Everyday Tidbits...

The sun is shining and the sky is blue. My doors and windows are open.

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Angel on Main Street...Review

About the book:
Micah Connors promised his mother he would be good in their new town. But with Christmas only three days away, being escorted home by the sheriff does not bode well. Can the towering officer be trusted not to tell what happened? Perhaps the ramshackle stable that has appeared on Main Street will sidetrack him from spilling the day's events, or maybe his interest in Micah's widowed mother will do the trick. The last thing Dawn Connors needs is to hear her son is in trouble. She has enough to worry about with her husband gone and her daughter, Annie, ill. Even though Micah has told his sister the rustic structure in the middle of town is simply part of the town's holiday decorations, Annie is sure that unseen angels are building the crude stable, which means baby Jesus is coming, and He can make her better. Terrified that his little sister might die, Micah vows to find the baby Jesus for Annie, even if it is only a plastic doll. But as Micah gets nearer to his goal he finds that angels are closer than he ever would have believed.




My review:

All Micah wants to do is take care of his mother and his sister, but he seems to attract trouble, even as he tries to avoid it, no matter how hard he tries. He misses his father, wishes his mother didn't have to work so hard for so little, and is afraid his sister Annie will die from the side-effects of rheumatic fever. Annie loves looking out the window and watching the mysterious nativity take shape in town. In her simple faith, she believes that when the baby Jesus arrives in the manger she can get better.

As Micah searches for a way to make his little sister happy, he learns an important lesson about life and judging others. From a crusty, soft-hearted sheriff and a town tramp with hidden secrets, Micah also learns that angels are real and are often not only people you know, but people you least suspect. At once tender and heart warming, this is a beautiful Christmas story about love, service and faith in God. You'll shed a few tears, but you'll also be left thinking about the angels in your own life.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this wonderful story. You can find out more about Kathi Oram Peterson here and on her blog. You can purchase the book here and here.

A note from Kathi:
I'm holding a contest called An Angel in Your Life Contest. Here's the lowdown on it. The contest runs from now until December 15th. Anyone can enter by simply emailing me at kathiorampeterso@yahoo.com and writing about an experience you have had with someone who became an angel in your life. The winner will be announced on my blog. A gift certificate from either Seagull Book or Deseret Book will be given to the winner and an "Angel" in his/her life. This contest celebrates the selfless, kind acts performed daily, many times unnoticed. If you are like me, many people have helped you through times of trouble. Let's face it, life is tough and the small acts of kindness shown to us by others needs to be remembered and celebrated especially during the holidays. Christmas brings out the best in people and I wanted to give others the opportunity to thank those who have touched their lives in a profound way. Hopefully this contest will remind us of the angels in our lives.

Read 11/09

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

The Christmas Dog...Preview

About the book:
Betty Kowalski isn't looking forward to the holidays. She just can't seem to find Christmas in her heart. There's church, of course. But who can she bake for these days? And who would care whether or not she pulled out the Christmas decorations? Her new neighbor just adds to the problem. He's doing home improvements that don't appear to be improving much of anything. These days when Betty looks out the window, she sees a beat-up truck, a pile of junk, lots of blue tarps, and--horror of horrors--an old pink toilet. But when a mangy dog appears at her doorstep, the stage is set for Betty to learn a very important lesson about what Christmas is all about. This contemporary Christmas story is a timely yet gentle reminder that God can work miracles through something as seemingly insignificant as a little brown dog.

Read the first chapter:
The Christmas Dog

Thanks to Donna Hausler from the
Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to preview this book. You can find out more about Melody Carson here. You can purchase the book here.

Touching Wonder...Wildcard!

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:


Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

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

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND NOW...an excerpt:


Three

Angelic Visitor


Luke 1.26–38


In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:


Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.


She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.


He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”


Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


The angel answered,


The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.


“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”


And Mary said,


Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.


Then the angel left her.


Gabriel


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.


I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.


“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.


“But how? I can’t see it.”


“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.


Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.


Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.


“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”


I laughed.


