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Monday, April 30, 2012

Southern Seams Promotion

Guest Post from Joe at This Frugal Family When I received my package from Debbie at Southernseams.com, I was super excited to give this to my wife. She is always getting her clothes wet, and now with an apron, she wouldn't have embarrassing wet marks when we get company. You can tell how much time went into making this apron. It was neat looking, you can tell she even ironed it before shipping. The material is really thick (not cheaply made), it has two pockets, which are ideal for your cell phone, house phone, etc. while you are cleaning, doing dishes, cooking, or whatever needs done. It's absolutely perfect, and my wife loves it. As a matter of fact she wears it all the time. She takes it off to take a bath, go to bed, and oh to wash it. It washes up great, didn't lose it's color, or become torn or even look worn. It's called Little Filly and the sku is 1545, and at $30.00 that's such a deal. I will definitely be doing business with Debbie at Southernseams.com again soon. Especially once my 11 month old can help his mommy around the house, I will have to get him a half one, which they also have over at www.southernseams.com. Go check them out.

Kregel Blog Tour: God Helps Me Bible by Juliet David; illustrated by Clare Caddy

About the Book: Specially designed for very young children, the God Helps Me Bible features a spiral binding that allows the book to lay flat on a table, floor, or lap, which leaves little hands free to turn the pages and point out fun details in Clare Caddy's darling illustrations. The twenty-five favorite Bible stories use words and concepts tailored for the youngest reader, so each story clearly emphasizes how God loves and helps His world and people. My Review:
My First Grader has been enjoying reading this book full of retold Bible stories. He asks to read this brightly colored and well illustrated book. His younger brother, who's five, likes listening to the stories, and have no doubt he will soon be reading these too. I find it encouraging that they like to listen and read God's Word. I received this book from Kregel, and was not required to give a positive review.

First Wild Card Tours: To See The Sun (Desert Faith #1) by Peggy Blann Phifer

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:

CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)

***Special thanks to Peggy Blann Phifer for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Peggy Blann Phifer is an author and columnist, whose work has appeared on various Web sites and writer periodicals both in print and online. She is also an avid reader and loves to escape between the covers of a good book. A retired executive assistant, Peg now makes her home in southern Nevada with husband Jim.


To See the Sun is Peg’s debut novel, released January 2012

Visit her blog, Whispers in Purple.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Pregnant and widowed hadn’t been part of her “happily ever after” dream. And now, someone was trying to kill her . . .

Erin Macintyre never expected to be a widow and a new mother in the same year, anymore than she expected mysterious notes, threatening phone calls, and a strange homeless man who seems to know all about her. The thought of raising a child without a father is daunting enough—worse when you have no idea who might want to harm you. Put an old flame into the mix, and her life begins a tailspin into a world she never knew existed.

When P.I. Clay Buchanan, stumbles upon Erin at her husband's gravesite, he’s totally unprepared for her advanced pregnancy. Her venomous reaction at seeing him, however, was predictable. But Clay can’t let her distrust, or his guilt, get in the way—not when he has evidence that proves Erin’s life is in danger.

With few options left, Erin begrudgingly accepts Clay’s help . . . and it just might be her undoing.



Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1468121081
ISBN-13: 978-1468121087



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Friday, March 26, late afternoon

What a fantastic day. A bid won. A contract signed. The job of a lifetime that would put Stuart and Macintyre at the top of the construction heap, not just in Las Vegas, but all of southern Nevada.
Whistling, Justin Macintyre pressed the keyless remote of his Cadillac Escalade, tossed his briefcase across the console to the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel.
To top it all off, after seven long years, he and his wife, Erin, were going to have a baby. A baby! He laughed aloud at the overwhelming joy of it.
"Hey, world, I'm going to be a daddy!"
He shifted the SUV into gear and pulled out of the Mt. Charleston Lodge area onto Kyle Canyon Road and headed down the mountain to the Las Vegas Valley below. Despite the successful day, Justin couldn't banish his worry over a recent discovery of some irregularities in the company's finances. Nothing concrete, and his Uncle Sebastian, S&M's CFO, assured him everything was fine. Nevertheless, Justin's uneasiness had prompted him to send what little proof he had to his long-time friend, Clay Buchanan, a private investigator in Texas.
Preoccupied with his thoughts, he vaguely registered the yellow and black blind curve warning sign. Too late he saw the stalled car across the center line. No time to stop! He spun the wheel to the right.
I'm going too fast! God, help me . . .!
###
Seconds passed and silence settled once more over the mountainside. A shadow emerged from behind a Joshua tree and stepped to the edge of the ravine. After a moment, the form walked to the car in the road and drove away.
###
Erin Macintyre stretched her arms along the balcony's balustrade of her twenty-seventh-floor condo above the streets of Las Vegas. Beyond that, the lower edge of the setting sun kissed the still snowy peaks of the Spring Mountain Range and Mt. Charleston.
Justin would be home soon.
"Erin, where's the zester?"
Erin returned to the kitchen. "In the utility drawer."
"Which is the utility drawer?" Magie Gifford, Erin's dearest friend, pulled out drawer after drawer.
Erin giggled and reached across Magie's arm and slid out the utility drawer.
"You changed it." Magie snatched the zester and bumped the drawer shut with her hip. "That's not where it was last time."
Erin wrapped her arms around her friend and hugged. "No, Mags, I didn't change anything." She waited a beat. "Can I interest you in a memory enhancement program?"
"Very funny." Magie pushed Erin aside and proceeded to rub a lemon across the gadget and then whisked the zest into a frothy mixture of olive oil, Italian herbs, and balsamic vinegar. "Okay, just drizzle this over the salad and stick it in the fridge."
That done, Erin checked on the lasagna in the oven. The garlic toast waited on the foil-lined cookie sheet ready to pop under the broiler. Everything was ready.
Erin glanced at the kitchen clock. "He's late."
"Posh. You should know by now how those meetings can drag on."
"Yeah, I know. It's just—"
"Get over here, Erin. He'll be here when he gets here."
Erin joined her friend in the breakfast nook off the kitchen and adjacent to the balcony. She scooped up a dozing Siamese cat from her chair and sat, settling him back on her lap.
"You spoil that critter." Magie brushed off the chair cushion before sitting.
"Yeah, I do. But you love him, too. I saw you sneaking him some treats earlier." Erin smiled. "Not to mention the romp you had with him in the living room when you got here."
"Busted. But he's so much fun, aren't you, Kazimir?"
At the sound of his name, the cat uncoiled, left Erin's lap and jumped onto Magie's. She snorted. "So much for protecting my black slacks."
"Thanks for coming over to help with this meal. I wanted it to be special and I never know when the nausea will hit." She raised an eyebrow. "But you will leave as soon as Justin gets here."
"You think he'll get that bid?"
Erin tapped her heart and nodded. "I know he will."
The first five descending notes of Welcome to My World sang out in the condo's foyer. Justin! No, he wouldn't ring the doorbell. Puzzled, she stepped across the tiled floor and rose on tiptoes to peer through the peephole. She gasped and jumped back.
The doorbell chimed again.
Fingers trembling, Erin released the security lock and opened the door to two uniformed police officers.
"Mrs. Macintyre?"
Erin nodded as Magie moved to her side.
"What is it, officers?"
"I'm afraid there's been an accident, Mrs. Macintyre. Your husband . . ."

My Review:
Peggy Blann Phifer grabbed me from the first page of this book to the end. Most of this mystery you will never see coming. No one would ever want to be in Erin Macintyre's shoes, she is going to be a first time Mother, and then looses her husband. With so much turmoil in Erin's life, I loved the people who really cared about her, and surrounded with their Love and protection. Her Father-in-law is such a darling man, I would like him in my life! I would have like the story to on, answering questions...that I think I have answers to, but it does say series on the cover!!! If you want a really great mystery to read! This is for you!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

An Uncommon Grace: A Novel by Serena B. Miller

An Uncommon Grace: A NovelAn Uncommon Grace: A Novel by Serena B. Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a really great informative story. We begin in Afghanistan with Grace Connor, a Nurse Practitioner, and was beginning to wonder what the Military had to do with an Amish Story.
She has to return home when her Grandmother has a heart attack, and help Becky, her High School, Sister.
She no sooner returns when the neighbors, members of the Swartzentruber Amish, have been shot. She goes to give help, but the father is already gone, and the Mom has been hit and is in labor. What a sad and hard turn of events for the Troyer family.
Levi who is the oldest son, becomes infatuated with Grace, and she likewise. A relationship that is doomed! This sect of Amish is so strict that that Claire is forbidden to have a relationship with her sister Rose, who has joined the Old Order Amish. You will be amazed at the facts we think we know about the Amish, but are so differed with the Swartzentrubers.
I Loved how God's hand is in the lives of these people, his Children. How the "Light" comes on! Don't miss this different and riveting story! Excellent!!

