Everyday Tidbits...

The first day of school is always so bittersweet. Love being back on a schedule. Miss my boys.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Thorn...Review

About the book:
Three tribes are at war on the planet Gan, unaware that the sign of Christ’s birth on an unknown world--Earth--is about to appear in the heavens. During a bloody skirmish with Gideonite troops, Jonathan of Daniel spares Pekah, a young enemy soldier, gaining his trust forever. These two distant brothers from estranged tribes covenant with each other to end the war being waged by a self-proclaimed emperor, and soon discover the intentions of a far more dangerous foe named Rezon--a sinister general bent on ruling those he can bring into subjection and destroying all others. In the end, Pekah’s selfless bravery is the means by which all the tribes are united. But there are dissenters, and Rezon escapes a well-deserved fate. When the promised heavenly signs appear, will there be peace at last, or will the malefactors once again threaten the safety of them all?

I was not sure what to expect with this book when I received it and when I read through the glossary and cast of characters I was afraid there would be too many people to keep straight. I'm so glad to say that I was wrong about that. The premise is fascinating: that there are other people on other worlds who are also God's children and for whom Jesus Christ is their Savior. Much like those people of the scriptures, these people are also waiting for the Savior's birth.

The story flows well with excellent imagery and descriptions, as well as likeable characters. Faith and loyalty play a strong role as good triumphs over evil.

I was trying to explain the premise to my husband and while it's fictional, it has elements of science fiction and fantasy, but isn't a novel from either of those genres. I've seen it compared to Orson Scott Card and Narnia and I can agree with those comparisons. Those who enjoy scripture stories will enjoy this book with its battles and tribes, romance, prophecy and miracles. I look forward to the next one in the trilogy.

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

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure & Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country...Previews

About the book:
The hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people. Themes: survival, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, nature's wonders and terrors.



About the book:
The prehistoric saga continues in Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country, the sequel to the award winning Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure. In this story, Zan's troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land.

About the author:
ZAN-GAH author Allan Richard Shickman conceived Zan's adventure after thousands of miles of travel through mountains, deserts and forest land. The idea for this exciting story was born in a cave deep beneath the earth—in the company of hundreds of bats.

Allan is an artist, teacher, actor, author, historian, gardener, and former Boy Scout. He has published articles in The Art Bulletin, Art History, English Literary Renaissance, Studies in English Literature: 1500-1900, Notes and Queries, and Colby Quarterly. He was also Art and Music Bibliographer for Shakespeare Quarterly. He has had many letters in various newspapers, including a dozen in The New York Times. Allan taught the history of art at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades. He now lives and writes in St. Louis.

--------------------
Thanks to Bonnie Lenz of Earthshaker Books for the opportunity to preview these books. You can find out more about them here. Look for reviews by the boy to follow at a later date.  In the meantime, you can purchase your own copies here and here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How do you tuck in a Superhero?...Review

About the book:
When Rachel Balducci looks for material for her writing, she doesn't have to look far. Her subject matter can be found climbing through the window, hanging on to the edge of the roof, and always at the refrigerator. Here she chronicles the exuberant, awesome life of boys through conversations overheard, rules she's been forced to make, and the many episodes of boy behavior that continue to mystify mothers worldwide. From the care and feeding of her team, to travels out in public, to their wide-eyed adoration of Walker, Texas Ranger, this laugh-out-loud celebration joyfully explores the sweet and wild side of boyhood.


A lot of fun, both the book and the boys! I have two, very lively boys of my own and I grew up in a family of all girls. Boys are different, so very different!

This isn't a how to be a better parent book. It's a give yourself a break and laugh a little book. Rachel simply shares some delightful vignettes about her life raising boys. Some people will relate because they have many children, some will relate because they have boys, and some will relate simply because they know what it's like to be a parent. This is a short little book that can be read in one sitting, or it's something you can just pick up and read a bit or two.

It truly is a celebration of the joys of raising boys.

Available April 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Rachel Balducci here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi": The Origin of Foreign Words Used in English...Review

About the book:
Organized alphabetically for easy reference,
A Certain "Je Ne Sais Quoi" is an accessible lexicon of foreign words and phrases used in English, containing everything from aficionado (Spanish) to zeitgeist (German). Inside you'll find translations, definitions, origins, and a descriptive time line of each item's evolution. Entries include:

À la carte: from the card or of the menu (French)

Fiasco: complete failure (Italian)

Dungarees: thick cotton cloth/overalls (Hindi)

Diaspora: dispersion (Greek)

Smorgasbord: bread and butter (Swedish)

Cognoscenti: those who know (Italian)

Compos mentis: having mastery of one's mind; with it (Latin)


Attractively packaged with black and white illustrations, this whimsical yet authoritative book is a great gift for any etymologically fascinated individual. Use this book to reacquaint yourself with the English language, and you'll be compos mentis in no time.

A sheer delight. Like many readers, I love words. I love discovering the origins of words and phrases. Here, I discovered that the origin of paparazzi means mosquito. How appropriate is that? Or how we use the term Al Fresco to mean "in the fresh air" but in Italy it's slang for "in prison".

I was familiar with many of these words and phrases, but not how they came into such wide use. This is one of those fun books that you can just pick up on a whim and entertain yourself. It's a fast, easy read if you want to read it in one sitting. But, I see it placed on a shelf or end table for someone to pick up and peruse for an enlightening few minutes.

Thanks to Julie Harabedian at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Monday, April 26, 2010

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy...Review

About the book:
In this inspiring new book, Lidia Bastianich awakens in us a new respect for food and for the people who produce it in the little-known parts of Italy that she explores. All of the recipes reflect the regions from which they spring, and in translating them to our home kitchens, Lidia passes on time-honored techniques and wonderful, uncomplicated recipes for dishes bursting with different regional flavors -- the kind of elemental, good family cooking that is particularly appreciated today.