“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”


But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.


I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.


The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.


I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: Gratitude

Gratitude: a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation.

May you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana...Wildcard!

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 authors are:


and the book:


Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.



Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Swiss Courier...Wildcard!

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 authors are:


and the book:


The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:





Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author's website.



Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.


Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.


Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.


Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.


An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.


What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.


This is that story . . .



1

Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.


He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.


Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.


His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.


Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.


Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.


His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.


Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.


Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.


Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.


Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.


Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.


Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.


She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.


She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.


“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.


“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.


He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.


Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.


“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”


Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.


A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.


Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.


A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.


“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.


Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.


Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.


One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.


As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.


Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.


The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.


“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.


What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.


With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.


“Don’t shoot!” one cried.


The sound of a police siren split the air.


“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.


The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.


Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”


Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.


Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.


They needed to find cover—


More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.


The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.


Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.


“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”


She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”


“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.


“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.


“But what if—”


“I’ll join you. Now go!”


Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


No!


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.


I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.


Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .


He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.


“Go,” Suzanne whispered.


“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”


Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.


Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.


Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.


He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.


Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.


With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.


Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.


The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.


Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.


Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.


He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.


Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Love Revolution...Preview

About the book:
Joyce Meyer is not satisfied with the status quo. She believes that we each need to become a revolutionary and practice love every day. And if Joyce has her way, the revolution will spread - person by person, house by house, town by town, until the old culture of selfishness and greed gives way to a new culture of concern for others.

The book is a revolutionaries' manual, a hands-on primer for bringing the Golden Rule to life in the twenty-first century. Meyer starts out by giving some stunning statistics. Right now...210,000 children will die this week because of poverty; 640 million children do not have adequate shelter; every day, 3,000 children are abducted into the sex-trafficking industry; every day, 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. She goes on to say that although crisis is global, the solution is local. We can't solve the world's problems, but that isn't a reason to remain idle.

LOVE REVOLUTION focuses on personal behavior on the local scale. It's not just a call to action; it is a call to being: being the person who goes out of your way to encourage someone who's out of hope; being the one who smiles at a stranger; being the one who is willing to do something for nothing. The paradox: when we do something for nothing, what we often get is something far greater.

About the Author:
Joyce Meyer has been in full-time ministry since 1980. She is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than seventy inspirational books. She has also released thousands of audio teachings as well as a complete video library. Joyce's ENJOYING EVERYDAY LIFE television and radio programs are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences in the US and abroad.

Joyce and her husband, Dave, are the parents of four grown children and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Thanks to Valerie Russo from Hatchette Book Group for the opportunity to tour this book. You can learn more about Joyce Meyer here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Bride Backfire...Wildcard!

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 Bride Backfire

Barbour Publishing, Inc (October 1, 2009)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kelly Eileen Hake is a reader favorite of Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents book club, where she has released several books. A credentialed secondary English teacher in California, she also has her MA in Writing Popular Fiction. Known for her own style of witty, heartwarming historical romance, Kelly is currently writing the Prairie Promises trilogy, her first full-length novels. Hake is a CBA bestselling author and has earned numerous Heartsong Presents Reader’s Choice Awards. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601763
ISBN-13: 978-1602601765

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Nebraska Territory, March, 1857


“Not again!” Opal Speck breathed the words on a groan so low her brothers couldn’t hear her—a wasted effort since the entire problem lay in having no one around but Larry Grogan.

Even Larry, despite having the temperament of a riled skunk and a smell to rival one, kept the oily gleam from his eyes when the men of her family were in sight. No, the appraising leers and occasional advances were Opal’s private shame. Hers to handle whenever he tried something, and hers to hide from everyone lest the old feud between their families spring to life once more.

“Figured you’d come by here sooner or later, since Ma and Willa are making dandelion jelly.” Larry levered himself on one elbow, pushing away from the broad rock he’d lounged against. He gestured toward the abundance of newly blooming dandelions bordering Speck and Grogan lands, but his gaze fixed on her as he spoke. “Let’s enjoy the sweetness of spring.”