I received this book from the Publisher Simon and Schuster, Inc., and was not required to give a positive review.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Her Restless Heart (Stitches In Time Series #1) by Barbara Cameron

Her Restless Heart (Stitches In Time Series #1)Her Restless Heart by Barbara Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Katherine has grown up with a very strict Father, and a Mother who never stood up for herself.
She is now living with her Grandmother, and loving being there, and working in the shop with her cousins.
Mary Katherine is weaving what she wants to sell, and is in conflict with the Bishop. He wants her to stop making such English goods, and to join the Church.
Because of her upbringing she has a lot of doubts, and wonders about the English world. She has a long time friendship with Jacob, and Daniel, and her English friend Jamie.
Love the interaction between Leah, the Grandmother and the cousins, Mary Katherine, Naomi, and Anna. You will wonder if this will be enough to hold her here, or will she go to Florida with Daniel?
You will enjoy having Tea with these great people, and interacting with Jacob. A really good read, and can't wait for the next book in this series.

I was provided with a copy of this book Abingdon Press, and was not required to give a positive review.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Leaving Lancaster: A Novel by Kate Lloyd

Leaving Lancaster: A NovelLeaving Lancaster: A Novel by Kate Lloyd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great, compelling page turner. I could not put it down, and loved it all! There a lot of regrets here, Holly Fisher grew up in Seattle WA. She had her Mom, and some friends, but no other family. She is now in her late 30's and suddenly finds out her Mom has lied to her all of her life...she has family...Amish family in PA.
We then travel to Lancaster PA to meet all of her Mom's relatives, and her Dad's [whom she never met]. Can you imagine meeting Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and Cousins? How marvelous!!! I loved it.
Although it is not all fun, there is a lot of heartache, and their needs to be a lot of forgiveness on all sides. There is also some romance thrown in!
Be ready to travel on this great adventure!


I received this book from the Publisher David C Cook through Netgalley, and was not required to give a positive review.

My Review:
What a great, compelling page turner. I could not put it down, and loved it all! There a lot of regrets here, Holly Fisher grew up in Seattle WA. She had her Mom, and some friends, but no other family. She is now in her late 30's and suddenly finds out her Mom has lied to her all of her life...she has family...Amish family in PA. We then travel to Lancaster PA to meet all of her Mom's relatives, and her Dad's [whom she never met]. Can you imagine meeting Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and Cousins? How marvelous!!! I loved it. Although it is not all fun, there is a lot of heartache, and their needs to be a lot of forgiveness on all sides. There is also some romance thrown in! Be ready to travel on this great adventure! I received this book from the Publisher David C Cook through Netgalley, and was not required to give a positive review.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First Wild Card Tour: Need You Now by Beth Wiseman

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:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, she is confident it will not be the last. She is already making plans to write a second contemporary novel in the near future. Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, two chickens and a single pygmy goat in a small community in South Central Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and watching good movies. Her favorite pastime, however, is spending time with friends and family.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


We all count on the support of those around us when times are tough, but what do we do when those we depend on the most are suddenly gone? How do we cope when life has pulled the rug out from under us and left us with nothing and no one to hold on to? To whom can we turn when it seems no one, not even God, is there? These are the questions best-selling author Beth Wiseman addresses in her first contemporary novel, Need You Now (Thomas Nelson).

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Need You Now’s main character, Darlene Henderson, and her husband Brad choose to move their family from Houston to the dot-in-the-road town of Round Top, Texas; moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them imagined, especially for the middle child, 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and particularly self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple’s marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both begin to wonder if the same shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she is assigned to work with at the school for special needs children where she is employed. Unfortunately, this new attention comes just when she is most vulnerable. If there has ever been a time in her life when she needed God, it is now. But will she allow arising feelings of unworthiness to keep her from seeking Him?

In her first novel not set in an Amish community, Wiseman spins her well-honed characters and setting into a thought-provoking message that not only makes the reader ponder his or her own relationship with God, but also sheds light on the little-known disorders of using self-injury as a way of seeking relief and high-functioning autism. Need You Now is the perfect read for anyone who has ever questioned life and God’s will.





Product Details:
List Price: $ 15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548874
ISBN-13: 978-1595548870

