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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Blackberry Bush by David Housholder - A LiteFuse Blog Tour

The Blackberry BushThe Blackberry Bush by David Housholder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love the look of this book with its tattered pages and paperback hardcover look.
The story is about an intertwined family, who really don't know each other.
The book begins in 1989 in both the US and in Germany when two babies [Kati and Josh] are born, and the Berlin Wall is coming down. Watching this while eating Blackberries is Angelo...who is either a Spirit or an Angel.
We go through their lives and the book ends in 2032...there are chance meetings of the two in the book. The heartbreak the unites them is both sad and a double Love story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




David Housholder is a philosophical-spiritual influencer, a sponsored snowboarder and a surfing instructor who dreams of making this world a better place. As the senior pastor at Robinwood Church, an indie warehouse church near the beach in California, he can often be found preaching verse by verse in his bare feet. With his increasing desire to change the world around him, he is the director for several non-profit organizations. Housholder loves to travel and is an international conference speaker. He has spoken to groups in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Canada and London and has also been involved with mission trips. He is especially energized by evangelistic work among Muslims.

Housholder is an avid reader and carries an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. He received his undergraduate degree from Pacific Lutheran University and went on to receive his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Then he spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Universität-Bonn in Germany. Housholder fluently speaks three languages, English, Dutch and German, and enjoys reading biblical Greek and Hebrew.

Housholder and his wife, Wendy, have one grown son, Lars. They reside in Huntington Beach, California. Some of his hobbies include photography and tinkering on his 1971 VW bug.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609361164
ISBN-13: 978-1609361167

I would recommend reading this book, it is an enjoyable story.
I was provided with a copy of this book by B & B Media Group, and was not required to give a positive review.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance) by Margaret Brownley

A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance)A Vision of Lucy by Margaret Brownley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Lucy Bradshaw dreams of working as a photographer at the Rocky Creek newspaper. If she can earn money making photographs, then maybe her father will see that what she does is worthy, more than just a distraction. And her deepest hope is that he'll see her as an artist, the way he thought of her deceased mother, a painter. But trouble follows Lucy on every photo shoot: a mess of petticoats and ribbons, an accidental shooting, even a fire.

When Lucy meets David Wolf, a quiet, rustic man who lives on the outskirts of town, she thinks she can catch the attention of the town with his photograph. She doesn't count on her feelings stirring whenever she's near him.

Two things happen next that forever change the course of her life: Lucy meets someone who sees her as no one else has-as the compassionate, creative young woman that God made in His image. And Lucy helps David uncover a secret that forces him to change his perspective on an event that left him deeply-scarred. God's arms are around this unlikely couple as they discover the truth about long-held assumptions and the importance of forgiveness.

I found this book to be enjoyable and there are quite a few chuckles. Lucy Fairbanks is a woman before her times. She wants to pursue a career in photography, during a time when woman stayed home and took care of a family. On one of her adventures she meets, or I should say he comes to her rescue, David Wolf.
You will find yourself almost in tears for the young David Wolf. Poor darling! You also will see the pain and hurt from guilt from other members of Lucy's community.
You will find it quite funny with the mail order bride coming, along with balloon ride kidnappings.
I recommend this book to get lost in on a Summer day!

I was provided with a copy of this book by publisher Thomas Nelson, and was not required to give a positive review.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football by Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau

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 and illustrator are:


and their books:


The Spirit in Baseball

Cross Training Publishing (2008)
and

The Spirit in Football

The Spirit in Sports (2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR:


Kathryn Nixon was born in the small town of Rockingham, NC. She grew up involved in many sports including cheerleading, cross country and dance. After graduating high school, she attended Peace College and North Carolina State University where she received her BA with a major in communications and a minor in journalism. She went on to work as an associate producer for ESPN.

She met Trot Nixon when one of the coaches who recruited him to play baseball at NC State introduced them. They were married, and he was drafted by the Red Sox, where he became a 2004 World Series champion. While her husband was playing ball, Kathryn collaborated with the other wives on two children’s books: Fenway Park from A to Z and Fenway Park 1 2 3.

Her greatest desire is to touch the lives of children with the knowledge and experience of Christ’s love. Her passion is to gather children into the kingdom of God by planting His word in their hearts at an early age. Nixon and her husband, Trot, reside in Wilmington, NC, with their two sons, Chase and Luke.

Ana Boudreau was born in Williamsburg, VA, and grew up with the dream of being an artist and an illustrator. Her grandmother was a professional artist, and she passed down all of her supplies to her granddaughter. She was also involved in cheerleading and gymnastics as a girl, helping her further connect to the Spirit in Sports series.

Boudreau attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with a BA in English literature. She met Kathryn Nixon when she was commissioned to paint murals in the preschool department of Nixon’s church. They struck up a friendship and began meeting to plan a series of books that would attract young children involved in sports. Boudreau treasured the opportunity to co-author children’s books that had the power to instill God’s values in the day-to-day lives of families, including her own.

Boudreau is an artist, muralist and an art teacher at Myrtle Grove Christian School. She has illustrated both The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football, along with a third book, How Bernie Madoff Saved My Life by Valorie Stackpole. She is married to Mark Boudreau, and they are blessed with three wonderfully athletic girls—Lauren is a cheerleader, Julia is a skater and Katherine is a tennis player. She and her family reside in Wilmington, NC.

Visit the author and illustrator's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Sometimes, when we think about little league sports, the first thing that comes to mind are pushy coaches and over-competitive parents. However, there are many positive character qualities that children can develop while playing team sports. Kathryn Nixon and Ana Boudreau help to instill these virtues in their two books, The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football. Their books are based on the fruits of the Spirit as seen in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”


The Spirit in Baseball applies the fruits of the Spirit to each aspect of playing the game of baseball, such as:

I LOVE my teammates. They are my friends. We spend a lot of time in the dugout together!

I am PATIENT and happy to wait until it is my turn to bat.

I do my best to be GOOD to others. I congratulate the other team if they win the game.

Each of the fruits is introduced by a Scripture verse, followed by the application. The colorful illustrations will draw in young readers, and a tiny fruit has been hidden on every page for the children to seek out. The book also includes words of encouragement from Kathryn’s husband, Trot Nixon, a 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series champion. The Spanish translation, El Espiritu en Beisbol, is also available.


The Spirit in Football focuses on the same virtues and format, but applies the fruits of the Spirit to football. Some examples include:

The fans cheered with excitement and JOY as our team scored the first touchdown of the game.

If we are upset about a penalty, instead of acting out in anger, God calls us to react with GENTLENESS and respect.

We must show SELF-CONTROL by not losing our temper when we are tackled aggressively by the other team.

The Spirit in Football includes a forward by Matt Hasselbeck, NFL quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, encouraging children that “drive and competitiveness should never come before obeying the rules and being a good sport.”

Both books are great gifts for little league teams or any child who participates in sports. The books include a page for autographs, so parents can buy a copy for every team member and the children can sign each other’s books as a keepsake for years to come. The Spirit in Baseball and The Spirit in Football provide a practical way for any parent or coach to apply the fruits of the Spirit in the everyday lives of their children.



Product Details:

The Spirit in Baseball:

List Price: $10.00
Hardcover
Publisher: Cross Training Publishing (2008)
ISBN-10: 1450776256
ISBN-13: 978-1450776257

The Spirit in Football:

List Price: $10.00
Hardcover
Publisher: The Spirit in Sports (2010)
ISBN-10: 0615386695
ISBN-13: 978-0615386690

AND NOW...THE FIRST FEW PAGES (Click on images to see them better):


The Spirit in Baseball:








The Spirit in Football:










My Review: The Spirit of Baseball, and The Spirit of Football are brightly colored and nicely illustrated book for children. Galatians 5:22-23
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,patience,kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Each of these spirits are included in the book with one page a Bible verse, and the other side showing how to incorporate the verse in playing the game.
My boys ages 4 and 6 enjoyed the book, but I think this book would be great for a Sunday School class.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Muir House by Mary E. DeMuth

The Muir HouseThe Muir House by Mary E. DeMuth


Overview: 'You'll find home one day. Sure as sweet tea on a hot afternoon.' Words from Willa Muir's sketchy childhood haunt her dreams and color her days with longing, regret, and fear. What do the words mean? Willa is far from sure. When Hale Landon places a ring on her finger, Willa panics, feeling she can't possibly say yes when so much in her past is a mystery. Bent on sorting out her history, Willa returns to Rockwall, Texas, to the Muir House Bed and Breakfast, a former funeral home. But the old place holds her empty memory close to itself. Willa's mother utters unintelligible clues from her deathbed, and the caretaker of the house keeps coveted answers carefully protected. Throw in an old flame, and Willa careens farther away from ever knowing the truth. Set in a growing suburb of Texas, The Muir House explores trauma, healing, love new and old, and the life-changing choices people make to keep their reputations intact.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book. Willa Muir decides to head home after Genie, the housekeeper, has requested her help to redecorate the Muir House. It is being turned into a Bed and Breakfast [it was a Funeral Home].

Hale has asked Willa to marry him, but she has refused!

Willa has know for a long time that something is missing in her memory. Around the age of 4 there is a blank memory...she has dreams and keeps a journal, but still hasn't been able to figure it all out.

She does know that her Mother intensely dislikes her, and now is in the late stages of Alzheimers.

What a woven story this is, and just when you think you have it figured out ... you don't!

Willa has to learn to lean on the Lord, trust, and Forgive!






I was provided with a copy of this book by the Author, and was not required to give a good review.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pieces of Light (A Dinah Harris Mystery) by Julie Cave

Pieces of Light (A Dinah Harris Mystery)Pieces of Light by Julie Cave

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I couldn't put this book down, it is a real page turner. The events in the book are fictional, but appeared to be so very real. They could really happen!

