Monday, March 16, 2009

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney & 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:

Diamonds in the Shadow

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)


Caroline B. Cooney is the author of A Friend at Midnight; The Face on the Milk Carton (an IRA-CBC Children’s Choice book); its companions, Whatever Happened to Janie and The Voice on the Radio(each of them an ALA Best Book for Young Adults); and many other award-winning novels. Caroline divides her time between Madison, Connecticut, and New York City.

Product Details:

List Price: $8.95
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 140007424X
ISBN-13: 978-1400074242


Jared Finch could not care less where some refugee family lived.

“Drew and Kara Finch have generously volunteered to take the family in,” said Dr. Nickerson. The room applauded. Jared stared at his parents in horror. The refugees were coming here? His little sister, a mindlessly happy puppy of a kid, cried out in delight. If Mopsy had ever had an intelligent thought in her life, she kept it to herself.

“Yay!” cried Mopsy. “It’ll be like sleepovers every night.”

Jared gagged.

“You see, Jared, we have a lovely guest suite,” said his mother, as if he didn’t live here and wouldn’t know, “where the parents can stay and have their own bathroom.”

This implied that there were kids who would not be staying in the guest suite. So they would be staying where, exactly?

“Your room and Mopsy’s are so spacious, Jared darling,” his mother went on. “And you each have two beds, for when your friends spend the night. And your own bathrooms! It’s just perfect, isn’t it?”

Jared’s mother and father had volunteered his bedroom for a bunch of African refugees? And not even asked him? “I’m supposed to share my bedroom with some stranger?” he demanded. Jared did not share well. It had been a problem since nursery school. Mrs. Lane, a woman Jared especially loathed, because he was fearful that Mopsy would grow up to be just like her—stout and still giggling—said excitedly,

“That’s why your family’s offer is so magnificent, Jared.” Jared figured her last name was actually Lame.

“You will guide and direct young people who would otherwise be confused and frightened by the new world in which they find themselves,” cried Mrs. Lame. She definitely had somebody else in mind. Jared did not plan to guide and direct anybody. Jared’s bedroom was his fortress. It had his music, his video games, his television and his computer. It was where he made his phone calls. As for Africa, Jared knew nothing about the entire continent except what he’d seen on nature shows, where wild animals were always migrating or else eating each other. But about Africans themselves, aside from the occasional Jeep driver, TV had nothing to say. And there was always more important stuff on the news than Africa, like weather or celebrities. Jared would be forced to hang out with some needy non-English-speaking person in clothes that didn’t fit? Escort that person into his own school? Act glad?

“I decline,” said Jared.

“The church signed a contract, Jared,” said Dr. Nickerson.

“We are responsible for this family.” “I didn’t sign anything,” said Jared. “I don’t have a responsibility.” The committee glared at Jared. Jared glared right back. They weren’t volunteering to share their bedrooms. No, they could force two handy kids to do it. “My sister and I are the only ones who actually have to do any sharing? You guys get to contribute your old furniture or worthless televisions that you didn’t want anyway for when these guys get their own place, but meanwhile Mopsy and I have to take them in?” He hoped to make the committee feel guilty. Everybody did look guilty but also really relieved, because of course they didn’t want to share a bedroom either.

“It’ll be so wonderful!” cried Mopsy, hugging herself. “Is there going to be a girl who can be my best friend?” It was getting worse. People would expect Jared to be best friends with this person who would invade his life.

“What went wrong with the rental?” asked Jared, thinking he would just kill whoever was getting the apartment, thus freeing it up again for these refugees.

“The owner’s eighty-year-old grandmother, who’s blind, is moving in with her caregiver.”

Oh, please. That was such a lie. How many eighty-year-old blind grandmothers suddenly had to move in with their caregiver? The owners were probably remodeling so they could sell the place for a million dollars instead.

“What are we supposed to do, Jared?” asked Dr. Nickerson in his most religious voice. “Abandon four people on the sidewalk?” They’d been abandoned anyway; that was what it meant to be a refugee. Jared opened his mouth to say so, but a movement from his father caught his eye. Dad was sagging in his chair, deaf and blind to the meeting. Having a family of refugees in the house probably wasn’t his choice either; Mom had saddled him with it. He wasn’t on this committee, and the last committee on which Dad had served had gone bad. His co-chairman had turned out to be a felon and a bum. But Jared had more important things to worry about right now. “How long are these guys supposed to live here?” he demanded.

“We don’t know,” admitted the minister. “This is an expensive town. We’re going to have trouble finding a low-cost rent for people earning minimum wage. We probably found the only place there is, and now it’s gone. We’ll have to look in the cities nearby—New London, New Haven. And probably in bad neighborhoods. It’s a problem we didn’t anticipate.”

Jared never prayed, because the idea of a loving God seemed out of sync with the facts of the world. Nevertheless, Jared prayed now. Please, God, don’t let there be a boy in this family. Make Mopsy do all the sharing. I can squeeze my extra twin bed into her room. I’ll even move it cheerfully. “What do we know about these guys?” he said.

“Very little.” Dr. Nickerson waved a single sheet of paper. He handed it to the person sitting farthest away from Jared, ensuring that Jared would be the last to know the grim truth. “That’s why we’ve gathered here tonight. Let me introduce our representative from the Refugee Aid Society, Kirk Crick.”

What kind of name was that? It sounded like a doll Mopsy would collect. And what was up with Kirk Crick that he couldn’t even photocopy enough pages for everybody to have one? It didn’t exactly give Jared faith in the guy’s organizational skills.

“He’s going to discuss the work ahead of us and some of the difficulties and joys we can expect,” said the minister. Like there could be joy with four total strangers in your house for an unknown period of time. The guy didn’t smile, which Jared appreciated, since it was easy to overdose on good cheer. Just look at Mopsy.

“I find that my name annoys people,” said Kirk Crick, “but it’s memorable. You can call me either one—or neither.”

This worked for Jared, who hoped to have nothing to do with the man or his refugees. Kirk Crick launched into a long, tedious description. It seemed that the African family to be foisted off on Jared might never have been in a grocery store, never used an indoor stove or a computer, maybe never driven a car or heard of credit cards, never taken a hot shower or encountered cold weather, never seen a shopping mall. In their entire country, there was not a single ATM. There had not been reliable electricity for a decade.

“They probably can’t drive,” said Kirk Crick, “a problem here in suburbia. They’ll be used to buses, and maybe taxis, but mostly if they have to go somewhere, they walk. Or run. Remember, they fled a civil war. They’ve lived in a refugee camp in Nigeria for several years, with little shelter of any kind—six thousand people in an outdoor pen.” This was an obvious exaggeration intended to make Jared feel sorry for people who were going to trespass on his life. “The good news is that they speak English, the official language in Liberia, where native tribal languages are used mostly at home. Their accent will be difficult to understand, but they won’t have difficulty understanding you. “According to this, the parents finished eighth grade. The kids probably attended school at the refugee camp, although those schools usually have no paper, pencils or books. Sometimes no teachers either. The children are fifteen and sixteen, but we can’t tell from their names whether they’re boys or girls. We’ll just run with it when we meet them at the airport. We weren’t expecting this family to arrive for another month, so it’s just great that you people are so flexible.” Nobody here has to be flexible but me, thought Jared. Mrs. Lame suddenly decided that everybody needed coffee. Right in the middle of the guy’s talk, off she went into the kitchen, which meant Jared’s mom had to go with her, and then the two of them circulated, offering regular and decaf, whole milk and skim and sugar or sweetener in yellow, pink or blue packets. Brand preference was one of the million things this African family was going to have to learn. As long as Jared didn’t have to do the teaching—whatever. Kirk Crick droned on. Basically nobody except Jared even knew he was up there; certainly not Jared’s parents. They were such bad listeners that Jared didn’t see how they’d ever gotten through college. They multitasked to the max. When they watched television, they were also cooking, leafing through the newspaper, talking on the phone and balancing their checkbooks. Here was information that would change their lives and they were thinking about ten other things instead. The Finches’ beautiful yellow and cream family room was a huge space, with three soft, welcoming sofas and four large armchairs. As the sun went down beyond the wall of glass, people nestled into cushions and got sleepy. “Refugees,” said Kirk Crick, “have nothing, and that also means no paperwork. People racing out of villages only inches ahead of madmen with machetes or AK-47s don’t pause to collect birth certificates or vaccination papers.” Mom was arranging desserts, something church ladies did well. Jared wondered what Mrs. Wall had brought, because she was a great cook.