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Darlene’s chest tightened, and for a few seconds she couldn’t move. If ever there was a time to flee, it was now. She put a hand to her chest, held her breath, and eased backward, sliding one socked foot at a time across the wooden floor of her bed- room. She eyed the intruder, wondering why he wasn’t moving. Maybe he was dead.
Nearing the door, she stretched her arm behind her, searching for the knob. She turned it quickly, and at the click of the latch, her trespasser rushed toward her. In one movement, she jumped backward, across the threshold and into the den, slamming the door so hard the picture of the kids fell off the wall. She looked down at Chad, Ansley, and Grace staring up through broken glass, then hurried through the den to the kitchen. Her hand trembled as she unplugged her cell phone and pressed the button to call Brad. Please answer.
It was tax time, so every CPA at her husband’s office was working long hours, and for these last weeks before the April deadline, Brad was hard to reach. She knew she wouldn’t hear from him until after eight o’clock tonight. And she couldn’t go back in her bedroom. What would she have to live without until then? She looked down. For starters, a shirt. She was later than usual getting dressed this morning and had just pulled on her jeans when she’d noticed she wasn’t alone.
She let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her forehead. Brad answered on the sixth ring.
“Bradley . . .” She only called him by his full name when she needed his full attention.
“What is it, babe?”
She took a deep breath. “There is a snake in our bedroom. A big, black snake.” She paused as she put a hand to her chest. “In our bedroom.”
“How big?”
She’d expected a larger reaction. Maybe her husband didn’t hear her. “Big! Very big. Huge, Brad.”
He chuckled. “Honey, remember that little snake that got in your greenhouse when we lived on Charter Road in Houston? You said that snake was big too.” He chuckled again, and Darlene wanted to smack him through the phone. “It was a tiny little grass snake.”
“Brad, you’re going to have to trust me. This snake is huge, like five or six feet long.” A shiver ran down her spine. “Are you coming home or should I call 9-1-1?”
“What? You can’t call 9-1-1 about a snake.” His tone changed. “Darlene, don’t do that. Round Top is a small town, and we’ll be known as the city slickers who called in about a snake.”
“Then you need to come home and take care of this.” She lifted her chin and fought the tremble in her voice.
Deep breath on the other end of the line. “You know how crazy it is here. I can’t leave right now. It’s probably just a chicken snake, and they’re not poisonous.”
“Well, there are no chickens in our bedroom, so it doesn’t have any business in there.”
“Chad can probably get it out when he gets home from school. Maybe with a shovel or something, but tell him to be careful. Even though they’re not venomous, it’d probably still hurt to get bit.”
Darlene sighed. “Our girls are going to freak if they come home to find a snake in the house.”
“Maybe—” Darlene turned toward a sound in the entryway. “I’ll call you back. There’s someone at the door, and I’m standing here in my bra. I’ll call you back. Love you.” She clicked the phone off, then yelled toward the door. “Just a minute!”
After finding a T-shirt in Ansley’s room, she pulled it over her head as she crossed back through the den toward the front door. This was the first visitor she’d had in the two months since they’d moved from Houston. She peeked around the curtain before she opened the door, realizing that her old city habit would probably linger for a while. Out here in the country, there probably wasn’t much to worry about, but she was relieved to see it was a woman. A tall woman in a cowgirl hat. She pulled the door open.
“Your Longhorns are in my pasture.” The woman twisted her mouth to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “This is the second time they’ve busted the fence and wandered onto my property.”
Darlene thought this cowgirl could have walked straight off the set of any western movie. She was dressed in a long- sleeved denim shirt with her blue jeans tucked into brown boots. She was older than Darlene, possibly mid-forties, but she was gorgeous with huge brown eyes and blonde hair that hung in a ponytail to her waist.
“I’m so sorry.” Darlene shook her head. Brad should have never gotten those Longhorns. Neither she nor Brad knew a thing about cows, but Brad had said a move to the country should include some Longhorns. Although it didn’t make a lick of sense to her. She pushed the door wide. “I’m Darlene.”
The woman shifted her weight, but didn’t offer a greeting in return. Instead, she stared at Darlene’s chest. Darlene waited for the woman to lock eyes with her, and when she didn’t, Darlene finally looked down. Her cheeks warmed as she sighed. “Oh, this is my daughter’s shirt.” Don’t Bug Me! was scrolled across the white T-shirt in red, and beneath the writing was a hideous picture of a giant roach. Darlene couldn’t stand the shirt, but twelve-year-old Ansley loved it. “Do you want to come in?” She stepped back.
“No. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to round up your Longhorns and head them back to your pasture. I’ll temporarily repair the fence.” The woman turned to leave, and it was then that Darlene saw a horse tethered to the fence that divided their property. She stifled a smile. This woman really was a cowgirl.
“Know anything about snakes?” Darlene eased onto the front porch, sidestepping a board she knew was loose. The porch was next on their list of things to repair on her grand- parents’ old homestead.
“What?” The woman turned around as she held a hand underneath the rim of her hat, blocking the afternoon sun.
“I have a snake in my bedroom.” Darlene shrugged. “Just wondering if you had any—any experience with something like that?” She padded down two porch steps in her socks. “I’m not sure I got your name?”
“Layla.” She gave a quick wave before she turned to leave again. Darlene sighed. Clearly the woman wasn’t interested in being friends. Or helping with the snake. Darlene watched her walk to her horse and put a foot in the stirrup. Then she paused and twisted her body to face Darlene. “What kind of snake?”
Hopeful, Darlene edged down another step. “A big, black one.”
Layla put her foot back on the ground and walked across the grass toward the porch. Darlene couldn’t believe how graceful the tall blonde was, how out of sync her beauty was in comparison to what she was wearing.
“Only thing you really have to worry about around here are copperheads.” She tipped back the rim of her hat. “Was it a copperhead?”
At five foot two, Darlene felt instantly inferior to this tall, gorgeous, horse-riding, snake-slaying blonde. She wasn’t about to say that she couldn’t tell one snake from the other. “I don’t think so.”
“All I’ve got is a .22 with me.” Layla pointed back to her horse, and Darlene saw a long gun in a holster. “But a .22 will blow a hole through your floor,” Layla added. A surreal feeling washed over Darlene. She thought about their previous home in a Houston subdivision, and a woman with a gun on a horse wasn’t a sight they would’ve seen.
“Do you have a pellet gun?” She stopped in front of Darlene on the steps. Darlene was pretty sure that was all they had— Chad’s BB gun.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Five minutes later, Darlene pushed open the door to her bedroom and watched Layla enter the scene of the invasion. The bed was piled with clean clothes, but at least it was made up. The vacuum was in the middle of the room instead of in the closet under the stairs. It wasn’t the way she wanted a stranger to see her bedroom, but it could have been worse.
Layla got down on her knees and looked under the bed. From the threshold, Darlene did a mental scan of what was under there. Boxes of photos, a flowery hatbox that had belonged to her grandmother, an old, red suitcase stuffed with baby keepsakes from when the kids were young—and a lot of dust. “There he is.” Layla leaned her chest to the floor and positioned Chad’s BB gun. Darlene braced herself, then squeezed her eyes closed as two pops echoed underneath the bed. A minute later, Layla drug the snake out with the tip of the gun. “Just a chicken snake.”
Darlene stepped out of the room, giving Layla plenty of room to haul the snake out. Big, black, ugly. And now dead. Blood dripped all the way to the front door. Layla carried the snake to the fence and laid it across the timber, its yellow underside up.
“Belly up should bring rain.” Layla was quickly up on her horse. “Maybe tell your husband that I’m patching the fence up, but he really needs some new cross planks.”
“I will. And thank you so much for killing that snake. Do you and your husband want to come for dinner tonight? I’d like to do something for you.”
“I’m not married. And I can’t come to dinner tonight. Thanks, though.” She gave the horse a little kick in the flank, then eased through a gate that divided her acreage from Brad and Darlene’s. She closed it behind her from atop her horse and headed toward the large house on top of the sloping hillside. Coming from town, the spacious estate was fully visible from the road and her youngest daughter called it the “mansion on the hill.” The rest of the family took to calling it that too.
In comparison to their rundown farmhouse, Darlene sup- posed it was a mansion. Both homes were probably built in the late 1800s, but Layla’s was completely restored, at least on the outside, with fresh, yellow paint and white trim. A split-rail, cedar fence also surrounded the yard, and toward the back of the property, a bright red barn lit up the hayfield not far from a good-sized pond. A massive iron gate—that stayed closed most of the time—welcomed visitors down a long, winding drive- way. And there were lots of livestock—mostly Longhorns and horses. If the wind was blowing just right, sometimes Darlene could hear faint music coming from the house.
She was hoping maybe she could be friends with Layla, even though she wasn’t sure she had anything in common with her. Just the same, Darlene was going to pay her a visit. Maybe take her a basket of baked goodies, a thank-you for killing that snake.
Brad adjusted the phone against his ear and listened to Darlene’s details about her snake ordeal, then she ended the conversation the way she always did. “Who do you love?”
“You, baby.”
It was their thing. Nearly twenty years ago, at a bistro in Houston, Brad wanted to tell Darlene that he loved her—for the first time—and he was a nervous wreck, wondering if she felt the same way. He’d kept fumbling around, and the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d seen it in his eyes, but she’d reached over, touched his hand, and smiled. Then in a soft whisper, she’d asked, “Who do you love?” His answer had rolled off his tongue with ease. “You, baby.” Then she’d told him that she loved him too, and the who-do-you-love question stuck. Darlene asked him all the time. He knew it wasn’t because she was insecure; it was just a fond recollection for both of them. That night at the bistro, Brad had known he was going to marry Darlene.
He flipped his phone shut and maneuvered through the Houston traffic toward home. He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with a snake when he got there, but he was amused at Darlene’s description of the tall, blonde cowgirl who shot it with Chad’s BB gun.
He had four tax returns to work on tonight after dinner. All these extra billable hours were bound to pay off. He needed the extra income if he was going to make all the renovations to the farm that he and Darlene had discussed. Brad wanted to give her the financial freedom to make their home everything she dreamed it could be. Cliff Hodges had been dangling the word partner in front of him for almost two years, and Brad was sure he was getting close to having his name on the door.
