there is actually a cool scene where we read a chapter through the eyes of one of the main characters and then we get a bonus chapter where it is the same scene but through the eyes of one of the other main characters - it's so cool!
    The basis of this book is continuing the saga of Susan Mitchell, a soccer mom who is transported to another world that is counting on her to be The Restorer and save everyone, but she doesn't have a clue how she is supposed to do that. God is in control but new enemies keep arising and here in book #3 Susan has been kidnapped and needs saving herself. It is up to her son Jake to save her, or is it? I was so glad to come back to the land of Lyric. This series is now firmly planted in my top 10 thanks to the expanded editions and new insight!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"No Safe Harbor" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
No Safe Harbor
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
by
Elizabeth Ludwig

MY REVIEW:
      This book was really good and I am glad it is a series because I have more to look forward to from these characters. The heroine is Cara and she is caught in the middle between her brother, whom she can't tell anyone about, and the man who is trying to kill her brother. He is trying to use Cara as bait to find her brother but I have a funny feeling that in the process he is falling for her. At this point I am suspicious that things are not what they seem when it comes to Cara's brother, Eoghan, not everything is as it seems. I am thinking the next book will focus on Eoghan and I am curious to see where this series will go from here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

Coming in 2012 is Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, will release in October, with two more books following in 2013 and 2014.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Harbor, go HERE.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Against The Tide" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Against the Tide
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
by
Elizabeth Camden

MY REVIEW:
      This book is incredible. It is a historical filled with intrigue and mystery/suspense with liberal doses of romance. I learned a tremendous amount about the opium smuggling of that time and was fascinated and saddened by all of that. One thing that I didn't realize when I started the book is that one of the main characters comes from one of Elizabeth's previous books (not necessary to read it first although I did). He was the bad guy in the first book and now turns into a shady/good guy in this book. I like it when an author can do that and make it believable at the same time. I have been so impressed with the characterization in Elizabeth's books, not to mention her attention to detail in her historicals and the settings - I felt transported to Lydia's life in Boston and was really sad when it ended. Looking forward to Elizabeth Camden's next book! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Word from Elizabeth:

I am a college librarian in central Florida by day, but by night I can be found pounding out inspirational historical novels the moment the sun goes down. I love writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges. As a rather introverted person, I have found that writing is the best way for me to share my faith and a sense of resilience with others.

I married relatively late in life, which turned out to be an odd kind of blessing. I had gotten very good at leading a solo life, and although I was not particularly content being alone, I had become reconciled to it. Most importantly, it taught me never to take my husband for granted. I give daily thanks for the blessing of being able to share a life with my favorite person on the planet.

As for who I am? I love old Hitchcock films, the hour before sunset, a long, sweaty run through the Florida countryside, and a glass of good wine. After spending my entire adult life on a college campus (either as a student or a librarian) I have finally been able to pursue my ultimate goal of writing professionally.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden's Latest Offering

As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she's finally carved out a perfect life for herself--a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or "Bane," a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.

Just as Bane's charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia's part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Saving Gideon" Book Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Saving Gideon
B&H Books (October 1, 2012)
by
Amy Lillard

MY REVIEW:
   I just finished "Saving Gideon" and was surprised that I couldn't put it down. I'm not a huge fan of Amish though every once in awhile I find an author that has a new twist on it. Such is the case with Amy Lillard's debut novel.  I think part of it was the charming heroine, Avery Ann Hamilton - you can't help but love her and her imperfect ways. Then when brokenhearted Gideon is forced to rescue her things get interesting. What I really liked is that even though some of it was predictable, it didn't matter - I still wanted to see how it was going to happen. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series. Amy Lillard has started off strong and I am impressed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Word from Amy:I’m a wife, mother, and bona fide Southern belle. Published author, expert corn bread maker, and Squirrel Princess.

I live in Tulsa, though I was born in Mississippi. I moved to the Sooner State when I was seventeen and met my soul mate and best friend not long after. I’ve retained a little of my Mississippi accent though most people think I’m from Texas. (?) Rob and I have been married for over twenty years and have a son–a mom proclaimed prodigy, of course!

I love homemade tacos, shoes, and romance novels–not necessarily in that order. I’m a big fan of country music, a staunch proponent of saving the Oxford comma, and I’m shamefully obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

I believe that God is love. I guess that’s why I adore romances.

I have always been intrigued with the Amish culture, their gentle ways and slower-paced lifestyle. (And I love, love, love the fact that they stay married for their lifetime.) But until recently I never thought to blend this interest with my penchant for romance. Okay, okay, I’m a bit old-fashioned and even enjoy the gender roles that are present in this culture. I love to cook and take care of my family. Yes, that’s me June Cleaver with a laptop.