Then he remembered. Mrs. Wall wasn’t here. It was her husband, Brady, who had co-chaired the fund-raising committee with Dad. Over two years they had raised seven hundred fifty thousand dollars for the new church building. They’d had fairs, auctions, pledge campaigns, concerts and dinners. And three days earlier, the church had found out that Brady Wall had been siphoning off that money and gambling it away at Foxwoods. It wasn’t just stolen. It was gone. Jared’s mom was friends with Emmy, Brady Wall’s wife. Jared had a bad feeling that one day soon Emmy would be in the kitchen sobbing all over Mom. It was going to be a very crowded kitchen, since it would also be full of Africans sobbing all over Mom. Jared hoped she was up to it, because he had just decided to sign up for every school-sponsored ski trip in order to be out of town Fridays through Sundays. The less sharing, the better. “One problem getting refugees to America is just finding seats on a plane,” said Kirk Crick. “There aren’t many flights. Probably something opened up very suddenly, or four other people couldn’t go after all, so your four moved to the head of the line. Your family is flying to London, where they’ll change planes for Kennedy Airport. Now, you’ll need subcommittees. Who will be handling medical needs and doctors?”

“Wait,” said Jared. “What medical needs? Are these people planning to show up complete with typhoid and malaria?”

“No. They get checked in Africa for that stuff. But the kids can’t start school until they’ve been inoculated for tetanus and all. Just like any other kid starting school. They’ll be spending a bunch of time at the doctor’s. Your family’s background has been screened as well. African civil war consists of people butchering each other. Our task force makes sure you’re not getting some mass murderer responsible for destroying whole villages, or a dealer in blood diamonds, or some vicious boy soldier.”

“I’ve heard about boy soldiers,” said Mr. Lane. (Jared was always surprised that anybody had married Mrs. Lane and even more surprised that such a person ever had a chance to talk.) “Ten-year-olds who chop people’s arms off and walk away,” explained Mr. Lane. No kid would do that. It was the kind of hype spewed on satellite radio—anything to make the world sound even more violent than it was. The whole idea of screening people struck Jared as useless. Being screened would be like taking an essay test where you wrote whatever your teacher wanted to hear. We’re kind and gentle, the refugees would say. We didn’t hurt anybody. Goodness, no. We were the victims.

“What are blood diamonds?” asked Mopsy.

“Diamonds that are mined in West Africa and used to pay for war,” said Kirk Crick. He seemed ready to expound on this, but

Jared didn’t care about mines. He cared about the strangers soon to be under his roof.

“If the family doesn’t have any papers to start with, how does the Refugee Aid Society even know for sure who they are?” Jared asked.

“We’re very, very, very careful,” said Kirk Crick.

Jared was suspicious. Right in their own church they had been careful and they’d still ended up with a major-league thief on the fund-raising committee. “Is there really such a thing as a boy soldier?”

“Yes. Often when a village is attacked, the boys are out in the fields watching the cattle. So parents get caught, killed or maimed, girls get raped and killed, villages get burned to the ground, but young boys get rounded up. They’re forced to use machine guns and machetes on their own neighbors.”

Nice. Jared decided to e-mail everyone he’d ever met and find someone to live with until this was over. “A boy who spends the day out in some field with cows won’t exactly fit in with suburban America in the twenty-first century,” he pointed out.

“You have your work cut out for you,” agreed Kirk Crick.

“Now, your African family may not wish to discuss their past. They want to look ahead, not back. You’re getting an intact family, which is unusual. Four people who struggled and suffered and now hope to put terror behind them. Your church signed on to cover housing and food for three months and to find jobs for the parents. After three months, the family is on its own. If they can’t function—and that’s rare, because refugees are fighters—the Society takes over.”

Three months? thought Jared. Three months? Nobody but Jared seemed to think this was insane.

“You are doing a good deed,” said Crick.

The committee loved hearing how good and generous they were. They sat tall. They took lemon bars as well as double-chocolate brownies. Jared’s dad began talking softly to one of the husbands, undoubtedly about Brady Wall, because that was now Dad’s only topic of conversation. Mom was asking Mrs. Lame for her toasted almond cake recipe. The rest of the crowd was finding car keys. Jared was the only person listening to Kirk Crick.

“In a civil war,” Crick said, “there are no good guys. They’re all guilty of something. You are probably not saving the innocent, because in a civil war, nobody is innocent.”

Jared had never seen a refugee; the Society had seen thousands. Maybe tens of thousands. And that was the summary? There are no good guys? This made the refugee scene quite exciting. Jared’s roommate would have a history of fighting and killing. On the other hand . . . how much fighting and killing did Jared really want in his own bedroom? The piece of paper describing this family finally circulated to Jared. On it were four black-and-white photographs that had probably been grainy and unfocused to start with. After much copying or downloading, they were so blurred that the four faces hardly had features. The photos were from the shoulders up, and everybody’s hair was pulled tightly back, or else cut close, and as far as Jared could tell, these guys could be anybody. These could even be four photographs of the same person. There were dates below each photo, possibly dates of birth, but they were smudged and only partially legible. After close scrutiny, he decided that the two on top looked older. Probably the parents. The names typed under those photos (Typed! Not even done on a computer!) were Celestine Amabo and Andre Amabo. It seemed odd that they had French-sounding names. The photo in the lower left was labeled “Mattu” and the one on the lower right, “Alake.” No clues how to pronounce those names or whether the people were male or female. We are taking people under our roof for months at a stretch, thought Jared Finch. We can’t read their dates of birth. We can’t tell what gender they are. We can’t recognize them from their photographs. We know in advance that they are not good guys.

My Review:
This opened my eyes a bit to how it is in Africa. There is a lot of atrocities that go on all over the world that we have no idea how it is. I really enjoyed it.
My sister posted a better review over here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Outlaw Marshall by Al & JoAnna Lacy & 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:

Outlaw Marshal

Multnomah Books (January 6, 2009)


Al Lacy has been an evangelist for over 30 years, and he combines his love of the Old West with his passion for the Gospel in Christian fiction. Previously writing under pseudonyms Morgan Hill, Bill Reno, and Hank Mitchum, Al published 47 novels in the general market. Now Al writes under his own name.

JoAnna Lacy, Al’s wife and longtime collaborator, is a retired nurse. The Lacys have been married over forty years and live in the Colorado Rockies.

With over 3 million books in print, Al and JoAnna Lacy are co-authors of the popular Kane Legacy series, as well as the Frontier Doctor, Orphan Train, Mail Order Bride, Shadow of Liberty, and Hannah of Fort Bridger series. The Lacys have been married over forty years and live in western Colorado.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (January 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420544
ISBN-13: 978-1601420541


At sunrise on Monday morning, May 2, 1887, fifty-year-old Dan Haddock awakened in the bedroom of the apartment above his furniture store in Denver, Colorado.

Dan rubbed his eyes, rolled over in the bed, and glanced at the large window, which was on the east wall of the room. The eastern horizon was rose-flushed and golden. Above the glowing rim of the sun, the intense purity of the blue sky was a sight to see. “What a beautiful world You made, Lord,” he said in an appreciative whisper.

The owner of Haddock’s Furniture Store rubbed his eyes again, and this time when he opened them, his line of sight settled on a ten-by twelve-inch framed picture that sat on the nearby dresser. Suddenly, as he focused on the face of the lovely woman in the photograph, Dan was overcome with emotion. His eyes filled with tears as he stared with infinite tenderness at the face.

He swallowed hard. “Oh, Rebecca, darlin’. I miss you terribly!”

Suddenly his mind was filled with precious memories.

Dan thought of the day he first met Rebecca Jardine when they both attended a tent revival in Jefferson City, Missouri, in June of 1856; he was nineteen and she a year younger. When the evangelist who preached the meeting finished a powerful gospel sermon, both had walked the aisle and had received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Both were baptized in the church that had sponsored the tent revival and attended the services whenever the doors of the church were open. They began seeing each other on a regular basis and soon fell in love. They were married in October of that same year, after he turned twenty and Rebecca nineteen.

Dan thought of when they moved to Denver in July of 1871 and opened the furniture store. They very much loved their new church in Denver and enjoyed serving the Lord.

His mind then went to March of 1885, when his dear wife came down with a serious case of pneumonia and, despite the excellent care she received from the doctors and nurses, died in April at Denver’s Mile High Hospital.

Heavy of heart and missing Rebecca so very much, Dan sat up in bed and lifted his Bible from the nightstand. Needing comfort, he turned to Revelation 21:4 and read about the future of the saved people in heaven’s holy city, the New Jerusalem: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Tears spilled down Dan’s cheeks, and he sniffled. “Oh, Rebecca, sweetheart, when you and I are together in heaven, God’s going to wipe away all our tears. There won’t be any more crying—” He choked and brushed the tears from his cheeks. “There won’t be any more crying, darling, because there’ll be no more death, no more sorrow, and no more pain.”