Loved that Dinah is totally living a Christian life. She is a remarkable character, and felt so sorry for all that she had been through.

The book opens at the Funeral of a man who was much loved by his Church, and spent the rest of his time terrorizing his family. Your mind rages against this man's brutal attacks on innocent children.

The book shows that one can go from being totally controlled by Satan to belonging to God. The journey was horrific and the losses were great, but there is God's light to be received.

There are three books in this series, this is the first one that I have read, but want to read the other two! You don't need to have read the first two in order to enjoy this one!



I received this book from New Leaf Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.






Friday, June 24, 2011

The Judas Gospel by Bill Myers

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:


The Judas Gospel

Howard Books; Original edition (June 14, 2011)

***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Myers holds a degree in Theater Arts from the University of Washington and an honorary doctorate from the Theological Institute of Nimes, France, where he taught. As an author/screenwriter/director his work has won over 50 national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award. His books have sold more than 8 million copies and three of his novels are being made into movies, including The Wager, starring Randy Travis.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Judas, the disciple responsible for betraying Jesus, has a conversation with God and proposes to him that if God had used his powers to market Jesus that Judas would have, Jesus would have been more successful in saving the world, with more people following him. Judas has heard rumors that God is preparing another prophet and talks God into letting Judas return to earth to prove his point using this new prophet, a woman who possesses supernatural abilities and who is stalked by a serial killer through her horrifying dreams of his victims. Judas takes her pure ministry and turns it into a marketing circus, and he comes to realize that in mixing commerce with God, bigger isn’t better and that God is interested in reaching individuals, not masses.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143915354X
ISBN-13: 978-1439153543

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PROLOGUE
________

CHANCES ARE you hate me. Believer or nonbeliever, if you've heard the story, you despise me. And believer or nonbeliever, that makes you a hypocrite. All of you. Believers, because you refuse to embrace the very forgiveness He pleaded for others, even those who tortured Him to death. And nonbelievers, because you pretend to hate the traitor of someone you hate.

"But I don't hate Him," you say.

Really? Pretending you don't hate someone who says all your attempts at being good are worthless? Pretending you don't hate someone who claims to be the only way to God? Pretending you don't hate someone who wants to rule your life? Who are you kidding? You're not fooling anyone, least of all Him.

But hate Him or worship Him, one thing you can say, He's no hypocrite. He stuck to the truth all the way through His execution. And He still holds to it today. (Old habits die hard.) Truth is His currency… and His Achilles' heel. That's why I knew He'd allow me into His presence. If my question was asked in truth, He'd respond in truth.

Now I'm sure there are some who will debate how I had access to Him—those of you who love to argue about gnats while swallowing camels. And why not? After all, debating about dancing angels and pinheads is far easier than breaking a sweat by actually obeying. Or, as the Accuser recently confided in me, "Spending time arguing theology is the perfect way to ensure a burning world continues to burn."

In any case, my eternal state is not up for discussion. Though I will say I have displayed more remorse and repentance over my sin than most of you ever have over your own. And as to whether I'm actually in hell, I guess that depends upon your definition of the place.

But I digress.

When I came before Him, I was forced to my knees. Not by any cosmic bullying, but by the sheer weight of His glory. Yet when He spoke, His voice was kind and full of compassion.

"Hello, my friend. It's been a long time."

My eyes immediately dropped to the ground and my chest swelled with emotion. So much time had passed and He still had that power over me. Angry at His hold, I took a ragged breath and then another before blurting out like a petulant child, "You… never gave me a chance!"

I was answered by silence. He waited until I found the courage, or foolishness, to raise my head. When I did, the love in His eyes burned through me and I had to look back down. Still, He continued to wait.

I took another breath. Finally, angrily swiping at my eyes, I tried again. "If we… if we would have handled Your mission my way"—I swallowed and continued—"the world would not be in the mess it's in today."

"Your way?"

I nodded, refusing to look up. "You could have ruled the world."

"I am ruling the world."

I shook my head. "Not souls. But nations, governments. Every earthly power imaginable could have been Yours."

"Kingdoms come and go. Souls are eternal."

"Tell that to the tortured and murdered who scream Your name as an oath every day." I waited for His wrath to flare up, to consume me. But I felt nothing. I heard no rebuke. Only more silence. He knew I wasn't finished. I took another breath and continued, "If You would have used Your powers my way, everyone would have followed You."

I heard Him chuckle softly. "And you would have made Me a star."

"The likes of which the world had never seen."

"I did all right."

"You could have done better."

He waited again, making sure I had nothing more to say. This time I had the good sense to remain silent.

Finally He spoke. "What do you propose, My friend?"

I hesitated.

"Please. Go ahead."

Still staring at the ground, I answered: "Rumor has it You're preparing another prophet—though her background is questionable."

"Moses was a murderer. David an adulterer." I felt His eyes searching me. "I've always had a soft spot for the broken."

I nodded and took another swipe at my tears.

"What would you like?"

Another breath and I answered: "Let me return to Earth. Let me show You what could have been if You had followed my leading." I hesitated, then looked up, trying to smile. "Hasn't that always been Your favorite method of teaching? Letting us have our way until we wind up proving Yours?"

His eyes sparkled at my little joke. I tried to hold His gaze but could not.

After another pause He finally spoke: "When would you like to begin?"

And that's how it started—how He gave me the opportunity to prove to Him, to you, and to all of creation, what could have been accomplished if He'd proclaimed His truth my way.

I'll say no more. Neither here nor at the end. Instead, I'll practice what He, himself, employs. I'll let the story unfold, allowing truth to speak for itself.





CHAPTER ONE
________

THE FIRST thing Rachel smells is smoke. That's how it always begins. Not the smoke of wood, but the acrid, chemical smell of burning drapes, melting carpet, smoldering sofa. The air is suffocating. Hot waves press against her face and mouth, making it difficult to breathe. Her mother stands before her in a white flowing gown. Flames engulf the woman's legs, leaping up and rising toward her waist where she holds little Rebecca. The two of them stare at Rachel, their eyes pleading for help, their faces filled with fear, confusion, and accusation as Rachel stands holding a lit candle in a small glass holder.

Mother and sister waver and dissolve, disappearing into the smoke. Suddenly Rachel is standing in the doorway of an upscale bathroom. The same bathroom she stood inside last night. And the night before. The marble tile is cool to her bare feet. There is no smoke now, only fog. So thick she sees nothing. But she can hear. There is the sound of splashing water. Someone in a tub. The room is filled with the sweet scent of rose bath oil.

A nearby dog yaps, its bark shrill and relentless.

A woman shouts from the tub, "Who's there?" Her voice is strong and authoritative, masking the fear she must feel.

Rachel tries to answer, but no sound comes from her throat.

"Who are you? How did you get in?" She hears the woman rising, water dripping from her body.

The dog continues to bark.

"Get out of here!" the woman yells. Water splashes. She swears. The sound of a struggle begins. Someone falls, knees thudding into the tub. There is the squeak of flesh against porcelain. Coughing, gagging. A scream that is quickly submerged underwater, muffled and bubbling.

Rachel hears herself gasping and grunting. She feels her own hands around the woman's throat.

The dog barks crazily.

The last of the burbling screams fades. The struggle ends. There is only the gentle sound of water sloshing back and forth, back and forth.

And the yelping dog.

Rachel rises and turns, fearful of what she knows she will see through the fog. As in the previous dreams, a bathroom mirror floats before her. But this evening there is something different. This evening there are letters scrawled across it in black cherry lipstick. Her scrawling:

Tell Them

In the mirror she sees a tiny red glow dancing across her hand, the hand that holds the burning candle. It's there every night, like a firefly. But instead of her own frightened face staring back at her, she sees the face of someone else: bald, white, and pale. A swastika tattooed on the side of the neck. Man, woman, she can't tell. But it is leering. And it is climbing out of the mirror toward her.

She screams and throws the candle at the reflection. The mirror shatters, breaking into a dozen pieces, a dozen images of the face sneering up at her. Until they change. Until they morph into different faces. Froglike. Reptilian. Each climbing out of its broken shard—snarling, reaching for her feet, clutching at her ankles until, mustering all of her strength, she wakes with a stifled scream.

Nineteen-year-old Rachel Delacroix lay in bed, heart pounding, T-shirt soaked and clinging. At first she thought it was from the water of the tub… until she realized it was her own cold sweat.

"Rachel?" Her father appeared in the doorway, his bald black head glistening in the streetlight from the hall window. The same window that held the broken air conditioner they could not afford to replace. "Are you all right?"

"Mmm?" she mumbled, pretending to be asleep.

"Was it—did you have another dream?"

She gave no answer.

"You're not taking your medicine, are you."

She remained silent, hoping he'd think she'd gone back to sleep.

"Rachel?"

More silence. She could hear him standing there nearly half a minute before he turned and wearily shuffled back down the hall to his room. Tomorrow was church and he needed to get his rest. Still, she knew full well he'd not be able to go back to sleep.

Hopefully, neither would she.

She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling, then turned to the art posters on the surrounding walls—the Monets, the Van Goghs, the Renoirs. How often they gave her comfort. Even joy. But not tonight. Tonight, as in the past two nights she'd had the dream, they would give her nothing at all.

________

IT WAS BARELY past nine in the morning and the attic was like an oven. The Santa Anas had been blowing for several days, and Sean Putnam doubted the house had dropped below eighty degrees all night. That's why he was up here now—to save whatever was left of his paintings. To bring the canvases downstairs where it was cooler and the paint wouldn't dry out and crack. Over the past months he'd already thrown away dozens, mostly self-portraits; clear signs of what he now considered to have been his self-absorbed youth.

