Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis & My 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:

The Sheriff’s Surrender

Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***


Award-winning author Susan Page Davis is a mother of six who lives in Maine with her husband, Jim. She worked as a newspaper correspondent for more than twenty-five years in addition to home-schooling her children. She writes historical romances and cozy mysteries and is a member of ACFW. Visit her Web site at

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602605629
ISBN-13: 978-1602605626


Fergus, Idaho

May 1885

Gert Dooley aimed at the scrap of red calico and squeezed the trigger. The Spencer rifle she held cracked, and the red cloth fifty yards away shivered.

“I’d say your shooting piece is in fine order.” She lowered the rifle and passed it to the owner, Cyrus Fennel. She didn’t particularly like Fennel, but he always paid her brother, the only gunsmith in Fergus, with hard money.

He nodded. “Thank you, Miss Dooley.” He shoved his hand into his pocket.

Gert knew he was fishing out a coin. This was the part her brother hated most—taking payment for his work. She turned away. Hiram would be embarrassed enough without her watching. She picked up the shawl she had let fall to the grass a few minutes earlier.

“That’s mighty fine shooting, Gert,” said Hiram’s friend, rancher Ethan Chapman. He’d come by earlier to see if Hiram would help him string a fence the next day. When Cyrus Fennel had arrived to pick up his repaired rifle, Ethan had sat down on the chopping block to watch Gert demonstrate the gun.

“Thank you kindly.” Gert accepted praise for shooting as a matter of course. Now, if Ethan had remarked that she looked fine today or some such pretty thing, she’d have been flustered. But he would never say anything like that. And shooting was just work.

Fennel levered the rifle’s action open and peered at the firing pin. “Looks good as new. I should be able to pick off those rats that are getting in my grain bins.”

“That’s quite a cannon for shooting rats,” Gert said.

Ethan stood and rested one foot on the chopping block, leaning forward with one arm on his knee. “You ought to hire Gert to shoot them for you.”

Gert scowled. “Why’d I want to do that? He can shoot his own rats.”

Hiram, who had pocketed his pay as quickly as possible, moved the straw he chewed from one side of his mouth to the other. He never talked much. Men brought him their firearms to fix. Hiram listened to them tell him what the trouble was while eyeing the piece keenly. Then he’d look at Gert. She would tell them, “Come back next week.” Hiram would nod, and that was the extent of the conversation. Since his wife, Violet, had died eight years ago, the only person Hiram seemed to talk to much was Ethan.

Fennel turned toward her with a condescending smile. “Folks say you’re the best shot in Fergus, Miss Dooley.”

Gert shrugged. It wasn’t worth debating. She had sharp eyes, and she’d fired so many guns for Hiram to make sure they were in working order that she’d gotten good at it, that was all.

Ethan’s features, however, sprang to life. “Ain’t it the truth? Why, Gert can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards with a gun like that. Mighty fine rifle.” He nodded at Fennel’s Spencer, wincing as though he regretted not having a gun as fine.

“Well, now, I’m a fair shot myself,” Fennel said. “I could maybe hit that rag, too.”

“Let’s see you do it,” Ethan said.

Fennel jacked a cartridge into the Spencer, smiling as he did. The rag still hung limp from a notched stick and was silhouetted against the distant dirt bank across the field. He put his left foot forward and swung the butt of the stock up to his shoulder, paused motionless for a second, and pulled the trigger.

Gert watched the cloth, not the shooter. The stick shattered just at the bottom of the rag. She frowned. She’d have to find another stick next time. At least when she tested a gun, she clipped the edge of the cloth so her stand could be used again.

Hiram took the straw out of his mouth and threw it on the ground. Without a word, he strode to where the tattered red cloth lay a couple of yards from the splintered stick and brought the scrap back. He stooped for a piece of firewood from the pile he’d made before Fennel showed up. The stick he chose had split raggedly, and Hiram slid the bit of cloth into a crack.

Ethan stood beside Gert as they watched Hiram walk across the field, all the way to the dirt bank, and set the piece of firewood on end.

“Hmm.” Fennel cleared his throat and loaded several cartridges into the magazine. When Hiram was back beside them, he raised the gun again, held for a second, and fired. The stick with the bit of red stood unwavering.

“Let Gert try,” Ethan said.

“No need,” she said, looking down at her worn shoe tips peeping out beneath the hem of her skirt.

“Oh, come on.” Ethan’s coaxing smile tempted her.

Fennel held the rifle out. “Be my guest.”

Gert looked to her brother. Hiram gave the slightest nod then looked up at the sky, tracking the late afternoon sun as it slipped behind a cloud. She could do it, of course. She’d been firing guns for Hiram for ten years—since she came to Fergus and found him grieving the loss of his wife and baby. Folks had brought him more work than he could handle. They felt sorry for him, she supposed, and wanted to give him a distraction. Gert had begun test firing the guns as fast as he could fix them. She found it satisfying, and she’d kept doing it ever since. Thousands upon thousands of rounds she’d fired, from every type of small firearm, unintentionally building herself a reputation of sorts.

She didn’t usually make a show of her shooting prowess, but Fennel rubbed her the wrong way. She knew he wasn’t Hiram’s favorite patron either. He ran the Wells Fargo office now, but back when he ran the assay office, he’d bought up a lot of failed mines and grassland cheap. He owned a great deal of land around Fergus, including the spread Hiram had hoped to buy when he first came to Idaho. Distracted by his wife’s illness, Hiram hadn’t moved quickly enough to file claim on the land and had missed out. Instead of the ranch he’d wanted, he lived on his small lot in town and got by on his sporadic pay as a gunsmith.

Gert let her shawl slip from her fingers to the grass once more and took the rifle. As she focused on the distant stick of firewood, she thought, That junk of wood is you, Mr. Rich Land Stealer. And that little piece of cloth is one of your rats.

She squeezed gently. The rifle recoiled against her shoulder, and the far stick of firewood jumped into the air then fell to earth, minus the red cloth.

“Well, I’ll be.” Fennel stared at her. “Are you always this accurate?”

“You ain’t seen nothing,” Ethan assured him.

Hiram actually cracked a smile, and Gert felt the blood rush to her cheeks even though Ethan hadn’t directly complimented her. She loved to see Hiram smile, something he seldom did.

“Mind sharing your secret, Miss Dooley?” Fennel asked.

Ethan chuckled. “I’ll tell you what it is. Every time she shoots, she pretends she’s aiming at something she really hates.”

“Aha.” Fennel smiled, too. “Might I ask what you were thinking of that time, ma’am?”

Gert’s mouth went dry. Never had she been so sorely tempted to tell a lie.

“Likely it was that coyote that kilt her rooster last month,” Hiram said.

Gert stared at him. He’d actually spoken. She knew when their eyes met that her brother had known exactly what she’d been thinking.

Ethan and Fennel both chuckled.

Of course, I wouldn’t really think of killing him, Gert thought, even though he stole the land right out from under my grieving brother. The Good Book says don’t kill and don’t hate. Determined to heap coals of fire on her adversary’s head, she handed the Spencer back to him. “You’re not too bad a shot yourself, Mr. Fennel.”

His posture relaxed, and he opened his mouth all smiley, like he might say something pleasant back, but suddenly he stiffened. His eyes focused beyond Gert, toward the dirt street. “Who is that?”

Gert swung around to look as Ethan answered. “That’s Millicent Peart.”

“Don’t think I’ve seen her since last fall.” Fennel shook his head. “She sure is showing her age.”

“I don’t think Milzie came into town much over the winter,” Gert said.

For a moment, they watched the stooped figure hobble along the dirt street toward the emporium. Engulfed in a shapeless old coat, Milzie Peart leaned on a stick with each step. Her mouth worked as though she were talking to someone, but no one accompanied her.

“How long since her man passed on?” Ethan asked.

“Long time,” Gert said. “Ten years, maybe. She still lives at their cabin out Mountain Road.”

Fennel grimaced as the next house hid the retreating figure from view. “Pitiful.”

Ethan shrugged. “She’s kinda crazy, but I reckon she likes living on their homestead.”

Gert wondered how Milzie got by. It must be lonesome to have no one, not even a nearly silent brother, to talk to out there in the foothills.