Dan drew a shaky breath. “Oh, dear Lord, I’ll be so glad when Rebecca and I are together again. Of course, Lord Jesus, when I first get to heaven, I want to see You, look into Your eyes, and thank You in person for dying on the cross for me and for saving me that day at the tent revival… Then I want to see my dear Rebecca and hold her in my arms again.”

This time Dan used the bed sheet to dry the tears from his eyes and face, then rose from the bed and made it up. After shaving and grooming himself and dressing in one of his business suits, he went to the kitchen and cooked breakfast.

At eight thirty, Dan descended the stairs and entered his furniture store through its rear door. He had swept the store clean after closing late Saturday afternoon, and as he made his way toward the front door, he smiled as he looked around and admired the tidiness.

When he reached the large front windows, he lifted the shades and waved at a man and his wife who were walking along the boardwalk toward their clothing store. They smiled and waved back. Dan then flipped the Closed sign on the door window to Open and unlocked the door. He was ready for the new business day.

Just as he was turning away from the door, he noticed a young man ride up on a white horse and pull rein at the hitching post. His face looked vaguely familiar, but Dan couldn’t think of where he might have seen him before. He was probably going to do business in one of the other stores.

As Dan walked toward the counter, he smiled. “Thank You, Lord, for helping Haddock’s Furniture Store do so well since Rebecca and I opened it here almost sixteen years ago.”

His smile faded as Dan thought of Rebecca again. He missed her so very much. However, as he walked behind the counter, he reminded himself that whenever it was the Lord’s time to take him to heaven, he would be with Rebecca again…and this time forever.

Dan then bent down to get into the safe below the counter. He glanced at the .45-caliber revolver that was on top of the safe as a security measure, then quickly turned the dial, working the correct combination. When the dial gave off its satisfying click, he opened the safe’s door and lifted out a bag of currency. He took a specific amount of money from the bag and placed it by denomination in the various sections of the cash register’s drawer. He placed the rest of the money back in the safe, closed the door, and spun the dial.

Just then the front door opened, and Dan looked up to see the vaguely familiar young man step into the store with a fierce look in his eyes. Dan’s eyes immediately took in the revolver in the man’s hand as he closed the door behind himself.

Fear gripped Dan’s heart, black and cold. He recognized the man now. He was an outlaw named Hank Kelner. Dan had seen his face several times on Wanted posters on the big board in front of chief United States marshal John Brockman’s office at the federal building in the center of downtown Denver. Dan’s blood froze.

The look in the outlaw’s eyes was even more piercing as he rushed up to the counter, pointing his gun at Dan. He spoke harshly, through his teeth. “I’ve been watchin’ you through the window, mister! I saw you put that money in the drawer, and I know you have more down there behind the counter. I want it all. Give it to me now, or I’ll kill you!”

Dan’s chest was tight, and he could only breathe shallowly, but anger welled up inside him. He leaned down as if reaching for the other cash but instead grabbed his .45-caliber revolver. As he raised the gun, Kelner fired first. The roar of Kelner’s weapon thundered throughout the store. The bullet struck Dan in the chest, and he collapsed behind the counter.

Kelner hurried around the counter to the safe. As he gripped the handle, he knew immediately that it was locked. Realizing that someone on the street might have heard the shot and called for the law, Kelner opened the cash register drawer, grabbed the money there, stuffed it in his pockets, and dashed out the door. He swung into the saddle on his white horse and galloped away.

Three men on the boardwalk about a half block away had heard what they thought was a gunshot in one of the store buildings along the street. When they saw the man rush out of Haddock’s, swing into the saddle, and gallop away, they agreed the gunshot must have come from Dan Haddock’s store.

As people on the street gawked, Cal Hardy, Rupert Blomgren, and Roscoe Nelson dashed down the boardwalk and hurried into the furniture store.

Once inside, they looked around. Seeing no one, Cal Hardy called out, “Dan! Dan! Are you in here?”

A slight groan sounded from behind the counter. Rupert and Roscoe followed Cal as he rushed in that direction. They saw Dan lying on his back, the chest of his suit coat wet with blood. He was gasping for breath.

Dropping to his knees beside the wounded man, Cal examined the wound as the other two crouched on the opposite side of the bleeding store owner. “Dan, what happened? Did that guy who ran out of your store rob you?”

Dan nodded slowly. Hardly able to speak, he said, “Yeah. When…I tried to stop…him, he shot me. He’s a…well-known outlaw. Name’s… Hank Kelner.”

“Oh yeah!” Cal said. “I remember seeing Kelner’s picture on the Wanted board several times.” He looked at Roscoe and Rupert. “We’ve got to get Dan to the hospital.”

The wounded man’s eyes were closed, and his jaw and mouth were set in angles that indicated the pain he was experiencing.

All three men stood, and Cal bent down over Dan’s head. “I’ll lift his shoulders. Each of you take hold of one of his legs. It’ll be easier carrying him to the hospital this way.”

They nodded and bent down to place their arms under Dan’s legs.

As Cal was adjusting his grip, he noticed Dan open his eyes and look upward, focusing on the ceiling. His down turned mouth slowly curved into a smile.

“Wh-what’s he looking at?” Rupert looked up at the ceiling.

“And what’s he smiling at?” Roscoe also lifted his eyes to the ceiling.

Cal licked his lips, glanced overhead, then looked back down at Dan Haddock.

Dan shifted his gaze to Cal. His smile widened, and he said in a weak voice, “I’m going to be with Rebecca shortly. My…my…Savior is calling me.” He closed his eyes and went limp. His head slumped to one side as he let out his last breath.

Cal bit his lower lip as he placed the palm of his right hand against the side of Dan’s neck, feeling for a pulse. He held it there for several seconds. Tears welled up in his eyes as he looked at his friends. “He’s— he’s gone.”

Rupert Blomgren and Roscoe Nelson were also Christians, both of them belonging to a solid Bible-believing church in Littleton, one of Denver’s suburbs. Both men also had tears in their eyes.

After a long moment of silence, Cal said, “Since I belong to the same church as Dan, I’ll go tell Pastor Robert Bayless what has happened. I—I know it will bless his heart to hear about Dan’s smile just before he died, that he said his Savior was calling him and that he would be with Rebecca shortly.”

Both men nodded, blinking back tears.

“I know Pastor Bayless will preach the funeral service, of course,” Cal said. “And he will see to it that one of the undertakers picks up the body and prepares it for burial.”

Rupert said, “Roscoe and I will go to Chief Brockman’s office and tell him what happened.”

“Let’s go.” Cal headed toward the front door of the store. He flipped over the Open sign so the Closed side showed through the window. “Let’s leave the door unlocked so the undertaker can come in to get the body.”

Breaking into a run, Cal Hardy covered the three and a half blocks from Haddock’s Furniture Store to Denver’s First Baptist Church in a matter of minutes. He hurried to the rear of the church building, where there was an outside door to the pastor’s office, and knocked on the door.

He could hear footsteps from inside the office, and the door swung open. He was greeted by a smile from Pastor Robert Bayless, who was in his early fifties, his dark brown hair beginning to show some silver. “Hello, Cal. What can I do for you?”

Cal cleared his throat. “Pastor, I have some bad news for you. May I come in?”

The pastor’s features pinched. “Why, of course. Please come in.”

At the Denver jail, chief U.S. marshal John Brockman was sitting at a table in a small room with Norman Yanek, whom he had just led to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. Brockman had personally pursued and caught the thirty-year-old Yanek after he’d robbed Littleton National Bank the previous week.

Yanek had faced trial in Denver, and Judge Ralph Dexter had sentenced him to ten years in the Colorado State Penitentiary at Cañon City. Brockman was all set to personally take him there the next day.

In his early forties, the chief U.S. marshal stood six feet five inches tall, a strikingly handsome man with short black hair and a well trimmed matching mustache over a square jaw. His right cheekbone sported a pair of identical white-ridged scars. It appeared to Yanek that Brockman’s eyes were pools of gray that sometimes seemed to look straight through him. Brockman was slender in the hips, yet had broad shoulders and very muscular arms that showed off his light gray uniform with its shiny gold, shield-shaped badge. His lawman’s look was completed by a low-slung, tied-down Colt .45 in a black-belted holster, the handle grips of which were bone white.

John Brockman smiled. “Norman, I’m so glad that you listened to the gospel and opened your heart to the Lord Jesus.”

Yanek was still holding on to the Bible Brockman had brought with him. He matched John’s smile. “Sir, I very much appreciate you caring enough about this wicked sinner to show him how to be saved.”

“Norman, I want you to keep that Bible. Take it with you to prison, and study it every day.”