"Dad!"

He turned toward the stairs and shouted. As was the case with many Down syndrome children, the multiple ear infections had left his son hard of hearing. "I'll be there in a second."

"Well, hurry! We don't want to be late."

"I'll be right there."

"Well, hurry."

He quietly mused. Tomorrow would be Elliot's first day in middle school. A scary time for both of them. Yet it was all part of the plan he and Beverly had agreed upon. A plan conceived as the cancer began eating away and taking her. They wanted to make sure Elliot was prepared as much as possible to face the real world. Integrating him into the public school system seemed the best choice. They'd talked about it often during her final days. And it was the last conversation they had before she slipped into unconsciousness.

Now, barely a year later, he was making good on those plans.

"Dad."

"I'll be right there."

Elliot was nervous. He had been all week. That's why Sean had agreed to this trial run. That's why, though it was nine-fifteen on a Sunday morning, the two of them would pile into the old Ford Taurus and drive over to Lincoln Middle School. A rehearsal for tomorrow's big day. An attempt to help Elliot relax by eliminating any surprises.

Too bad Sean couldn't do the same for himself. Because he wasn't just anxious about his son. Tomorrow was a big day for him as well. He'd finally graduated from the Los Angeles Police Academy, and tomorrow would be his first day on patrol in a black-and-white. That was the other reason he was up here in the attic. "To put away childish things." He wasn't sure where he'd first heard that phrase, probably from his old man. But it made it no less true. The days of being a long-haired art student had come and gone. Now it was time to be a man. To make the necessary sacrifices and take care of what was left of his family.

He quickly flipped through the remaining canvases until one slowed him to a stop. Not because of any artistic skill, but because of the subjects—six-week-old Elliot lying naked on his mother's tummy, his little fist clenched, nursing at her breast. It still moved him in ways he could not explain. Somehow, some way, he'd been able to capture the truth of that moment… mother and child lost in the act of life, their faces filled with contentment, glowing with an indefinable peace.

"Dad…"

He reached down and scooped up the canvas. "I'm on my way." He tucked the painting under his arm and headed back downstairs, where he would find someplace safe to keep it.


© 2011 Bill Myers



My Review: I had a hard time putting this book down...it really wasn't what I expected. Rachel has been traumatized by the deaths of her Mother and younger Sister. She has visions, some quite violent and makes predictions. She is then given the gift of healing. Wherein enters Judas Martin, he has found a golden opportunity. The other main character is Sean who is raising his handicapped son alone after his wife has passed away. He is just beginning a new career as a policeman.
The book to me does have a surprise ending, and Rachel has to come to terms with what God wants her to do with her Gifts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond

About the book:


Booklist says, "Inspired by [folk] lyrics, Richmond arrives on the inspirational fiction scene with a moving debut novel. Readers will be filled with hope that Susannah will learn the true meaning of love. Highly recommended where inspiring, romantic historical fiction is in demand."

Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory .

Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her-and his faith in God's perfect plan-slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.

When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.

She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.


About the author:

Catherine Richmond was focused on her career as an occupational therapist till a special song planted a story idea in her mind. That idea would ultimately become Spring for Susannah, her first novel. She is also a founder and moderator of Nebraska Novelist critique group and lives in Nebraska with her husband.

For more about Catherine, please visit www.catherinerichmond.com.

My Review: I couldn't put this book down. Felt like I had moved in with Susannah and Jesse. Even though this story takes place in the 1800's, before the Dakota's become States it seems so real...it could be happening today. Loved the frank discussions that went on, and how a Woman was supposed to be so prim and proper.
Susannah was brought up to be invisible by her Mother, and her Father [although he encouraged her Vet skills, he was not interested in any of her other accomplishments.]
Jesse was a member of a large family growing up, and is trying to put the Civil War behind him. He has moved to the Dakota prairie, and receives word from his brother [a Minister] of an available wife. So Susannah becomes a Mail Order Bride...kind of!
What a great Christian Man Jesse is and what a wonderful understanding, giving person he is. Love the interaction between him and Susannah...when the Elkhound jumps into their wagon and Chicken feathers fly. Jesse says "I guess we won't have to pluck the ones we are going to eat"...and Susannah's reply..."and I'll have to knit sweaters for the ones were keeping!!" Too cute!
This is a wonderful Christian romance story, I just wish there had been more!!

To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!


One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Monday, June 20, 2011

Growing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler

Growing Up Amish: A MemoirGrowing Up Amish: A Memoir by Ira Wagler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed reading this very well written autobiography. At times I felt that I was reading a fictional story, but it was true.
You will love going along with Ira in his everyday life. There are 5 boys and 5 girls in his family, Ira being 3rd to the last. Experience his time of schooling, and his pain in bullying another. You'll meet his friends including some people you already know. Experience his move from Aylmer, Ontario to Bloomfield, Iowa and leaving the only home he has ever known in his sixteen years.
Now we experience his Rumspringa time and meet his new friends, and their antics. We spend time with him each time he leaves, you wonder what he is looking for? In some ways leaving and going out into the "real" world had to be scary for someone who had lived a rather sheltered life. I think what surprises me is his going back, and then leaving again. What is he looking for? In the end you will understand, and it has been hard for Ira to see it!
I loved how the Lord opened the right doors for him, once he learned how to pray! I recommend this book…it is a great read! Enjoy!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Indelible: A Novel by Kristen Heitzmann

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:


Indelible

WaterBrook Press (May 3, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kristen Heitzmann’s gift of crafting stories has ranked her as the award-winning and best-selling author of two historical series and twelve contemporary, psychological and romantic suspense novels including Indivisible. As an artist and musician, Kristen lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and a continuous stream of extended family, various pets, and wildlife.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Award-wining and best-selling author Kristen Heitzmann brings another suspense story to life in Indelible (WaterBrook, May 3, 2011).

Follow Trevor MacDaniel, a high country outfitter, as he rescues a toddler from the jaws of a mountain lion. Discover how he can’t foresee the far-reaching consequences of his action, how it will entwine his life with gifted sculptor, Natalie Reeve—and attract a grim admirer.

Find out how Trevor’s need to guard and protect is born of tragedy, prompting his decision to become a search and rescue volunteer. And how Natalie’s gift of sculpting comes from an unusual disability that seeks release through her creative hands.

See how in each other they learn strength and courage as they face an incomprehensible foe…a twisted soul, who is drawn by the heroic story of the child’s rescue. One who sees Trevor as archangel and adversary, and threatens their peaceful mountain community—testing Trevor’s limits by targeting their most helpless and innocent.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073103
ISBN-13: 978-1400073108

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A veined bolt of lightning sliced the ozone-scented sky as Trevor plunged down the craggy slope, dodging evergreen spires like slalom poles. Rocks and gravel spewed from his boots and caromed off the vertical pitch.

“Trevor.” Whit skidded behind him. “We’re not prepared for this.”

No. But he hurled himself after the tawny streak. He was not losing that kid.

“He’s suffocated,” Whit shouted. “His neck’s broken.”

Trevor leaped past a man—probably the dad—gripping his snapped shinbone. Whit could help there. Digging his heels into the shifting pine needles, Trevor gave chase, outmatched and unwavering. His heart pumped hard as he neared the base of the gulch, jumping from a lichen-crusted stone to a fallen trunk. The cougar jumped the creek, lost its grip, and dropped the toddler. Yes.

He splashed into the icy flow, dispersing scattered leaves like startled goldfish. After driving his hand into the water, he gripped a stone and raised it. Not heavy, not nearly heavy enough.

Lowering its head over the helpless prey, the mountain lion snarled a spine-chilling warning. There was no contest, but the cat, an immature male, might not realize its advantage, might not know its fear of man was mere illusion. Thunder crackled. Trevor tasted blood where he’d bitten his tongue.

Advancing, he engaged the cat’s eyes, taunting it to charge or run. The cat backed up, hissing. A yearling cub, able to snatch a tot from the trail, but unprepared for this fearless challenge. Too much adrenaline for fear. Too much blood on the ground.

With a shout, he heaved the rock. As the cat streaked up the mountainside, he charged across the creek to the victim. He’d steeled himself for carnage, but even so, the nearly severed arm, the battered, bloody feet… His nose filled with the musky lion scent, the rusty smell of blood. He reached out. No pulse.

He dropped to his knees as Whit joined him from behind, on guard. He returned the boy’s arm to the socket, and holding it there with one trembling hand, Trevor began CPR with his other. On a victim so small, it took hardly any force, his fingers alone performing the compressions. The lion had failed to trap the victim’s face in its mouth. By grabbing the back of the head, neck, and shoulder, it had actually protected those vulnerable parts. But blood streamed over the toddler’s face from a deep cut high on the scalp, and he still wasn’t breathing.

Trevor bent to puff air into the tiny lungs, compressed again with his fingers, and puffed as lightly as he would to put out a match. Come on. He puffed and compressed while Whit watched for the cat’s return. Predators fought for their kills—even startled ones.

A whine escaped the child’s mouth. He jerked his legs, emitting a highpitched moan. Trevor shucked his jacket and tugged his T-shirt off over his head. He tied the sleeves around the toddler’s arm and shoulder, pulled the rest around, and swaddled the damaged feet—shoes and socks long gone. Thunder reverberated. The first hard drops smacked his skin. Tenderly, he pulled the child into his chest and draped the jacket over as a different rumble chopped the air. They had started up the mountain to find two elderly hikers who’d been separated from their party. Whit must have radioed the helicopter. He looked up. This baby might live because two old guys had gotten lost.