“Supper in half an hour.” She turned away from the men and headed for the back porch of the little house she shared with Hiram. She hoped Fennel would take the hint and leave. And she hoped Ethan would stay for supper, but of course she would never say so.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this. It was a surprise to find out who was behind all the bad things happening, and it was really good to see the women standing up for themselves and protecting themselves.
I felt sorry for Ethan having to go into a new position, but he handled it really well.
A good book overall :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur & My 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:

Wisdom Hunter

Multnomah Books (September 20, 2003)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


Randall Arthur is the bestselling author of Jordan’s Crossing and Brotherhood of Betrayal. He and his wife have served as missionaries to Europe for over thirty years. From 1976 till 1998, he lived in Norway and Germany as a church planter. Since 2000, he has taken numerous missions teams from the United States on trips all over Europe. Arthur is also the founder of the AOK (Acts of Kindness) Bikers’ Fellowship, a group of men who enjoy the sport of motorcycling. He and his family live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (September 20, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590522591
ISBN-13: 978-1590522592


PART 1: 1971-1972

Jason cleared his throat. His wife knew what was coming next, and the pain within her rose again. At every evening meal for the last five hundred and fifteen days he had prayed aloud for their daughter, always working his way slowly through the prayer, emphasizing each word as if to prove his sincerity.

"0 God," he said tonight, "wherever Hannah might be right now, we ask that she'll know your protection. Thank you for watching over her. And thank you even more that one day you'll honor our faith and bring her home."

He paused, as if to arrest the Almighty's attention, then continued with a faltering voice. "Just-just make it soon. We miss her... "

LYING ON THE living room couch, Hannah Freedman proudly realized once again that she was the reason Cody had emerged from his loneliness. He was absolutely consumed by her-and the thought was enthralling. Admiring her diamond-studded wedding band, she gratified herself with the reminder that Cody always treated her like a princess, as if by royal decree she had somehow granted him a new life.

At this very moment, alone in their suburban Miami home, she could feel his infatuation. It lingered in every room, echoing in the easy recall of Cody's loving words and embraces.

Hannah turned heavily upon her side, the baby in her womb preventing her from rolling all the way over onto her stomach. She smiled. It was like a fairy tale. She and Cody had met only ten months ago-she a runaway, not yet eighteen; and he a well-bred, 25 year-old professional. Now they were together forever. How could it be real? How could they have it so good?

She reached over her head, retrieving from behind her a framed photograph of Cody that sat alone on the end table. The picture had been taken only weeks before she met him. It was the same handsome face, the same green-eyed, ash-blond man who was now her husband-but he had been so different then. There was a smile on the face, but it was hiding a sense of loss that had governed his life ever since the death of his parents in a plane crash two years earlier. From that seemingly unshakable disorientation, she had rescued him. Likewise, Cody had taken her from a miserable existence and placed her on a lofty pedestal of fulfillment beyond her wildest dreams.

Her spirit soared with gratefulness as she pressed the photograph to her chest. Lost in blissful thoughts, she relived for the thousandth time the nonstop passion of the last ten months. First, the explosive romance-the instant chemistry, like gunpowder contacting fire. Then came the unplanned but welcomed pregnancy, followed by the exchange of wedding vows seven and a half months ago. Every day had been glorious. If she could live all of it over, she would not change a single detail.

A wall clock across the room began to chime the hour, and Hannah closed her eyes and stilled her thoughts to listen: Four o'clock. It was four o'clock, Friday afternoon, December 15th. The "Christmas spirit" with its commercialism was in full swing-and she, Hannah Freedman, had everything in life a woman ever dreamed of: a large and beautiful home, a flaming love life, and emotional security. In only forty minutes her lover would be home from a day's work at his veterinary clinic, ready for their usual early and intimate dinner together. And in only fourteen days, according to the doctor's calculations, she and Cody would cuddle their first child.

She lifted the photograph and contentedly stared through tears at Cody's picture. For the first time in her eighteen years, she knew what it was to live and to love.

She slowly reached over her head and carefully returned the photograph to its place. She contemplated getting up from the couch. But due to an early morning burst of energy she had already put in a full day of cleaning house and baking Christmas cookies, and the work had left her exhausted. Her small frame, now carrying an extra twenty-six pounds, simply refused to rise.

AT 4:40, CODY came in the back door. He slipped quickly through the kitchen, moving his six-foot-three, 170-pound athletic body with the fluidity of a cat, and began singing: "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to live with a blue-eyed Georgia girl, hey!"

On the living room couch Hannah awoke from her light sleep, and broke into a smile as Cody continued singing heartily off-key: "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to love my blue-eyed Georgia girl!"

When Cody poked his head around the corner, Hannah was applauding. "Coe," she said, extending tired but inviting arms, "you can love this blue-eyed Georgia girl anytime you want to."

Like a moth to a flame, Cody was drawn into her arms. Kneeling on the plush gray carpet beside her, he kissed her full, moist lips as if he had been starving for her for weeks. When he finally withdrew, he looked into her eyes and said with intensity, "Hannah, you're so beautiful-even when you're tired"

So often before he had told her she was beautiful-and had never stopped, even after her pregnancy began showing. Spreading her arms playfully like wings, Hannah nodded toward her body. "You like it, huh?"

Cody smiled his reply, then ran his fingers slowly through her long, thick auburn hair. "Hannah," he moaned in earnest, "I'm missing you, bad."

"How much?" she asked with delight.

"You really want to know?"


Cody grinned. "Well, I'll tell you. I accidentally gave overdoses of antibiotics to four different dogs today and killed them all," he joked, "simply because I couldn't get my mind off you. All I've done today is dream about being with you."

Feeling aroused, Hannah slowly pulled him into another fiery kiss.

It took every ounce of self-control Cody could muster to keep from going further. When Hannah finally released him, he fell reluctantly to the floor and stretched out on his back. "Just you wait," he said with gusto, "till we're able to be together again. I'm going to make it unforgettable."

Hannah laughed seductively. "Are you sure you can hold out until then?"

With surprise, she watched Cody's mood turn sober. He rose to kneel beside her again, and took her hands in his. "Hannah, if I had to, I'd be willing to wait the rest of my life for you."

There was no doubt in Hannah's mind that he meant every word. She felt his sincerity as certainly as if it were rain pouring down on her. Instinctively she pulled him into another tight embrace.

“Cody,” she confided in his ear, “this will be the best Christmas I've ever had. And the reason is you…”

AFTER DINNER Cody raved as Hannah placed the tray of Christmas cookies on the dining room table beside him. "Better looking than Mother's used to be," he said. Taking a bite, he nodded, "And every bit as good!"

An LP of instrumental Christmas music was playing softly in the background. Hannah sat down to hear Cody finish telling her about his day: setting a German shepherd's broken leg, diagnosing an old tomcat that was refusing to eat, bobtailing a four-day old boxer, and giving an array of shots.

"And Mrs. Gravitt brought in her Dalmatian again," he said, then paused.

"And?" Hannah asked.

"And it should be the last time!" he smiled with satisfaction. "He's fully recovered, and Mrs. Gravitt is as happy as any client I've ever had."

"She should be," Hannah reassured him. "That dog was nearly dead two months ago when she first brought him to you. It was a miracle anyone could save him. But what can I say? You're the best!"

"Well, maybe not the best… But..."Cody tucked his thumbs beneath imaginary suspenders, in a mocking pose of greatness. They both erupted into laughter.

"Say," he said after finishing another cookie, "I called Reed's Travel Agency this morning. They promised they could reserve the cabin-"

Before he could complete the sentence, he saw Hannah suddenly gasp for breath, tense in her chair, then let out a low groan. Cody was immediately face to face with her, gripping her shoulders. "Are you all right?" he demanded.

She finally began breathing, then looked him in the eye and gave the most surprisingly beautiful smile he had ever seen. "I think so... I... uh... yeah, I'm okay," she answered. "My water just broke." She could feel the warm fluid puddling around her buttocks and running down her leg. For a moment she was embarrassed, but the feeling was quickly overcome by an acute surge of pain.

Still trying to figure out what to do, Cody saw Hannah tense again. He gripped her hand in silence, stunned by the piercing hurt locked on her face.

Several seconds later, Hannah relaxed and took a deep breath. "I'm not positive," she said, "but if that was my first contraction, we may be mommy and daddy two weeks earlier than we thought."

Elated, Cody held her in a big hug and said, "Can you believe it?" He started dancing around the table. "We're going to be a family!" he shouted, as Hannah laughed.

THEIR CELEBRATION was soon tempered by the quickly recurring pains, and the rush to leave for the hospital. Within twenty-five minutes from the time Hannah's water had broken, she was seated beside Cody in their Ford station wagon. He was timing her contractions, which now came at less than three-minute intervals. The quickly paced labor pains, coming so soon, made Cody nervous. He tried to relax, but it was all so new. And this was his wife, his baby.

This is happening too fast, he thought, calculating that the trip to the hospital would normally take twenty-five to thirty minutes. This time, he decided, it would have to be less than twenty. No stranger to speeding, he was confident he could meet the challenge.

