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: 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!


"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

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

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.

      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
Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)
R.J. Larson

     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!


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.


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


Bethany House Publishers (November 1, 2012)


Anne Elisabeth Stengl

       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.


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.


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.
      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

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.

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

224 pgs, 5.5" x 8.5"
ISBN: 9780981892955
Illustrated with Bl/Wh Photos

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.

     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)
Leslie Gould


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.


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)
Kristen Heitzmann

    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.


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.


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.***

      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.


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.


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


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 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?”


“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?”


“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?”


“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


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.

     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.