In the melee at the trailhead, Natalie clutched her sister-in-law’s hands, the horror of the ordeal still rocking them. As Aaron and little Cody were airlifted from the mountain, she breathed, “They’re going to be all right.”

“You don’t know that.” Face splotched and pale, Paige swung her head. Though her hair hung in wet blond strands, her makeup was weatherproof, her cologne still detectable. Even dazed, her brother’s wife looked and smelled expensive.

“The lion’s grip protected Cody’s head and neck,” one of the paramedics had told them. “It could have been so much worse.”

Paige started to sob. “His poor arm. What if he loses his arm?”

“Don’t go there.” What good was there in thinking it?

“How will he do the stuff boys do? I thought he’d be like Aaron, the best kid on the team.”

“He’ll be the best kid no matter what.”

“In the Special Olympics?”

Natalie recoiled at the droplets of spit that punctuated the bitter words.

“He’s alive, Paige. What were the odds those men from search and rescue would be right there with a helicopter already on standby?”

“We shouldn’t have needed it.” Paige clenched her teeth. “Aaron’s supposed to be recovering. He would have been if you weren’t such a freak.”

“What?” She’d endured Paige’s unsubtle resentment, but “ freak” ?

“Let me go.” Paige jerked away, careening toward the SUV.

Natalie heard the engine roar, the gravel flung by the spinning tires, but all she saw was the hate in Paige’s eyes, the pain twisting her brother’s face as he held his fractured leg, little Cody in the lion’s maw, the man leaping after…

She needed to clear the images, but it wouldn’t happen here. Around her, press vans and emergency vehicles drained from the lot, leaving the scent of exhaust and tire scars in the rusty mud. Paige had stranded her.

“Freak.” Heart aching, she took a shaky step toward the road. It hadn’t been that long a drive from the studio. A few miles. Maybe five. She hadn’t really watched—because Aaron was watching for her. Off the roster for a pulled oblique, he had seen an opportunity to finalize her venture and help her move, help her settle in, and see if she could do it. She’d been so thankful. How could any of them have known it would come to this? Trevor’s spent muscles shook with dumped adrenaline. He breathed the moist air in through his nose, willing his nerves to relax. Having gotten all they were going to get from him, most of the media had left the trailhead, following the story to the hospital. Unfortunately, Jaz remained.

She said, “You live for this, don’t you?” Pulling her fiery red hair into a messy ponytail didn’t disguise her incendiary nature or the smoldering coals reserved for him. He accepted the towel Whit handed him and wiped the rain from his head and neck, hoping she wouldn’t see the shakes. The late-summer storm had lowered the temperature enough she might think he was shivering.

“Whose idea was it to chase?”

“It’s not like you think about it. You just act.” Typing into her BlackBerry, she said, “Acted without thinking.”

“Come on, Jaz.” She couldn’t still be on his case.

“Interesting your being in place for the dramatic rescue of a pro athlete’s kid. Not enough limelight lately?”

“We were on another search.” She cocked her eyebrow. “You had no idea the victim’s dad plays center field for the Rockies?”

“Yeah, I got his autograph on the way down.” He squinted at the nearly empty parking lot. “Aren’t you following the story?”

“What do you think this is?”

“You got the same as everyone. That’s all I have to say.”

“You told us what happened. I want the guts. How did it feel? What were you thinking?” She planted a hand on her hip. “Buy me a drink?” He’d rather go claw to claw with another mountain lion. But considering the ways she could distort this, he relented. “The Summit?”

“I’d love to.” She pocketed her BlackBerry and headed for her car. Whit raised his brows at her retreat. “Still feeling reckless?”

“Sometimes it’s better to take her head on.”

“Like the cat?” Whit braced his hips.

“The cat was young, inexperienced.”

“You didn’t know that.”

“There was a chance the child wasn’t dead.”

“What if it hadn’t run?”

“If it attacked, you’d have been free to grab the kid.”

“Nice for you, getting mauled.”

“If it got ugly, I’d have shot it.”

“Shot?”

He showed him the Magnum holstered against the small of his back.

Whit stared at him, stone-faced. “You had your gun and you used a rock?”

“I was pretty sure it would run.”

“Pretty sure,” Whit said. “So, what? It wouldn’t be fair to use your weapon?”

It had been the cat against him on some primal level the gun hadn’t entered into. He said, “I could have hit the boy, or the cat could have dropped him down the gulch. When it did let go, I realized its inexperience and knew we had a chance to scare it off. Department of Wildlife can decide its fate. I was after the child.”

“Okay, fine.” With a hard exhale, Whit rubbed his face. “This was bad.”

Trevor nodded. Until today, the worst he’d seen over four years of rescues was a hiker welded to a tree by lightning and an ice climber’s impalement on a jagged rock spear. There’d been no death today, but Whit looked sick. “You’re a new dad. Seeing that little guy had to hit you right in the gut.” Whit canted his head.

“I’m just saying.” Trevor stuffed his shaking hands into his jacket pockets. The storm passed, though the air still smelled of wet earth and rain. He drove Whit back, then went home to shower before meeting Jazmyn Dufoe at the Summit. Maybe he’d just start drinking now. Arms aching, Natalie drove her hands into the clay. On the huge, square Corian table, two busts looked back at her: Aaron in pain, and Paige, her fairy-tale life rent by a primal terror that sprang without warning. She had pushed and drawn and formed the images locked in her mind, even though her hands burned with the strain.

No word had come from the Children’s Hospital in Denver, where the police chief said they’d taken Cody, or from the hospital that had Aaron. Waiting to hear anything at all made a hollow in her stomach. She heaved a new block of clay to the table, wedged and added it to the mound already softened. Just as she started to climb the stepstool, her phone rang. She plunged her hands into the water bucket and swabbed
them with a towel, silently begging for good news. “Aaron?”

Not her brother, but a nurse calling. “Mr. Reeve asked me to let you know he came through surgery just fine. He’s stable, and the prognosis is optimistic. He doesn’t want you to worry.”

Natalie pressed her palm to her chest with relief. “Did he say anything about Cody? Is there any news?”

“No, he didn’t say. I’m sure he’ll let you know as soon as he hears something.”

“Of course. Thank you so much for calling.”

Natalie climbed back onto the stool, weary but unable to stop. Normally, the face was enough, but this required more. She molded clay over stiff wire-mesh, drawing it up, up, proportionately taller than an average man, shoulders that bore the weight of other people’s fear, one arm wielding a stone, the other enfolding the little one. The rescuer hadn’t held both at once, but she combined the actions to release both images.

She had stared hard at his face for only a moment before he plunged over the ridge, yet retained every line and plane of it. Determination and fortitude in the cut of his mouth, selfless courage in the eyes. There’d been fear for Cody. And himself ? Not of the situation, but something…

It came through her hands in the twist of his brow. A heroic face, aware of the danger, capable of failing, unwilling to hold back. Using fingers and tools, she moved the powerful images trapped by her eidetic memory through her hands to the clay, creating an exterior storage that freed her mind, and immortalizing him—whoever he was. The Summit bar was packed and buzzing, the rescue already playing on televisions visible from every corner. With the whole crowd toasting and congratulating him, Jaz played nice—until he accepted her ride home and infuriated her all over again by not inviting her in.

He’d believed that dating women whose self-esteem reached egotistical meant parting ways wouldn’t faze them. Jaz destroyed that theory. She was not only embittered but vindictive. After turning on the jets, Trevor sank into his spa, letting the water beat his lower- and mid-lumbar muscles.

He pressed the remote to open the horizontal blinds and to look out through the loft windows.

Wincing, he reached in and rubbed the side of his knee. That plunge down the slope had cost him, but, given the outcome, he didn’t consider it a judgment error. That honor went to putting himself once more at the top of Jaz’s hate list. He maneuvered his knee into the pressure of a jet. When he got out, he’d ice it. If he got out.

He closed his eyes and pictured the battered toddler. The crowd’s attention had kept the thoughts at bay, easy to talk about the cat, how mountain lions rarely attacked people, how he and Whit had scared it off, how DOW would euthanize if they caught it, how his only priority had been to get the child. He had segued into the business he and Whit had opened the previous spring, rock and ice climbing, land and water excursions, cross-country ski and snowshoe when the season turned.

That was his business, but rescuing was in his blood, had been since his dad made him the man of the house by not coming home one night or any thereafter. At first, the nightmares had been bad—all the things that could go wrong: fire, snakes, tarantulas, tornadoes. They had populated his dreams until he woke drenched in sweat, cursing his father for trusting him to do what a grown man couldn’t.

The phone rang. He sloshed his arm up, dried his hand on the towel lying beside it, and answered. “Hey, Whit.”

“You doing okay?”

“Knee hurts. You?”

“Oh sure. You know—”

“Hold on. There’s someone at the door.”

“Yeah. Me and Sara.”

Trevor said, “Cute. Where’s your key?”

“Forgot it.”

Gingerly, he climbed over the side, then wrapped a towel around his hips, and let them in.

“You mind?” Whit frowned at the towel, although Sara hadn’t batted an eye.

She came in and made herself at home. Whit carried their twomonth- old asleep in his car seat to a resting place. Trevor threw on Under Armour shorts and a clean T-shirt, then rejoined them. “So what’s up?”

“Nice try, Trevor.” Sara fixed him with a look. “I especially like the practiced nonchalance.”

He grinned. “Hey, I’ve got it down.”

“With Jaz, maybe. No claw marks?”

“Too public.”

Whit rubbed his wife’s shoulder. “We knew you’d worry this thing, so Sara brought the remedy.”

She drew the Monopoly box out of her oversize bag with a grin that said she intended to win and would, wearing them down with her wheeling and dealing. “I’ll take that silly railroad off your hands. It’s no good to you when I have the other three.”