He glanced at his wristwatch-5:51-just as they were leaving their residential area and approaching the nearest main road. One look ahead quickly confirmed a rising worry: It was rush hour. Traffic on the main road was packed, moving at only a fraction of the normal speed.

For the first time, Cody felt panic. To hide it, he forced a grin and said to Hannah, “I love adventure, but this is a little too much of the good stuff.”

She smiled briefly, before yielding to the start of yet another contraction.

Soon the eruptions of pain were less than two minutes apart. Hannah bravely fought back. Everything's under control, she kept telling herself. Be strong, be strong. Impossible as it seemed, each contraction hurt worse than the last, worse than anything she had ever felt in her life.

"Just hang in there, babe," Cody said. "I'll get you there."

The line of cars crept forward to an intersection which he realized was approximately their halfway point to the hospital. The flow of traffic halted again as he saw the same set of stoplights change to red for the second time. With mounting fear he looked at his watch: 6:16.

Suddenly, Hannah leaned forward, grabbed the dashboard with both hands, and screamed. Cody reached out and touched her shoulder. He was now almost beside himself with panic. "Are you going to make it?"

When her pain had passed its peak, she found her breath and shot back, "I don't know... Just hurry!"

He knew then what he had to do. And on impulse, as if the adrenaline surging through him had switched on a machine, he did it.

Trying to take charge of this desperate situation, he lurched the station wagon out of their traffic lane. Sounding his horn and flashing his headlights, he charged through the intersection and down the avenue, straddling the middle line.

Hannah did little more than flinch. The thought of how crazy it all seemed flashed in and out of her mind.

"I'll get you there," she heard Cody say again.

My Review:
It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but once I got past those few chapters I was hooked.
It was really interesting to read about legalism and get more of an inside view of it. It was also good to read about how the church that he went to later on kept away from it.
Very well-written and really enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey and My Review

It is August 1944 and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich. When Joseph Engel, a German physicist working on the atomic bomb, finds that he is actually a Jew, adopted by Christian parents, he must flee for his life to neutral Switzerland. Gabi Mueller is a young Swiss-American woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) close to Nazi Germany. When she is asked to risk her life to safely "courier" Engel out of Germany, the fate of the world rests in her hands. If she can lead him to safety, she can keep the Germans from developing nuclear capabilities. But in a time of traitors and uncertainty, whom can she trust along the way? This fast-paced, suspenseful novel takes readers along treacherous twists and turns during a fascinating--and deadly--time in history.

Available October 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

My Review:
This took me a little while to get into, but I really enjoyed it. It was really interesting to find out that people who seemed ordinary weren't always what they seemed.
This was well-written and very enjoyable to read. I'd definitely recommend it to people who enjoy historical books :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tidings of Great Boys by Shelley Adina & My 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:

All About Us #5: Tidings of Great Boys

FaithWords; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)

***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of the Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***

CONTEST! For a chance to win one of two prizes: a Tiffany's Bracelet OR an All About Us T-shirt, go to Camy Tang's Blog and leave a comment on her FIRST Wild Card Tour for Tidings of Great Boys, and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet or T-shirt that look similar to the pictures below.


Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith--with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446179639
ISBN-13: 978-0446179638


SOME PEOPLE ARE born with the gift of friendship. Some achieve it. And then you have people like me, who have friendship thrust upon them.

Believe me, there’s no one happier about that than I am—in fact, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now without it—but it wasn’t always that way. My name is Lindsay Margaret Eithne MacPhail, and because my dad is a Scottish earl, that makes my mother a countess and me, a lady.

I know. Stop laughing.

To my friends I’m simply Mac. If you call me Lady Lindsay, I’ll think you’re (1) being pretentious or (2) announcing me at a court ball, and since none of my friends are likely to do either, let’s keep it Mac between us, all right?

On the night it all began, I was sitting in the dark, deserted computer lab, waiting for the digital clock on the monitor to click over: 11:00.

“Carrie?” I settled the headphones more comfortably and leaned toward the microphone pickup.

“All right?” Her familiar voice came over Skype and I smiled, even though she couldn’t see it. She sounded like sleepovers and mischief and long walks through the woods and heath. Like rain and mist and Marmite on toast. She sounded like home.

“Yeah.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. I’d chosen to come to Spencer Academy for the fall term instead of going back to St. Cecelia’s. I’d hounded my mother and, when that didn’t work, my dad, so I had no business being homesick. Besides, being all weepy just wasted precious minutes. Carrie had to leave for school, and I had to sneak back up to the third floor without the future Mrs. Milsom, our dorm mistress, catching me after lights-out.

“Only two weeks to go until you’re home,” Carrie said. “I’m already planning all the things we’re goin’ tae do. Anna Grange has a new flat in Edinburgh and she says we can come crash anytime we like. Gordon and Terrell canna wait to see you—they want to take us to a new club. And—”

“Hang on.” How to put this? “I haven’t actually decided what I’m doing over the holidays. There’s a lot going on here.”

Silence crackled in my headset. “Don’t talk rubbish. You always come home. Holidays are the only time I ever get tae see you—not tae mention all your friends. What do you mean, a lot going on?”

“Things to do, people to see,” I said, trying to soften the blow. “Mum wants me in London, of course, since she hasn’t had me for nearly three months. And I have invitations to Los Angeles and New York.”

“From who?”

“A couple of the girls here.”

The quality of the silence changed. “And these girls—they wouldna be the ones splashed all over Hello! last month, would they? At some Hollywood premiere or other?”

“As it happens, yes. I told you all about it when that issue came out.”

She made a noise in her throat that could have been disgust or sheer disparagement of my taste. “That’s fine, then. If you’d rather spend your vay-cay-shun wi’ your Hollywood friends, it’s nowt to do wi’ me.”

“Carrie, I haven’t said I’d go. I just haven’t made up my mind.”

As changeable as a sea wind, her temper veered. “You’ve got tae come. We’re all dying to see you. I saw your dad in the village and he invited all of us over as soon as you got home.”

“Did he?”

“I know. I didna think he’d even remember who I was, but he stopped me in the door of the chip shop and told me I was tae come. He sounded so excited.”

This did not sound like my dad, who wasn’t exactly a recluse, but wasn’t in the habit of accosting random teenagers in chip shops, either, and inviting them up to the house. She was probably having me on. I had a lot of practice in peering behind Carrie’s words for what she really wanted. In this case, it was simple. She was my friend, and friends wanted to be with each other.

The problem was, I had more friends now than I used to. Besides the ones at Strathcairn and in London, there were the ones here at Spencer. And lately, Carly, Shani, Lissa, and Gillian were turning out to be solid—moreso than any friends I’d had before.


“I’ll let you know as soon as I figure out what I’m doing,” I told Carrie. “I’ve got to go. The Iron Maiden stalks the halls.”

Carrie laughed. “Love the pic you sent wi’ yer camera phone. What a horror. Who would marry her?”

“The bio prof, apparently. The wedding’s set for New Year’s Eve to take advantage of some tax benefit or other.”

“How bleedin’ romantic.”

There was another Christmas wedding in the works, but I hadn’t heard much about it lately. Carly Aragon’s mum was supposed to marry some lad she’d met on a cruise ship, much to Carly’s disgust. I could relate, a little. If my mother was going to marry a man who looked like a relic from an eighties pop band, I’d be a little upset, too. So far Carly was refusing to be a bridesmaid, and the big day was sneaking up on her fast.

“I’ll call you over the weekend.”

“I might be busy.”

“Then I’ll call Gordon and Terrell. I know they love me.”

She blew me a raspberry and signed off. Still smiling, I laid the headphones on the desk and got up.

And froze as a thin, dark shape moved in the doorway. The lights flipped on.

I blinked and squinted as Ms. Tobin stared me down. “I thought I heard voices. Is someone here with you?” I shook my head. “You do realize, Lady Lindsay, that lights-out is ten o’clock? And it is now twenty after eleven?”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“What are you doing in here?”

“Calling home.”

She scanned the rows of silent computers. Not a telephone to be seen. “And you can’t do that from the privacy of your own room?”

“It’s eleven twenty and my roommates are asleep,” I pointed out helpfully. “But it’s seven twenty in the morning in Scotland. I use Skype so there are no long distance charges.”

She rolled her eyes up, as if doing the math. “Calling Scotland? Your family?”

If I didn’t actually answer, I wouldn’t be lying. Instead, I let the smile falter. “I get homesick.”

Ms. Tobin pinned me with her gaze like a butterfly on a board. “I sympathize, but you still broke a school rule. A demerit will be added to your record. Again.”

Oh, please. Who cared about demerits when I needed to talk to Carrie? “I’m sorry, Ms. Tobin.”