If they hadn’t been in such a rush to move from Houston, Brad was sure they could have held out and gotten more for their house. As it turned out, they’d barely broken even, and just getting the farmhouse in semi-livable shape had taken a chunk of their savings. Buying out Darlene’s brother for his share of the homestead had put a strain on their finances too, but it was worth it if Darlene was happy. She’d talked about restoring her grandparents’ farm for years. The original plan had been to fix the place up over time so they could use it as weekend getaway. But then they’d decided to make the move as soon as they could, even if the house wasn’t in tip top shape.
Forty-five minutes from his office, he’d cleared the bustle of the city, and the six lane freeway narrowed to two lanes on either side of a median filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Nothing like spring in Texas to calm his mind after crunching numbers all day long, but leaving the office so late to head west put the setting sun directly in his face. He flipped his visor down, glad that the exit for Highway 36 was only a few miles. Once he turned, he’d get a break from the blinding rays. Then he’d pass through the little towns of Sealy and Bellville before winding down one-lane roads to the peaceful countryside of Round Top. It was a long commute, almost an hour and a half each way, but it was worth it when he pulled into his driveway. Small-town living was better for all of them. Especially Chad.
Brad could still recall the night Chad came stumbling into the house—drunk. His seventeen year old son had been running around with a rebellious group of friends in Houston. And sometimes Chad’s glassy eyes had suggested more than just alcohol abuse. He shook his head to clear the recollections, knowing he would continue to pray that his son would make better choices now that he had some distance from his old buddies.
Brad felt like a blessed man. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly twenty years, and he had three amazing children. He wanted to spend his life being the best husband and father he could be. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t thank the Lord for the life he’d been given, and it was Brad’s job to take care of his family.
Darlene finished setting the table. She regretted that her mother couldn’t see her enjoying her grandmother’s dining room set. Darlene had been surprised to find the oak table and chairs still in the house when they’d moved in. The antiques had been dusty and in dire need of cleaning, but they were just as sturdy as ever. She could remember many meals with her parents and grandparents in this house, at this table.
She still missed her grandparents—and her parents. Dad had been gone almost six years, and two years had passed since her mother’s death. Her parents had started their family late in life, both of them in their late thirties when she was born, and
Dale was born two years after Darlene. She was glad her brother hadn’t wanted the farm. It had been a struggle to buy him out, but no regrets. Someday, they too would have a “mansion on the hill,” like Layla’s. She cast her eyes downward, frowning at the worn out wooden floors. She’d be glad when they could afford to cover the original planking with new hardwood.
Thinking of Layla brought a smile to her face as she mashed steaming potatoes in a pot on the stove. She couldn’t help but wonder what the tall blonde was doing all alone on that estate. Darlene had never even been on a horse or owned a pair of cowgirl boots. Several of her friends back in Houston sported a pair of high-dollar, pointy-toed boots, but they didn’t particularly appeal to Darlene. Her friend, Gina, had told her it was un-Texan not to own a pair of boots.
She missed Gina. They’d been friends since their daughters had started Girl Scouts together, but after Gina’s divorce, they’d drifted apart. Gina’s interests had changed from Girl Scout and PTO meetings to going out with new single friends.
She left the dining room and went back to the kitchen, glad that the aroma of dinner covered up the dingy old-house smell that lingered, despite her best efforts to conceal it with air fresheners.
“Mom! Mom!” Ansley burst into the kitchen with the kind of enthusiasm that could mean either celebration or disaster; with Ansley you never knew. At twelve, she was the youngest and the most dramatic in the family.
Darlene gave the potatoes a final stir before she turned to face her. “What is it, Ansley?”
“Guess what?” Ansley rocked back and forth from heel to toe, and Darlene could tell by the grin on her daughter’s face that the news was good. “I did it. Straight C's and above!”
Darlene brought her hands to her chest and held her breath for a moment, smiling. When Ansley was in grade school, early testing indicated she was going to struggle, and Darlene and Brad knew she was a bit slower than other kids her age.
Not so thrilling was what Brad had promised Ansley if she received a report card without any failing grades. “Sweetie, that’s great. I’m so proud of you.” She hugged her daughter, knowing it was highly unlikely Ansley wouldn’t remember her father’s promise. Ansley eased out of the hug.
“I know they scare you, Mom, but having some chickens and roosters will be so much fun! We’ll be like real farmers, and every day after school, I’ll go get the eggs.” Ansley’s dark hair brushed against her straightened shoulders, and her big brown eyes twinkled. “Think how much money you’ll save on eggs!”
Darlene bit her bottom lip as she recalled the chickens her grandparents used to keep on this very same farm. And one very mean rooster. Eight dollars in savings per month was hardly going to be worth it, but a promise was a promise. She’d told Brad before they’d left Houston not to offer such a reward, but Darlene had put it out of her mind. At the time, it seemed a stretch for Ansley to hit the goal and make all C’s.
“Maybe just have laying chickens. You don’t need a rooster.” Darlene walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a tub of butter.
“Mom . . .”
Darlene set the butter on the table and raised a brow in time to see Ansley rolling her eyes.
“Even I know we can’t have baby chicks without a rooster.” Ansley folded her arms across her chest.
Darlene grinned. “I know you know that, but how many chickens are you hoping to have?” She recalled that on some of her visits to her grandparents’ house, if the wind blew just right, she could smell the chicken coop from the front yard, even though the pens were well over fifty yards away, back next to the barn. When they’d first moved in, Brad had fixed up the old coops as an incentive for Ansley to pull her grades up. Sitting on the porch swing with Brad late in the evenings had become a regular thing, and smelly chickens would be an unwelcome distraction.
“Not too many,” Ansley said as she pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water.
One was too many in Darlene’s opinion, but it was a well- deserved reward. Darlene gave a lot of the credit to the school here. Much to her children’s horror, there were only 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve in the Round Top/ Carmine School District, but Darlene felt like they were getting a better education and more one-on-one attention. Darlene had been on the verge of homeschooling Ansley before they left Houston, but Ansley threw such a fit that Darlene had dis- carded the idea.
Ansley chugged the water, then put the glass in the sink. “I can’t wait ’til Daddy gets home.”
Darlene smiled. Her youngest was always a breath of fresh air, full of energy, and the tomboy in the family.
She thought about the snake and realized Ansley probably wouldn’t have freaked out after all. She heard Brad’s car rolling up the gravel driveway, and moments later, the front screen door slammed and Ansley yelled, “Daddy! Guess what!”
An hour later, everyone was gathered at the dinner table, except Chad. After about ten minutes, he finally sauntered into the room, slid into his chair, and folded his hands for prayer.
“It’s your turn to offer the blessing, Chad.” Darlene bowed her head.
“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you’ve given us, for this food, the roof over our head, and Your love. And God . . .” Chad paused with a sigh. Darlene opened one eye and held her breath. More often than not, Chad’s prayers included appeals for something outside the realm of what should be requested at the dinner table. Like the time he’d asked for God to help his parents see their way to buying him a better car. Darlene closed her eye, let out her breath, and listened.
“Could you heal Mr. Blackstone’s cancer and bring him back to school? He’s a good guy.” Darlene’s insides warmed, but then Chad continued. “Our substitute stinks. Amen.”
“Chad!” Darlene sat taller, then cut her eyes at Brad, who shouldn’t be smiling.
“No, Mom. I mean, really. He stinks. He doesn’t smell good.” Chad scooped out a large spoonful of potatoes. “And he’s like a hundred or something.”
“Even more reason you shouldn’t speak badly about him. Respect your elders, remember?” Darlene passed the meatloaf to Chad, who was shoveling potatoes like he hadn’t eaten in a month of Sundays.
“Grace, how was your day?” Brad passed their older daughter a plate of rolls.
“It was okay.”
Grace rarely complained, but Darlene knew she wasn’t happy about the move from Houston. Mostly because of the boy she’d left behind.
Ansley turned her head to Darlene, grunted, then frowned. “Mom, why are you wearing my shirt?”
Darlene looked down at the big roach. “Oh, I had to borrow it earlier. I sort of couldn’t go in my room for a while.”
Darlene told the full-length version of the snake story that she’d shortened for Brad on the phone.
“I’ve seen that woman,” Chad said. “And she’s hot.”
“She’s old like Mom, Chad! That’s gross.” Ansley squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then shook her head.
Darlene took a bite of roll. At thirty-eight, when had she become old in her children’s eyes? “I believe Layla is several years older than me, Chad.”
Her son shrugged. “Whatever. She’s still—”
“Chad, that’s enough.” Brad looked in Chad’s direction, and Darlene was glad to see him step in since it seemed like she was the one who always disciplined the children. Brad, on the other hand—well, he promised chickens.
They were all quiet for a few moments before Chad spoke up again.
“Did you know Layla drives a tractor? I’ve seen her out in the pasture on the way to school.” He shook his head. “Seems weird for a woman.” He laughed as he looked to his left at Ansley. “Can you picture Mom out on a tractor plowing the fields?”
Ansley laughed. “No, I can’t.”
“Don’t underestimate your mom. You never know what she might do.” Brad reached for another roll as he winked at Darlene.
Darlene smiled. She found herself thinking, yet again, that this was a good move for them. They all needed this fresh start. None of the kids had been particularly happy at first, but they were coming around.
“Can I be excused?” Grace put her napkin in her lap and scooted her chair back.
Darlene knew meatloaf wasn’t Grace’s favorite. “Whose night is it to help with dishes?”
Grace and Ansley both pointed at Chad.
“Okay,” Darlene said to Grace. “You can be excused.”
Darlene watched Grace leave the table. Her middle child was tiny like Darlene, and she was the only one in the family who inherited Darlene’s blonde hair and blue eyes. And her features were as perfect as a porcelain doll’s, complete with a flawless ivory complexion. She looked like a little princess. Chad and Ansley had their father’s dark hair and eyes—and his height. Darlene loved her children equally, proud of them all, but sometimes it was hard not to favor Grace just a little bit, especially since they’d come so close to losing her as an infant. Grace had come into the world nine weeks’ premature, a surprise to everyone, including Darlene’s doctor, since Darlene had delivered Chad at full-term with no complications just two years earlier. Grace struggled those first few weeks with undeveloped lungs and severe jaundice, and twice they were told to prepare themselves for the worst. But their Grace was a fighter, and as her sixteenth birthday approached, Darlene silently thanked God for the millionth time for His grace.
There’d been issues and struggles with both Chad and Ansley from time to time—mostly with Chad. But Grace had never given them one bit of trouble.