He rubbed his hands, looking into her bold blue eyes. “Bring it.”

The mindless activity and their chatter lightened his mood as Sara had intended. She knew him as well as Whit, maybe better. Each time he caught the concern, he reassured her with a smile. He’d be fine.

Whit played his get-out-of-jail card and freed his cannon. “Hear what’s going in next door to us?”

“No.”

“An art gallery.”

“Yeah?” Trevor adjusted the ice pack on his knee.

“Place called Nature Waits.”

“Waits for what?”

Whit shrugged. “Have to ask the lady sculptor.”

“Won’t exactly draw for our kind of customer.”

“At least it won’t compete.” Sara rolled the dice and moved her pewter shoe. “Another outfitter could have gone in. I’ll buy Park Place.”

Both men mouthed, “I’ll buy Park Place.”

She shot them a smile.

Two hours later, she had bankrupted them with her thoughtful loans and exorbitant use of hotels on prime properties. He closed the door behind them, and it hit. He raised the toilet seat and threw up, then pressed his back to the wall and rested his head, breathing deeply. The shaking returned, and this time he couldn’t blame adrenaline. He had literally puffed the life back into that tiny body. If that child had died in his arms…

Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seemed
Alone th’ antagonist of Heaven, nor less
Than Hell’s dread Emperor, with pomp supreme,
And god-like imitated state.

Child snatched from lion’s jaws. Two-year-old spared in deadly attack. Rescuer Trevor MacDaniel, champion of innocents, protector of life. Cameras rolling, flashes flashing, earnest newscasters recounted the tale. “On this mountain, a miracle. What could have been a tragedy became a triumph through the courage of this man who challenged a mountain lion to save a toddler attacked while hiking with his father, center-fielder…”

He consumed the story in drunken drafts. Eyes swimming, he gazed upon the noble face, the commanding figure on the TV screen. In that chest beat valiance. In those hands lay salvation. His heart made a slow drum in his ears. A spark ignited, purpose quickening.

Years he’d waited. He spread his own marred hands, instruments of instruction, of destruction. With slow deliberation, he closed them into fists. What use was darkness if not to try the light?



My Review: I found this to be a good story, loved the disabilities that were presented and and how they are dealt with in such a positive manner. There is a true feeling of acceptance.
This is a book that I felt should have read the first book in the series....I was feeling like I was missing something.
There is also a love story between Trevor and Natalie, which is very sweet. Also enjoyed the interaction with Natalie's nephew Cody and Trevor! I did feel sorry for Paige, Cody's Mom...she is the one who really needs prayers!
The story will keep you on the edge of your seat...you won't know what is coming next! Makes you wonder if anyone is going to survive the lurking terror!
I was provided a copy of this book by the Publisher Waterbrook Press, and First Wild Card Tours, I was not redsquired to give a positive review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Foolish Heart (Deep Haven) by Susan May Warren



Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven , Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.



Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.



Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?



Read an excerpt here: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/novels/contemporary-romance/




About Susan: Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia , Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota ’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.



Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder ofwww.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.



Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota , where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)



A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at:www.susanmaywarren.com.



Link to buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/My-Foolish-Heart-Deep-Haven/dp/1414334826/ref=sprightly-2



Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!



Read what the reviewers are saying here.



To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who's never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!



(Enter Contest Graphic here – attached)



The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:



* A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)



* A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel



* The entire Deep Haven series




To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 16th. The winner will be announced that evening during Susan’s Miss Foolish Heart Party on Facebook! Susan will be chatting with guests, hosting a book club chat about My Foolish Heart, testing your Deep Haven trivia skills, and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, donuts, and more!) Don't miss the fun and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

My Review: What a great read! Isadora Presley is suffering from Agoraphobia and really isn't able to leave her home. Her new neighbor Caleb Knight is conquering his own demons...he is coming to accept the loss of his leg.
Lucy Maguire is Issy's best friend and always looking out for her...she is trying to live and forgive herself for the mistakes she has made. Enter Lucy's old boyfriend Seb Brewster...a fellow who also needs to forgive himself for his mistakes.
Love the antics that go on with the big dog Duncan/Roger, who owns him? Also the sweet town that this story is set in Deep Haven MN, it has a small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone else. Enter a football coaching competition and you really see a small town in action.
The book has a lot of great Christian values, and includes some great scripture quotes.
I would highly recommend this book! I receive this book from Lifuse Publicity Group, and was not required to give a positive review.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beside Still Waters: A Big Sky Novel (The Big Sky Series #1) by Tricia Goyer (

Beside Still Waters: A Big Sky NovelBeside Still Waters: A Big Sky Novel by Tricia Goyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What a great book, couldn't put it down. Marianna Sommer's world is turned upside down when her Dat decides to move the family to Montana. Marianna has been hoping Aaron Zook would start courting her, and wants to join the church. She is torn about what to do!
Loved the descriptions of the beautiful Montana countryside. Sounds like a beautiful place to live. All of the people there seem to be so kind, and now Marianna has started to develop a personal relationship with God. One that seems to surprise her and make her wonder if she is going against her Amish upbring.
Loved that there is going to be a sequel to this book....it also includes some yummy recipes.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and B&H Publishing Group, I was not required to give a positive review.



View all my reviews

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey, Alex Malarkey

The Boy Who Came Back from HeavenThe Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I wasn't sure what to expect, but who doesn't want to know what Heaven is like? I loved this book, it is so very real, I was in tears through parts of it. What at horrific accident that happened, but God and his Angels were with them.
We know of the Spiritual Warfare going on....this book makes it so real. I enjoyed the description of the Angels working on Alex, it is so awesome. I was awed by the way prayers were answered. This poor family had just welcomed a new baby into their family, so just Alex and his Dad Kevin were in the car when the accident happened. I can see how all that happened in these peoples live could put a strain on all of their relationships.
This is a must read for anyone who thinks they have problems!

I received this book from the publisher Tyndale House, and was not required to give a positive review.


Friday, June 10, 2011

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

To Win Her HeartTo Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a really great book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I've read Head In The Clouds and wanted to read another of Karen's books, and I sure wasn't disappointed!
It is hard to picture a refined, educated, wealthy woman, Eden Spenser, falling in love with a brawny, fighting, ex-con, Levi Grant! Oh how wrong the mind pictures things! They both have to let go of previous hurts and accept what God has ordained for them.
Ms Witemeyer does such a fantastic job of describing life in the 1880's in Texas. Woman were very prim and proper, and Men thought they ruled the world. Seems most anything a little out of the ordinary was scandalous, and Eden Spenser seemed to keep getting into trouble. You will find several chuckles in this delightful story, and won't be able to put it down!

I was provided with a copy of this book by BethanyHouse Publishers, and was not required to give a positive review!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When I Was a Child: Based on a true story of love, death, and survival on the Kansas prairie by T L Needham


From the back cover: A Stunning Story of Love, Death, and Survival on the Kansas Prairie

On Ash Wednesday, 1926, a young couple, Alex and Theresa, left their six children home on the farm. They drove through heavy rains to attend Mass in town. That's when the temperature dropped fast, and the heavy rain became a snowy windswept blizzard.

Only one of them would survive that night.

The terrible loss upended the lives of this working-class family in ways no one could have expected. Through it all, the ironclad bonds of love held them together as they endured the Great Depression and an unceasing string of trials, losses, and hardships.

Based on actual events, When I Was a Child documents the inner strength, courage, and sheer grit that steadied the couple's children through loss, economic crises, tornados, dust storms and war. Focusing on the extraordinary life of Louis Pfeifer, this vividly rendered book juxtaposes vignettes of a tragic past-the loss of a mother, father, and grandmother-against Louis's harrowing experiences as an 82nd Airborne paratrooper and prisoner of war during World War II. What emerges is an inspirational story of love and family bonds as Louis and his siblings grow up to become devoted, successful parents-despite all odds.

Powerful, honest, and unflinching, When I Was a Child is about the suffering that life inflicts-and the bravery that gets us to the other side, becoming much wiser and stronger along the way.

My Opinion: Wow! The author did a wonderful job of writing about his family. What a horrible life these poor children ended up having!

The story is very powerful and feature the Author's Uncle Louis and his Mom Jerry. Jerry has been a friend and and a Mother figure to Louis from the day their Mother tragically dies. Jerry is 4 years and Louis is 2. These two little children are then sent to live with their Grandmother CC, and she is a wonderful blessing in their young lives.

After Grandma CC is unable to take care of them and passes away, they are sent back to the farm to live with their other siblings, there are 6 children. There their oldest sister Martina takes over Mothering them. Growing up during the depression years, these children are provided for by their father's gambling and bootlegging.

After it is brought to the attention of the Authorities that Alex, their Dad has been abusing Martina, the Children are taken away and sent to an Orphanage. Back in the thirties this wasn't an ideal place to be, but the Author does provide a few funny happenings. Jerry is able to leave first when she is 12 and goes to live with her Aunt...again not an easy life for her.

After his brother Gene marries he bring Louis home...again not a good set up for him. Don't know why Irene treats him so shabbily, but he was a nonperson in her home! Again your heart will break for what these poor Children go through in their lives. Finally he is sent to live with his beloved sister Jerry.
His life does change some and he gets a job, and is able to give back to his sister.

Louis enlists at 17 in WWII...and is a paratrooper! D-Day approaches and his flight and jump is way off course! He ends up in the German hands, from here we are told the story of his again horrible life as a prisoner of war. Through all of this they keep their faith in God and family.

This book is a page turner and I highly recommend reading it, the only problem I had with it is the repeating of the same thoughts, sometimes in the next paragraph or chapter.