“Come along. I’ll escort you to your room.”

And she did, like a bad-tempered Dementor floating along beside me. Only compared to that dreadful brown tweed skirt and round-toed oxfords, the Dementors were turned out in haute couture. Did the woman actually have on knee-high stockings?

“Good night, Lady Lindsay.”

I shuddered and shut the door on her, locking it for good measure.

“Mac?” Carly’s sleepy voice came from the direction of her bed, muffled by a quilt. “Who’s that with you?”

“I called home and got caught,” I whispered. “Ms. Tobin marched me up here.”

Carly groaned and subsided.

I undressed and crawled into bed. The three of us had to make do in a room designed for two. I have to admit, it was kind of fun rooming with Carly and Shani Hanna. Since her debacle with the heir to the Lion Throne last month, Shani has lost a little of her attitude. She doesn’t look at people with scornful eyes like she used to, and when she talks, it’s to you and not at you.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I returned to the problem at hand. With two weeks left to go before the holidays, what was I to do? Home or here? Old or new? Family or friends? And really, what was the difference?

I blinked and stiffened on my goosedown pillow.

That was it. There was no difference. My family and my friends all belonged together. With me. At home.

“Carly?” I whispered. “Are you awake?”


“Do you think everyone would like to come to Scotland with me for Christmas?”

* * *

“DEFINE EVERYONE.” Gillian leaned across her dish of oatmeal and took a tangerine out of the bowl on the table.

I swallowed a spoonful of yogurt before I answered. I hadn’t put a single molecule of porridge near my mouth since I’d arrived in the States. I’d had sixteen years of it, thank you very much, and there was no one here to make me eat the stuff.

Lissa dived into my hesitation. “You don’t really mean that, do you? All of us? At Strathcairn?”

“I do mean it. We have fourteen bedrooms, not counting the old nurseries and the staff floor. Those are closed off, anyway. The beds might be a little dusty, but if I let my dad know right away, he can get some of the ladies from the village to come and tidy things up. There’s plenty of room and tons of things to do.”

“Like what?” Carly put away oatmeal at a scary rate. I shuddered.

“Like skating on the pond and cross-country skiing. And parties.” I saw the Strathcairn of ten years ago, when Mummy had been the most spectacular hostess the old pile had seen in generations. “Lots of parties and balls and live bands and whatever we want.”

“Don’t tell me,” Shani said. “You’re going to teach us Sir Roger de Coverley, aren’t you?”

“No, that’s for babies,” I said scornfully. What did she know about country dances? “I’ll teach you Strip the Willow before we go so you don’t make utter fools of yourselves.”

“Whatever. Doesn’t sound like my thing.” She looked into her fruit cup and fished out the last blueberry.

Something in her face told me what the real problem was. “If you’re worried about the money, don’t. We’ll work it out.”

“How are you gonna do that?” Her dark eyes looked guarded. She may have been dumped by her parents for refusing to go through with an arranged marriage, but her pride wasn’t dented one bit.

“You don’t have to touch your nest egg. My allowance ought to cover a plane ticket. First class, of course.”

“Hmph.” Shani crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.

I knew she had a cool two million socked away in the San Francisco branch of the Formosa-Pacific Bank, and that one of Gillian’s dozens of cousins was her personal investment advisor. But she treated that money like it was two hundred instead of two million, watching over it with sharp eyes that didn’t let a single cent escape without accounting for itself.

Lissa glanced at Carly, who was eating and not talking, like she hoped we wouldn’t notice her. She’s a master of the art of the personal fade. “And mine can cover Carly’s,” she said.

“Let’s throw mine in and split two fares three ways,” Gillian said. “Easy peasy.”

“For you, maybe,” Carly mumbled. “Brett’s already asked me to spend Christmas with his family. Consequently my dad didn’t just blow a fuse. He totally blew out the power grid.”

“What is with your dad?” I demanded. “I’ve never seen anyone so protective. I’d die if I were smothered like that.”

“She isn’t smothered,” Shani said with a glance across the table at Carly. “Between my dad and hers, I’d take hers any day. At least he cares.”

“Is it guilt talking?” Lissa wanted to know. “The whole ‘I’m out of town ninety percent of the time, so we have to spend every minute of the ten percent together’ thing?”

“I guess.” Carly sipped her honey latte. “So if he had that kind of fit about me spending Christmas sixty miles away, guess what he’d say about going to another continent?”

“Good point.” I refused to take no for an answer, though. “But what about you, personally?” Never mind. I answered the obvious myself. “I guess if you had the choice, you’d pick Brett.”

“Not necessarily.” She smiled at me, that warm Carly smile that makes puppies and old people and prickly Scots love her. “His house is nice, but it’s no castle.”

Lissa laughed. “I bet it has central heating, though.”

“Strathcairn has central heating.” I tried not to sound defensive. “In the new part, and the kitchen. And there are fires in every room.”

“I’m not putting wood on a fire and getting smoke in all my clothes.” Lissa held up a “stop it right there” hand.

“Not a wood fire, ye numpty, a gas fire.” I looked at them all. “In the bedrooms, at least. There are real fireplaces downstairs, in the sitting room and library. Honestly, what else has she been telling you?”

“Just that it was cold,” Gillian offered. “Forty degrees, I think she said. Inside.”

I pretended to glare at Lissa, maligning my house behind my back. “If you all came, the place would be at its best—I promise. You’ll love it. And if your parents give you static, tell them to come, too.”

“Ewww.” Gillian looked appalled, and Shani, who has stayed in New York with Gillian’s family before, buried her snort of laughter in her tall glass of pomegranate juice.

“Wait a second.” Lissa looked as if she’d just figured out a new way to ace a bio exam. She flipped out her phone and pressed a button. “Hey, Dad, it’s me. Fine. No, nothing’s wrong and no, I don’t need a favor.” She rolled her eyes at us. “When is the UK premiere of The Middle Window? Yes. Wow, you’re kidding. That’s perfect. So you’re going over.” She mimed smacking her forehead. “Never mind, dumb question. What about Mom? Oh.” She was silent for several seconds, blinking her contacts into place as her eyes filled. She gulped, then cleared her throat. “Well, I doubt it, but I’ll try. Okay. Thanks. Yeah, I’m at breakfast. Finals this week. Need lots of protein and antioxidants and stuff to make the brain retain, you know? Love you two times. ’Bye.”

All round us, the dining room rattled and silverware clashed on plates and people talked incessantly. But at our table, several pairs of eyes watched silently as Lissa tapped her phone off and put it in her glossy Kate Spade tote.

“Are you okay?” Gillian was the only one with the nerve to ask. But then, she and Lissa room together, so they probably share a lot we don’t know about.

Lissa smoothed one hand over her blond hair, making sure her Stacey Lapidus hairband with its little rhinestone love knot was still in place. “Recovering,” she said. “Stand by for reboot.”

Anyone else would have said, “Give me a minute,” but Lissa isn’t like anyone else. None of these girls are. It’s a bit weird that we’ve all found each other here, frankly. Or maybe not weird. Maybe inevitable. There’s the Christian thing, of course. I used to think it wasn’t my cup of tea at all, having quite a horror of Bible-thumpers and mad-eyed conviction. But these girls aren’t like that at all.

I said they were solid, and what they believe is part of it. When I first met them, I used to try to catch them out. Get them to make a mistake, blow up, whatever. But I never could—at least, not that they’d let me see. No matter how badly I treated them—and I can get pretty bad, as anyone will tell you—they didn’t dish it back. Oh, they said a few things. No one is that good, especially considering the provocation. But we slowly became friends, and I slowly got drawn into their circle.

Which isn’t a bad place to be, since they’re what’s considered the A-list round here. Oh, you have your Vanessas and your Danis and your DeLaynes, but they’re more bark than bite. They orbit in a different universe—as a matter of fact, they’ve sort of gone off orbit since Vanessa started going round with the Prince of Yasir. What do you call it when planets lose their center of gravity and start drifting off into space? That clique is like that now.

Lissa took a deep breath and I focused on her. Recovery, evidently, was complete.

“Thing one: Dad says that the UK premiere is on December 19. Term ends on the eighteenth. Thing two: he’s going over for it, and the production team at Leavesden Studios, as well as the people from Scotland, are all invited. Thing three: both your mom and your dad are invited, too, Mac.” I blinked in surprise. Dad hadn’t said a word about it, and I’d gotten an e-mail from him that morning. “And thing four: my mother says she’s not going. Dad wants me to talk her into it. What do you think my chances are?”

The hope in her eyes was almost painful. I knew all about hope. Been there, done that, threw away the T-shirt.