“No.” Opal kept her voice level though her fingers clamped around the handle of her basket so tightly she could feel the wood bite into her flesh. Letting Larry know he upset her would only give him more power, and false bravery to match. Lord, give me strength and protection. “Not today.”

“Look ripe for the plucking to me.” Larry sauntered closer, but Opal wouldn’t give an inch. Everyone knew that when animals sensed fear, they pressed their advantage.

“Dandelion jelly may be sweet, but it takes a lot of work to make it that way. Do it wrong, it’ll be bitter.”

“I like a little tang.” He reached out and tweaked a stray strand of her red hair as he leaned closer. “Keeps things interesting.”

Opal fought not to wrinkle her nose as his breath washed over her. Instead, she tipped her head back and laughed, the note high and shrill to her ears as she stepped away. “Then I’ll leave them to you, Mr. Grogan.”

“Wait.” His hand snaked out and closed around her wrist, but it was the unexpected note of pleading in his voice that brought her up short. “Won’t you call me Larry?”

“I—” Opal couldn’t have found any words had they been sitting in the strawberry patch. She and Larry both stared at where his hand enfolded her wrist. “I don’t think that’s wise.”

“We can’t always be wise.” With a wince, he used his other hand to trace the long, thin scar bisecting his cheek. His hand dropped back to his side when he noticed her watching the motion, but something softened in his face. “You must like me a little, Opal. Otherwise you would’ve left me to die like everyone would expect a Speck to do.”

Not really, no. She didn’t speak the words, her silence stretching thin and strained between them. Larry’s sly innuendos were a threat Opal expected, but Larry Grogan looking as though he cared what she thought of him. . . How could she be prepared for that? Why didn’t I notice his advances only began after his accident—that Larry must have interpreted me helping Dr. Reed patch him up as something more than kindness?

Surprise softened her words when she finally spoke. “I would have helped anyone thrown from the thresher.” Opal’s reference to the incident didn’t need to be more detailed. The man before her would never forget the cause of his scar, just as she’d never forget it was his animosity toward her father that caused him to mess with that machine in the first place.

“Even a Grogan?” He shook his head. “I don’t believe you.”

She would’ve backed away at the desperation written on his face if she could, but she summoned all her courage to stay calm. “Believe it, Larry.”

“What if I don’t want to?” His grip turned painful, bruising her arm. “I know you’d do anything to protect your family. Even deny your own feelings.” Larry moved closer. “And I can prove it with one kiss.”

“My family would kill you.” She tried to tug her wrist free, only to have him jerk her closer.

“We both know you wouldn’t tell them.” Darkness danced in his eyes. “This is between you and me.”

Panic shivered down Opal’s spine at the truth of his words. The one thing she could never do was put her family in danger, and if she told Pa or her brothers, blood would flow until there wasn’t a Speck—or a Grogan—left standing. She stayed still as he leaned in, his grip loosening slightly as his other hand grabbed her chin.

“No!” Exploding into action the second she sensed her opportunity, Opal sent a vicious kick to his shins with one work boot. A swift twist freed her wrist from his grasp, letting her shove her basket into his stomach with all her might.

She barely registered the crack of wood splintering as she sprang away, running for home before Larry caught his breath enough to catch her.

***

“Pa ain’t gonna like this.” Nine-year-old Dave poked his head around the stall partition like a nosy weasel sniffing out trouble.

“That’s why you’re not mentioning it to him.” Adam didn’t normally hold with keeping things from one’s father, but telling Diggory Grogan that another one of their milk cows had fallen prey to the strange, listless bloat that had plagued their cattle for the past few years without explanation would be akin to leaving a lit lantern in a hayloft. The resulting blaze would burn more than the contents of the barn.

“But didn’t he say that the next time one of those Specks poisoned one of our cows he was goin’ to march over there an—”

“We don’t know that anyone’s been poisoning our cows, Dave.” Adam pinned his much younger brother with a fierce glower. “But we do know the Specks have had sick cattle, same as us. The last thing either of us needs is to start fighting again.”