My Review
I started reading this page turning book as Part One...and true to two part books it left you on a cliff hanger. Had to know the rest of the story...and a good story it was. This book has it all, the great love of a family for each other..."Who do you love?". Also so not so typical teenage difficult problems, when Grace their middle child starts coping in a dangerous way. This book also deals with marriage problems, even where there shouldn't be any. Also enjoyed how dealing with "special" children is highlighted on, and accepted. We are show the great accomplishments of these children and the people who care for them. Also be prepared for heartbreak! You won't be able to stop at Part One, this book is a compelling page turner! I received this book from the Publisher Thomas Nelson, and was not required to give a positive review!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In the Water They Can't See You Cry: A Memoir by Amanda Beard, Rebecca Paley

In the Water They Can't See You Cry: A MemoirIn the Water They Can't See You Cry: A Memoir by Amanda Beard
Description: In this candid and ultimately uplifting memoir, Olympic medalist Amanda Beard reveals the truth about coming of age in the spotlight, the demons she battled along the way, and the newfound happiness that has proved to be her greatest victory. At the tender age of fourteen, Amanda Beard walked onto the pool deck at the Atlanta Olympics carrying her teddy bear, Harold, and left with two silvers and a gold medal. She competed in three more Olympic games, winning a total of seven medals, and enjoyed a lucrative modeling career on the side. At one point, she was the most downloaded female athlete on the Internet. Yet despite her astonishing career and sex-symbol status, Amanda felt unworthy of all her success. Unaware that she was suffering from clinical depression, she hid the pain beneath a megawatt smile. With no other outlet for her feelings besides the pool, Amanda expressed her emotions through self-destructive behavior. In her late teens and twenties, she became bulimic, abused drugs and alcohol, and started cutting herself. Her low self-esteem led to toxic relationships with high-profile men in the sports world. No one, not even her own parents and friends, knew about the turmoil she was going through. Only when she met her future husband, who discovered her cutting herself, did Amanda realize she needed help. Through her renewed faith in herself; the love of her family; and finally the birth of her baby boy, Blaise, Amanda has transformed her life. In these pages, she speaks frankly about her struggles with depression, the pressures to be thin, and the unhealthy relationships she confused for love. In the Water They Can’t See You Cry is a raw, compelling story of a woman who gained the strength to live as bravely out of the water as she did in it. My rating:
This is a look into the life of a four time Olympic Athlete. She really bares her soul, and the pain of growing up with a Learning Disability. At first she seems to keep her inner demons under control, and is a fish in the water. We journey with her through all aspects of her life, some good and some so very hard. We go with her through her difficult High School experience, suffering from a type of Dyslexia, and getting relief and achievement in the pool.
I loved how her Dad seem to cherish her, one time recording a book that she was having trouble reading. Of course her whole family were always there to support her when she was competing. She seemed to have it all, and yet she really didn't seem to like herself.
You will feel so sorry for her, and her choices of relationships, where she values herself so very little. This should also be mandatory read by parents with Children at high levels of competition. You will find this a rather compelling page turner, and I love the ending!

I was provided with a copy of this book by the Publisher Simon & Schuster, and was not required to give a positive review.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pump Your Book Tour: Hearts That Survive: A Novel of the Titanic by Yvonne Lehman


ABOUT HEARTS THAT SURVIVE: A NOVEL OF THE TITANIC


In April 1912, Lydia Beaumont is on her way to a new life with a boundless hope, against all that Craven Dowd desires for her and himself. Her friendship with Caroline Chadwick deepens as they plan Lydia’s wedding on board the “grandest ship ever built.” Then both women suffer tragic losses when the “unsinkable” Titanic collides with an iceberg and there are only 20 lifeboats for 2207 passengers. They struggle to keep their families and dreams together.

Decades later, Caroline’s granddaughter, working at the museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, plans for the 50th memorial for the sinking and contacts survivors and descendants of survivors. Alan Morris feels like a failure until he discovers he is the descendant of an acclaimed novelist who lost his life when the Titanic sank. He becomes caught up in finding his identity in the past and must come to terms with his present and the meaning of true success.
Characters struggle to answer whether love is more powerful than the pain of loss and learn what it means for a heart to survive.

ABOUT YVONNE LEHMAN


Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the Titanic is Yvonne Lehman’s 50th novel. She is a best-selling, award winning author who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years and now directs the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat held annually in October (www.lifeway.com/novelretreat). She lives in Black Mountain, amid the panoramic views of the Blue Ridge. She mentors students for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned her Master’s Degree in English at Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level.

You can visit Yvonne Lehman’s website at www.yvonnelehman.com.

My Review:

The year is 1812 and Lydia Beaumont is very much in love. Her beloved John Ancell and [one could call him her guardian] Craven Dowd are on the Maiden voyage of the Titanic. Lydia and John are expecting and decide the right thing to do is to marry immediately. You will read a description of how one of the most glamorous and beautiful and magical wedding ends up being.
The wedding takes place, at 1030pm on the 14th of April 1912. We all know what happened, almost to horrible to even say. Lydia and her baby to be, do survive, as does Craven. There are others that will impact each others lives for decades. There are the children of the famous author Henry Stanton-Jones, Phoebe and Henry. There is also Caroline Chadwick and her maid [friend] Bess.
This book will hold you spell bound, and you will not be able to put it down. Loved it, but it is hard to read about all the poor people who lost their lives on this ship! Keep the tissues handy.

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

First Wild Card Tours: Bible Lessons from Our Pets by David Smith

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:


PCG Legacy (August 30, 2011)

***Special thanks to Susan Otis of Creative Resources for sending me a review copy.***




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


David Smith is small business owner with interests in real estate investment. He is an avid pet lover who has observed God’s grace in life through his cat, Bling. As someone who loves God and enjoys seeing His blessings and goodness, David has learned to be sensitive to God’s voice through His creation. David lives in Yakima, Washington with his wife, Buffy, and their cat.



Visit the author's website.




SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Are you frustrated by not hearing God’s voice? Do you think that the Lord is WAY out there with nothing to tell you? Or do you question His existence all together? Well, I’m here to tell you that He is a lot closer than many of us think He is. Our Heavenly Father is trying to tell us something, if we are open, and He has been speaking to us in ways that we may have never considered. “How?,” you may ask. The Lord has always used the works of His hands to proclaim His great might. If you are wondering, you can see who the Lord is, just by looking out of your window, or by taking a drive though your state, county, province, or country. Have you ever seen pictures of the deepest crevasses of the ocean where life still takes hold? If so, you have just seen a picture of God’s depth as a person and how many layers there are to his character. If you have ever driven by the Colorado Rockies you have just witnessed the jagged strength that the Lord posses; His unfathomable power. One only needs to review the aftermath of Mount St. Helens for them to grasp God’s righteous anger. The Apostle Paul spoke of these evidences of God in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” God is not out there watching without love, but is constantly reaching out to speak to all of His children through the works of His hands.



David Smith has assembled a number of contributors to share their experiences of their pets and what they had learned of God. From faith to faithfulness, we uncover the messages laid out from the Lord.



Laugh your stress away with animal misadventures, such as this one:



I think our cat has a love affair with a portable heater. It may sound crazy, but it’s completely true. Almost any chance she gets, she’s face first in front of the heater, “catching some sun,” as Buffy and I like to call it. She even lies in front of the heater in anticipation of it being turned on. Our Bling is obsessed! One day, she got a little too close to her best friend and the whiskers on the right side of her face were singed badly. I would have thought she would have given the heater a rest after leaving the right side of her face smoldering, however, she returned to her love, regardless of the dangers. “Isn’t this just like me,” I thought, “after getting too close to sin and getting burned, I go back for more pain.” I don’t think it’s just me that has walked on the hot coals of sin only to turn around and walk on that fiery path again, but I’m sure everyone has been there and wears the t-shirt. Proverbs 26:11 describes this perfectly, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Now I don’t know about you, but going back to eating my puke is not too appetizing. Vomit has nasty chunks in it, smells, and, well, that pretty much describes it, but sin generally has the same appearance, but only to the trained eye. When I lie, it’s to protect myself in the moment from an argument, or being hurt, but what I’m not always seeing is the damage it’s doing to my heart and to my relationship with the Lord. When I go back to sin, whatever that sin is, it leaves a nasty vomit aftertaste in my heart, and this aftertaste becomes a barrier between me and the Lord. God wants to be close to his children, but if the smell of vomit is emanating our heart, then He may not want to come too close. As believers, we ought to keep our hearts cleaned up so that we are ready to be in the Lord’s presence. Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” So let’s watch what we see, say, and do because God is just waiting to have a deeper relationship with us!