“I guess that means at least you’re coming, then,” I said briskly. “Because of course you’ll talk your mother round. And once you do, your parents are coming to Strathcairn afterward for Christmas. I insist.”

Because if Lissa could talk her mother into coming, then I could talk mine into it as well. For the first time since the divorce.

This was going to be the best, most unforgettable Christmas ever. I’d make certain of it.

My Review:
I love these books! They're loads of fun to read, and it's really interesting to get an insight into the lives of 'rich kids'.
In this book, Mac is an earl's daughter whose real name is Lady Lindsay MacPhail. She's not a Christian, but she hangs out with a group of Christian and almost-Christian friends who are a good influence on her. The extent to which they are a good influence on her is seen when she returns home for Christmas to find that she doesn't seem to fit in with her old friends.
It was great to journey along with her as she finds out just how much things have changed with her friends, her family, and herself.
I'd definitely recommend this book and this whole series to teenage girls and maybe even young adult women :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Jesus Movie for the Next Generation

The Jesus Movie for

the Next Generation

Guest post by Bruce Marchiano, producer of Jesus...No Greater Love

The truth of the gospel never changes. But Christianity has many faces. They reflect the customs and cultures and the beautiful diversity of the global church. They are lined with the wisdom of age and vibrant with the passion of youth. One gospel for all the world…but how will we deliver it in a way that reaches the whole world? How will we reach the next generation?

Young Christians today are more like St. Francis of Assisi than a circuit riding preacher. “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” This is a generation focused on being the hands and feet of Christ and meeting the physical needs of those in both the local and global community. They are building houses, planting gardens, taking food and clothes to the poor and helping the widows and orphans… and then they are sharing the gospel. And they are using technology like never before. They communicate the message through audio, film, video and the internet, and they strive for excellence within those mediums. They must. This is how they will reach their generation for Christ.

I share their passion. In the film, The Gospel According to Matthew, we were able to capture the heart of Christ that is so often missing in Christian films, but the quality of the film making was constrained by an $800,000 budget. Now we are inspiring a movement that will bring Jesus to film in a version that literally leaps off the screen and into the hearts of viewers.

Jesus…No Greater Love, the new Jesus movie, ( will be a word for word, verse by verse film adaption of the Gospel according to John. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. That’s really our concept, that the gospel would go out in the power of the film medium, unaltered by any human script writer.

The budget for a typical Hollywood production is $100-110 million. Actors’ salaries account for much of that cost. Because the new Jesus movie will be not be paying big name actors, our team believes we can produce a world class, state-of-the-art film incorporating the latest cutting-edge technology for just $45 million. The production will be shot on location in Jerusalem and shot digitally using CGI backgrounds and a green screen stage, providing unlimited potential for sharing the gospel for generations to come.

We are inviting people from all nations and all generations to join this movement to bring the gospel to all people. A movement made of 4.5 million people contributing a tax deductible donation of $10 each would fund the cost of the film. The Gospel belongs to everyone, and the new Jesus movie will be produced expressly so it can be accessed by everyone, no matter their financial situation. Our team's vision is to see the film translated into as many languages as possible and supplied to mission organizations and churches all over the world.

You can become a part of the movement to reach the next generation. Please help us spread the word to your friends and family. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so at

Also, you can keep up with our progress by visiting any of these links:


Bruce Marchiano is an actor, author, international speaker, and the founder of Marchiano Ministries, a non-profit organization reaching out to people both spiritually and practically in the USA and across the world. He is best known for his joyful, passionate portrayal of Jesus in the film, The Gospel According to Matthew.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver & My 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:

Emmy’s Equal

Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***


Marcia Gruver lives with her husband in Huffman, Texas, and has published various articles, poems, and devotionals. Her novel, Love Never Fails (renamed Chasing Charity), won third place in the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest. Marcia is a member of ACFW, Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW), and The Writers View.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602077
ISBN-13: 978-1602602076


Humble, Texas, August, 1906

The stagnant well appeared bottomless, as dank and murky as a grave. Emmy rested her arms on the cold, jagged stones and leaned to peer into the abyss. Mama’s embroidered lace hankie, shimmering in the meager light, hung from an outcropping of rock about four feet down. Narrowing her eyes, she peered at the spot of white that stood out from the surrounding darkness and heaved a sigh, stirring the fetid air below and raising a noxious odor that took her breath.

She pushed up her sleeves and blasted a droopy blonde ringlet from her eyes with a frustrated puff of air. There was no help for it—at the risk of certain death, she had to retrieve that handkerchief.

A figure loomed, drawing alongside her with a grunt.

She jumped, and her heart shot past her throat. Chest pounding, she wasted a glare on the dark profile, noticing for the first time a scatter of lines around his eyes and tiny gray curlicues in his sideburns.

“Nash! I nearly leapt over the side.” She swatted his arm. “I’ve asked you to stop sneaking up on me. I’ve a good mind to fit you with a cowbell.”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest, as deep as the chasm. “I didn’t go to scare you, Miss Emmy.” He bent his lanky body so far she feared he’d tumble headfirst into the never-ending shaft. “Say, what we looking for inside this hole?”

“We’re not looking for anything. I’ve already found it.” Emmy clutched his shirtsleeve and pulled him away. “Go fetch me a lantern, and be quick about it.” She tucked her chin in the direction of the palomino pony languishing under a nearby oak, nibbling at the circle of high grass around the trunk. “Take Trouble. He’ll be quicker than walking.”

Nash frowned and rubbed the knuckles of one hand along his temple, as if an ache had sprung up there. “What you need a lantern for, with the sun up and shining the past five hours? There’s plenty of light to see.”

She braced herself and pointed. “Not down there.”

Nash’s sleepy eyes flew open. His startled gaze bounced along her finger to the circular wall of weathered stones. “Down there?” He took a cautious step back. “What’s in this sour old pit that might concern you?”

Emmy swallowed hard. She could trust Nash with anything but dreaded his reaction all the same. “It’s. . .one of mama’s hankies.” She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head.

His shoulders eased, and he ambled over to gaze inside. “Is that all?”

If only it were. Emmy risked a peek at him. “You don’t understand.”

He winced as if she’d spoken a bad omen. “Uh, uh. Not from her good batch? Them she’s always cackling about?”

Emmy cringed and nodded.

The delicate, lacy linens held an uncommon depth of meaning for Emmy’s mama. Hand embroidered in Germany by her grandmother then brought to the Americas and placed in Mama’s hope chest, they represented heart, hearth, and homeland to Magdalena Dane. In equal measure, they represented distress, discontent, and discord to her only daughter, because the bothersome bits of cloth seemed determined to cause Emmy grief.

Nash’s stunned expression hardened into an accusing glare. “Why, Miss Emmy? Why you done brought about such misery? You ain’t s’posed to touch ’em, and you know it.” His graying brows fluttered up and down, like two moths bent on escape. “There’s scarce few left, and your mama blames you for them what’s missing.”

She moaned and flapped her hands. “I didn’t mean to take the silly thing. It was warm when I rode out this morning. I knew I’d likely sweat, so I snagged a hankie from the clothesline. I never looked at it until a few minutes ago. That’s how this terrible mishap came about. I held it up as I rode, staring in disbelief. Trouble was galloping across the yard when the wind caught it and. . .” She motioned behind her. “The willful rag drifted down the well before I could stop the horse and chase after it.”

Emmy lowered her eyes then peered up at him through her lashes. “None of this is my fault, Nash. Papa should’ve covered this smelly cistern months ago, and those wretched handkerchiefs have a mind of their own.”

The hint of a smile played around Nash’s lips. “If so, they harbor a mighty poor opinion of you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him.

Wagging his head, he rested the back of his hand on his side. “In all my years of working for your family, of all the fits I’ve seen your mama pitch, the worst have been over the loss of them fancy scraps of cloth.” He shuddered. “Miss Emmy, I’d be mighty grateful if you’d wait and break the news to her after I leave for the day. She gon’ be powerful upset.”

Emmy held up and wiggled a finger. “On the contrary. I won’t be upsetting Mama.”

“How you figure that?”

“Because there’s no need to tell her.”

Nash propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other. “Missy, I thought you was done telling lies and scheming. Don’t forget you’re a saint of God now.”

A saint of God. Yes, she was, through no fault of her own. Like Elijah’s fiery chariot, God had swirled into Emmy’s life in a weak moment and delivered her from herself. Not that she minded His day-to-day presence. In fact, she rather enjoyed the peace He brought. It was during times of temptation when she found the constant stirring in her heart to do the right thing a bit of a bother. Yet no wonder, really. In the past, she’d had precious little practice in doing the right thing.