Penetrating the heart of Italy -- starting at the north, working down to the tip, and ending in Sardinia -- Lidia unearths a wealth of recipes:

  • From Trentino-Alto Adige: Delicious Dumplings with Speck (cured pork); apples accenting soup, pasta, salsa, and salad; local beer used to roast a chicken and to braise beef
  • From Lombardy: A world of rice -- baked in a frittata, with lentils, with butternut squash, with gorgonzola, with eggs and cheese, and the special treat of Risotto Milan-Style with Marrow and Saffron
  • From Valle D'Aosta: Polenta with Black Beans and Kale, and local fontina featured in fondue, in a roasted pepper salad, and embedded in veal chops
  • From Liguria: An array of Stuffed Vegetables, a bread salad, and elegant Veal Stuffed with a Mosaic of Vegetables
  • From Emilia-Romagna: An olive oil dough for making the traditional, versatile vegetable tart erbazzone, as well as the secrets of making tagliatelle and other pasta doughs, and an irresistible Veal Scaloppine Bolognese
  • From Le Marche: Farro with Roasted Pepper Sauce, Lamb Chunks with Olives, and Stuffed Quail in Parchment
  • From Umbria: A taste of the sweet Norcino black truffle, and seductive dishes such as Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils, Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes, and Chocolate Bread Parfait
  • From Abruzzo: Fresh scrippelle (crêpe) ribbons baked with spinach or garnishing a soup, fresh pasta made with a "guitar," Rabbit with Onions, and Lamb Chops with Olives
  • From Molise: Fried Ricotta; homemade cavatelli pasta in a variety of ways; Spaghetti with Calamari, Shrimp, and Scallops; and Braised Octopus
  • From Basilicata: Wedding Soup, Fiery Maccheroni, and Farro with Pork Ragù
  • From Calabria: Shepherd's Rigatoni, steamed swordfish, and Almond Biscottini
  • From Sardinia: Flatbread Lasagna, two lovely eggplant dishes, and Roast Lobster with Bread Crumb Topping
This is just a sampling of the many delight Lidia has uncovered. All the recipes she shares with us in this rich feast of a book represent the work of the local people and friends with whom she made intimate contact -- the farmers, shepherds, foragers, and artisans who produce regional cheeses, meats, olive oils, and wines. And in addition, her daughter, Tanya, takes us on side trips in each of the twelve regions to share her love of the country and its art.

I don't regularly watch cooking shows, but I love Lidia's show when I can catch it on PBS. She's an absolute delight to watch, and her cookbook is just as great. I love this book as much for the commentary as I do the recipes.

I have so many of them marked, it's going to take me awhile to get through all of them. But, my mouth waters just reading them. I love that each region is high-lighted, not only with recipes, but with lovely commentary about the area and the people. And each recipe isn't just written out with ingredients and instructions; Lidia shares definitions, explanations and anecdotes about how a dish or ingredient came to be created or used.

Like I do with every cookbook, I wish this had a photo for every recipe, but this is a lovely book, perfect for any cook who wants to learn a more authentic Italian way of cooking, and it would make a gorgeous gift. My first recipe: Spaghetti in Tomato-Apple Sauce, followed by Baked Penne & Mushrooms, followed by Almond Torta with Chocolate Chips, followed by Fresh Cavatelli with Eggs & Bacon, followed by...

Thanks to Caitlin Price of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Lidia here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Glaen...Review

About the book:
Annie is a college grad-student who is stumped about love. Her mom and dad are in the throes of a divorce, her teenage sister is obsessed with how her boyfriend makes her look, and her closest friend Jennah is on a continual ride of running off every guy she dates.

Friendships, dating, romance, and marriage; it's all confusing to Annie until the day a white-haired stranger appears in her life. Glaen is an unusual professor with an unusual name. Her white-haired unconventional mentor guides Annie on a path of discovery that unlocks the secrets of real relationships in a world gone phony. By abandoning herself to learn, Annie discovers the mystifying affect of how learning to tell the truth changes everything in friendship, family, and love.

The solutions Dr. Lybrand offers in this book will astound and free you to quit doing the very things that take away your ability to find the love and friendship you want. More importantly, you'll discover a fresh path to the possibility of greater connections with those you care most about. You'll want everyone you love to read this book...twice!


I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Was it a self-help book? Was it a novel? I discovered that it's a bit of both. Wanting to write a book about real relationships, Annie finds herself the only student in an odd class with an interesting professor. As the course unfolds, and using biblical principles and scripture, Glaen mentors and guides Annie to important ideas, questions and answers to age old questions about dating and marriage. As Annie does a lot of observing of singles and couples, she discovers questions, lies and subsequent truths, all of which can cause honest, thought-provoking reactions to a reader.

While the ending is a bit contrived, I think there is something for everyone in this little story, whether you're single and dating or married. It's a fairly short book, but I think there are layers that will come out each time you read it.

Thanks to Audra Jennings at
The B&B Media Group and for the opportunity to tour this book. You can learn more about Fred Lybrand and the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Gift of an Ordinary Day...Review...DNF

About the book:
The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers--holding on, letting go.

Poised on the threshold between family life as she's always known it and her older son's departure for college, Kenison is surprised to find that the times she treasures most are the ordinary, unremarkable moments of everyday life, the very moments that she once took for granted, or rushed right through without noticing at all.

The relationships, hopes, and dreams that Kenison illuminates will touch women's hearts, and her words will inspire mothers everywhere as they try to make peace with the inevitable changes in store.

This was one I really looked forward to reading. It sounds like something I normally would enjoy. However, I've gone back to it several times over the past couple of months and I just can't get into it. There were bits of wisdom and insight here and there, but it's just not a book I connected with. The writing is good, but circuitous and rambling. Perhaps my children are too young, perhaps it's just me and where I am in life. I don't know. There are many other good reviews out there, and I have no doubt that many women will find this inspirational and uplifting.

Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hatchette Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Katrina Kenison here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 3/10


1/5 Stars


Friday, April 23, 2010

Hiking Through...Review

About the book:
After losing his wife to breast cancer, Paul Stutzman decided to make some big changes. He quit his job of seventeen years and embarked upon a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,176-mile stretch of varying terrain spanning fourteen states. During his nearly five-month-long hike, he battled brutal trail conditions and overwhelming loneliness, but also enjoyed spectacular scenery and trail camaraderie. With breathtaking descriptions and humorous anecdotes from his travels, Stutzman reveals how immersing himself in nature and befriending fellow hikers helped him recover from a devastating loss. Somewhere between Georgia and Maine, he realized that God had been with him every step of the way, and on a famous path through the wilderness, he found his own path to peace and freedom.