I was provided with a copy of this book by Readers Favorite, and was not required to give a positive review.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Amish Christmas by Cynthia Keller


Synopsis: Meg Hobart has everything: a happy marriage to a handsome, successful husband, a beautiful home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and three wonderful children. But it all comes crashing down around her the day she learns that her husband, James, has been living a lie—and has brought the family to financial ruin. Penniless and homeless, the Hobarts pack up what little they still possess and leave behind their golden life for good. But it’s not the material things Meg finds herself mourning. Instead, she misses the certainty that she should remain married to James, who has betrayed her trust so thoughtlessly. Worse, she is suddenly very aware of just how spoiled her children have become. Meg wonders what her family has really sacrificed in their pursuit of the American dream.

A frightening twist of fate forces the Hobarts to take refuge with a kind Amish family in Pennsylvania, where they find themselves in a home with no computers, no cell phones, nothing the children consider fashionable or fun. Her uncooperative brood confined to the Amish world of hard work and tradition, their futures entirely uncertain, Meg fears she can never make her family whole again.

My Opinion: Meg and James have lost everything they thought they valued. They along with their 3 children Lizzie, Will, and Sam, have left North Carolina and are headed to Homer NY to live with Meg's parents. At the beginning of the story it does not seem possible that this family is going to be able to stay together.
Fate brings them to visit the Amish community in Pennsylvania, and a near fatal mishap ends up changing their lives. While traveling down a Country Road in their packed to the gills Mustang, James swerves and misses an Amish buggy. David Lutz is so thankful to be alive and no one is hurt. He opens his Amish home to the family.
Lizzie and Will are aghast that there is no electricity! Where Sam seems to settle in nicely. What ends up being over 2 week stay changes all of the Hobart's lives.
I really enjoyed the interaction between the English and the Amish. This is the story of forgiveness and acceptance. I loved the story!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nick of Time (Bug Man Series #6) by Tim Downs


Nick has finally made the decision to marry, but when a friend invites him to a meeting in Philadelphia of the Vidocq Society he heads off. An adventure awaits him when he arrives. Loved this story...one clue leads to another and with the wedding on Saturday!
Alena...Nick's intended feels threatened when Nick takes off so close to their wedding date. Loved the way she trains her dogs...she uses her dogs to find cadavers. They also protect her when she commands them!
Right from the beginning you wonder if Nick will make it back in time? This story keeps you wanting to turn the page to find out what is going to happen next. You will never guess the ending!
When Nick is stopped, several times in the book, he is a wise guy! No wonder he misses the important phone calls!
If you want a page turner, and a really good read, that you cannot figure out what is going to happen next...this is the book for you!
I was given a copy of this book by Book Sneeze, I was not required to give a positive review.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Maximal Reserve by Sam Batterman

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!
My Opinion: What a great read. Full of action...you never know what is coming next, and you don't want to put the book down...you need to find out!!
I loved the images of God's wonderful gifts to all of us. The look provided felt like I was way deep in the Ocean, and then in the Mountain in the Dead Sea. Powerful!

There is a great discovery of an unimaginable amount of oil, and a conspiracy to keep it from being found. Everything that is described sounds so possible to happen or did happen! The enemies of Israel are conspiring...as usual.

You will feel like your in a James Bond movie, with no way out! What a great movie this book would make!! Awesome!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Maximal Reserve

Deep River (February 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Arielle Roper of Bring it On! Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sam Batterman is a self-avowed ‘geek,’ he pursued a Computer Science degree and works as a software engineer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2007 he started writing his first novel, Wayback and had it published in 2009 where it went on to be the best-selling fiction novel for his publisher.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Petroleum exploration engineer Phil Channing uncovers the single largest oil reserve in history--and he's only been employed for a week! The find is so large that it dwarfs all Middle East reserves combined, and lies so deep within the bowels of the earth that it can't be reached by any conventional method. He discovers how to tap into this Maximal Reserve through research left behind by a college friend who was brutally murdered just before Phil took the job. The secret lies in the cryptic revelation of a complex of lava tubes on the southeast side of the Dead Sea known as Etsba Elohim--the Finger of God.

This knowledge provides the ability to reach this incredibly strategic resource and threatens to change the world's balance of power and wealth in favor of the small nation of Israel.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Deep River (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935265520
ISBN-13: 978-1935265528

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

TORONTO

Heavy metal music blasted across the small apartment as rain droplets gyrated on the smudged window glass. The small spheres of water multiplied a hundredfold the bright hues of neon light coming from across the street.

Jackson Sanders popped the tabbed lid of a high-energy drink and gulped down a third of the can without taking his eyes off the thirty-inch computer monitor dwarfing his desk. A strange image was spread across the display, a branching, root-like shape with tapered cylinders that sprouted from a single point. The shape’s surface was wire-framed and broken into thousands of triangles. Depths measured in kilometers ran along a vertical axis.

Jack moved the mouse while holding down the right button, and the entire scene shifted slowly in three dimensions as if his head were at the center of the display. The lights on the front of his computer flickered at high speed, trying to keep up with the eyes and actions of its user.

The powerful computer was losing the battle.

Clicking on a few of the colorful triangles, Jack measured the distance between two points on the display. He knew this strange digital domain better than his messy apartment.

“There it is,” he mumbled, pulling out a notepad with a University of Waterloo at Toronto crest on the cover. He wrote quickly, the scrawl indecipherable to all but himself. Years of e-mail exchanges and multiple instant-messenger sessions open at any given time had long ago ruined any appreciation he’d had for good penmanship.

A new track began to play, but its volume and vigor were the same. Jack’s head bobbed with the syncopated rhythm. He continued writing in the tattered notepad at a mad pace when a small icon began flashing on his virtual desktop.

Jack frowned and clicked on the icon. A window sprang up, showing a grid of video feeds covering the hallway outside his apartment, the stairwell leading to the second floor, and the back alley below his rain-covered window.

Jack had written the program for surveillance purposes. The small fortune tied up in his workstations, servers, and networking could fetch quite a reward at a local pawn shop or fund a junkie’s habit for the next few months, so this gave him a way to keep an eye on the area. The program was simple: it allowed him to view the grainy black-and-white images coming from the cameras and look for big changes between frames—arriving or departing parties in the apartment complex.

Jack squinted at the low-quality images. Three men in black coats and jeans, with crew cuts and the physique of soldiers, were coming up the stairwell.

Jack didn’t recognize them. He glanced at his watch: 10:30 p.m.

The bars don’t close for another three hours; they’re not students, Jack thought.

One of the video feeds went to static. The stairwell feed was out. Jack’s already caffeinated body amped up with adrenaline.

He’d known this day was coming.

Jack watched the men approach the surveillance cameras. It seemed they knew where the cameras were. The remaining feeds blurred rapidly and then succumbed to static.

Jack pulled the hard drive connected to his nine-thousand-dollar workstation, and the monitor went blank. He ran to the kitchenette and opened the microwave door, shoving the hard drive into the small oven and cramming in a dozen CDs and DVDs from a shoebox on a bookshelf. He slammed the microwave door shut and pushed the “Popcorn” button. The appliance hummed as it destroyed the magnetic characteristics of the storage media.

Jack bounded from the kitchenette across his rumpled bed, the mattress groaning from a dozen broken springs. He grabbed his backpack and shoved the university notepads containing his indecipherable scrawl into it.

A polite knock came at the door as Jack opened the raindrop-covered window as quietly as possible. He took one last look around his apartment and glanced at the lightning forking behind the tinted glass of the microwave door as the hard drive was destroyed.

Jack stepped out onto the small balcony and fire escape. Inside the apartment, polite knocking had turned into pounding. The balcony was crowded: a mountain bike, a hibachi for warmer weather, and a dead plant left little room for anything or anyone else.

Jack picked up the light, titanium-framed mountain bike and threw it over the ledge of the balcony. It bounced off a pile of trash bags and landed on the street ten feet below. There was no time to carry it down to the street carefully like he normally did.

As he stepped to the rusting ladder of the fire escape, he heard the apartment door splinter and crack as the men broke through. Jack flicked the latch for the ladder, and the rusty steel rungs flew down to the street.

Jack bailed over the side of the balcony and made his way down the slippery ladder to the alley below. As his sneakers hit the asphalt, he heard the men rummaging through all the things in his apartment.

Jack smiled. They wouldn’t find what they were looking for.

He mounted his bike and pedaled with all his might down the alley, avoiding a homeless man and a dumpster on the way to Front Street. As he left the alley he heard a gruff voice yell, “There he is!” The squelch of a two-way radio followed before the sounds of the city at night extinguished the shouting from the apartment raid.

Jack pedaled quickly, weaving between parking meters and parked cars as he headed toward Roger’s Center and the downtown area. The rain stung his eyes, and he felt numb with the wind sweeping the street. As he reached the corner, he saw the CN Tower looming above him with spotlights shining on its three soaring concrete sides. Behind him the squealing tires of a speeding car announced a vehicle entering the street a hundred yards back.

A black Escalade SUV roared toward him. Jack could see neon lights reflecting in its polished grill. He stood up on the bike and pumped the pedals while careening down the smooth concrete, ducking the grid-like arrangement of trees growing out of sidewalk-level planters. He passed over the boulevard and into Roundhouse Park. A bus horn sounded, startling him, and a late-shift city bus roared past, nearly turning him into a splattered bug on its windshield.

Exhausted, his lungs burning, Jack looked behind him. No one was following. There were no main roads into the park.

He was safe, and he flashed a smile of relief.

Jack’s smile disappeared as the high beams of the SUV glinted through the dark. The vehicle smashed over the median and into the courtyard of the park. Orange sparks flew from the car’s transmission and undercarriage as automotive steel and concrete paving met.