She blinked up at Nash. “I have no plans to lie, and I won’t need to scheme. We’re simply going to return great-grandmother’s hankie to Mama’s clothesline, washed, rinsed, and fresh as a newborn calf.”

Nash stared then shook his head. “No ma’am. You jus’ forget about what we gon’ do. Question is how are you gon’ pull it off?”

“I’ll show you.” She shooed him with her hands. “Run fetch that lantern like I asked and leave the rest to me.”

Still shaking his head, Nash mounted Trouble and laid in his heels. The horse bolted the short distance across the yard to the well-kept shed tucked behind Emmy’s two-story house. With a furtive glance toward the porch, Nash eased the door open and slipped inside.

While she waited, Emmy watched a rowdy band of crows swarm Nash’s cornfield. The black bandits bickered and pecked for position before settling in for a meal, oblivious to the mop-headed stick Nash had dressed in a ragged shirt and floppy hat and then shoved in the ground. She dared not call his attention to the culprits or he’d bluster after them, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill, leaving her to cope alone with her pressing dilemma.

She jerked her gaze from the birds when Nash rode up and slid off Trouble to the ground, a lighted lantern in his hand.

Handing over the light with a flourish, he lowered one brow and pinned her with a squinty look. “Here’s what you asked for. Jus’ be sure to leave me plumb out of the story when you go explaining yourself to your mama.”

He turned to go, but Emmy caught hold of his shirttail. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

Nash covered his ears and reeled away. “Don’t tell me no mo’. I ain’t seen nothing, and I ain’t heard nothing. If anybody needs me, I’ll be feeding the chickens.”

Emmy aimed a haughty laugh at his back. “It’s too late for that. You’re in up to your hat, and it’s no less punishment than you deserve for sneaking about all the time.”

Nash dug in his heels and stood facing the grove of loblolly pine at the edge of the yard, his body stiff as a post.

Repentant, she softened her voice to a plea. “I’m sorry, Nash. I had no call to utter such a thing. It’s just. . .I can’t do this without you.”

Arms dangling at his sides, he tipped his head toward the sky and whispered something, a prayer no doubt, before turning to face her. “What you want me to do?”

She peppered him with grateful kisses then grabbed his hand. “Come over here.” Hauling him to the gaping cavity, she lowered the lamp. “See? There it is.”

They gazed at the only bright spot in the oppressive gloom, their ability to see inside the shaft made no better by the frail circle of yellow light.

Nash shrugged and drew back from the side. “Too far down. May as well wave it goodbye then go fess up to what you done.”

Emmy gripped his arm. “Nonsense. We can get it out of there.”

“How, short of fishing it out with a cane pole? And I got no hooks.” He scratched his head. “I reckon I could take my hammer and pound a bend in a nail.”

She shook her head. “Too risky. If the hankie slips off it’ll settle to the bottom, and that’ll be the end of it.” She drew a determined breath. “I have a better idea.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose on his forehead, reaching new heights, even for him. “What sort of idea? Harebrained or foolhardy? Them’s the only two kinds you have.”

She swallowed hard and fingered the wooden bucket sitting on the wall. “I’m going to straddle this, and you’ll lower me down to fetch it.”

The shaggy brows bested their last mark. “You cain’t mean it, Miss Emmy.”

“I do so.”

“Then your idea is both harebrained and foolhardy. You must be plain tetched up under them pretty white locks. S’pose that rope snaps in two?”

“Oh, pooh.” She patted the heavy hemp coiled around the crank. “This rope is thick and sound.” She pointed over her shoulder at the horse. “You could lower Trouble down that well.”

He nodded. “Yes’m. That’s exactly what I’d be doing.” He jerked off his weathered hat and dashed it against his leg. “Don’t ask me to put you in that kind of danger. No, missy. I won’t do it. Not for nothing in this wide world.”

Touched, Emmy smiled at the man who’d been like a father to her over the years, far more of a parent than her own papa, who didn’t stay home often enough to have much practice at the role. She took Nash’s hand and squeezed it. “I won’t be in any danger. As long as you’re holding the handle, I know I’ll be safe.” She peered up into his sulky brown eyes. “You know if you don’t help me I’ll just find a way to do it myself. I have to get that hankie.”

He gaped at her. “The silly thing ain’t worth dying for, is it? Your mama has fussed at you before, and you lived to tell the tale. Why is this time so all-fired special?”

She squared around to face him. “I can’t have her angry about anything just now. I’m planning to ask permission to go to St. Louis when Mama travels with Aunt Bertha to South Texas. It’ll be hard enough to convince her as it is. If she gets in a snit, my plan is doomed.”

“Why they going off so far?”

“It’s Aunt Bertha’s idea. Now that she has money, she’s determined to go into the cattle business. She’s bent on learning all she can. Papa knows a very successful rancher down south who’s willing to teach her everything he knows.”

“Cain’t you jus’ stay home?”

“They’ll be gone for a month or better. Mama refuses to leave me here alone for that long, and I’d much prefer going to see Charity.”

Nash smiled and nodded. “ ’Specially with her jus’ done birthing the little one.”

Emmy beamed. “Exactly. I can help Charity bring him home.”

A thrill coursed through her at the thought of seeing Charity and Buddy’s new baby boy. Emmy and Charity were as close as twin sisters, best friends like their mamas had always been. Emmy’s mama and Aunt Bertha had grown up together in Jefferson before moving to Humble.

Last year, a handsome young oilman came to town and found oil on Aunt Bertha’s land. Charity wound up married to him and soon left for St. Louis to meet his parents. When Buddy found out she was expecting, he kept her in the city so she’d be close to good medical care.

Not a day had passed that Emmy didn’t think of Charity and long to see her. She was coming home next month, bringing little Thad to meet the family.

Nash narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t jus’ trying to sneak off to St. Louis to see that oilman friend of Mistah Buddy’s, are you? Don’t think I didn’t see you making eyes at him the whole time that preacher was trying to marry off Miss Charity.”

Emmy whirled. “Who? Mr. Ritter?” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Jerry Ritter was just a passing fancy.”

Nash raised a cynical brow.

“Oh, pooh, Nash! You stop that!” She fiddled the row of tiny buttons on her sleeve. “Besides. . .Aunt Bertha claims Mr. Ritter was recently betrothed to a childhood sweetheart.” She flicked off an insect from the cuff of her blouse and dashed away her humiliation with the same resolve. “Therefore, my desire to be in St. Louis has nothing to do with him. I just need to see Charity. If I get into any more trouble, Mama’s bound to haul me with them to that dreadful desert town instead. If she does, I’ll just dry up along with it and perish. I mean it!”

Grinding the toe of his oversized boot in the dirt, Nash sighed and shifted his weight. “I don’t know, Miss Emmy. . .”

Emmy stifled a grin. She had him. “I’ll be just fine. I promise. Now help me climb up.”

Still mumbling his objections, he offered an elbow to Emmy so she could pull up and sit on the uneven stones. Unfastening the buttoned flap on her split skirt, she swung her legs over and settled on the side, trying hard not to look past her boots. “Turn your head while I sit astride the pail. It won’t look so dainty in this outfit.”

Nash gazed toward the field, obviously too distracted to notice the raiding crows.

Still clinging to his arm, Emmy held her breath and pulled the dangling rope closer, guiding it between her legs. “All right, I’m ready. Lean your weight into the handle. I’m about to push off.”

Nash shifted his gaze to the sky. “Oh, sweet Jesus. Please protect this chil’.”

Holding her breath, she scooted from the edge, squealing when her body spun and dipped about a foot. “Nash! Have you got it?”

“I’ve got it. Stop squirming now. You heavier than you look.”

Emmy forced herself to still, more afraid than she’d expected to be. She felt more than saw the yawning gulf, a great gaping mouth poised to swallow her whole. “Hand me the lantern and then you can lower me. But go slowly, for heaven’s sake.”

She breathed a prayer as she spiraled past the opening and descended. Glancing up, she bit her lip and watched the rope unwind from the wobbly reel, outlined by a circle of light. Misguided but determined white roots that had pushed through cracks in the mortar groped at her, snagging her hem and sleeves. Crisscrossed nets of taught, silky threads offered whispers of resistance before giving way and sticking to the exposed parts of her legs. Emmy held the soft glow of the lamp closer to the side, shuddering when eight-legged bodies skittered in every direction. She gritted her teeth, suppressing a shriek and the urge to order Nash to haul her out of the wide-awake nightmare.

You can do this. Just a little more and you’ll be there. Three more turns and you’ll have Mama’s hankie in your hands. This will all be worth it then.

Exhaling her relief, she drew even with the jutting rock that had caught the precious heirloom. Holding the lantern out of the way, she swayed her body until the motion brought her closer to the wall.