Confusion twisted Dave’s features. “When did we ever stop fighting?”

“There’s different kinds of fighting, Squirt.”

“I know!” Dave scrambled after him as Adam left the barn to go find the meanest rooster he could catch. “There’s name-calling and bare-knuckles and knock-down drag-outs and slaps—”

His list came to an abrupt end when Adam rounded on him. “That’s not what I meant.” He squatted down so he could look his little brother in the eye. “There’s fighting for what you believe in, fighting to protect what’s yours, and there’s fighting just because you like fighting. That’s never a good enough reason, understand?”

“Kind of.” Dave squinted up at him when Adam straightened once more. “How come we fight the Specks, then?”

“A mix of all three.” Willa’s voice provided a welcome interruption. “Our granddaddies both thought the east pasture belonged to them. Then each of our families believed the other was wrong, and now we’re so used to fighting that we blame each other when anything goes wrong.”

“Like the cows?” Dave processed their sister’s explanation so fast it made Adam proud.

“Yep.” He didn’t say more as the three of them each chased down a chicken, ignoring the angry squawks and vicious pecks as best they could. When everyone’s arms were loaded down with feathers and flailing spurs, they headed back to the barn.

“Then I guess it’s a good thing Pa and Larry are out hunting today.” Dave spat out a stray feather. “So we can scare some of the bloat out of Clem before he finds out and blames the Specks?”

“That’s right.” Willa set her jaw. “Because no matter what Larry says or how Pa listens, the Specks aren’t poisoning our cows. And the last thing we need is for him to stir things up over nothing!”

That was the last any of them said for a while, as everyone knew it was useless to try to talk over the sounds of a cow belching. Since Dr. Saul Reed had first tried the treatment two years ago on Sadie—when the bloats began—the Grogans had perfected the process to a fine art.

If a cow grew listless, went off her feed, stopped drinking water, and generally gave signs of illness, they watched for signs of bloat. When baking soda didn’t help, the last hope for expelling the buildup of gas before it stopped the animal’s heart was to get it moving at a rapid pace. On the Grogan farm, that meant terrorizing the cattle with riled roosters.

Dave darted toward the stall and thrust his bird toward the back, spurring Clem to her feet for the first time that whole morning. She rushed out of the partition, heading toward a corner plush with hay, only to be headed off by Willa, whose alarmed chicken made an impressive display of thrashing wings to drive the cow out the barn door.

From there it was a matter of chasing her around the barnyard and up the western hill—the theory being that elevating her front end made it easier for the gas to rise out—until the endeavor succeeded or the entire group dropped from exhaustion. Thankfully, they’d yet to fail.

To an outsider, Adam Grogan would be hard-pressed to explain why leading a slobbering, stumbling, belching cow back to the barn would put a smile on his face, but Willa and Dave shared his feeling of triumph. Sure, Clem might not look like much of a prize at the moment, but she’d been hard-won. Better yet, they’d averted having Pa and Larry ride over to the Speck place with fired tempers and loaded shotguns.

Much the way Murphy and Elroy Speck were riding toward them right now. Adam tensed, taking stock of the situation. With Pa and Larry out for the day, it was up to him to take care of things.

“Stay here.” He snatched the shotgun from the wall of the barn and rolled the door closed, pushing Dave back inside when he tried to squirm out. “I said stay. And don’t go up in the hayloft either, or I’ll tan your hide later.” With the door shut, Adam slid the deadbolt in place, effectively locking his sister and younger brother in the barn. . .and hopefully out of trouble.

He strode to meet the Specks, intent on putting as much distance from their stopping place and his family as humanly possible. While Adam didn’t hold with the idea of a feud and did everything in his power to maintain peace, he wouldn’t stake the safety of a single Grogan on any Speck’s intention to do the same.

“Ho.” Murphy Speck easily brought his horse to a halt, followed closely by his second-eldest son. The two of them sat there, shotguns laid across their saddles, silent as they looked down on Adam.