Normally when I discover that a book has no negative reviews, I'm very skeptical. I know how unrealistic it is to think that every reader will adore every book the same way. When it comes to Hiking Through, however, I can understand why every review I've seen, so far, has been 4 or 5 stars. It's terrific.

I'm not an outdoorsy person. I hate camping and I hyperventilate at the thought of aerobic exercise, although I do enjoy walking. I've done, and mostly enjoyed, short hikes here and there over the course of my life, and I walked all over Rome and Florence and Paris, but I cannot fathom hiking 2,220 arduous miles over mountainous terrain. Yet, Paul's account of his experience hiking the Appalachian Trail makes me want to go hiking myself. (My boys will be so happy!)

I could not put this book down. To say it was engrossing is an understatement. It was absolutely enthralling. Reading Hiking Through was like sitting with Paul and listening to him tell his story. He's a captivating, articulate, storyteller and his writing style is easy and comfortable. There are no pretenses, no airs. He's straight-forward about his experiences, he's honest in sharing his grief over losing his wife, he's open about his faith in God, and he paints a fascinating picture with his words. I enjoyed his ability to weave his life experiences into the account; they weren't digressions, they were natural additions to the flow of the story.

Paul is honest about his regrets and realization that he needed something to help him move past his grief and find himself and his purpose again. On the trail, he realized that his purpose is to share his story and to remind people that God is very much aware of them and not to take their wives and families for granted. This is such an important message and one that is easy to overlook.

I loved the commentary, I loved the descriptions. I found hope in so many ways, one of which was in the assurance that there are so many, many good people in this world and that when we judge others from appearance or first impressions, we often miss the opportunity to know wonderful, kind people. Paul shares his experiences with those he met and traveled with on the trail, their camaraderie and friendship, and the joy in finding trail magic. I think that if we could apply the concept of trail magic and helping others, into our own lives, we would be so much richer and happier.

I wish that I'd read this with a high-lighter. There were so many times I read a passage or thought that I wanted to mark and remember. I know that I will definitely reread this and next time I will have that high-lighter handy. I just have to wait until my 11-year old son finishes reading it first!

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Paul V. Stutzman here. You can find additional tour stops and reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show...Review..DNF

About the book:
“She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then smiled and took a bow.” And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of Ireland and Shannon.

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.

Interweaving historical figures including W. B. Yeats, and a host of unforgettable creations—“King” Kelly, Venetia’s violent, Mephistophelean grandfather; Sarah Kelly, Venetia’s mysterious, amoral mother; and even a truth-telling ventriloquist’s dummy named Blarney—Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous, eventful decade.

Teeming with intrigue, pathos, and humor, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show explores two of Ireland’s great national passions: theater and politics. Writing with his signature mastery and lyrical prose, Frank Delaney once again delivers an unforgettable story as big and boisterous as the people and events it chronicles.

Another one where my review is in the minority!

I really struggled with this one. I made it well over half way through the book. I just couldn't finish it. I think that Frank Delaney is probably a terrific storyteller, and I love a great story. His prose is certainly lyrical and definitely Irish, which is normally something I enjoy reading. But, ultimately here, I didn't care for the characters. The set up for this story took too long and there were lots of characters to keep track of and way too many politics. All of his digressions, which many people loved, I found annoying. I wanted to find out what happened next, but unfortunately the rambling, circuitous route it took to get there was just a bit too windy for me.

There are certainly many glowing reviews out there for this book, and if you've enjoyed Frank Delaney in the past, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one too. I had great expectations for this one, but unfortunately it didn't move me enough to warrant finishing it.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Frank Delaney here. You can check out more reviews/stops on the blog tour here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read (DNF) 4/10

* * * *
1/5 Stars


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'll Know You By Heart...Review

About the book:
The day Stephanie Roberts met Jared Wakefield, she didn't realize they'd met before. Running from an abusive marriage and trying to safeguard her children, she turns to Jared for support, but he needs more from her than she might be capable of giving. With her abusive husband looming in her past, the difficulties they must overcome to be together seem insurmountable.
Is it possible for love to conquer all? I'll Know You By Heart is a timeless romance that explores the possibility that relationships span the entire realm of eternity. A story about abuse, hardship, and betrayal, it is ultimately a story about the healing power of everlasting true love.

Stephanie is leaving an abusive marriage and Jared is a recent widower whose wife died in an accident: an accident in which she was the drunk driver. As they each try and heal from their disastrous marriages, they form a friendship and fall in love. But, Stephanie's husband isn't about to let her go without a fight, one she may not survive.

This is quite the engaging story. I picked it up and read it in a couple of hours. Like many LDS stories this one wraps up neatly, but not so predictably as to be anti-climactic. I also liked the fact that while it wasn't overly preachy it also explored the notion that relationships are eternal, both before and after this life on earth. Such a comforting thought.

Little inconsistencies popped up here and there, and at times both Jared and Stephanie seemed a little too perfect, but this is a compelling story. There's a ring of truth to it, and I applaud Kimberly and the way she has portrayed what is a sad reality in our world: that far too many women suffer in abusive marriages.

A terrific debut novel that I can easily recommend. I look forward to reading more from Kimberly Job.

Thanks to Valor Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kimberly Job here here. You can purchase your own copy here and here.  To find out what other readers have said about this book, check out the other tour stops here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Good Medicine...Review

About the book:
Attain a Healthier You-Naturally-With this Breakthrough and Doctor-Proven Guide
Filled with the latest thinking on traditional, holistic and alternative care, Good Medicine: A Return to Common Sense represents a sea change in approaching illness and attaining optimal health. This authoritative and easy-to-understand book from renowned Dr. Carol L. Roberts offers a new perspective on how human beings are put together, integrating the physical body and the spirit within. Comprehensive chapters on nutrition, digestion, toxins, heart health and even sex make it easy to customize your own wellness plan. You'll learn:
  • How to break the habit of foods that can literally kill you, and replace them with nutrient-rich superfoods (it's easier than you think)
  • Why your digestive system is the gateway to optimal health, and how to give it a preventive tune-up
  • The man-made toxins that are causing millions to suffer from diseases like asthma and liver damage, and how to get them out of your life
  • Secrets to boosting energy and sexual performance that don't require an expensive prescription
  • -Straight talk on vitamins-what works, why, and how much you should (or shouldn't) be taking
  • Why spirituality is as important as traditional medicine, and how to implement the right balance in your own wellness goals
If you're tired of being sick, tired of taking expensive drugs-or just plain tired-this book will show you how to shape your well being with proven, practical techniques.