She snatched at the white spot. Instead of soft linen, she felt thick, sticky padding. In place of the crush of a napkin gathered in her palm, there was the unmistakable writhing of something alive.

My Review:
I was hooked on this book. I had to keep reading so I could find out what happened. I wanted to find out why Emmy's dad acted the way that he did, and why Diego's mother disliked Emmy, and why Cuddy kept acting up, and I also wanted to find out why Emmy kept doing stupid things like sneaking out without a chaperone. I have the first book in this series, so it was good to find out what happened to the characters from that book. Now I really want to get the second book in the series so that I can find out what happened in between :)
I think that if you like historical fiction, that you would really enjoy this book!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stretch Marks by Kimberley Stuart & My Review

Sorry this is so, so late!! My review is down the bottom :)

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:

Stretch Marks

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)


Kimberly Stuart holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Iowa. After teaching Spanish and English as a second language in Chicago, Minneapolis, Costa Rica, and eastern Iowa, she took a huge increase in pay to be a full-time mom. She makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and three young children. She is also the author of Act Two: A Novel in Perfect Pitch.

Visit the author's website.

Stretch Marks, by Kimberly Stuart from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448921
ISBN-13: 978-0781448925


Under the Weather

Mia's nose was stuck in her own armpit. Not a lot of glamour there, but she was working toward a higher purpose.

“Think of how your organs are thanking you for thinking of them, for being considerate enough to stretch them.” Delia's voice floated from the front of the room where, Mia knew without looking, she joined the class in a binding pose that could make most grown men cry like little girls.

Mia breathed an audible breath, collecting a healthy whiff of deodorant-infused sweat. In the nose, out the nose, throat relaxed. She closed her eyes, feeling the ends of her fingers beginning to slip out of the bind. Liver, pancreas, you're welcome, she thought and felt her stomach make an uncharacteristic lurch. The radiator kicked in beside where she stood, infusing heat and a bass hum to the room. Mia focused on an unmoving spot on the floor and not on the spandexed and heaving tush of the woman on the mat in front of her.

“And now using the muscles in your core, slooowly release and come back to mountain pose.” Delia manipulated her voice and cadence to stretch like honey. On any other day, her instructor's voice sounded like a lullaby to Mia, a quiet but persistent reminder to breathe deeply and recycle paper and plastic. Today, though, Mia felt an urge to ask Delia to speak up. She wanted concrete sounds, solid sounds; the feathery intonations landing lightly around the room made her insides itch. She pulled out of the bind and stood at the top of her mat, feet planted, palms outturned.

“Feel better yet?” Frankie whispered to Mia from the mat next to her.

Mia sighed. “Not yet.”

“Let's move into our warrior sequence.” Delia modeled the correct form on her lime-green mat and the class obediently followed suit.

Four poses later Mia hadn't shaken the bug she'd hoped was just an out-of-sorts feeling to be shed with a good workout. She felt elderly, cranky. Not even downward-facing dog had brought any relief. She lay on her back during the last minutes of class, trying to melt into the floor, be the floor. The spandexed woman was snoring. This final pose, savasana, was intended to provide participants final moments to recover, to be still and let their minds quiet before reentering the chaos of the outside world. Most yoga aficionados soaked up the pose. In Mia's class she'd spotted a plump, permed woman wearing a sweatshirt that declared in stark black print “I'm just here for the savasana.”

Today, though, Mia couldn't keep her eyes shut. She curled and flexed her toes, wishing Delia would crank up some Stones or Black Crowes instead of the Tibetan chimes lilting out of the stereo. Her impatience with a woman who freely quoted Mr. Rogers was beginning to worry her. Even in the hush of the room, her thoughts continued in an unruly spin, and when Delia brought everyone back to lotus, Mia glimpsed a scowl on her reflection in the mirror.

“Let's just enjoy the long, strong feeling of our bodies,” Delia said. Her eggplant yoga gear revealed taut muscles. “Our organs are thanking us for a good massage.”

Right. Organs. Mission accomplished, Mia thought, trying to concentrate on the gratitude her body owed her. But her mind crowded with images of bloody, squishy masses, pulsating or writhing in the way organs must do, and she found herself springing from her mat and bolting to the back of the studio. She threw open the door to the ladies' room and gripped the toilet bowl in a new pose, aptly christened “riotous and unexplained retching.” “Mia?” Frankie's voice was subdued, even though a postclass din was making its way through the restroom door.

Mia emerged from the stall. “I guess sun salutations weren't such a good idea.” She washed her face and hands at the sink, trying not to inhale too deeply the scent of eucalyptus rising from the soap. She watched her face in the mirror, noting the pale purple circles under eyes that persisted even with the extra sleep she'd indulged in that week. Mia smoothed her eyebrows with clammy fingers, taking care not to tug the small silver piercing, and glimpsed Frankie's concerned expression in the mirror. “Don't worry,” Mia said. “I feel much better now. Must just be a virus.”

Frankie handed over Mia's coat and a hemp bag proclaiming Save the Seals. “I'll walk you home. Let's stop at Gerry's store for soup and crackers.”

Mia made a face. “Crackers, yes. Soup, definitely not.”

Outside the studio weak February sunshine played hide-andseek with wispy cloud cover. Frankie planted her arm around Mia's waist.

Mia glanced at her friend. “I like the blue.”

Frankie turned her head to showcase the full effect. “Do you? I meant for it to be more baby blue, less sapphire, but I got distracted with this crazy woman on the Home Shopping Network and left the dye on too long.”

In the two years Mia had known her, Frankie had demonstrated a keen affection for adventurous hair coloring. Magenta (advent of spring), emerald green (popular in March), black and white stripes (reflecting doldrums after a breakup), now blue. The rainbow tendency endeared Frankie to Mia, who'd braved an extended though unsuccessful flirtation with dreadlocks during college, but otherwise had settled for a comparatively conformist 'do of patchouli-scented chestnut curls.

“How did this change go over with Frau Leiderhosen?”

Frankie whistled. “She loved it. In fact she wondered if we could have a girls' night out this weekend and take turns trading beauty secrets.”

Mia snorted, which was an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct of her laughter. The snorts only encouraged Frankie.

“'But, Esteemed Employer,' I said, 'I can't possibly instruct the master! A mere mortal such as I? It'd be like a Chihuahua taking over the dressing room of J-Lo! Or Sophia Loren! Or Gisele Bundchen, a woman who shares with you, dear boss, an impressive German name and an uncanny sense of style!'”

“Stop it.” Mia clutched her stomach and groaned. “Yoga and laughter are off limits until further notification from my digestive tract.”

Frankie sighed. “I do feel sorry for her. I never should have shown up with a mousy blonde bob cut for the initial interview. I was so average librarian.” She shook her head as they slowed near Gerry's Grocery. “Only to turn on her the first week on the job.”

It had occurred to Mia more than once how much she could have benefited from a green-haired librarian in the small Nebraska town where she'd grown up. Not until she was well into adulthood did she realize that not all librarians were employed to scare children, like the dreaded circulation director at Cedar Ridge Municipal Branch with the spidery braid and hairy mole. Mia had cowered behind the legs of her father when he would stop in to check out an eight-track or the latest release by Louis L'Amour. The moled woman had snapped at Mia once when she'd fingered a book on a stand, announcing down her nose that the book of Mia's interest was for display only and could not be checked out. Never mind that Bird Calls of the Northeast had not exactly beckoned to eight-year-old Mia anyway, but the chastisement was enough to keep books at an arm's length for years. How different Mia's interest in reading could have been had a spitfire like Frankie been the one behind the desk! Frankie's supervisor, Ms. Nachtmusik, with her impossible surname that changed with each conversation, didn't know the gift Frankie was to her patrons.

“Hello, ladies.” Gerry looked over his glasses. He stopped pecking madly at a calculator on the front counter. “How are things with you?”

“Mia's sick, Gerry.” Frankie patted Mia on the head. “We need sick stuff.”

Gerry pushed back on his stool and stood. He clucked like an unusually tall occupant of a henhouse. “Sick, Miss Mia? Headache? Stomach? Fever?”

Mia shook her head. “Stomach, I guess. I think crackers will be enough.”

Gerry looked disgusted. “This is not your duty to decide. Miss Frankie and I will take care of the illness. Sit.” He pointed to his stool and waved at her impatiently when she didn't jump at his command. Gerry shuffled off, muttering about the tragedy of young people living in cities without their parents.

Mia slipped Frankie a rolled-up reusable shopping bag and whispered, “Make sure to steer him away from pesticides.” Frankie winked at Mia and skipped behind the man on his mission.