So let David Smith and friends take you down a path of experiencing God through a whole new way, your pets! Job proclaimed in the Old Testament, “But ask the animals and they will teach you, or the bird of the air and they will tell you.” You will be surprised by what your dog or cat can teach you about God. Perhaps God is trying to speak to you through your parakeet? Go ahead. Curl up in your kitty beds and lock your doggy doors to prepare yourself for this new adventure.





Product Details:

List Price: $12.95

Mass Market Paperback: 144 pages

Publisher: PCG Legacy (August 30, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1936417251

ISBN-13: 978-1936417254






AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







Scaredy Cat
By David Smith
It’s another fine afternoon in Yakima, Washington, complete with dimming, cloudless skies. Most of the time in the morning and in the evening I will stand by at my window and drink a strong cup or coffee as I look out at the beautiful valley that I live in. I can see snow on the hills in the distance and orchards and birds and so many wonderful things. I never tire at looking and nature and taking it all in like a big deep breath. Many times my cat Bling is with me. She is a window connoisseur as well! If there is such a thing as reincarnation I must have been a cat! My cat is an indoor and outdoor cat. We love letting her out to be her wild and ferocious self. She loves to hunt and torture poor little mice and birds and she’s very good at it! On this particular day, Bling looks up at me with her big begging eyes and meows at me as she stands at the door. She wants to go outside, as usual. So I open the door but she just stands there sniffing the air like she just smells a campfire in the distance or some really good barbeque! I say to her “go on girl, go outside now” in my sweet kitty speaking voice. But she just stands there. She seems very hesitant and yet I know she wants to go out. Why is she just standing there? What is the problem? I start to get impatient because it is a little chilly and I’m tired of standing there trying to encourage her that it’s okay to go outside. She continues to stand there and I give her one last chance to make a run for it. But she decides to stay in. I close the door. This scenario has been repeated on multiple occasions and is definitely not my first rodeo with Bling. Now it’s too late and she waited too long; instead of going outside she delays and stares. I can tell that she wants to go outside, but is paralyzed. By what? I wish I knew, but I’d like to think it’s because she’s afraid of the unknown. Maybe there is something out there she’s afraid? There could be a dog, rain, or domineering male cats. Either way she’s being a scaredy cat! So she waits too long, the door is closed and now it’s dark outside. It’s too late!
“How often does this happen to me?” I thought. God opens a door, that opportunity I’ve been waiting for, and then by the time I decide to go through it, it’s too late. Bam!!! The door has been closed; Job opportunities, investments, relationships, and career changes, all passed by. Why? Well, in the past, the fear of change, the fear of rejection, the fear of the unknown, and the fear of moving beyond my comfort zone have become road-blocks to potential successes in my life. Hmmm, I’m sensing a trend! Fear, many times, becomes a paralyzing force in my life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us me to “be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave nor forsake you.” Stepping into courage is the antidote to living in fear. I am learning that life is more of an adventure when I take the step and go through the door! For instance I have been wanting to writing a book in which I could share some of the revelations I have had from watching my cat. I have never been an author, but I have a desire in my heart to be, and feel that God put that desire in my heart. Who am I to argue with God!? So many times I thought that I couldn’t do something like this because I never had the experience or the platform to do so, but the Bible says “with God all things are possible!” What’s the worst thing that could happen? I could lose a little money, no one likes it, and I have a lot of books lying around. That’s no reason not to try! It’s hard to believe that my cat taught me to get off my behind and do something new regardless of what obstacles lay in my path, but she did; now I think she can learn a few things from me like how to clean her own litter box or get a job and start contributing to her own food bowl! Maybe Bling really is paralyzed by fear, or maybe she’s just a silly cat, but she showed me another lesson that “God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.”



My Review

This book was a wonderful heartwarming read. I loved these endearing stories, and how these animals bring people closer to our God. It is a very hard to put down book, but if you only have a little time, it is a very fast read.
Most animals give unconditional love, and these little stories sure reinforce this. There are all kinds of animals, the regular Cats and Dogs, also Birds, Rabbits, Horses and even Snakes. Ready this will give you warm and fuzzy feelings, some chuckles, and a few sad moments.
I recommend this book for a really great adventure with pets.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cooking the Books by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Cooking the BooksCooking the Books by Bonnie S. Calhoun

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Once I picked up this captivating book, I could not put it down! It grabs you and compels you to keep reading.
Sloane Templeton has lost her Mom, and now has taken over running her Bookstore, along with Fifi her Mom's partner [another Colorful Character]. She has also begun a new relationship with a Greek Doctor..Andreas, having left a bad relationship with Trey [who doesn't seem to understand it is over!]
This story has it all, death threats and threatening messages, along with in person threats by people wanting her Mom's property. Also we meet delightful Aunt Verlene...the local Chef...who can't cook, and has regular visits from the fire department! There are also the Senior Group...at the gun range no less.
Add a very valuable antique book, and a couple of archaeological desperately wanting it!
I so enjoyed the subtle humor and the catchy phrases like "Fifi Andretti" or "Play Deputy Dawg", and "Red Velvet Hips".....are great and give you some chuckles. Also the nail biting end will keep you riveted! Enjoy!!

I received this book from Netgalley and the Publisher Abingdon Press. and was not required to give a positive review.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Wild Card Tours: The Dublin Destiny by Jill Twigg & Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!




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








Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Tate Publishing (January 10, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jill Twigg for sending me a review copy.***




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






With the encouragement of family and friends, Jill Twigg pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a Christian author into reality. She is the mother of four daughters and nina to five grandchildren. She resides in Houma, Louisiana with her husband.



Visit the author's website.








SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:










An ugly duckling story beginning with Rylee running for her life from Ireland to America. She marries a family friend Patrick, to stay hidden and while she is waiting for a chance to return to her homeland, she becomes a beautiful swan. A charming romance filled with intrigue, humor and fun weaved with a message of faith, trust and divine love that is sure to leave you yearning for more.







Product Details:

List Price: $17.99



Perfect Paperback: 232 pages

Publisher: Tate Publishing (January 10, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1613465610

ISBN-13: 978-1613465615






AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Prologue
The panting sounds she heard were getting stronger. Rylee looked behind her to see who was coming. There was no one. She quickly continued her quest to get home. Only a hundred more yards, she could make it. Still hearing panting sounds, she stopped and leaned against the building to confirm no one was coming. She didn’t understand. The sounds were so loud and persistent. She held her breath a second longer to take notice then sighed, realizing the sounds were coming from her own mouth. Rylee breathed a little easier knowing that possibly she wasn’t being followed just yet. In hurrying to get home to see her mother, Rylee knew one thing for sure: the need for calling bluffs had to stop. One day it wasn’t going to work. And she was thinking that it was the day. She was utterly unsure of her future now.
The flight plans were set, and she was to leave to catch the bus in a little less than an hour. That bus would take her to the airport in Dublin, which was at least an hour from her house. Rylee would then catch a plane and a connecting flight to her destination in America—Georgia, to be exact. Where that was? Rylee had no clue. She wasn’t sure of anything anymore. How can someone threaten the life of someone else and get away with it? Never mind that, how can one take the life of another and get away with it? Why was this happening to her? She hadn’t hurt anyone to deserve this warning.
Rylee certainly had her reasons for threatening to cause problems. So now she had to leave her home and her country. Where was the justice in that? With the deadline for her departure almost expired, she wasn’t wasting any time. Prolonging the inevitable only made the impending
matter worse. She knew she had to go. There was more at stake than just her life, and she wasn’t going to put her mother at risk because of her momentary inclination to stir up trouble.