Yanek’s eyebrows arched. “Really? You’re giving it to me?”


Tears misted the prisoner’s eyes. “Sir, thank you for your kindness and generosity. I promise I’ll study this book every day.”

At that moment, the door of the small room opened, and Sheriff Walt Carter stepped in with one of Brockman’s deputies, Roland Jensen, at his side.

As they walked toward the table, the sheriff said, “Chief Brockman, Deputy Jensen has some bad news for you.”

Brockman frowned and stood, towering over the sheriff and the deputy U.S. marshal. “What is it, Roland?”

Roland told the chief about Rupert Blomgren and Roscoe Nelson coming to the chief ’s office with the bad news that Dan Haddock had been robbed and killed just over half an hour ago by outlaw Hank Kelner.

Brockman’s heart lurched in his chest. His face paled, and his eyes widened. He was obviously jolted to hear about his dear Christian friend, and it showed more as the ridges of his twin jagged scars turned even whiter and tears filmed his eyes.

Deputy Jensen then told Chief Brockman that Cal Hardy was with them at the furniture store after Dan was killed and where Cal had gone afterward.

Brockman nodded. “I’m glad Cal informed Pastor Bayless. Now how do we know Hank Kelner was the one who robbed and killed Dan?”

“There’s no doubt,” Jensen responded. “Rupert and Roscoe said that before Dan died he told them and Cal that it was Kelner. He had seen Kelner’s picture on the Wanted posters in front of your office.”

“All right.” Brockman nodded again. “Now what about Kelner?”

“Some people on the street saw him as he galloped away from the furniture store. They told Rupert and Roscoe that he was on a white horse, wearing a red jacket and a low-crowned black hat. Apparently he galloped eastward on Colfax Avenue and no doubt was headed out of town.”

Brockman rubbed his angular chin. “Well, Kelner is from Kansas City. I’d bet he’s heading home.”

“Mm-hmm,” Jensen said. “I’d say that’s where he’s going, all right. He must figure he has pulled enough holdups in Colorado to do him for a while.”

“Tell you what, Roland,” the chief said. “As you know, I was going to take Norman Yanek here to the Cañon City prison tomorrow.”

The deputy laughed. “But you’re thinking of going after Hank Kelner now and want me to take Norman to Cañon City.”

Brockman grinned. “You’re pretty smart. Remind me to get you a pay raise.”

Sheriff Walt Carter chuckled. “Let me know if that happens, Roland.”

The deputy chuckled as well. “Oh, I will, Sheriff !” Then in a more serious tone he said, “Chief Brockman, I’ll tell the other deputies what has happened and that you’ll be pursuing Kelner. How soon are you going after him?”

“Just as soon as I can get to the hospital and tell my wife where I’m heading.”

“I figured you wouldn’t let any grass grow under your feet. Yanek and I will leave early in the morning.”

“Fine,” Brockman said.

“I hope you catch Kelner real quick,” Roland said.

“I’ll do my best.”

The sheriff and the deputy U.S. marshal left the room as Chief Brockman looked down at Norman Yanek. “I often take prisoners I’ve arrested to the Cañon City prison. I’m sure there will be more, so I’ll see you soon.”

Norman rose to his feet and picked up the Bible with his left hand. “Chief Brockman, thank you again for leading me to the Lord and for giving me this Bible. I’ll look forward to seeing you next time you’re at the prison.” He extended his right hand.

Brockman reached out and gripped it tightly. “It’s been my pleasure, Norman. I’ll look forward to seeing you too.” He headed toward the door. “I’ll have to lock this door, you understand. One of the sheriff’s deputies will be coming soon to take you back to your cell.”

Norman smiled and nodded.

“And if for some reason we don’t see each other here on earth again, I’m glad to say that I’ll meet you in heaven.” With that Brockman stepped into the hall, closed the door, and locked it. He dashed outside, mounted his big black horse, and galloped a few blocks to Denver’s Mile High Hospital. After dismounting and tying the reins to a hitching post, he hurried inside.

Making his way down the central hall, John entered the surgical ward and drew up to the main desk. The attendant at the desk looked up and smiled. “Hello, Chief Brockman. I imagine you’re wanting to see Breanna?”

“Yes, Millie. Is she available?”

“Well, as one of our leading nurses, she stays awfully busy, but you happened to come in at the right time. She just finished assisting Dr. Stockwell with an appendectomy, and she’s in the nurses’ washroom cleaning up. I’ll go tell her you’re here.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

Millie hurried from the desk and entered a door a short distance down the hall. In less than two minutes, she returned and told him that his wife would be out shortly. John thanked her, then moved down the hall and positioned himself close to the door.

A few seconds later, the door swung open and Breanna appeared in her white nurse’s uniform, smiling warmly as she moved toward John. “Millie told me you wanted to see me, darling.”

“Yes.” He smiled down at his blond, blue-eyed wife with love in his eyes. “Let’s move to a more private spot. I have to leave town right away, and I want to tell you about it.”

John took Breanna by the hand, and they walked down the hall.

“Don’t tell me. Let me guess. You’re about to chase after some outlaw to bring him to justice.”

“You guessed right, sweetheart. You’ve heard me talk about Hank Kelner.”

“Yes. His picture has been on your Wanted board for some time. I remember looking at it once or twice.”

“Well, he robbed Dan Haddock at his furniture store a little while ago and shot him.” John clasped Breanna’s hands. “Dan’s dead.”

Her body stiffened in shock. “Oh, John! This is terrible!”

“For sure. I’m going after Kelner immediately.”

Breanna nodded. “You’re going after him alone, like you do most of the time?”


Breanna took hold of John’s upper arms. “I know that you feel you must chase down this Kelner outlaw personally, darling, but can’t you take at least one of your deputies with you?”

“Right now all of my deputies are working on other assignments. Those in the office have important paperwork to do.”

Breanna’s eyes brimmed with concern.

John smiled. “Don’t you worry now, my love. I’ll be just fine. I know how you pray for my safety and success whenever I’m trailing outlaws. You just keep it up. That cold-blooded killer took the life of a good friend of ours. I’m going to make sure he pays for it.”

Breanna squeezed his arms. “I know you need to do this, John. I’ll be praying for you as always. Come back as soon as you can.”

“You know I will, sweetheart.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her soundly. “Tell Paul and Ginny that I love them.”

Breanna smiled up at him. “I’ll do that, darling. I’ll walk you out to Blackie.”

They made their way outside, and John kissed her again, telling her how very much he loved her. Breanna returned the sentiment. Then his big black horse whinnied at Breanna as John mounted up. She patted his neck. “Take care of him, Blackie!”

As Blackie nodded and whinnied again, John told Breanna one more time that he loved her, and she watched horse and rider gallop away. “Go with God, my love.”

When John and Blackie disappeared, Breanna turned and walked back into the hospital with a resigned smile, knowing she had placed her husband in God’s care. There were patients who needed her expertise.

As Chief John Brockman rode out of Denver on Colfax Avenue and onto the Colorado plains, he peered eastward toward the Kansas-Colorado border. “Lord, please let me catch Hank Kelner before he kills someone else.”

My Review:
I didn't actually end up reading this all the way through, but I got through a fair bit of it. My Mum read all the way through it, and found it quite frustrating. I found that the writing seemed amateur. There was too much detail at times, and some of the things that were done seemed improbable. That being said, it was a good storyline. I love the cover of this book :)


I just want to apologize for being late on quite a few of my Wild Card tours lately. I've been busy, and I'm trying to figure out a better system for getting them done on time.