This would be a great book for someone who is just getting interested in holistic, alternative healing. Dr. Roberts provides a terrific base from which to start and gives us a basic understanding of the human body and not only how it works, but how it responds to both good and poor care. Good health habits and food choices are important in staying healthy and that is reiterated here.

Dr. Roberts really advocates making wise choices in our health care and discusses different forms of alternative healing and provides additional resources and recommended reading.

I firmly believe that all medicine needs to work together. I don't think that Western medicine has all the answers, just as I don't think that holistic remedies work for every condition. For instance, my husband is a chiropractor, but our son has a cardiologist. However, for someone who is interested in holistic alternatives, this is a wonderful starting point.

Thanks to the author and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Carol Roberts, M.D. here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Monday, April 19, 2010

In Harm's Way...Review

About the book:
FBI special agent Nick Bradley has seen his share of kooks during his fifteen years with the Bureau. But Rachel Sutton is an enigma. She seems normal when she shows up at the FBI office in St. Louis--until she produces a tattered Raggedy Ann doll she found and tells him she thinks something is wrong because of a strange feeling of terror it gives her when she touches it. Nick dismisses her, only to stumble across a link between the doll and an abducted child, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers startling connections--and puts Rachel's life on the line. Filled with palpable suspense and a touch of romance, In Harm's Way is the final installment of the thrilling Heroes of Quantico series.

The third and final book in the Heroes of Quantico series, I think this one was my favorite. When Rachel shows up in his office with an account of her strange experience with a worn, lost doll she found in a parking lot, Nick is ready to dismiss her. But, something stops him and he listens. From that point, the ride is thrilling and suspenseful. Rachel and Nick are likeable, endearing characters you care about. Coop and Mark, the other Heroes of Quantico appear and aid Nick in his search for answers.

Like the others, I read it in an evening. It's fast-paced, thrilling and not completely predictable. Irene's gift of character repartee and conversation is again apparent. Nick is a strong Christian and Rachel, not so much, although she finds her faith renewed. A terrific conclusion to the trilogy and definitely recommended. Each book stands alone, although reading them in order does bring a extra depth of understanding.

Available April 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Irene Hannon here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plain Paradise...Review

About the book:
Linda's Amish life seemed like paradise. Until she found out her family had been hiding a secret since the day of her birth.

Josie was just a frightened teenager when she left her baby in the care of an Old Order Amish couple in Lancaster County. Since then, seventeen years have passed and while much has changed, one thing hasn't. Josie still longs to reconnect with her daughter Linda.

But Linda is unaware of Josie--and living an idyllic life within the Amish community. The bishop's grandson, Stephen, is courting her and she hopes that he will propose soon. When her birth mother comes to Paradise, Linda finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Josie's world. Meanwhile, her adoptive parents--and her Amish beau--are trying to understand how this interruption in Linda's life could possibly be God's will.

As new relationships begin and old ones are tested, no one's life will remain the same. In the process of losing and letting go--Linda realizes whose daughter she really is. And as only God can do, something more powerful and far more beautiful is forged within the Daughters of the Promise community...hope.

I haven't read Beth Wiseman before and this is the fourth installment in her Daughters of Promise series. While it can stand alone, I think it would be better for a reader to have read the previous books. There are many characters who are apparently recurring from the earlier books and their appearance would have more impact if one understood their significance to Linda and her family.

I normally enjoy Amish fiction, but there wasn't much about this book that stood out or was special. Even though it touches upon serious subjects like adoption and cancer, it was light reading. In short, if you've read Beth Wiseman before and liked her, you will most likely enjoy this book as well.

Thanks to the Thomas Nelson Book Blogger program for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here.  You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 4/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show...Preview

About the book:
“She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then smiled and took a bow.” And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of Ireland and Shannon.

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.

Interweaving historical figures including W. B. Yeats, and a host of unforgettable creations—“King” Kelly, Venetia’s violent, Mephistophelean grandfather; Sarah Kelly, Venetia’s mysterious, amoral mother; and even a truth-telling ventriloquist’s dummy named Blarney—Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous, eventful decade.

Teeming with intrigue, pathos, and humor, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show explores two of Ireland’s great national passions: theater and politics. Writing with his signature mastery and lyrical prose, Frank Delaney once again delivers an unforgettable story as big and boisterous as the people and events it chronicles.

About the author:
Frank Delaney is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels “Ireland,” “Tipperary,” as well as “Simple Courage: The Story of S.S. Flying Enterprise,” which was named one of the 10 best books of 2006 by the American Library Association. His novel “Shannon” (Random House, March 2009) tells the story of a young and once-brilliant American chaplain, shell-shocked in World War One, who travels in search of his family roots. His next book, “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show,” will be released February 2010. A former judge of the Booker Prize, Delaney enjoyed a prominent career in BBC broadcasting before becoming a full-time writer. He was born in Tipperary, Ireland, and now lives in New York and Connecticut with his wife, Diane Meier.

-------------------------------------------
Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to preview this book. You can learn more about Frank Delaney here. You can check out more reviews/stops on the blog tour here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Look for my review to follow at a later time. I haven't finished it yet!

A Stranger's Wish...Review

About the book:
Englischer Kristie Matthews’ move to an Amish family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, starts on a bad note as the young schoolteacher is bitten by a dog. A trip to the local ER leads to an encounter with an old man who hands her a key and swears her to silence.