Her mother was waiting with the luggage just inside the front door. A large tote bag consisting of a few changes of clothes, a toothbrush, and a license were all Rylee had to take on her journey. She was not sure why she bothered. That wasn’t much to start a new life, but she knew she’d get by with what she had. She received from her mother a quick kiss and one hundred dollars. They tried to stay strong, neither one wanting to show too much emotion, for fear they would not follow through with their plan. However, when the time drew near, their watering eyes displayed the melancholy they were both trying to avoid. They each had no indication as to when they would see each other again. Sometimes life was just so unfair. Hurrying back out the door, Rylee headed around the building to the bus stop and her uncertain

future. There was no bluffing her way out of this one.

Chapter One
Rylee Shannon was embarking on a new and scary adventure. A journey, if you wanted to call it that. Or vice versa. And as far as she knew, it could have been a journey right to hell. But anywhere was better than where she’d been. Scary or not, she had to trust that her mother was doing the right thing. Those demons would eventually need conquering, even if it took her last dying breath to do so. But for now, she would suffer in silence until she figured how the next part of her life was going to play out in the scheme of things. The midnight flight from Dublin, Ireland, was scary enough considering the fact she had never been on a plane. Except for her therapy training and the occasional visits to the Wicklow Mountains, Rylee didn’t venture too far from her town of Glendalough.
The flight attendant was not looking very cordial this evening as she monitored the seatbelts down the aisles. Her making sure everyone buckled his or her seatbelts before takeoff brought no comfort to Rylee at this point. She assumed the flight attendant had picked the short end of the stick and received the late night flight as punishment. Rylee also noticed the deep set of dark circles under the attendant’s eyes. She had probably had a long and hard day. Haven’t we all? Rylee added to her thought process.
With eyes wandering about, Rylee noticed there were thirty-five rows of two seats on each side of a middle aisle, A and C on one side and D and F on the other.
What happened to B and E? she wondered. She needed to stop thinking so much. She was getting very anxious for the flight to be over, and the plane hadn’t even gotten into the air yet. The Fasten Your Seatbelt sign came on, and the flight attendant made her announcements. She proceeded to show the routine demonstrations of putting on the seatbelt as the airplane taxied to the runway.
The safety demonstration is a joke, Rylee thought.
Flotation device—were they serious? Did they really expect her to believe that if this big bus in the sky was to have a water landing, she would actually be able to utilize the flotation device? Would she even be able to get over the panic to grab her seat cushion? Nonetheless, when she stood, she would almost certainly knock herself out because the ceiling was so low. And flipping the seat over to attach the straps around her shoulders? Just give me a gun! She laughed at herself.
The realization that a tranquilizer would have been appropriate for this trip approached her thought process as well. All that thinking was going to make her insane. She just needed to relax. Right!
Rylee could hear her mother beyond her doom-and-gloom thoughts.
Always the pessimist, Rylee girl. Someday, you are going to have to learn to trust the Lord. Negative thoughts will bring you negative actions! You mind my words. Nothing good will come of it, ever.
Rylee’s mother, Bonnie, was always the optimist. Rylee couldn’t fathom anything positive coming from this journey to the unknown. Her life at home was bleak at best, according to her, but at least she knew it. How was it to become any better, running for her life, basically to an unknown country?
The plan was for her to stay with a childhood pen pal of her mother’s. A pen pal, for Pete’s sake! Not even a friend her mother had actually met.
How could her mother do this to her? She could be sending her to a place worse than which she came from. How could Bonnie be that trusting? However, Rylee had no place else to go. She was as desperate as desperate could get. Again, always the pessimist, she thought.
She needed sleep. If the ride was as traumatic as the takeoff, she didn’t know how she was going to get through it. Not only that, but she was scheduled to change planes in New York, so she would get to do it all over again. It was a good thing she brought her inhaler, because even though the passenger in the next seat explained the bumps from the plane were just “air pockets in the clouds,” she wanted off, and she wanted off now. The stress that manifested her wheezing finally subsided after several minutes, and she was able to breathe normally. However, it wasn’t long until the next bout of bumpy clouds came again. It was amazing to her how a bunch of fluff could make an enormous airplane dip like a roller coaster. The feeling of her heart leaving her chest and moving into her throat was not making a good first impression for this airline. She was quite sure she never wanted to go through the experience of an airplane ride ever again. Next time she would think about traveling by boat. But, then again, she couldn’t swim. She was in a pickle. Either way, she was in a predicament in which she needed to trust, and that was difficult for her.
The last couple of days had been hectic, to say the least—scrambling for a plan of escape, then putting it into action. She was literally running a race of her life. Her mother, bless her heart, had really stepped up to the plate for her. Rylee always told her mother that God had a special place waiting for her, and that was never truer than now. Bonnie managed to pawn some family relics to add to her measly savings to purchase Rylee a bus ticket. It also funded part of the plane ticket from Dublin to Georgia. Her mother’s pen pal fronted the rest with no questions asked, knowing she would not be able to pay it back anytime in the near future. She had to give the McLellans credit for coming to the aid, an expensive aid at that, especially for someone whom they had never met.
She wondered what she would have to do to compensate.
The roller coaster ride through the clouds was not helping Rylee’s nerves or the queasiness of her stomach. It was either due to the stress of the trip or the constant altitude changes; she didn’t know which. Probably both. At this point, she really needed the plane to stop. Rylee figured the pilot drew the short end of the stick as well. Between him and the stewardess, or the flight attendant or whatever they are calling them these days, Rylee didn’t have a chance on this flight.
“Oh my!” She exclaimed aloud, her thought process interrupted by another cloud dip. Luckily, she hadn’t eaten anything in a while, because that last dip would have caused her to lose it all. And it would not have been pretty. If Rylee wasn’t so shy, she’d go ask the pilot if he needed help driving the plane. She assumed he was a novice. She could at least alert him when the clouds were coming.
The woman seated next to her could see her distress and patted her clenched hand on the armrest.
“It’s okay. The plane is built to manage these clouds.”
“I’m not handling this very well, am I?” Rylee stated back to her.
“Don’t you know about the reconnaissance planes that fly into hurricanes to see how strong they are?” she asked. “This is nothing.”
She couldn’t fathom why anyone would want that job. She nodded, appreciating the woman’s attempt to comfort.
The pilot came on the loudspeaker to announce that the turbulence should be over and the rest of the flight would be smooth sailing. He even tried to downplay it and make light of the situation by asking the children to refrain from bouncing in their seats, while the passengers laughed. However, Rylee’s nerves did not dissipate. The woman patted Rylee’s hand again. Rylee smiled at her and then closed her eyes, silently praying that the pilot was true to his word. Her thoughts meandered to a picture of Rylee kissing the ground if she ever got to it.