Stones by Eleanor Gustafson & 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 Stones

Whitaker House (January 5, 2009)


Eleanor K. Gustafson has been publishing both fiction and nonfiction since 1978 with short stories and articles published in a variety of national and regional publications. The Stones is her fourth novel. In many of her stories, Eleanor explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. She and her husband travel extensively and spend time with their three children and eight grandchildren. They live in Massachusetts, but spend a good deal of time camping at the family forest inVermont.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 601 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740791
ISBN-13: 978-1603740791


Alphabetical Listing of Characters

(Parentheses designate fictional names, not fictional characters)

Abiathar—High priest

Abigail—David’s half-sister, mother of Amasa

Abigail—David’s third wife

Abishai—son of David’s half-sister Zeruiah and brother of Joab and Asahel

Abital—David’s sixth wife

Absalom—David’s son by Maacah

Achish—Philistine king

Adonijah—David’s son by Haggith

Ahimaaz—son of Zadok

Ahinoam—Saul’s wife

Ahinoam—David’s second wife

Ahimelech—high priest at Nob

Ahithophel—David’s chief counselor

Amasa—son of David’s half-sister Abigail, brief career as commander in chief

Amasai—Mighty Man

Amnon—David’s firstborn by Ahinoam

Asaph—Levite, chief musician at the Tent of the ark, narrator

Barzillai—old friend from Rogelim

Bathsheba—David’s eighth wife, mother of Solomon

Benaiah—chief of David’s bodyguard

(Boaz)—first son of David and Bathsheba

(Caleb and Acsah)—couple who hid messengers

Cush—a Benjamite enemy of David

Daniel/Kileab—David’s son by Abigail

David—king of Judah and Israel

Dodai—Mighty Man, father of Eleazar

Eglah—David’s seventh wife

Eleazar—Mighty Man and one of the Three

Esh-Baal/Ish-Bosheth—son of Saul

Ethan—Levitical musician


Goliath—Philistine giant killed by David

Haggith—David’s fifth wife

Hanun—king of Ammon

Heman—Levitical musician

Hushai—David’s friend Ira—Mighty Man

Ithream—David’s son by Eglah

Ittai—Mighty Man

Jashobeam—Mighty Man and mightiest of the Three

Joab—commander in chief of David’s army

Jonadab—David’s nephew

Jonathan—son of Saul, David’s best friend

Jonathan—David’s uncle and counselor

Jonathan—son of Abiathar

(Joram)—David’s servant

Kimham—son of Barzillai and friend of David

Maacah—David’s fourth wife and mother of Absalom

Makir—friend of David

Mephibosheth—crippled son of Jonathan

Michal—David’s first wife and daughter of Saul


Rizpah—Saul’s concubine

Saul—first king of Israel

Shammah—Mighty Man and one of the Three

Sheba—Benjamite insurrectionist

Shephatiah—David’s son by Abital

Shimei—Benjamite gadfly

Shobi—governor of Ammon after his brother’s defeat, David’s friend

Solomon—David’s son by Bathsheba

Tamar—daughter of Maacah and sister of Absalom

Tamar—daughter of Absalom

Uriah—first husband of Bathsheba

Uzzah—Levite whose family guarded the ark after the Philistines’ release

Zadok—priest in the Tent at Gibeon

Zeruiah—David’s half-sister, mother of Abishai, Joab, Asahel

Ziba—Saul’s steward and guardian of Mephibosheth

(Not all warriors and Levites are listed)


One day I’d like to sit down and chat with King David. “Did I get it right?” I will ask. “I may have done a fair job with the broad strokes, but how about the finer shading—personalities, strengths and weaknesses, capabilities?”

It is details that make or break a fictionalized biography. In this novel, I started with the bare bones of the scriptural account and then, by reading between the lines, layered on flesh and blood. A dangerous task, especially with biblical characters. Some, such as David, Joab, Abigail, and Absalom, have clear markers in Scripture, but with others my intuitive GPS had to show the way. Names alone—Benaiah, Asaph, Nathan the prophet, Obil the camelmaster—don’t tell much. An author must make people rise and walk. The Stones, drawn from a careful study of biblical clues, is my take on the living, breathing people they might have been.

As some characters have been fictionalized, so also incidents have been added to build the rationale for a given character’s actions. That some characters did reprehensible things is not in question; I need to show why they might have done them, or why David reacted as he did in response.

Another aspect of The Stones that may need explanation is its moments of brutality. I would rate this novel PG-13—the same as my rating for the Bible itself. David and his men were warriors—Gibborim—men of blood and violence. That David made it to age seventy amazes me. Furthermore, God gave David the task of fighting and defeating the idolatrous nations surrounding Israel. Indeed, David finished the job Moses and Joshua failed to complete. Before David came on the scene, metaphorical “puddings” made from proverbial “milk and honey” contained idol bits that were hard to digest. After David, though, puddings came out smooth and sweet, and the kingdom expanded its girth from the Negev in the south, up through Syria in the North, and took in Ammon, Moab, and Edom to the east. The Promised Land was now—finally—a feast worthy of the name.

But what about the process? Even more disturbing, what about cherem, the God-ordained practice of wiping out men, women, children, and livestock, while devoting the carnage to God? These are hard questions with no easy answers.

God is holy—my starting premise. Humans, however, are inherently evil, some more so than others. For God to separate a people for Himself, He had to carve away the grossly paganized nations that surrounded Israel. The worship of idols included everything from sorcery and temple prostitution to sacrificing children to the fire-god Molech. The Israelites themselves were only a step away from these practices. During these formative years, drastic sin called for drastic measures.

Did the “real” David and Abigail choke on these matters as we do today? I’ll ask when I see them.

I have used Scripture extensively. Some passages are verbatim quotes (niv translation); others are my own colloquial paraphrases. I have chosen not to include Scripture addresses that would pull the reader out of the story. Most passages, in the interest of space and plot flow, have been abridged. My use of the Aramaic Abba for father is by choice. In Hebrew, the correct correlation would have been Ab or Abi, but these names just didn’t seem to have the same heft to them. Thus, I took the liberty to use the more familiar scriptural nickname.

—Eleanor Gustafson

Scroll One

Chapter One

I dreamed of Goliath last night, strangely enough, considering it was Joab, David’s general, who died yesterday. Perhaps elation was the link—the Israelites’ joy half a century ago when David killed the giant, and mine today when I saw Joab dead on the altar steps.

In my dream, I was trying to question Goliath as I have so many others in compiling this story of David. The picture was silly enough: I, Asaph—all one hundred and forty spineless, Levitical, musician pounds of me, standing eye to navel against this wool-bellied monster who had challenged not only the army of Israel, but the God of Israel, as well. When I talk with people, I try to engage their eyes, but Goliath’s head towered high and remote within its crested helmet. The bloated, belch-rumbling bulge of his middle forced me to bend backwards in an attempt to see around it

Goliath was striding about, his eye on a flurry of activity across the brook. King Saul, tall against his own countrymen but a twig next to the Philistine, was talking with a young lad who had come upon the scene of the face-off. What were they saying? Why was the boy trying on Saul’s armor, walking as though to test its feel, then shaking his head and removing it? Watching this, Goliath worked his shoulders under his own scale armor and stamped his legs to settle bronze greaves in place.

“Goliath, my lord,” I called. “A few questions, if I may.” I trotted beside him, taking five steps to his one. “What are you thinking of in these minutes before your death? I know that’s pretty personal, but—”

“Whose death?” A reasonable question, but he said the words absently, his attention fixed on the knot surrounding the king and the red-haired boy.

“I see you’re watching David over there. He’s the one who will kill you, you know. I know the end of the story.”

The giant’s shaved jowls hung thick and lumpy, his teeth poked brown and rotten between inch-thick lips. His cropped mane added to the illusion of a naked, weak-eyed pimple atop a furry lump of brutishness. I began to understand that my insolent questions got no answers because Goliath’s mind was big enough only to size up an enemy. His left eye circled dangerously. Like another eye I knew.

Joab’s eye.

David headed downstream where he knelt by the brook to sort through stones, measuring their heft and smoothness. My dream’s eye saw him in simple shepherd’s garb, no armor, carrying only his staff and sling. He splashed across the thin stream and faced the giant, intentions clear.

Goliath stiffened, and when his mind caught up with the implications of what his eyes saw, he expanded another foot and turned black with rage. With a mighty whirl that sent his armor bearers sprawling, he spit his injured pride in the direction of the Israelite King Saul, who was watching from his vantage point upstream. “Look a’ me,” the giant roared, thumping a four-foot chest. “Some sorta dog you see? No, you see I, Goliath. I gnaw warrior bones for supper, but here you serve sticks. By the mighty power of Dagon and Asherah, I will strip feathers and flesh from this stork and feed him to rats!”

“Goliath!” David shouted from below. “Never mind the king.” He stood with legs apart and arms akimbo, head cocked rakishly. The first fuzz of manhood sketched red along a face that was fresh, strong, handsome, alive. His voice warbled unpredictably between man and boy.

“That tree trunk of a spear,” the lad called. “I wouldn’t mind having it or the sword your armor bearer is playing with.” His words were light, but his eyes never left the giant.

“Goliath,” the boy went on, “you’ve been a lion against sheep till now. But today I come against you in the name of Yahweh, the Lord of hosts, whom your people say is stuck in a box. The God of Israel will act, and you’ll be the one who’ll fatten rats. The world will know from this day on that Yahweh saves, not by sword and spear, not by size and fear, but by his power alone. I’ve killed lions and bears, you know. Their teeth and claws are sharper than yours.”