Mia greeted the next few patrons entering the store. She tried watching the game show on Gerry's small black-and-white, but she couldn't seem to follow the rules. I'll just lay my head here for a moment, she thought, pushing Gerry's calculator aside. “Oh, good heavenly gracious, we need to call an ambulance!” Gerry's words seeped like molasses through Mia's subconscious. She wondered who was injured and if it had anything to do with the impossible rules on that game show.

“Mia, honey, are you okay?” Frankie was tugging on her shoulder.

“Hmm?” Mia pulled her eyelids open into the glare of fluorescent lights. Her head was, indeed, on the front counter, but so was the rest of her body. She turned her head slowly to face Frankie, who had crouched down beside her and was inches from her face. “I'm lying on the conveyer belt.”

“Yes, yes, you are,” Frankie said while guiding Mia to a sitting position. She gauged her tone of voice to fit a three-year-old on Sudafed. “Gerry and I left to get some groceries and when we returned,” she enunciated, “you were lying on the counter.” She nodded up and down, up and down.

Mia shook her head. “I was really tired. I needed to sleep.” Her voice trailed off. She kept her hands on her face for a moment, fingers brushing past a stud in her right nostril and the ring in her eyebrow. Eyes open, she peeked through the cracks in her fingers. Behind Gerry, who was patting his pockets frantically for cigarettes that hadn't been there since he'd quit a decade before, stood his son, Adam. Mia tried running her fingers through her yoga-tangle of hair.

Adam cleared his throat and smiled.

Mia realized she'd dropped her hands and had commenced a creepy stare session. “Hi, Adam,” she said too loudly. “How are you?”

Adam bit his cheek in an attempt to take seriously a question coming from a woman sprawled next to a cash register. “I'm great, Mia. You?”

“Fantastic,” she said and swung her legs to the side of her perch. Gerry rushed forward to offer her his arm, Adam close behind. Mia held up her hands in protest. “I'm fine, really,” she said. “Just a little tired, apparently.” She walked slowly to the front door and turned to wave. “Thanks, Gerry. You're a great host. Adam, good to see you. Frankie, are you ready?” She opened the door without waiting for a response and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

Gerry pushed away Frankie's twenty-dollar bill and handed her the sack of sick stuff as she fell in behind her friend. They walked five minutes in silence. Dusk was long gone, the sun having set early in the February evening. Mia was from the Midwest and didn't much mind Chicago winters; Frankie, however, hailed from Southern California and moaned every few steps as wind from the lake found its way through coats and mittens and headed straight for skin.

“I will never know why we have chosen this misery.” Frankie held Mia at the crook of her arm like a geriatric patient. Mia felt too exhausted to protest. At the foot of the stairs leading to her apartment building, she stopped. She watched a dapper older gentleman with mocha skin descend the steps and allow his eyes to fall on her.

“Hey, Silas,” she said.

“Evening, girls,” Silas said. He dropped his keys in the side pocket of his suit and tipped his hat, a soft brown fedora trimmed in striped black ribbon. He cocked his head slightly and narrowed his gaze at Mia. “Girl, you don't look so hot.” Silas furrowed his brow and looked at Frankie. “What's the story, Francesca?”

“We're not sure,” Frankie said. “But don't worry. I'm taking her straight upstairs before she can toss her cookies again.”

Silas took a nimble step back, sidestepping puddles in his retreat. “Honey, I'm sorry. Ain't no fun getting sick.”

“Thanks,” Mia said. She handed him a box of Lorna Doones from her stash of groceries. “Brought your favorites. Goodness knows I won't be needing a visit with Miss Lorna this evening,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the thought.

Silas clucked and shook his head. “Your mama raised you right, girl. I thank God for you, Mia, and I know my dear Bonnie is happy to look down from glory and see me so well taken care of.” He patted her gloved hand. “I couldn't ask for a better neighbor. You get better now, you hear?”

The girls took the steps slowly. When they reached the front door and waited for Mia to fish keys out of her bag, Frankie cleared her throat.

“So, um, what was that business at Gerry's all about?”

Mia shook her head. She dug deeper in her purse. “This is one bizarre virus. I don't even remember making the decision to go to sleep.”

“Yes, right. I didn't mean the counter episode. I meant the eye-lock with Gerry's son.”

“Found them,” Mia said and pushed her key into the lock. “Sorry, what were you saying?”

“Hair-fixing, googly-eye thing with Fig Leaf.” Mia tried to look disapproving. “You and your nicknames. I like the name Adam. I cringe to think of what you call me behind my back.” “Hmm,” Frankie said. “Today would be a toss-up between Vomitronica and Queen of Feigned Emotional Distancing.”

“I'm not feigning anything, for those of us who've read too much Jane Austen,” Mia said. She led the way into the lobby elevator and pushed the button for the fourth floor. The door closed with a shudder and Mia shrugged. “It's really nothing.”

Frankie crossed her arms and positioned her finger above the emergency stop button.

“All right.” Mia sighed. “When I first moved to my apartment, I was momentarily single and also in need of a neighborhood grocery. I found Gerry's, and Adam was always there with his perfect smile and impeccable Persian manners.” She sighed and watched the numbers light up on their ascent.

“Oh, my gosh. This is so Rear Window.”

“Isn't that the one where the woman is paralyzed?”

“No,” Frankie said with labored patience. “That's An Affair to Remember. I'm hinting less at paralysis, more at love at first sight.”

Mia rolled her eyes as the elevator door opened. “I noticed him, he noticed me, we flirted, and then I was no longer single.” Mia stepped into the hallway. “It was nothing. Seriously. As you might remember, I'm happily in love with another man. End of story.” She led the way to her apartment door. “Sorry to disappoint. I was recovering from an episode, remember.”

“Exactly!” Frankie was triumphant. “Your defenses were down, you were caught off guard and didn't have time to censor what was and wasn't socially appropriate--”

“Shh. He might be home.” Mia paused at her apartment door and ignored Frankie's dramatic jab of her finger down her throat.

“That would be so unusual,” Frankie said, sotto voce. “You can't mean he would be eating your food and smashing organic potato chips under his rear as he watches Baywatch reruns on your couch?”

Mia called into the room, “Anybody here?”

Frankie muttered, “Because we wouldn't expect you to be anywhere else.”

Mia pinched Frankie's arm when she heard rustling in the living room. “Lars?”

He stepped into the entryway, blond hair tousled, mouth opened in a wide yawn. “Hey, babe,” he said around his yawn. “Hey, Frankie.”

“Hi, Lars,” Frankie said sweetly. Mia avoided eye contact with her friend and instead pulled her arms around Lars and gave him her cheek to kiss.

“Don't exchange any of my germs,” she said. “I think I'm sick.”

Lars stepped back, nudging Mia out of the embrace. “Really?” He wrinkled his nose. “Like puking sick?”

Mia unbuttoned her coat. Frankie tugged her friend's arms out of the sleeves and unwrapped her from a bulky crocheted scarf. “Like, totally puking sick,” she said, watching Lars for any recognition of her mocking tone. None detected, she rambled on. “She, like, ralphed after yoga and then at Gerry's she totally fell asleep under the scanner.”

Lars had turned and was heading for the fridge. Mia shot a pleading look at Frankie, who sighed and nodded a momentary truce.

“You should have called and told me you were going to the store. We're almost out of soy milk,” he said, nose in the fridge. “And I ate the last Carob Joy after lunch.”

Mia filled a glass with water. Lars had piled his dishes in the sink, and it occurred to her to thank him, as this was a marked improvement from finding them all over the apartment, crusty, molding, and sometimes neglected until they smelled of rot. Determined not to conjure up any more detail of those images and too tired to explain to Frankie later why dirty dishes piled in the sink was a step upward, she sipped her water and shuffled toward the bedroom.

“Thanks, Frankie, for taking care of me,” she said. “I owe you. But I can't think about it right now, okay?”

Frankie followed her into the bedroom. She turned the covers down as Mia undressed and placed a saucer of crackers on the bedside table. “You take care of yourself, do you hear me?” For a woman with blue hair, Frankie could command the maternal authority of Olivia Walton when summoned. “Call me tomorrow morning. Or before if you need me. Not that Lars isn't the nurturing, restorative type …”

Mia moaned. She lowered herself into bed and curled up into a fetal position.

“All right, all right.” Frankie spoke softly. She turned out the light. “Sleep well, Mimi.” She waited a moment for an answer from under the down comforter but Mia was already drifting toward sleep.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

My Review:
This was a great book. The tensions between Mia and her mother were pretty funny. Her mother's personality was funny, but at the same time I could sympathize with Mia. The couple of scenes with her brother were pretty funny. The characters are quirky and real. I really enjoyed reading it, and I think that it would appeal to a wide variety of readers :)