Adam, for his part, rested his firearm over his shoulder, vigilant without being hostile, refusing to offer false welcome. Specks had ventured onto Grogan land; it was for them to state their business. Adam wouldn’t put himself in the weaker position by asking, and only a fool would provoke them by demanding answers.

Good thing Larry’s not here. The stray thought would have earned a smile under any other circumstance.

“Where’s your brother?” Murphy’s gaze slid to toward the corners of his eyes, as though expecting someone to sneak up on him.

Not a good beginning. He sure as shooting wasn’t about to tell two armed Specks he was the only grown Grogan around the place. Adam just raised a brow in wordless recrimination at the older man’s rudeness.

“What Pa means to say,” Elroy’s tone held a tinge of apology, though his stance in the saddle lost none of its steel, “is that Pete’s seen your brother on our land a few times this past week.”

“Oh?” I knew he’d been up to no good when he hadn’t been helping fertilize the fields. Something else stank. Adam’s jaw clenched.

“Some of our cattle have the bloat.” Murphy’s statement held accusation, though his words didn’t. The man walked a fine line.

“Ours, too.” Adam lifted his chin. “Must be a common cause.”

“Common cause or no, seemed maybe a reminder was in order.” Elroy’s level gaze held a deeper meaning.

His father wasn’t half so diplomatic. “The next time a Grogan steps foot on Speck land without express invitation, he won’t be walking away from it.”

Adam ignored the sharp drop in his stomach at the irrefutable proof tensions were wound tight enough to snap. “Good fences make good neighbors.” He gave Speck a curt nod.

“Fences and family, Grogan.” Murphy’s parting words came through loud and clear. “Watch yours a bit closer.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story...Preview

About the book:
An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."


Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.


Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.


About the author:
Mark L. Shurtleff attended Brigham Young University, University of Utah College of Law and University of San Diego School of Law. He lived in Peru for two years, absorbing the culture and living amongst the Peruvian people.

Mark began his legal career by serving four years in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), then was a lawyer in Southern California.

Mark was a Deputy County Attorney and a Commissioner of Salt Lake County. He then became an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Utah. He was elected Attorney General in November 2000, and was re-elected in November 2004 and again in November 2008. He is the first Attorney General in Utah to win re-election for a third term. Mark is currently running for the U.S. Senate against Senator Bob Bennett.

Mark is married with five children. He is an Eagle Scout, fluent in Spanish and "Am I Not a Man? The Dred Scott Story" is his first novel.

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Thanks to Tristi Pinkston of Valor Publishing Group for the opportunity to preview this book. You can learn more about Mark Shurtleff here and here. You can purchase your own copy here. To find out what other readers have said about this book, check out the other tour stops here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chocolate: A Love Story...Review

About the book:
With gigantic vats of churning chocolate, desserts like their famous chocolate pizza, and 12 varieties of hot chocolate served in custom mugs, Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man has turned their line of hip, colorful themed restaurants into an international sensation.

Chocolate: A Love Story is a vibrant new cookbook that includes 65 original recipes narrated in the quirky, captivating voice of Max Brenner, the restaurant's visionary founder and "bald man." Bold original illustrations inspired by Art Deco poster graphics, full-color photographs, easy-to-follow, delicious recipes, and a serving of Max's unique vision for spreading "chocolate culture" around the world make this book a must for every chocolate lover.

For all my love of chocolate, I was not familiar with Max Brenner before I received this book. And, it's a lovely book. All the recipes are rather avant-garde and fancy. No simple, everyday cakes or cookies here. Many recipes begin with a short anecdote from Max. In one, he's sitting outside a cafe in Paris; in another, he recalls a childhood experience at an amusement park.

While, technically, a cookbook with recipes, this is really more of coffee table art book. There are few photos of the finished recipes. The artwork is very retro 60s and is fascinating. While this isn't one that will most likely end up in my kitchen, it nevertheless would be a terrific book for any Max Brenner fan, or a true Chocolate connoisseur.

Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hatchette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Max Brenner here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 10/09

* * *
3/5 Stars