David’s voice cracked, provoking laughter. Under its cover David laid aside his staff and drew a stone from his pouch. The Philistine armor bearers danced in anticipation of action at last. Goliath’s left eye began circling again. His face darkened, his arms took on the fur and claws of a bear. A snout, round, fur-flanked and vaguely familiar, poked through his facial armor. Now closer to nineteen feet tall than nine, he reared and roared and was no longer Goliath but a bear-like Joab, David’s loathsome commander in chief. With weapons carriers and shield bearer tight to him, he thundered down the slope toward the shepherd boy. But the lad, to my alarm, appeared to shrivel even as the giant grew. The Joab bear raised his arms, and the updraft sucked my robe until I felt myself being drawn toward the great beast’s maw. David and I both cowered before him. As those claws descended, the armor bearer (whom I also recognized but couldn’t name) sprang from under the shield with the giant’s own sword. With a mighty, two-handed stroke he cut off the great beast’s head. Then he stuck the sword into the ground and leaned on the haft, gasping for breath.

Goliath’s armor bearer was Benaiah.

I woke and lay trembling as the desperate intensity of the dream melted into reality. Joab—ruthless commander in chief of David’s army—was indeed dead, and Benaiah, David’s chief bodyguard, had killed him. The previous evening, I myself had watched Benaiah mount the altar; I saw Joab’s blood ooze down those steps, saw his body carried out for burial.

Why should my dream start with Goliath and end with Joab? My questioning Goliath was one of those whimsical twists dreams take. I’ve talked with nearly everyone else connected with David: why not this giant who played such a pivotal role?

The dream made me see Goliath’s brutishness as a thinly veiled version of Joab’s. Throw in the giant’s awareness of his own power, not just in physical size and strength, but, more significantly, in his strategic importance to the Philistine army. Without Goliath, those enemies of Israel would have had little advantage over Saul and his sons. The parallel was clear: as Goliath was to the Philistines, so Joab was to David. Without Joab—loathsome, loutish Joab—David might well have neither gained nor held his kingdom.

Loathsome, loutish Joab. When Benaiah, David’s chief bodyguard, carried out Solomon’s order of execution, I for one breathed freely for the first time in thirty years.

It happened yesterday at the Tent of the Ark, where Joab had gone for refuge. Adonijah, another of David’s ambitious sons, had made a last, sly attempt to wiggle the throne from Solomon’s grasp, but the new king read him correctly and had him put down.

Adonijah’s death spelled Joab’s doom, for they had schemed together. When Joab got word that the prince had been killed, he came to the Tent, but not in fear. Joab afraid? He would not run from death, but neither would he give his life away. He strolled around the enclosure, measuring each of us in turn. In his eyes, we Levites were fit only for singing and praying and skinning sacrificial animals. He had made my own life miserable on countless occasions, but I took heart that his left eye, subject to circling dangerously, was steady today.

He didn’t go to the place of safety until the rattle of arms outside sent him deliberately, without haste, up the steps of the altar, into the swirling smoke, where he touched blood-blackened fingers to the nearest horn of the altar. It didn’t seem to occur to him that two vile murders would deny him legal sanctuary. Or perhaps he counted on Solomon not wanting to execute a man at the altar. A precarious perch for Joab, but he had survived all those years on equally slender footholds.

Benaiah, backed by his guard, stopped just inside the entrance. He stared at Joab. When he spoke, his voice was tight. Was he—the most powerful soldier under Joab—was Benaiah ben Jehoiada nervous?

“Joab, come out!”

Joab grunted derisively, a small smile twisting his face. “Maybe I should take orders from you?”

“Come down from there, Joab: the king has ordered it.”

“Tell the king to come order it in person. Or better still, tell him to kill me himself. It might give a melon like him backbone!”

After consultation about the propriety of killing even such a man as Joab at the altar, Benaiah and his guard withdrew. Joab straightened, once more surveying the priests and musicians. The breeze wrapped a new cloak of smoke around his tunic. Apart from my nervous fingering of a prayer tassel on my garment, none of us moved or spoke for what seemed hours.

As the last rays of sun faded from the city wall above us, the high priest ordered the lamps lit. With a glance toward the altar, a Levite and a priest turned to the task but scuttled back as Benaiah reentered—with sword in hand. Again Joab smiled, a monster’s ugly grimace. Blood-crusted hands rested on the blood-crusted altar, while the blood of innocents cried out for vindication.

“Once more,” Benaiah spoke, “will you come down?”

Joab straightened proudly. “I will die here—if you’re man enough to kill me.”

His eye gleamed, his tone softened. “We’ve been through a lot, Benaiah, you and I. We go back, don’t we? The battles, the exploits. That day of the snow when you landed in the pit and killed the lion….Do you remember, Benaiah?”

We stood rigid under his spell. Light was fading, and the lamps remained unlit. We shivered, mistaking the growing darkness for cold.

“You’re no youngster, Benaiah,” Joab said. “How long before Solomon puts you out to pasture? You have influence, though. A word from you, and we could put a real man on the—”

“Enough.” Benaiah spoke softly, almost with a touch of regret. The two grizzled warriors locked eyes, celebrating one last moment of shared history, then Benaiah leaped to the steps.

I turned away. Tomorrow the altar must be cleansed of pig’s blood. But for this day, this night,

We give thanks to you, O God,
We give thanks, for your Name is near;
To the arrogant I say, “Boast no more,”
And to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horns.”
But it is God who judges:
He brings one down, He exalts another.

My Review:
I really liked this. It took me awhile to get into because I kept getting stuck on points in the story where I wasn't sure if it was Scripturally correct, but after I reminded myself that it was just a novel, I got through it much better. It's a very interesting read, and it puts a different perspective on the story of David. I was pretty disappointed that it didn't continue on with Solomon's story, though. As with all novels based on Bible stories, don't read it as though it's the 'gospel truth' because quite a lot is unknown about the stories, and the authors fill it in with their imagination. It's quite a thick book to get through, but I think it's well worth the read.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour of It's a Green Thing by Melody Carlson & 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:

It’s a Green Thing: Diary of a Teenage Girl

Multnomah Books (February 17, 2009)


Melody Carlson is an award-winning, best-selling author of nearly 200 books for teens, women, and children. Before publishing, Melody traveled around the world, volunteered in teen ministry, taught preschool, raised two sons, and worked briefly in interior design and later in international adoption. "I think real-life experiences inspire the best friction," she says. Her wide variety of books seems to prove this theory. She and her husband enjoy an active lifestyle of hiking, camping, and biking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she says, "A new story seems to spring from around every corner."

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (February 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421184
ISBN-13: 978-1601421180


June 9

My cousin Kim gave me a new diary yesterday. She received it for graduation, but she prefers to journal on her computer. “With a security lock, of course,” she confessed. Anyway, this nicely bound book (a green product made of recycled materials) seems to be enticing me to write. Especially since I already filled up my old diary, which is safely hidden away in one of my suitcases tucked into the back of the guest room closet. Okay, as both Kim and my uncle keep telling me, “It’s not the guest room, Maya. It’s your room.” I’m trying to see it that way. But it’s not easy. So much about my life is not easy…but I must admit that it’s getting better. And I do have hope.

Anyway, since today was rather interesting and the beginning of summer vacation, I will start here. Although to get “here,” I need to go back to before the school year ended. I’d been attending Harrison High for several weeks when Mr. Fenton challenged our art class to volunteer for a community project. We’d been invited by the park district to create a mural on a downtown youth center. A lot of kids signed up, and everyone seemed supportive and interested. But today, the first day of the project, Marissa Phillips and I were the only ones to actually show. “It figures,” she said as the two of us stood gazing up at the big, boring wall. The paint was splotchy looking, with random beige smears that resembled a bad case of psoriasis. Probably someone’s attempt to hide the graffiti and tagging, although a few offensive words still showed through.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “That no one else would come.” “Why’s that?” I adjusted the twisted strap of my Osh Kosh overalls. I’d gotten dressed pretty quickly this morning, barely managing to catch the downtown bus. “Because people are basically selfish.” I turned and looked at her. With hands planted on her hips, Marissa stared at the ugly wall and frowned. For some reason, when I first began attending Harrison High, I felt drawn to this girl. Like we shared some commonality. And I suppose we do have some physical similarities. We’re both tall and have long hair, although hers is straight and mine is curly. And because she dyes it black, her hair’s a lot darker than mine. I think that’s why her complexion looks so pale. Whereas mine (thanks to my dad) is the color of café au lait.

But our looks aside, we are similar in other ways too. Or maybe we both just have an attitude. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and has opinions that not everyone shares. She’s two years older than I am. In fact, she just graduated with my cousin Kim. Not that she seems older exactly. Or maybe I just feel older than sixteen. Sometimes I feel like I’m in my thirties. But a hard life can do that to a person.