But when Kristie’s life is endangered, she suspects there’s a connection to the mysterious key. While solving the mystery (and staying alive), Kristie must decide whether her lawyer boyfriend, Todd Reasoner, is really right for her....or if Jon Clarke Griffin, the new local man she’s met, is all he seems to be.

Mystery, romance, and a beautiful Amish settling....just the thing readers are clamoring for.

A bit different take on traditional Amish stories, this was a fast, easy read. While I found much of the premise implausible, this was still an appealing story. I would have thought that Kristie could have made connections between the robbery/attacks sooner, and I kept wondering why she never reported any of it to the police. Her new boyfriend, however, saves the day in true heroic fashion.

I would have loved more character development but these characters still kind of grow on you. What I did enjoy were the conversations, especially between Kristie and Jake, the disabled son of the Amish family with whom she boarded. The discussions about the differences between the Amish faith and Christianity were fascinating.

A light, escapist read. Easily recommended. This is a reprint/update of The Key, originally published in 1998.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Gayle Roper here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


A Stranger's Wish...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:


A Stranger's Wish (The Amish Farm Trilogy)

Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to David P. Bartlett - Print & Internet Publicist - Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Gayle Roper is the award-winning author of more than forty books and has been a Christy finalist three times. Gayle enjoys speaking at women’s events across the nation and loves sharing the powerful truths of Scripture with humor and practicality. She lives with her husband in southeastern Pennsylvania where Gayle enjoys reading, gardening, and her family.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925864
ISBN-13: 978-0736925860

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Secret Holocaust Diaries...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 Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister

Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Nonna Bannister was a young girl when World War II broke into her happy life. She went from an idyllic early-twentieth-century Russian childhood, full of love and comforts, to the life of a prisoner working in labor camps—though she was not a Jew—eventually bereft of her entire family. But she survived the war armed with the faith in God her grandmother taught her and a readiness to start a new life. She immigrated to America, married, and started a family, keeping her past secret from everyone. Though she had carried from Germany the scraps of a diary and various photographs and other memorabilia, she kept it all hidden and would only take it out, years later, to translate and expand her writings. After decades of marriage, Nonna finally shared her secret with her husband . . . and now he is sharing it with the world. Nonna died on August 15, 2004.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414325479
ISBN-13: 978-1414325477

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Friday, April 9, 2010

Secret Sisters...Review

About the book:
Ida Mae Babbitt, president of the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society, didn't mean to become a spy. But when visiting teaching stats are low and she learns that one family under her care is in financial trouble, she'll do whatever it takes to make sure they have what they need. If that includes planting surveillance cameras in their home and watching them from a parked car in the woods, well, isn't that what any caring Relief Society president would do?


With the help of her counselors Arlette and Tansy, Ida Mae soon learns that there's more to the situation than meets the eye. It's all in a day's work for the Relief Society.

I love books that make me laugh out loud and Secret Sisters does just that. Hysterically funny, this is story that gives new meaning to the phrase, Relief Society Presidency. Ida Mae, genuinely concerned about the welfare of a young family in her ward, finds herself on a stakeout in the woods with her nephew, Ren, and her Relief Society counselors Arlette and Tansy. Ren has a penchant for designing/inventing spyware and Ida Mae finds herself caught up in his enthusiasm. Soon, she is placing a surveillance camera designed as a refrigerator magnet and planting bugs.

As the story unfolds however, Ida Mae discovers that there is more to the situation than simple financial troubles, and she and the other sisters find themselves caught in a wave of intrigue and investigation.

With quirky characters and a completely implausible premise, it's a perfect escape book and one you won't want to put down. It's also a terrific, if unorthodox look into the inner workings of an LDS Relief Society! I'm anxious for the next book in the series.

Thanks to Tristi Pinkston and Valor Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Tristi Pinkston 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.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Secret Sisters...Preview

About the book:
Ida Mae Babbitt, president of the Omni 2nd Ward Relief Society, didn't mean to become a spy. But when visiting teaching stats are low and she learns that one family under her care is in financial trouble, she'll do whatever it takes to make sure they have what they need. If that includes planting surveillance cameras in their home and watching them from a parked car in the woods, well, isn't that what any caring Relief Society president would do?
With the help of her counselors Arlette and Tansy, Ida Mae soon learns that there's more to the situation than meets the eye. It's all in a day's work for the Relief Society.

About the author:
Tristi Pinkston
is a stay-at-home mom, homeschooler, media reviewer, obsessive blogger, editor, author, and headless chicken. She's married to her first and only boyfriend, Matt Pinkston, and together they have four adorable children--Caryn, Ammon, Joseph, and Benjamin.

Tristi is a regularly featured presenter at the annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference and enjoys helping others learn how to fine-tune their writing skills. She also gives presentations on literacy, the Hole in the Rock pioneers, and the importance of honoring the talents you've been given. Tristi is the author of three historical fiction novels and one contemporary mystery.

-------------------------------------------
Thanks to Tristi Pinkston and Valor Publishing Group for the opportunity to preview this book. You can learn more about Tristi Pinkston 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.

**Edited to add: You can read my review here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Disaster Status...Review

About the book:
Charge nurse Erin Quinn escaped personal turmoil to work on the peaceful California coast. But when a hazardous material spill places Pacific Mercy Hospital on disaster status and stresses staff, she’s put to the test. And thrown into conflict with the fire department’s handsome incident commander, who thinks her strategy is out of line. Fire Captain Scott McKenna has felt the toxic effects of tragedy; he’s learned to go strictly by the book to advance his career, heal his family, and protect his wounded heart. When he’s forced to team with the passionately determined ER charge nurse, sparks fly. As they work to save lives, can they handle the attraction kindled between them . . . without getting burned?

Erin and Scott each have their own set of baggage to bring to their new relationship and, predictably, work through that baggage. What I appreciated was the realistic portrayal of very human feelings. Erin can't forgive her father and Scott has lost his faith in God, after the tragic deaths of his father and sister. As in most Christian fiction, lost faith is rediscovered and relationships mended.

Candace's knowledge and experience of the inner workings of an ER and hospital are apparent and I found the portrayal of the effects of a hazardous material spill particularly fascinating.