I dislike people trying to convince me to read the Twlight series (I’ll get to it or I won’t, either way I’m good with it), gratuitous violence, and strawberry ice cream. (I know I’m alone on this last one, and again, I’m good with it.)

Favorite movies–(besides HP) French Kiss, Maid of Honor, A Lot Like Love, Just Married, and Sweet Home Alabama. Oh, and Miss Congeniality, Sabrina (both versions) and a 1940′s movie called Dear Ruth. If you haven’t seen it, you should! A-dorable. Anything with Doris Day and most all of Marilyn’s and Audrey’s.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Gideon Fisher wants one thing out of life -- to be left alone. This is not the Amish way, but he’s devastated after the death of his wife and son to the point of losing his faith. He buys a farm on the outskirts of the district and pulls away from his community. But when a freak spring snowstorm brings a beautiful Englisher to his farm, what choice does Gideon have but to let her in?

Dallas socialite Avery Ann Hamilton is intrigued by the Amish farmer who pulls her out of the snow and into his austere lifestyle. Poor little rich girl, Avery has just gone through (yet another) bad breakup. Every man she meets only wants her for her father’s money. All she has ever wanted is to be loved for herself. Avery soon discovers the Oklahoma Amish country is the perfect place to hide out and heal her broken heart.

But she finds a peace in those back roads that she’s never felt before. Now her life has purpose and meaning as she connects with God and those around her. And there’s something more as she begins to care for this man who needs both love and forgiveness.

Gideon never wanted to live again much less fall in love, but Avery finds her way into his heart, showing him the beauty of life and God’s greatness. Yet as the feelings between Avery and Gideon grow, can they overcome their dissimilar lifestyles, or will their sheer differences pull them apart? If you would like to read the first chapter of Saving Gideon, go HERE

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"A Love Surrendered" Book Review




A LOVE SURRENDERED
BY
JULIE LESSMAN


Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt. She longs for romance to fill the void left by her parents' death. But when she falls hard for Steven O'Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart too when he discovers who she really is? With heart-pounding romance, intense family drama, and emotional twists and turns, A Love Surrendered is everything Julie Lessman's many fans have been waiting for.

MY REVIEW:
    One of my favorite sagas of all times continues with A Love Surrendered. It is technically the 6th book in the series (with a prequel with Marcy and Patrick releasing soon) and each book has been one to enjoy. This book was one to savor. The best part of Julie's books are that she doesn't forget about her characters when she moves on to the next one, they don't even just pop in for a cameo - no, we get to keep visiting them and enjoying them and seeing what they are up to. So in this book we may get inside the heads of Steven and Annie who are the "main characters", but we get to also follow Faith and Collin, Charity and Mitch, Luke and Katie, Sean and Emma, Brady and Lizzie, Patrick and Marcy and the cousins and kids. There are some twists and turns that try and keep romance at bay for Steven but in the end he finds that God is in control. Julie has done it again. I love the O'Connor clan and it is a pleasure to follow them through the years. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Life With Lily" Book Review





LIFE WITH LILY
BY
MARY ANN KINSINGER
AND
SUZANNE WOODS FISHER

For a child, every day is a thing of wonder. And for six-year-old Lily Lapp, every day is a new opportunity for blessings, laughter, family, and a touch of mischief. As she explores her world, goes to school, spends time with her family, and gets into a bit of trouble with her friends, Lily learns what it means to be Amish and what it means to grow up. From getting a new teacher to welcoming a new sibling, Lily's life is always full of adventure. The first of four charming novels that chronicle the gentle way of the Amish through the eyes of a young girl, Life with Lily gives children ages 8-12 a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Amish--and lots of fun and laughter along the way. It combines the real-life stories of growing up Amish from Mary Ann Kinsinger and the bestselling writing of Amish fiction and nonfiction author Suzanne Woods Fisher. With charming illustrations throughout, this series is sure to capture the hearts of readers young and old.

MY REVIEW:
     This book is absolutely precious. It reminds me a lot of the Grandma's Attic books by Arleta Jackson which I love. It is in a similar style of each chapter kind of being its own story and they weave all together to create this wonderful picture of life on a farm as a little Amish girl. Lily is precocious and sweet and certainly speaks her mind - one of my favorite lines is when she declares (to herself) that her new baby brother is ugly! Why couldn't God send them a pretty baby? I actually giggled at that because it is so true - most babies are a little rough around the edges the first couple days - leave it to Lily to say it like it really is! That is kind of how the book goes - you will find yourself smiling and enjoying yourself. It is written for the 8-12 (tween) group, but I enjoyed it and believe my 16 year old will as well. My 12 year old and her 8 year old sister are actually starting it together now. I look forward to more Life with Lily. 