“So if that’s true,” I asked Marissa, “if people are basically selfish, why are you here?”

She laughed. “I thought you knew.”


“I’m doing community service.”

“For what?”

“Oh…something that happened a couple of months ago. I guess you hadn’t moved here yet.”

“What did you do?”

“I got caught with alcohol in my car.”

“Driving under the influence?” I knew Marissa was kind of a wild child, but I thought she had more sense than that.

“No.” She shook her head firmly. “I wasn’t under the influence. I was underage.”

“Well, obviously.”

“It didn’t really help much that my dad’s a cop.” She made a face as she reached into her bag and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. She shook one out, quickly lit it, then blew out an exasperated


“Your dad’s a cop?” Now this caught me off guard. Of all people who might have law enforcement officials in their family, Marissa just doesn’t seem to fit the profile. I can only imagine how frustrated her father must feel.

“Oh yeah…” She peered back at the wall. “In fact it was his recommendation that I spend my summer vacation performing community service. If dear old Dad hadn’t been in court that day, I probably would’ve gotten off a lot easier.”

“You’re doing community service for the whole summer?”

“Yep.” She blew another puff of smoke over her shoulder.

“And you’re okay with that?”

“It was either that or give up my car and move out of the house. And I wasn’t financially ready for that…not just yet.” She took in a slow drag, then looked curiously at me. “So what’s your excuse?”


“For being here.”

“You mean because I must be basically selfish too?” She shrugged.

“I just wanted to do it,” I admitted. “I mean, when Mr. Fenton described the project, it sounded kind of fun to help someone else, and he made it seem like it would only take a week.” Marissa laughed sarcastically. “Yeah, right. Think again.” I frowned back up at the wall. “With just the two of us, this mural could end up being your entire summer of community service.”

“I wouldn’t mind so much, except that it’s going to be scorching out here before long, and this wall is in the sun most of the day.” She reached in her bag again, and this time pulled out her cell phone.

“Who are you calling?”

“Friends…Hey, Spencer,” she said warmly. “What’s up, dude?” Then she winked at me. “Well, Maya and I are downtown right now. We volunteered to do this mural project, and we sure could use some big, strong guys to help out.” She smiled knowingly. “Oh yeah, for sure. Maybe you could get Jake to come and help too…No, it’s no big hurry. I mean, we need to kind of figure out

where we’re going with this mural and get the paint and stuff. Maybe not today. But how about tomorrow? First thing in the morning?” She got a catty smile now. “Oh yeah, totally.” Then she hung up.

“Help on the way?”

“Sounds like it.” She slipped her phone back into her bag.

“Spencer is such a pushover when it comes to good-looking women.”

“I hope he didn’t get the wrong impression.”

“We’re talking about Spencer, right?” She laughed. “Of course he has the wrong impression. It’s just the way that boy’s brain is wired.” And I was fully aware of this. Spencer had begun hitting on me as soon as I started going to HHS a couple of months ago. I’d been flattered at first, but as I got to know him better, I realized that I needed to draw some boundaries. Even so, I wasn’t going to admit that Spencer wouldn’t have been my first choice for help. “So…do you think I should call anyone else?” I offered. “Sure. Do you know anyone else?” I kind of shrugged.

The truth is, I still don’t know that many people in this town. Kim and her best friend, Natalie, already have summer jobs. But I was thinking about the kids in Kim’s church youth group—particularly Dominic. Any excuse to spend time with Dominic seemed like a good excuse to me. But I didn’t know his number, so I called Caitlin. She and her husband, Josh, are the youth leaders, and she’s been sort of mentoring me since I committed my life to God a couple of weeks ago. She answered, and I quickly explained the mural project and our lack of volunteers. “It was supposed to take only a week,” I said finally. “But with just Marissa and me and this great big wall, well, it’s a little overwhelming. She’s already called a guy to help, but—” “What a cool project,” Caitlin said. “That building is a real eyesore. It’s great that someone wants to make it nice, and I’m sure that’ll be a blessing to the kids who use the center. Why don’t I call around and see who might be willing to help out?”

“That’d be awesome, Caitlin.”

“When do you want your helpers to show up?”

“We have to figure some things out first. We probably won’t need anyone until tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks.” I hung up and smiled hopefully. But Marissa was frowning at me now. “Why are you calling in the church people?”

“Why not?”

“You want me to make you a list of reasons?”

“Are you willing to turn away free help?” She dropped her cigarette butt to the pavement and ground it out with her heel as she shrugged. “I guess not. So what’s the deal, Maya? Are you one of them?”

“One of what?”

“Are you a Christian too?”

I took in a deep breath, then slowly nodded. “Actually, I am.” She shook her head in a dismal way. Like this was really unfortunate.

“I’ll admit it’s still kind of new for me,” I said.

“Why?” Her dark eyes narrowed as she studied me closely. I started to feel like a bug beneath a magnifying glass.

“Why?” I repeated, confused. “You mean why is it new for me?”

“No. Why did you do it?” The way she said this made a woman walking through the parking lot glance nervously at me, like she assumed I’d committed some horrendous crime.

“Become a Christian?”

“Yeah.” Marissa made a sour face. “I mean, I can understand girls like Kim and Natalie… They’re such goody two-shoes. But you, Maya? I thought you were different.”

“I am different.”

“Then why?”

“Because I was unhappy and lonely and hopeless and depressed and just really, really lost.”

“And now you’re found?” I could hear the teasing note in her voice.

“Actually, I do feel kind of found.” She rolled her eyes.

“Look, Marissa, if anyone had told me just a few months ago that I was going to make a life-changing commitment like this…well, I would’ve reacted just like you. I would’ve said they were

crazy. Seriously, I never would’ve believed it myself.” Her countenance softened ever so slightly, and she didn’t question this statement.

“And like I said, it’s still new to me. Basically, all I can say is that I was totally mixed-up and messed up and just plain lost…and now I have this real sense of peace. Honestly, it’s something I never had before.”


I nodded eagerly. “Yes. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s like my life is in good hands now, like I feel hopeful.”

“You sound like Chloe Miller now.”

I smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” The fact is, of all the Christians I know, which aren’t that many, I can relate to Chloe best. I mean, Kim is cool and takes her faith seriously. And Caitlin is sweet and sincere and helpful. And Nat… Well, don’t get me going there. But right from the start, I seemed to get Chloe. And she seemed to get me. Maybe it has to do with the whole music thing—a kind of artistic, outside-the-box sort of thing.

“So what do you think we should paint on this wall?” Marissa seemed eager to change the subject, and I felt relieved.

“I’m thinking we should get some sketches going.” I unzipped my pack and retrieved a sketch pad. “We’re not supposed to do anything out here without Mrs. Albert’s approval.”

“Who’s that?”

“The superintendent. But if we can get her okay, we could probably start putting the drawing on the wall before our other volunteers show up. That way we can put them to work.”

“Yes sir.” She gave me a cheesy grin. “You the boss.” Before long we were sitting there on the curb, discussing ideas and playing with images. Unfortunately, Marissa’s ideas leaned toward the dark side, and when I challenged a particularly frightening image, she seemed slightly offended.

“So what do you want to paint?” she shot back. “Sunshine, flowers, and sweet turtledoves?”

“No, not exactly. But something more cheerful than a dragon burning a gnarled tree stump.”

“I was just trying to come up with something that graffiti artists would respect,” she said defensively. “Something they wouldn’t make fun of and want to deface.”

“That’s a good point. We don’t want it to be too childish.”

“But I suppose a dragon might be scary to some of the little kids who come here.”

“What exactly is the purpose of this building?” I ventured. She shrugged. “It’s a youth center. Duh.”

“So it’s a place for kids to come…for what purpose?”

“To hang. To play. For kids who need something like that.”

I kind of frowned at her. “Why?”

“You know, it’s for kids who might be kind of underprivileged, or maybe they’re unsupervised. The center has a day-care program and all kinds of classes and activities for after-school programs. Stuff like that.” Now she laughed. “Oh yeah, I guess you wouldn’t have had anything like that back in Beverly Hills, little Miss Rich Girl.”

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t told Marissa so much about myself. But at the time, when I needed a friend a couple of months ago, it seemed right. And I thought I could trust her. Not that I


“I’m not a rich girl.”

“Says you.” I just rolled my eyes. The truth was, I would’ve appreciated a center like this when I was a kid. Not that I plan to admit that to Marissa. But despite her misconceptions, my childhood wasn’t exactly ideal or nurturing, and I certainly never felt rich. Of course, Beverly Hills isn’t the sort of town where people are terribly concerned over the welfare of the younger generation. Like Marissa, people just assume that if you live there, your parents have lots

of money, and you’ll be just fine.