The second in the Mercy Hospital series, this one stands alone well. Erin has a minor role in the first book and references are made to Claire, the heroine of that book, but it's not necessary to have read the first one before reading this one.

Another light, easy and enjoyable read from Candace Calvert.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Mavis Sanders of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for the opportunity to review this book. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Disaster Status...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:


Disaster Status (Book #2 in Mercy Hospital series)

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Mavis Sanders of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Candace Calvert is an ER nurse who landed on the "other side of the stethoscope" after the equestrian accident that broke her neck and convinced her that love, laughter—and faith—are the very best medicines of all. The inspirational account of her accident and recovery appears in Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul and launched her writing career. The author of a madcap cruise mystery series in the secular market, Candace now eagerly follows her heart to write Christian fiction for Tyndale House. Her new medical drama series, launched with Critical Care in 2009, offers readers a chance to "scrub in" on the exciting world of emergency medicine, along with charismatic characters, pulse-pounding action, tender romance, humor, suspense—and a soul-soothing prescription for hope. Born in northern California and the mother of two, Candace now lives in the Hill Country of Texas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414325444
ISBN-13: 978-1414325446

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Fire captain Scott McKenna bolted through the doors of Pacific Mercy ER, his boots thudding and heart pounding as the unconscious child began to stiffen and jerk in his arms. He cradled her close as her small spine arched and her head thumped over and over against his chest. “Need help here. Seizure!”

“This way.” A staff person beckoned. “The code room. Someone page respiratory therapy stat!”

Scott jogged behind a trio of staff in green scrubs to a glassed-in room, laid the child on a gurney, and stepped back, his breath escaping in a rush of relief. He swiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead and tried to catch a glimpse of the girl’s face. He’d swept her up too fast to get a good look at her. Now, with merciful distance, Scott’s heart tugged. Six or seven years old with long black braids, frilly clusters of hair ribbons, little hoop earrings, she looked disturbingly pale despite her olive skin. Her dark eyes rolled upward, unfocused, as the ER team closed in to suction her airway, start oxygen, and cut away her flowered top and pants.

The alarms of the cardiac monitor beeped as a technician attached gelled electrodes to her tiny chest. Thankfully, the seizure ended, although saliva—foamy as a salted garden snail—still bubbled from her parted lips.

Scott inhaled slowly, the air a sour mix of illness, germicidal soap, and anxious perspiration. He thought of his nephew, Cody, lying in a pediatrics bed two floors above.

The ER physician, a vaguely familiar woman, gestured to a nurse. “Get an IV and pull me some labs. I’ll need a quick glucose check and a rectal temp. Let’s keep lorazepam handy in case she starts up again. What’s her O2 saturation?”

“It’s 98 percent on the non-rebreather mask, Dr. Stathos.”

Leigh Stathos. Golden Gate Mercy Hospital. Scott nodded, recognizing her—and the irony. She left San Francisco. I’ve applied for a job there . . . and everywhere else.

“Good. Now let’s see if I can get a medic report.” Dr. Stathos whirled to face Scott, her expression indicating she was trying to place him as well. Her gaze flickered to his badge. “Oh yes. McKenna. Didn’t recognize you for a second there. So what’s the history? And where’s the rest of your crew? Are they sending you guys out solo now?”

“No. But no crew. And no report. I was here as a visitor, until some guy waved me down in the parking lot. I took one look at this girl and decided to scoop and run.” Scott nodded toward a woman crying near the doorway. “That could be family. They were in the truck with her.”

“Seizure history?”

“Don’t know. My Spanish isn’t the best. I think they said ‘sick’ and ‘vomiting,’ but—”

One of the nurses called out for the doctor. “She’s starting to twitch again. IV’s in, and the blood glucose is good at 84. No fever. How much lorazepam are you going to want? She weighs about 20 kilos.”

Dr. Stathos moved back to the gurney. “We’ll start with one milligram slowly. But let me get a look at her first, listen to her lungs, and check her eyes.” She looked up as a blonde nurse appeared in the doorway. “Yes, Sandy?”

“Sorry, Doctor. I couldn’t get much, but her name’s Ana Galvez. Six years old. No meds, no allergies, and no prior seizure history. I think. There’s a language barrier, and I don’t have an official interpreter yet. But thought you should know I’ve got a dozen more people signing in for triage, all with gastric complaints and headaches. The parking lot’s full of farm trucks, and—” She stopped as the child began a second full-blown seizure.

Two respiratory therapists rushed through the doorway.

Scott tensed. A dozen more patients? Then his Spanish was good enough to have understood one last thing the terrified family had said before he took off running with their child: “Hay muchos más enfermos”—There are many more sick people.

He glanced back at the child convulsing on the gurney. What was going on?

+++

Muscle it. Punch through it. Control it. Be bigger than the bag.

Erin Quinn’s fist connected in one last spectacular, round-winning right hook, slamming the vinyl speed bag against the adjacent wall. And causing a tsunami in her grandmother’s goldfish tank. Water sluiced over the side.

“Whoa! Hang on, buddy. I’ve got you.” She dropped to her knees, steadying the tank with her red leather gloves. Everything she’d done in the last six months was focused on keeping Iris Quinn safe, secure, and happy, and now she’d nearly KO’d the woman’s only pet.

Erin watched the bug-eyed goldfish’s attempts to ride out the wave action. She knew exactly how he felt. Her own situation was equally unsettling: thirty-one and living with her grandmother and a geriatric goldfish named Elmer Fudd in a five-hundred-square-foot beach house. With two mortgages and a stubborn case of shower mold. She caught a whiff of her latest futile bout with bleach and grimaced.

But moving back to Pacific Point was the best option for her widowed grandmother, emotionally as well as financially. Erin was convinced of that, even if her grandmother was still skeptical . . . and the rest of the family dead set against it. Regardless, Erin was determined to put the feisty spark back in Nana’s eyes, and she had found the change surprisingly good for herself as well. After last year’s frustrating heartaches, being back in a house filled with warm memories felt a lot like coming home. She needed that more than she’d known.