"21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids" 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:

Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
MY REVIEW:
     This is a book that needed to be written. I am currently going through it and love the way it is broadening my ideas about how I should and can connect with my kids. And considering I have 7 very different and unique children, I need all the ideas I can get. I highly recommend for anyone with children in their lives - parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors and so on... excellent resource!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids offers a straightforward, workable plan to create new avenues of connection between parents and their kids. This handy guide coaches moms and dads to do one simple thing each day for three weeks to connect with their kids even in the midst of busy schedules.


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929673
ISBN-13: 978-0736929677



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Book I Almost
Didn’t Write

I argued with God for a long time before writing this book.

When I originally came up with the idea to write a book about connecting with your kids, I was on a “Mom High.” My husband, Roger, and I had been married for five years, and we had successfully blended a family. Two of his, two of mine, my cat, our dog.

Even the challenges I’d had with my stepson, Jeremy, after Roger and I got married were a mere memory. We had learned to care for each other, hang out together, and enjoy each other. And my relationship with my stepdaughter, Amanda, was growing, and we loved being together. All our kids would come over for Sunday night dinner and would often hang out during the week. While I knew we were far from perfect parents, I was excited that Roger and I both had close relationships with our kids.

But then all that went up in smoke.

My son, Justen, was going through a tough time in his life. He grew cold and distant from me. We were fighting and arguing and going through an awful, awful time.

And I needed to write a book about how to be close to your kids.

I cried out to God. I felt betrayed by him. I had poured all this love and energy, time and prayer into my son, and he was barely speaking to me. I felt like a failure. I felt like a fraud. And on the rare occasions that Justen and I had a conversation, I would curl up in a ball and cry as soon as we were done talking. I hated where our relationship was.

I talked with my husband about not writing the book. Not out of shame or embarrassment (and trust me, I felt both of those) but simply because I felt like the principles I had practiced didn’t work. My son was distant from me, and all the praying in the world was not helping. I asked friends to pray for Justen, pray for me, and pray for what this book was supposed to be about.

I’ve written much of this book during my desert time with Justen. I had nothing to hold on to but God’s Word, especially Philippians 4:6—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

So I waited and I prayed. And I prayed some more.

And now, as I finish writing this book, God has used time and the healing that only he can bring to restore Justen to a good place. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of prayer. But when I talked with Justen’s counselor, the one thing he said that I will never forget is this: “Justen felt safe enough with you to express his anger to you, because even with all of his anger, he never questioned your love for him.”

I’m afraid that each of my kids—and probably yours—are going to go through hard times. They are going to go through loss and disappointment and sadness, and they are not always going to behave as if all this “connecting stuff ” will make a difference. But let me tell you, it does.

Trust the process and trust your parenting. God has given you everything you need. You are not always going to feel like connecting. Do it anyway. Your kids need you to invest in them when they are young so that when they are older, they don’t ever have to question your love for them.



2

Why You’re a Better Parent than You Think You Are

I can tell you one thing about yourself right off the bat: You’re a better parent than you think you are. I know that’s a bold statement (especially since we’ve never met), but if you are anything like me and my friends, someone needed to tell you that.

I remember looking at the other moms at church, the dads out in the parks pushing their kids on the swings, and just knowing they all had it way more together than I ever would. Those thoughts started exactly one day after I became a parent.

It was time for us to check out of the hospital with Justen, who at one day and nine pounds and four ounces was just about the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen in my life. I was having a small (OK, enormous) panic attack. I couldn’t believe that the authorities, whoever they were, were going to let me take him home. Didn’t they realize I’d never handled a human baby before? What kind of broken system do we have that would let me (me!) take home this not-so-tiny baby boy?

And that’s when I knew I was sunk. In my mind, no one had ever had those thoughts before. All around me were happy couples who were dying to get their babies home and do what? I really had no idea. But I felt as though everyone else had been given a secret manual, and I had missed that day of orientation.

And the feeling persisted. All the other moms acted as if they had been parenting for decades. They had their parenting methods all picked out and were parenting on purpose.

I had a sneaking suspicion that they had their kids sleeping through the night after thirty days, were breastfeeding without tears, and woke up hours before their children so the house would be clean and activities laid out—activities that were not only creative but also educational. I felt like the world’s biggest loser of a parent.

But then something miraculous happened. I started talking to other parents. I mean really talking. And guess what I found out?