The Hartfield-Jackson International airport in Atlanta was starting to come alive with the hustle and bustle of family, friends, and patrons waiting to board their flight. The vendors were opening up their gates for business as the early scheduled flights brought patrons yearning for nourishment or reading material before they headed to their destinations.
One of these patrons, Lucy McLellan, was there on a mission. In all her fifty-three years, she had never turned down someone needing help, and she wasn’t going to start now. About a week ago, she had received a disturbing phone call from her childhood pen pal in Ireland asking—more like begging—for her to accept her daughter for a visit. She added that Rylee was in need of protection. Lucy, never one to leave someone in a bind, agreed, knowing that her trusted friend would not have come to her in desperation without probable cause.
“Okay, here’s gate C33,” Lucy said, as she looked back and waved for her son to come over to where she was. Her pen pal’s daughter, Rylee, had gotten herself into some trouble. She was able to get a temporary visa to visit. How she got it in a week’s time was only by the grace of God, for she needed to be out of Ireland—and fast. Bonnie assured her there were no drugs involved; for that reason, she did not have to worry about the headache of not being able to trust someone in her own home. She didn’t want to go through the trouble of having to hide anything that could be pawned for drugs or what not.
Patrick, Lucy’s only child and driver to the airport for this meeting, lagged behind with much trepidation, verifying the gate from the monitor. After much pleading, Patrick agreed to the offering of himself in marriage for Rylee’s protection, at least until he got back from a mission abroad. The offer was made sight unseen and without revealing the motive for the visit. Then when he returned, he could annul the marriage. By that time, things would have settled down at the home front, and Rylee could return to her mother in Ireland.
Patrick agreed with much protest but knew his mother would not have asked without a great deal of praying. She had enough faith for the both of them; however, neither was lacking in that area.
“An arranged marriage? Mom, this is the twenty-first century,” he argued. With her arguing back that the Bible did not stop teaching and providing nourishment just because it was past the death of Christ, he smiled at her, knowing that any argument with his mom was never a winning situation on his part, and she knew he was teasing. And knowing Lucy, there would be more to it than a simple marriage of convenience.
However, Patrick had other concerns. He had to get ready for his trip abroad, which was in ten days. Patrick was a physician working at the county hospital’s emergency room clinic when he was home. On this assignment, he was heading to Guatemala for his church mission field project. He made the trip every two years to help with whatever medical issues were going on at the time. There was usually quite a load. He enjoyed his job immensely, believing the Lord gave him this job for a good reason. He didn’t believe it was for the money, nor the prestige, but for the gratification he got when he could truly help those that couldn’t help themselves—more specifically, the little children who needed medical attention and vaccinations. That brought him more joy than his paycheck from the hospital.
The loudspeaker announced the arrival of Rylee’s flight. Although there were many years of correspondence, Lucy had not received a recent enough photo of Rylee. So consequently, she did not know exactly what she looked like. In that case, they would just have to wait for someone to look lost. Lucy didn’t think to bring a sign to hold up; however, she didn’t want to cause any unwanted attention to her either. Lucy wasn’t quite aware of all the actual circumstances Rylee was really in but enough to elude unnecessary interest.
After witnessing the hugs, screams, and kisses of the patrons coming in contact with their loved ones, out moseyed a pitiful-looking thing with a mess of curly hair, big-rimmed glasses and a “boy, was-she- lost” look. This girl’s weight was by far over the insurance limit for her
height. Patrick watched as she bumped against a chair, thinking she would miss it.
“Ouch.” He winced. “That’s gonna leave a nice bruise,” he said, commenting under his breath.
He continued to watch the opening where the passengers were coming through the Jetway. However, his eyes kept taking him back to the tousled-haired girl.
He wondered who was meeting her. Patrick watched her as she looked through the crowd as if trying to spot someone in particular and caught Patrick’s eye. He smiled a hello, which caused the girl’s eyes immediately to avert to the ground. The compassion he was feeling for this stranger was overwhelming. He continued to watch her as she tugged at the bottom of her too-short top, then crossed her arms in front of her exposed skin. His thoughts took him to a paper Patrick had written for college on the benefits of smiling. He remembered the studies of smiling being contagious and making one feel better even when it seemed impossible, but this girl wasn’t having it. She didn’t look as if she had smiled in a while. Patrick wondered what made her so downtrodden and what her story might be. She might just be feeling alone and didn’t need some stranger smiling at her. He chuckled to himself. The scruffiness of her attire foretold her class, unless it was a disguise, which he sincerely doubted, for that would have only brought more attention to her situation. In addition, Patrick could not figure out if she looked that bad on purpose to make a statement or if she truly did not know how to present herself in public. Either way, he would pray for her. They needed to get on with the task at hand, which was to find Rylee and get going. He and Lucy continued to watch people exiting the plane until there was no one left but the crew coming from the Jetway. The only patron left in the wait area was the lost looking girl who had decided to sit and wait for her party.
“Mom, are you sure she was even on this flight?” Patrick asked, feeling apprehensive, since Lucy was not very forthcoming in giving him information about the situation. Not that he minded being out of the loop, but he was cautious for his mother’s sake. His mother looked at him smiling and then headed toward the seated girl. Patrick stared after her in disbelief, thinking he may be able to help that girl after all. Lord, I don’t suppose Rylee missed her plane, and this girl was sent to us for help instead?
Patrick was wishing he had done a little investigational work himself before Lucy took on this charitable feat. He was beginning to feel a little leery of leaving his mother alone while on his mission, not knowing what the circumstances might promote. The information given about Rylee was not sufficient enough to satisfy his curiosity. Patrick wasn’t sure if it was for his own sake or for Lucy’s. Either way, he wasn’t going to leave his mother in a situation she may not be able to get out of until he saw Rylee and felt it was safe enough to leave. That would be seven months of alone time with each other. A lot could happen in seven months, and sometimes his mother’s charitableness scared him. However, Lucy always prayed before jumping into things; therefore, she would have said no if she thought it wasn’t in the Lord’s plan. He would just have to trust that fact.
“Rylee?” Lucy asked.
The young girl looked up from the floor into Lucy’s eyes. Nodding her head, she stood.
Lucy grabbed Rylee’s arms and then threw her own around her.
“God love ya, girl! Welcome to America!” Lucy exclaimed.
Rylee was startled at the sight of the woman coming at her. Lucy could come on a bit strong at first, and Patrick wanted to warn her, but he was too late.
“How was the flight?” Patrick asked.
Rylee just nodded. He held out his hand for her to shake.
“Hi, I’m Patrick.”
Nodding again, she took his hand without making eye contact. With her free hand, Rylee pushed her glasses toward the bridge of her nose, for fear they would fall. Her glasses had seen better days, but they were her only pair. And until she had other resources, they would make do. Rylee felt that as long as she was able to see the two people before her, she did not need to worry about a new pair just yet.
“We’ve kind of followed you throughout the years but never actually met. It’s nice to finally meet you,” he continued. Patrick, getting a little lost himself, not really knowing how to handle the shyness, just shrugged. He wasn’t used to that. He didn’t feel it was snobbery by her actions, but time would tell, and then they would deal with it.
Oh, Lord, what did we get ourselves into?
Patrick shrugged his shoulders at his mother.
Lucy rubbed Rylee’s arms.
“That’s okay, baby. You’re gonna feel right at home in no time. Let’s get your bags and we’ll scoot on,” Lucy said sweetly.
Rylee shook her head, and then stated, “No bags.”
Patrick pointed to her tote bag hanging off her shoulder.
“Is this it?” he asked, reaching to take it from her so that he could carry it for her. Rylee looked up at him, but she held tight to the bag so that he was unable to take it. He shrugged.
“Okay, let’s go.”
This is going to be a challenge, he thought. Either there’s something in the bag she doesn’t want anyone to see, or maybe she just needs something to hold on to for comfort. For all he knew, her whole life could be in that bag. Patrick started toward the exit with Lucy trying to keep up and Rylee treading several yards.
“Patrick!” Lucy shouted, before he reached the escalator that led to the parking garage. She was a little out of breath. “I know you’re in a hurry, baby. But I’m getting an aerobic workout here trying to keep up with you, and we’re going to lose Rylee in the crowd.”
He looked back to see Rylee lollygagging along without a care in the world. She had her hands in her hoodie pocket and her head down, as if she were counting the cracks in the floor.
Her tennis shoes, which he suspected were once white, bled gray and nearly tripped Rylee as she sauntered toward him without picking up her feet. Her appearance belied her age, given that he knew she had graduated from college but appeared to be only about seventeen, maybe. I can’t believe I let my mother talk me into this debacle, he thought, as he watched Rylee before taking action.
“I’m sorry,” Patrick said. He walked back several yards and waited for Rylee to catch up to them. When she finally looked his way, he pointed to the escalator and then gestured for her to lead. She quickly left her daydream state, pushed her glasses back toward her nose again, and picked up speed to accommodate Patrick’s direction to her. The hour-long ride home was going to be interesting.




My Review:

I so enjoyed the Character of Rylee Shannon, she was like an ugly duckling. I can just picture Patrick and Lucy's first sight of her.
Patrick McLellan must really love his Mom, to really sacrifice himself to marry Rylee. Of course in his mind, there is an annulment to be had. He is also leaving town on his Church Mission, for seven months. So he really wasn't to worried about the marriage, he would be done with it when he returned.
Rylee has her demons and has not yet surrendered her life to Jesus. You will wonder what she is so afraid of to make her leave home in Ireland and travel to the US, and to all places Dublin, GA. She ends up there, because her Mom has been pen pals with Lucy for years, although they have never met. Lucy takes her friends daughter under her wing, and treats her like she is her own.
You will not be able to put this book down once you start your adventure. Be prepared to fall in love with the characters here, and you will want to know them all better. Rylee the ugly duckling touches so many lives, and they become real friends for her. You will hope by the end she and Patrick will end up together, but most of all that she will find her way to God.