Erin tugged at a long strand of her coppery hair and smiled. The fact that her grandmother was down at the chamber of commerce to inquire about volunteer work was proof they were finally on the right track. Meanwhile, she had the entire day off from the hospital. March sunshine; capris instead of nursing scrubs; time to catch up with her online course work, jog on the beach, and dawdle at the fish market with her grandmother.

She turned at the sound of her cell phone’s Rocky theme ring tone, then struggled, teeth against laces, to remove a glove in time to answer.

She grabbed the phone and immediately wished she hadn’t. The caller display read Pacific Mercy ER. “Yes?”

“Ah, great. We caught you.”

“Not really,” Erin said, recognizing the relief charge nurse’s voice and glancing hopefully toward the door. “In fact, I was just heading out.”

“Dr. Stathos said she’s sorry, but she needs you here. Stat. We’ve got kind of a mess.”

Mess? Erin’s breath escaped like a punctured balloon. In the ER, a mess could mean anything. All of it bad. She’d heard the TV news reports of a single-engine plane crash early this morning, but the pilot had been pronounced dead on the scene, and there were no other victims. The hospital shouldn’t be affected. Then . . . “What’s going on?”

“Eighteen sick farm workers,” the nurse explained, raising her voice over a cacophony of background noise. “Maybe a few more now; they keep coming in. We’re running out of gurneys, even in the hallway.”

“Sick with what?” Erin asked. The sheer number of patients qualified as a multicasualty disaster, but only if it were a motor vehicle accident, an explosion, or a similar tragedy.

“Dr. Stathos isn’t sure. But she’s thinking maybe food poisoning. They’re all from the same ranch. Everyone’s vomiting, and—”

“It’s a real mess,” Erin finished, sighing. “I got that part. But how come the ambulances are bringing them all to us? Dispatch should be sending some to Monterey.”

“They’re not in ambulances. They’re arriving in work vehicles. A couple of guys were even sprawled out on a flatbed truck. They’re lucky no one rolled onto the highway. The police are at the ranch investigating, but meanwhile we’re overwhelmed. And of course the media got wind of it, so now we have reporters showing up. You know how aggressive they get. I’m sorry, but I feel like I’m in over my head with this whole thing.”

The nurse was new at taking charge, and Erin remembered how scary that felt when things went south in the ER. Monday shifts were usually fairly tame, but this sounded like . . . “Tell the nursing supervisor I’m on my way in and that we’ll probably need to go on disaster status and . . . Hold on a second, would you?” She yanked off her other glove and strode, phone to her ear, toward the miniscule closet she shared with her grandmother. “Close the clinic and use that for overflow. Get security down there to help control things, the chaplain too. And see if the fire department can spare us some manpower.”

Erin pulled a set of camouflage-print scrubs from a hanger, then began peeling off her bike shorts with one hand. “I’ll get there as soon as I can. Just need to take a quick shower and leave my grandmother a note.” And kiss my free day good-bye?

No, she wasn’t going to think that way. As a full-time charge nurse, the welfare of the ER staff was a huge priority. Besides, Leigh Stathos wouldn’t haul her in on her day off if it weren’t important. Erin had dealt with far worse things. Like that explosion at the day care center near Sierra Mercy Hospital last year. In comparison, food poisoning wasn’t such a big deal, even two dozen cases. Messy, yes. Life-altering, no. Central service would find more basins, she’d help start a few IVs, they’d give nausea meds and plenty of TLC, and they’d get it all under control.

“No problemo,” she murmured as she hung up, then realized the inarticulate phrase was pretty much the extent of her Spanish. She made a mental note to be sure they had enough interpreters. Interpreters, basins, more manpower, and a full measure of TLC to patients—and her staff. That should do it.

Ten minutes later she snagged an apple for the road, wrote Nana a note, and stowed her boxing gloves on the rack beneath the TV. She wouldn’t need battle gear for this extra stint in the ER. And then she’d be back home. In a couple of hours, tops.

+++

When Erin turned in to the hospital parking lot, she realized she’d forgotten her name badge. Good thing security knew her. Her eyes widened as she approached the ambulance entrance. She braked to a stop, her mouth dropping open as she surveyed the scene at the emergency department’s back doors: four dusty and battered trucks—one indeed a flatbed—at least three news vans, a fire truck, an ambulance, and several police cars. She quickly put the Subaru in park, then opened her door and squinted up at the sky. Oh, c’mon, was that a helicopter? A plane crash wasn’t big enough news today?

Several nurses stood outside the doors holding clipboards and dispensing yellow plastic emesis basins to a restless line of a least a dozen patients in long sleeves, heavy trousers, and work boots. Including one elderly man who seemed unsteady on his feet as he mopped his forehead with a faded bandanna. A young uniformed firefighter paramedic, the husband of their ER triage nurse, was also helping out. Good, Erin’s request for extra manpower had been accepted.

Reporters in crisp khakis and well-cut jackets leaned across what appeared to be a hastily erected rope-and-sawhorse barricade. It was manned by a firefighter in a smoke-stained turnout jacket with the broadest shoulders she’d ever seen. And an expression as stony as Rushmore.

Erin locked the car, grabbed her tote bag, and jogged into the wind toward the barricade, trying to place the daunting firefighter. Tall, with close-cropped blond hair, a sturdy jaw, and a rugged profile. He turned, arms crossed, to talk with someone across the barricade, so she couldn’t see all of his face. But he wasn’t a full-time medic; she knew them all. An engine company volunteer? Maybe, but she hadn’t met him. She was sure of that. Because, even from what little she’d seen, this man would have been memorable. Her face warmed ridiculously as she slowed to a walk.

But her growing curiosity about his identity was a moot point. There wasn’t time for that now. She needed to slip between those sawhorses, hustle into the ER, touch base with the relief charge nurse, brainstorm with Leigh Stathos, and see what she could do to help straighten out this mess.

Erin stopped short as the big firefighter turned abruptly, blocking her way. “Excuse me,” she said, sweeping wind-tossed hair from her face as she peered up at him. Gray. His eyes were granite gray. “I need to get past you. Thanks. Appreciate it.” She attempted to squeeze by him, catching a faint whiff of citrusy cologne . . . mixed with smoke.