I found out they were just as unconfident, strung out, and secretly ashamed as I was. They too thought their kid was the only one to ever have a meltdown in the middle of Whole Foods. They too thought they had the only child on the planet who insisted on wearing his Spiderman underwear on the outside of his pants. They also thought that everyone else cooked homemade spinach muffins for their kids every morning and did alphabet-training drills starting at age two.

If you can relate to any of this, let me give you a few words of encouragement.

God gave the right parent to the right kid. There are days when this statement couldn’t feel further from the truth. You feel ill-equipped to meet your child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Because, for the most part, you are. God wants you to rely on him and the people he’s surrounded you with. You are not designed to do this parenting thing alone, even if you are a single parent. There are no gold stars for parents who never ask for help.

God gave the right kid to the right parent. All those things that God needs to grow in you to draw you closer to him? He sent those in a neat little package called “your child.” Each of my kids has taught me something about myself—often things I would choose to ignore if given the opportunity. I would have never thought that I had a patience problem, for example, until I had a patience tester named Kimberly. But there is no chance to ignore such things when they need to be bathed, fed, and loved pretty regularly. I had to confront the parts of me that needed, desperately, to be more like Jesus—and often, I needed to confront my problems with a lack of patience before Kimber woke up from her twelve-minute nap.

Prayer is key. For years, when a kid issue reared its ugly head, I would go to my friends, I would go to my mom, and I would go to my wall of “how to raise a great kid” books to find the answer. I needed answers, and I needed them quick! But as my friend Erin MacPherson, author of The Christian Mama’s Guide to Having a Baby: Everything You Need to Know to Survive (and Love) Your Pregnancy, says when it comes to pregnancy as well as parenting, “Go to God before Google.”

God will direct your heart as you parent. From day one, what I really needed was to know the heart of God and to let that direct me as a parent. Yes, I’m a big believer in wise council, but I am a bigger believer in not using God only when things hit the crisis stage (or the principal’s office).

• • • • •

Now, if you have a couple of years under your parenting belt, would you do us all a favor and tell the other mothers around you what went wrong?

• Tell us how the helpful junior higher you now are raising once threw a toy and knocked out her older brother’s tooth.

• Tell us that you faked dizziness so they wouldn’t release you from the hospital and you could stay another night.

• Tell us that your one and only prayer for the first year of your daughter’s life was, Dear God, please don’t let me screw her up.

When I was in high school, I had a youth leader named Emily Nelson. Emily had it all together. She’d married a great husband and started having great kids. Emily was the kind of person that I would spend a lot of time comparing myself to. You know the kind. You think to yourself, I bet they’re the kind of parent that grows their own organic food while teaching their kids French, as opposed to my kid who learned how to read from frequent exposure to packages of Chicken-Dino-Nuggets.

So imagine my glee when I read this essay by Emily about being a not-so-perfect mom:

As we cruised down the coast, singing along to Veggie Tales, I tossed carrots to my 3 sons who quickly gobbled them up. We arrived at the beach with our fresh-from-the-library-checked-out book about seashells and started collecting. After making sandcastles and letting them bury me neck deep, I pulled out the ice cream maker and made homemade, organic ice cream. I snapped a funny picture of them. “This one is for the scrapbook!” I exclaimed, and they tackled me with a hug. This was a perfect day, but…it never happened.

My REAL beach day started with screaming them into the car to beat traffic, telling them to forage the van floor if they were hungry, and throwing beach toys onto the sand, while I collapsed in my beach chair devouring the latest People magazine. I didn’t even bring the camera.

Looking back I’m tortured with what I didn’t do with my kids: take them hiking, educate them in museums, have family devotions. And I moan about what I did do: harsh words, wishy-washy discipline, and over-involvement in non-family activities. I look at the creative moms, the outdoorsy moms, the homemade-everything moms, the spiritual moms and think they parented so much better than I. Yet one day, as I was recounting my lack of mothering skills to my 27-year-old, he encircled me in a hug, saying, “Mom, you did just fine!” That boy never has to buy me another gift, as he gave me the gift of peace that maybe, just maybe, I did okay.

Every parent has struggles. Every parent has those nights when they toss a loaf of bread and some peanut butter on the table and call it dinner. But every parent also has those moments—probably more often than not—when they are a rock, an encourager, and a God-given gift to their children.

Your parenting road is going to have its share of take-the-hubcaps-off potholes. And it may be a long time before you hear the words, “Mom/Dad, you did just fine!”

But remember 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” God is sufficient for all your needs. Even your parenting needs.

You see? You really are a better parent than you think you are.