“So it sounds like it’s a place that’s meant to encourage kids, to help themgrow into better people, to give them hope,” I finally said. Marissa laughed loudly. “Hey, maybe you should go into politics or public relations or advertising or something.”

“Come on. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can get some serious sketches going. And the sooner we can get started, the sooner we can get done, and we won’t be out here

baking in the sun all summer.”

“You seem to have it all figured out, boss. Go for it.” Marissa pulled out another cigarette. Now I was tempted to point out the risks of emphysema and lung cancer, as well as how smoke makes your hair stink and yellows your fingernails, but I figured she was probably already aware

of these facts.

“Fine. I think we should create something that feels hopeful.” I squinted up at the blotchy-looking wall again. “Something colorful and cheerful and happy.”

“Maybe we could paint a pwetty wainbow?”

Just before I made a smart retort, I stopped myself. “Hey, maybe you’re right.” I grabbed my sketch pad and began to draw.

“But we’ll design it in a more modern style. Sort of cubist.” She looked over my shoulder as I drew a series of sharply angled shapes, working them together to make an arch.

“Interesting…,” she finally admitted.


“Yeah. I can kind of see it. And it would actually be fairly easy to put a team to work on it since it’s mostly shapes.”

“Exactly. We’ll draw them out, and they can paint them in.”

“We’ll need a lot of different colors.”

“So you can see the rainbow?” I asked. “I mean, since there’s no color in my sketch?”

“Yeah. I get where you’re going.” She snuffed out her cigarette, then reached in her bag for a tin of colored pencils. “Here, add some color.”

By midmorning we had a final colored sketch as well as Mrs. Albert’s approval. “Very nice, girls,” she told us as we were ushered out of her office. “And anything will be an improvement over what’s out there now.”

“Well, that was flattering,” Marissa said as we headed down to the storage room to meet the janitor and check out the ladders and painting supplies. “At least her expectations aren’t too high.”

Marissa laughed. “Yeah, I’m pretty good at meeting people’s low expectations.” I wanted to ask her why that was, but we needed to get busy if we were going to put more volunteers to work tomorrow. And to my relief, Marissa actually knew how to work hard. By the end of the day, Marissa had gotten the paints, and I had managed to get a fair amount of the sketch onto the lower part of the wall.

“Nice work, boss,” Marissa said after we’d put the supplies away and stood looking at the beginning of our mural. “Same back at you.” And I have to admit that I was kind of excited to see how this whole thing would turn out. And hopefully more people will show up to help tomorrow.

Maya’s Green Tip for the Day

Don’t pour harmful wastes down public waterways.

Storm drains on public streets are for rainwater to run off

so the streets don’t flood. They’re not a convenient way

for people to get rid of chemicals or solvents or even the

bucket of soapy water after you wash your car. Unless

you use bio-friendly car-wash detergent, which I highly

recommend. You need to respect that the water that runs

off our streets eventually winds up in streams and waterways

and can harm innocent fish or other marine wildlife.

So don’t use your street drain as a dumping spot.

My Review:
I got this book this afternoon, and I'm almost finished it!! It is a seriously good book. Melody Carlson is a brilliant writer, and I love anything of hers that I read. I can't believe that I don't have anything else in this series.
Maya is great, and I love how she really wants to serve God, and tries hard even though at times she fails.
I can't wait to finish it!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Last Mango in Texas by Ray Blackston & 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:

Last Mango in Texas

FaithWords (March 13, 2009)


Ray Blackston of Greenville, South Carolina, worked as a buyer and a broker for eleven years before cashing in his modest 401k and leaving his corporate cubicle to write full time. He serves on the missions committee of his church, has traveled to rural Ecuador on a summer missions program, and coaches his seven-year-old nephew, Action Jackson, in T-Ball.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (March 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446579610
ISBN-13: 978-0446579612


Please press the Open Book Widget to read the first chapter.

My Review:
I really liked this book! It started out differently than I was expecting, but that didn't change that it was a good book. Kyle's uncle is a quirky person, but it turns out that his Mum's pretty quirky too :P
I thought it was sweet the lengths to which Kyle was willing to go to in order to get Gretchen :)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Milk Money by Cecelia Dowdy & 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:

Milk Money (Maryland Wedding Series #2)

Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)


Cecelia Dowdy is a world traveler who has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember. When she first read Christian fiction, she felt called to write for the genre.She loves to read, write, and bake desserts in her spare time. Currently she resides with her husband and young son in Maryland.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

Mass Market Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602557
ISBN-13: 978-1602602557

To buy it on Amazon click here


Dumbfounded, the accountant gazed at a cow giving birth. He dropped his briefcase when he saw the feet of the baby sticking out of the mother’s canal. A rope was looped around the legs of the young animal, and a brown-skinned woman pulled so hard that the muscles in her slender arms flexed. Her eyes squeezed shut while she grunted, reminding him of the noises people made when they bench-pressed weights.

She opened her eyes.

“Casey, hold on,” she cooed. When he watched the birth, his sour stomach worsened, and the bagel and cream cheese he’d managed to eat for breakfast felt like a dead weight in his belly. Her tears mingled with the sweat rolling down her face. She continued to pull and glanced in his direction. “Oh, thank God you came. Come and help me.”

A plethora of unfamiliar scents tingled his nose. He swallowed, losing his voice. What was he supposed to do? She continued to look at him, pulling on the rope periodically.

“I already left a message on your answering service that it was coming out backward.” Pushing the door open, he entered the room adjoining the barn, still hoping he wouldn’t throw up. She nodded toward the rope, still tugging. “With both of us pulling, maybe we’ll be able to get the calf out.”

“Okay.” He swallowed his nausea and pulled, mimicking the way he used to grunt when bench-pressing heavy weights. He followed her example, keeping tension on the rope and pulling each time the cow had a contraction. She grunted also, and their noises continued until the calf exited the birth canal minutes later. She dropped the rope, and he rushed behind her to look at the young animal. He touched the newborn,

awed by the birth. She glanced at him as she cleaned gunk off the calf ’s nose and mouth.

Her sigh filled the space when she noticed the animal was breathing. “Aren’t you going to examine the cow and calf?”

Before he could respond, a young man holding a large black plastic tote entered the pen. “This the Cooper farm?”

Confusion marred her face when she glanced at Frank. Then she focused on the new arrival. The newcomer rushed to the baby cow and began examining it. “I’m Dr. Lindsey’s son. I’m taking over my daddy’s practice this week since he’s on vacation. He told you that, didn’t he?”

She nodded, still looking confused. “I left a message on your answering service earlier.”

The vet grunted. “I was down the street at the horse farm helping out with another birth, so I couldn’t leave.”

“Are the cow and calf okay?”

“They both look fine.” He stopped his examination and looked at them. “I’m glad you had somebody helping you. You might not have gotten him out in time if you’d been pulling him on your own.” He pulled a tool out of his bag. “You have antibiotic on hand for the calf, right? If not, I’ve got some.”

The attractive woman nodded, her dark hair clinging to her sweaty neck as she promised the vet she would give the new calf the medicine. Frank watched, mesmerized by the whole process. A short time later, the newborn nursed from the mother. “Thank you, doctor,” said the woman, patting the man on the shoulder.

The doctor shook his head, placing his tools back into his bag. “Don’t thank me. You two got him out in time.” He told Emily he would send her the bill, and then he left the farm.

Emily glanced at Frank, as if taking in his khaki slacks and oxford shirt. Noticing his bloody hands, she beckoned him over to a room containing a sink and a large steel tank. After ripping off the long plastic gloves covering her hands and forearms

and dropping them into the trash can, she turned the water on, pumped out several squirts of soap, and washed. “I thought you were the vet,” she said, continuing to scrub her hands and forearms. “I’ve never met Dr. Lindsey’s son, so that’s why I

assumed you were him.” After rinsing, she pulled paper towels from a dispenser and gestured for Frank to use the sink.

Frank shrugged and walked to the sink, placing his hands under the running water. “Sorry. I helped you out, but I didn’t have any idea if I was doing it right. It’s probably good I showed up when I did. It looked like you’d been trying to help

that cow for a long time.”

She shook her head. “Cows are tough. They can be in labor for hours before giving birth. When you came, I’d just started pulling the calf out with the rope.” She continued to stare, frowning. “Well, if you’re not Dr. Lindsey’s son, then who are


He offered his recently washed hand, glad the nauseous feeling had evaporated from his stomach. “I’m Franklin Reese, Certified Public Accountant.”

My Review:
I like Cecelia's style of writing.
The romance didn't seem to develop as quickly as it did in "John's Quest" which was good. The ending was a little corny, but I enjoyed the book as a whole