Jack increased his speed, pedaling like a man possessed—too fast, much too fast.

Another car screeched into the far end of the park, cutting off the Lake Shore Drive ramp. Instinctively, Jack hit the brakes, and the mountain bike lost its traction on the park’s wet cobblestones and crashed onto its side. The bike and its passenger slid for a dozen feet before running into a park bench. Spokes bent under the impact, and the chain broke and slithered across the sidewalk into the grass like a wounded snake.

Dazed, Jack pulled his bleeding leg from under the wrecked bike, grabbed his backpack from the pavement, and hobbled toward a crescent-shaped grove of pine trees.

A bleep sounded in the night air, and a tuft of grass flew up just to his left. Jack ambled to the right, and another pistol flashed, the bullet clipping his foot. He fell to the wet grass. Three long shadows stretched across the park lawn, blotting out the city lights behind them. They clustered together, and two of them looked over their shoulders in opposite directions, checking for unwanted observers.

“No!” said Jack, trembling and raising his right hand toward the man in the center of the group. “Please,” he pleaded. “I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

“You’re right about that, Jack,” said the man in the middle, twisting a silencer on the front of his pistol and pointing it at Jack’s forehead.

The orange glow from the muzzle blast lit up Jack’s terrified eyes for the last time.

“Get the backpack!” said the assassin.

“Got it!” said one of his accomplices, rummaging through the contents of the blood-spattered backpack. He held out a notebook with the university logo. The embossed crest gleamed in the town car’s headlights. The other man knelt down and collected the empty shells from the wet lawn.

“Make sure you grab his wallet and phone, and let’s get out of here,” said the leader, flipping open his cell phone and snapping a photo of Jack’s shattered body. He stored the picture and dialed a number. The three men walked back toward the still-idling Escalade, leaving Jack’s lifeless form behind on the wet lawn.

“Yes, we took care of it; nothing’s left. The secret’s still safe. We’ll be there in the morning. We’re heading to the airport now.”

Chapter One

The Interview

Philip Channing sat in the ripped-vinyl driver’s seat of his car and examined his face and hair in the rearview mirror, adjusting his necktie one more time and giving an awkward smile. He closed his eyes and rehearsed his answers to the questions that would come at him in the next two hours. He gulped and cheered himself on as if he were in some sort of otherworldly race with himself as both player and spectator. Okay, this is it. This is for all the marbles. Come on, Phil!

He lifted the door latch and stepped out into the bright Texas sunlight and humid air. As he closed the car door, something beneath the rusty hulk creaked. The college beater had served him well for six years, but now, parked next to Lexuses, BMWs, and SUVs, it seemed out of its element. Kinda like me. He scanned the parking lot, pictured the drivers of the cars, and grinned.

I’m not worthy!

Phil opened his leather-bound notepad and double-checked his arsenal of résumés and recommendation letters. He glanced at his watch and began the long walk to the security building over two hundred yards away. He had searched for a visitor parking spot upon arrival, but all the slots were filled. Instead of risking a parking ticket he couldn’t afford—or worse, the towing of his decrepit but critically needed conveyance—he’d decided to join the rank and file in parking in the distant employee parking lot.

If all went well, his car would soon belong there.

As Phil walked behind the shiny cars, he wondered how he had ended up here at the Axcess Energy Company. Axcess was the enemy when he was in school. It was the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of the energy market that was poisoning the earth by belching its fossil fuels into the planet’s precious and fragile atmosphere, practically stomping on the polar ice caps with its enormous carbon footprint.

He thought through a hundred lectures from guest speakers and liberal professors who had lambasted and accused Axcess of raping the natural resources of the planet for the purposes of greed and short-term stock value. As a freshman he had even participated in an on-campus protest against the corporate leviathan.

But that was a long time ago.

Phil looked up into the cloudless sky as he did a quick calculation of how much his education had cost him and his parents. Eighty thousand dollars in tuition funds, lab fees, and overall living debt was enough to bring sobriety to any environmental zealot drunk with dogma. Things were different now: more pragmatic, less idealistic. In short, he needed a job.

His parents, a proud blue-collar worker and a schoolteacher, had done what they could to help him—sacrificing their early retirements and driving used cars instead of new ones to help fund his education, first in an expensive prep school and then during his undergraduate years. Phil sometimes felt guilty about his parents’ sacrifices, but now, alone in the world after their deaths—his mom in a tragic auto accident and his dad from a fast-moving cancer in Phil’s sophomore year of college—he knew this interview was the door to making their investments in his life pay off.

Only a few weeks before, he had packed all his earthly belongings into his deathtrap and driven to Austin. It was a far warmer climate than Toronto’s, where the typically Canadian winter was made even colder by freezing wind from Lake Ontario, plunging the temperature to zero and below in the winter months. The routine of graduate school was wearing off. He was responsible for himself now, and maybe soon—he hoped—for Lisa. His parents were gone, Lisa’s parents still looked at him like he was a bum off the streets, he was in a boatload of debt, and he needed something to do. Something worthwhile and challenging, something that wasn’t just school.

Yes, he needed this job—badly.

Three weeks earlier he had endured a technical interview with three of Axcess’s most brilliant petroleum engineers: Scott Ward, Gorin Vladofsky, and Caleb Mosha. Phil had met Caleb in Toronto; his niece was dating Phil’s best friend, Jack Sanders. It was Caleb who had made the interview with the energy company possible.

All three men worked for Dr. John Chambers—the legend, the iconoclast, the maverick. Chambers was the man to work for in the energy sector, more dynamic even than Glenn Martin, Axcess’s CEO. Chambers was so important to the future of the energy company that the board gave him absolute flexibility in his research programs. Chambers’s attitude was well-known: first, break all the rules; second, slay sacred cows. Chambers was highly regarded in academic communities and feared in the halls of business and government. His ideas and theories were always radical and challenged the status quo at every turn. Just like Phil.

The guardhouse was still a hundred yards away when Phil’s cell phone rang. He fumbled with his notepad and dug through every pocket of his suit searching for the phone. He looked at the display: Lisa Baton. Phil smiled at the name and the photo that accompanied the call. He pressed “Take Call” with his nail-bitten thumb and heard the most beautiful voice in the world.

“Hi, Phil, I know you’re getting ready to get all nervous and everything, but remember: regardless of what happens, I still love you and I still think you are the best geophysicist/computer science guy on the planet.”

“Lisa, I think I’m the only geophysicist/computer science guy on the plan-et—at least the only one out of work,” Phil replied.

Her response came quickly, as if Lisa had known he would say that. “True, but even if there were hordes of your kind, you’d still be the most handsome.”

Even though the two had been dating for four years, she could still make him blush. “Thanks . . . I think,” said Phil, stepping through the guardhouse door and getting in line with a dozen other people jockeying for position to register their visits.

Lisa’s tone changed as she sensed Phil’s attention being pulled away from the conversation. “Seriously, just do your best and let things happen. I’ll be praying for you. I love you!”

“I love you too,” said Phil a little too loudly as a lady in front of him turned around, smiled, and winked at him. Red-faced, Phil shoved his phone back into his suit pocket and wished there was another line he could get into.

A few uncomfortable minutes later, the security officer waved and said, “Next please,” breaking the unspoken tension with the woman whose body language still showed she thought Phil was flirting with her.

After the woman went through the security turnstile, Phil stepped to the counter and smiled. The bored security guard stared at him with the biggest bags under his eyes that Phil had ever seen.

“I’m here for an interview with Dr. John Chambers,” said Phil cheerfully.

“Good for you,” said the security officer. “Do you have ID?”

Phil worked his way through all the pockets in his suit, producing his cell phone, car keys, a pen, and finally his wallet. The droopy-eyed security guard watched the stack of personal items grow on the counter in front of him.

“Here you go,” Phil said, handing his driver’s license over the counter. “Sorry, I rarely wear a suit.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed,” said the security guard. A few moments later a black-and-white label rolled out of a printer. The guard peeled the wax-paper backing off the label and stuck it onto a temporary badge that said ESCORT REQUIRED in big red letters.

“Walk up the sidewalk to the main lobby and wait for your escort.”

“Thanks,” said Phil, smiling at the guard as he stepped through the turnstile. The security guard was already processing the next visitor.

The walk was quick. A small cement sidewalk skirted a perfectly manicured lawn and freshly mulched flowerbeds. The glass-and-steel office complex soared a dozen stories above the lawn and gleamed in the morning sun. Phil could see people in their offices, gathering in conference rooms, and walking across glass-enclosed sky bridges between the buildings, all preparing for a busy and productive day.

The beauty of the place seemed lost on the employees who were scurrying past, drinking coffee, checking voice mail, and typing on their BlackBerrys while juggling briefcases and messenger bags. Phil decided to pop open his cell phone and join the fun.

The welcome screen appeared on his phone and displayed his communication status:

New Text Messages: 0

New E-mail Messages: 0

Well, so much for that.

Phil flipped the phone closed as he reached the glass doors of the visitor center lobby. The lobby was a huge atrium, and sunlight radiated through the skylights, illuminating the beautiful marble floor of the visitor center. Phil looked along the wood-paneled walls where supposedly artistic and valuable sculptures were positioned in regular intervals. The rare oil paintings on the walls and benches made of beautiful wood were carefully interspersed, reminding Phil of an art gallery, not of the lair of a corporate beast that wanted to melt the Arctic.

A pleasant voice pulled Phil from his admiration of the lobby and back into reality. “Mr. Channing?”

Phil spun around and found an attractive, thirty-something woman dressed in a conservative navy business suit. She extended her hand.

“Mr. Channing, I’m Sarah Rogers, Dr. Chambers’s administrative assistant. I’ll be taking you to the conference room where the interview will be occurring today.”