“Don’t thank me. And stop right where you are.” He stepped in front of her, halting her in her tracks. There was the slightest twitch at the corner of his mouth. Not a smile. He crossed his arms again. “No one can come through here. Those are the rules. And I go by the book. Sorry.”

By the book? As if she didn’t have policies to follow? Erin forced herself to take a deep breath. Lord, show me the humor in this. Called to work on her day off and then denied access. It was funny if you thought about it. She tried to smile and managed a pinched grimace. This was about as funny as the mold in her shower. She met his gaze, noticing that he had a small scar just below his lower lip. Probably from somebody’s fist.

“I work here, Captain . . . McKenna,” Erin explained, reading the name stenciled on his jacket. “In fact—” she patted the left breast pocket of her scrubs, then remembered her missing name badge—“I’m the day-shift charge nurse. But I forgot my badge.”

“I see,” he said, uncrossing his arms. He pointed toward the trio of reporters leaning over the barricade. “See that reporter over there—the tall woman with the microphone and bag of Doritos? Ten minutes ago she pulled a white coat out of one of those news vans and tried to tell me she was a doctor on her way to an emergency delivery. Premature twins.”

“But that’s unbelievable. That’s—”

“Exactly why I’m standing here,” the captain interrupted. “So without hospital ID or someone to corroborate, I can’t let you in.”

Her jaw tightened, and she glanced toward the ER doors. “One of your paramedics is back there somewhere; Chuck knows me. He’s married to my triage nurse. Find him and ask him.”

McKenna shook his head. “Can’t leave this spot.”

“Then call.” Erin pointed to the cell phone on his belt. “Better yet, ask for Dr. Leigh Stathos. Tell her I’m here. She’ll verify my identity. The number is—”

“I’ve got it,” he said, lifting his phone and watching her intently as he made an inquiry. He gave a short laugh. “Yes. A redhead in what looks like Army fatigues . . . Ah, let’s see . . . green eyes. And about—” his gaze moved discreetly over her—“maybe five foot nine?”

Erin narrowed her eyes. What was this, a lineup?

The captain lowered the phone. “Your name?”

“Erin Quinn,” she said, feeling like she should extend her hand or something. She resisted the impulse.

“Hmm. Yes,” he said into the phone. “I see. Okay, then.” He cleared his throat and disconnected the call.

She looked at him. “Did you get what you needed?”

“Well,” he said, reaching down to detach the rope from a sawhorse, “it seems you’re who you say you are. And that I shouldn’t expect a commendation for detaining you. Apparently it’s because of your request that I’m here. Not that I wanted to be. I still have men out on the plane crash, but . . .” He hesitated and then flashed the barest of smiles. Though fleeting, it transformed his face from Rushmore cold to almost human. “Go on inside, Erin Quinn. You’re late.” His expression returned to chiseled stone. “And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. But that’s the way this has to work.”

“No problemo.” Erin hitched her tote bag over her shoulder and stepped through the barricade. Then she turned back. “What’s your first name, McKenna?”

“Scott.”

She extended her hand and was surprised by the warmth of his. “Well, then. Good job, Scott. But going by the book isn’t always the bottom line. Try to develop a little trust, will you? We’re all on the same team.”

Twenty minutes later, Erin finished checking on her staff and rejoined Leigh Stathos in the code room. They both looked up as the housekeeping tech arrived at the doorway.

“You wanted these?” Sarge asked.

“Yes. Great. Thank you.” Erin nodded at the tall, fortysomething man wearing tan scrubs, his brown hair pulled back into a short ponytail and arms full of plastic emesis basins. “Put those in the utility room, would you? And I think we could use some extra sheets and gowns too. If you don’t mind.”

His intense eyes met hers for an instant before glancing down. “Yes, ma’am, double time.”

Erin smiled at Sarge’s familiar and somber half salute, then watched him march away, his powerful frame moving in an awkward hitch to accommodate his artificial leg. She returned her attention to Leigh and the dark-eyed child on the gurney beside them. The ventilator, overriding her natural breathing, whooshed at regular intervals, filling the girl’s lungs. “She had two seizures but none before today?”

“Looks that way.” The ER physician, her long mahogany hair swept back loosely into a clip, reached down and lifted the sheet covering the child. “But see how her muscles are still twitchy? And her pupils are constricted. I’ll be honest: I don’t like this. The only thing I know for sure is that the X-ray shows an aspiration pneumonia. Probably choked while vomiting on the truck ride in. I’ve started antibiotics. Art’s coming in,” she added, referring to the on-call pediatrician. “And I paged the public health officer.”

“Good.” Erin’s brows scrunched. It was puzzling; an hour after arrival, Ana Galvez remained unresponsive, her skin glistening with perspiration. Though Leigh had inserted an endotracheal tube and the child was suctioned frequently, she was still producing large amounts of saliva. Her heart rate, barely 70, was surprisingly slow for her age. She’d had several episodes of diarrhea. Poor kid. What happened to you?

Erin glanced toward the main room of the ER, grateful things appeared to be settling down out there. “I still don’t get this, though. Ana came from home? Not the ranch where everybody got sick?”

“Yes, but—” Leigh fiddled with the stethoscope draped across the shoulders of her steel gray scrub top—“she’d been there earlier. Felt sick after lunch and her father took her home.”

“So that goes right back to the food. But salmonella takes time. Still, the symptoms fit. Triage says most of the patients are complaining of headache, nausea, cramps, and diarrhea.” Erin checked the monitor: heart rate 58. Why so slow? “What did they eat?”

Leigh sighed. “Sack lunches. Every one different. That doesn’t fit at all. I wanted it to be huge tubs of chicken stew that everyone shared. That would make sense. But Sandy’s seen twenty-six patients in triage now, and the story from everybody sounds the same: picking strawberries since 6 a.m., lunch together around eleven, and—”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but something’s . . . wrong.” Erin and Leigh turned at the sound of the triage nurse’s voice at the doorway.

Erin’s eyes widened. The triage nurse looked awful—pale, sweaty, teary-eyed. Sandy was holding her hand to her head, trembling. What happened?

Before she could ask, Sandy’s eyelids fluttered and her knees gave way.