“Hello,” said Phil, trying not to look like a goon. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Phil walked alongside Sarah toward an elevator at the end of the hall, passing through a gauntlet of security guards who were eyeballing badges and checking for escorts. As they walked, Phil tried to break the awkward silence.

“It sure is pretty outside. What a wonderful facility you have here.” He cleared his throat. Exactly how stupid and obvious could he sound, anyway?

They both stepped into the elevator, and Sarah pressed the button for the fourth floor. “Axcess is a wonderful place to work, Philip; they have a heart for the environment and a mind for American prosperity.” Her tone was even with no inflection, giving no indication that she knew her response was weird and sounded way too recorded.

Phil pretended to glance at the back of the elevator, but he was really looking at the back of Sarah Rogers for a pull string showing that she was, in fact, a robot.

The elevator dinged, and the door slid open, revealing a wide-open reception area surrounded by spacious conference rooms. The sprawling campus of the corporation could be seen beyond windows that wrapped around the entire floor.

“How many people work at this facility?” asked Phil, admiring the rectangles of perfectly mowed lawns and glass-and-concrete structures outside the window.

“Around five thousand. Austin is the headquarters and the largest of all Axcess’s sites. Now then, Dr. Chambers will be here in a minute. May I get you some water or anything?” Sarah said.

“No, thank you. I’m fine.”

Sarah smiled and left the conference room. Phil put his leather notepad on the enormous oval table and walked around it to gaze out over the campus. He smiled as he looked through the glass and indulged in a quick fantasy that he had worked here for ten years and this was his corner office.

“Nice view, isn’t it?” came a booming voice. Phil jumped, bumping into the windowpane. He was thankful for the safety glass; otherwise, he would have been plummeting some four stories to his doom.

“Dr. Chambers!” Phil responded as he tried to cross the space between them with some class and dignity to shake the famous scientist’s hand. The older man smiled kindly at the young, eager recruit. Chambers was tall and thin in an athletic way and slightly balding with a close-shorn salt-and-pepper beard. He was dressed all in black, with the enigmatic noir look popularized by Steve Jobs. The Apple CEO had given his most successful product launches dressed in all black, and now technologists the world over emulated his “Geek Chic” look.

“I’ve been following your academic career for a very long time, Phil. Your professors give you the highest praise,” said Chambers, inviting Phil to sit in the plush chair and taking a seat across from him. “They say you are one of the brightest minds to come through the university in quite a while. In fact, they call you the hottest data visualization specialist on the planet.”

Phil paused. He wasn’t sure how to respond to this praise. Should he look confident, or would that come across as arrogant? He managed to flash a subtle smile. Chambers’s magnetism was legendary, and here in the presence of the icon, Phil felt the man’s charisma envelop him like an energy field. Chambers instantly made you want to work for him.

The man leaned forward and focused all his attention on Phil. “So why are you bailing out now?”

Phil wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. “Excuse me?”

Chambers clarified his question without so much as a blink of an eyelash. “Why aren’t you staying to get your doctorate? With the kind of work you did in graduate school, you could be done pretty quickly.”

Time seemed to stop. Phil felt a bead of sweat roll down his face. The energy emanating from the man tangled around him. He knew the right answers, of course. Everything he should say to make him sound like a good candidate for the job. But under such pressure, he felt the strange urge to speak his mind—as if that’s what Chambers wanted.

Phil took a deep breath. “I’ve been in college and grad school for six years. I have double majors in geology and computer science and a master’s in petroleum exploration. And you’re right, I could keep going, but I want to use my education now. I want to work on great projects with people who will challenge me and make me better. I already have a master’s degree—some would say that means I’ve mastered the subject, but how can that be? I’ve never made a commercial contribution to a company, and I’ve only seen the data and situations that an academic institution can provide. Frankly, Dr. Chambers, I want more.”

Chambers beamed. It was the right answer.

“I do plan on going back to get my doctorate, but only after I have the experience that would make it valuable.” There. He had hedged his bet properly.

“One of the researchers on my team, Caleb Mosha, brought you to my attention four years ago. You went to school with his niece, didn’t you?”

“Yes, Aliya is dating one of my best friends. We double-dated a lot in school,” answered Phil. “Actually, we all did everything together.”

“All?” asked Chambers, raising his eyebrow.

“Aliya and her boyfriend and Lisa—she’s my girlfriend. She lives here in town and works for the state.”

Chambers looked at his cell phone and set it to vibrate before staring directly at Phil, taking in his every facial expression. “If it’s not completely obvious by this point, Phil, I want you to work for me, on a project that I’m certain will define both of our careers. Since you went through the technical wringer a few weeks ago with the staff, I just want to answer any questions you might have and try to help you with your decision.”

Chambers paused for a full minute, his eyes drilling into Phil’s, who responded in kind, like a corporate version of a first-one-who-blinks-is-a-rottenegg contest. Silence boomed in Phil’s ears. Suddenly his mouth was dry, and he wished he had taken the robot up on her water offer.

Here goes. Phil licked his lips. He only had one question. “Well, to be honest, Dr. Chambers, I want to know more about the project. I need to know more about the actual work I’d be doing here at Axcess.”

Chambers seemed a bit surprised. “You mean they didn’t tell you anything about our project during the technical interview?”

“No, sir, most of their questions revolved around the project I worked on a few years ago. That project involved using commodity-based computer grids to solve uncertainty around seismic data, but nothing about the actual job at Axcess was discussed.”

“Leave it to the nerds and the lawyers to goof up a good thing,” Chambers muttered.

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing.” Chambers glanced beyond Phil for a moment, his attention lost in the sprawling campus of Axcess Energy. A smile crept across his face, and he snapped his fingers. “Do you have a passport?”

“Um, yes,” said Phil. Where is he going with this?

“I want to show you what you’ll be working on. Are you available for, say, thirty hours?” asked Chambers as he stood up and dialed his assistant. He looked back at the young recruit. “Or are you doing something more important?”

How can I argue with that? Phil asked himself.

“Sarah, please have a limousine come around front for me.” Chambers snapped the phone shut.

“Thirty hours? You mean right now?” asked Phil, glancing at his business suit and wing-tip shoes. “What do I need to bring?”

“No time like the present,” said Chambers. “We’ll stop by your apartment before the airport so you can get your stuff. We’re heading for a research rig, so dress like you’re going camping. Oh, and one more thing. It’s going to be windy.”

Stop by my apartment? How does he know—wait a minute—did he just say airport?

Chambers strode quickly from the conference room with Phil running close behind to keep up. When the elevator reached the lobby, a black limousine pulled around to the front of the complex, and Phil and Chambers jumped in.

■ ■ ■ ■

Phil opened the door of his apartment and ducked inside. The place was a mess, and he was glad Chambers hadn’t asked to come in. That would’ve been a job killer for sure.

He pulled back a curtain and looked at the limo idling in the parking lot. Chambers was on his cell phone, and he spotted Phil looking out the window. He smiled and tapped his watch.

Phil ran to the bedroom and grabbed a duffel bag from the closet. He grabbed a shaving bag from the bathroom, a toothbrush, and all the typical things for an overnight hotel stay. He threw a pair of jeans, a few T-shirts, and a sweatshirt into the duffel, cramming them down with his hands and forcing the zipper shut. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. It was dead.

There was no time to charge the battery.

He grabbed the power cord for charging his laptop and stuffed it and the computer into his backpack. Running to the kitchen, he picked up the landline and dialed Lisa’s number. Phil glanced at the refrigerator and wondered how many science experiments were growing in there. Cleaning had not been his top priority over the past few weeks. Phil’s OCD took over, and he moved the trash can in front of the refrigerator with his legs. While the phone connection was being made, he started throwing things away—eggs, milk, and a head of lettuce that was already turning brown. The trash can was filling up fast.

“Hello?”

Phil cocked his neck to hold the phone against his shoulder and continued purging the refrigerator of its perishables.

“Lisa! You won’t believe the day I’m having.”

“You’re already back at home? Why didn’t you call me after you got out? How’d the interview go? Tell me everything!” The questions whizzed across Phil’s mind like arrows.

“Listen, hon, I’m not done with the interview. I’m at the apartment packing for an, um, a business trip.”

“A business trip? Phil, what are you talking about?” Phil could tell from Lisa’s tone that she was confused and quickly heading toward annoyed.

“Well, let’s just say they want to show me something to help me make up my mind. I think they really want me on board. It’s weird and mysterious, but I can’t say no.”

There was silence on the other end of the line before Lisa spoke up. “Okay, well, where are you going? Will you be back for dinner? We were going to celebrate your interview tonight.”

He slammed the fridge door shut. Dinner? Blast! I forgot!

“I think we’re going to have to postpone dinner, sweetheart. They told me thirty hours, and to pack jeans like I was going camping. No suits or ties.”

There was a pause on the other end.

Lisa’s disappointment was obvious, but she came through as she always did. “Okay, Phil, we’ll celebrate when you get back. I don’t like this mysterious trip—it’s not very corporate—but I trust you . . .”

“Thanks, honey. I love you!”

“I love you too. Be safe and call me when you can. Bye.”

Phil hung up the phone, grateful for an understanding girlfriend. They had dated all through college, and she really was his best friend. She trusted him and he trusted her.

Phil tied a knot at the top of the heavy trash bag and swung it over his shoulder like a homeless man’s version of Santa Claus. He grabbed the duffel and his backpack with his other hand and scanned the room quickly for anything that needed to be unplugged, turned off, or worried about while he was away. Nothing.

He ran out the front door and lobbed the overstuffed trash bag into the dumpster as he ran to the waiting limousine and a business trip that he was sure would be unusual.