Everyday Tidbits...

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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fix-It and Forget-It...Review

About the book:
The book has already sold more than 5 million copies, so we didn't want to spoil it! We have only added a few enhancements to this original cookbook in the wildly claimed Fix-It and Forget-It cookbook series:

Brand New: 100 new recipes for slow cookers.
Brand New: "Prep Time," "Cooking Time," and "Ideal Slow-Cooker Size" are included for each recipe.
Brand New: 4 pages of basic and very helpful "Extra Information"

* "Substitute Ingredients for When You're in a Pinch"
* "Equivalent Measurements"
* "Kitchen Tools and Equipment You May Have Overlooked"
* "Assumptions about Ingredients in Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook, Revised and Updated"

Brand New: 1 page of "Tips for Using Your Slow Cooker: a Friendly, Year-Round Appliance."
Brand New: Additional tips and tricks for making the most of your slow cooker, spread throughout the book.
Brand New: A second color -- a rich purple -- for recipe titles, contributors' names and addresses, the words "Tip" and "Variation," and the numbered instruction steps.
Brand New: The drawings on the opening pages of chapters and the spot illustrations throughout.
Brand New: 1 page of tip-in color, right inside the front cover.
Brand New: 2 pages of review excerpts to position the original book's success, immediately following the tip-in page of color.

Revised: An improved Index!
Revised: A personal Introduction to the book by author Phyllis Pellman Good.
Revised: Good's personal comments and voice throughout the recipes.

We've learned a lot since the original
Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook first quietly appeared. Now you and your customers can benefit with this new edition of the beloved favorite -- Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook REVISED and UPDATED!


Tons of recipes for just about any dish or ingredient you could envision.  With three recipes to a page, this book is packed.  The author also includes tips, equivalent measurements and substitute ingredients. None of these recipes are fancy or gourmet, but all are easy and meals that everyday people would enjoy.  A great book to start with, or just to revitalize your current crock pot recipes.

As is my request of all cookbooks, I would have loved a spiral binding and more photos!  This would be a great gift for a new bride, especially when accompanied by a slow cooker.

Thanks to FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Mailbox...Review

About the book:
Can a simple mailbox reunite two wounded souls?

A rural mailbox stands alone on an isolated North Carolina beach, and within its unobtrusive confines lay the hopes and dreams, the heartaches and joys of countless strangers. Tending the lone mailbox on this deserted beach is an anonymous reader called the Kindred Spirit…drawing hearts toward healing and hope. Marybeth Whalen's debut novel,
The Mailbox, is set around this real-life landmark. She explores the possibility that this isolated and mysterious message center can reunite two people who have been separated by a lifetime of regret and confusion. Because of the mailbox, second chances arise in the face of painful loss, and the promise that enduring love and faith can overcome the destruction of long-kept secrets rings true.

Lindsey Adams begins her visits to the Kindred Spirit mailbox as a young teen. There, she finds her first love, Campbell Forrester. But twenty years later, she returns to the beach as a woman whose husband, Grant, has divorced her after a string of infidelities. Remembering her first love, and wondering whatever became of Campbell, Lindsey allows the salty beach air to reengage her sense of hope. She begins to imagine that Campbell might not be long lost after all.

Meanwhile, Campbell faces his own hardships—including his broken relationship with his daughter and his longing to undo his inadequacies as a father. When Campbell learns that Lindsey has returned to the beach, he cannot help but feel hopeful that he may discover love again.

Whalen's heartfelt and freshly evoked story explores how memories—and good-old-fashioned, hand-written letters—can not only haunt us, but also can heal us. She explores the memories of first romance while also taking a look at painful life circumstances. Marriage, parenting, and personal integrity are brought into focus in this edgy romance, as is the struggle to come to terms with God's love for us and His plan for our lives. Using letters from the Kindred Spirit mailbox, Whalen delves into the hearts of two people who truly desire to experience the transformation of enduring love.


Loved, loved, loved this novel.  I love the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It's been far too many years since I was there, but I have very fond, warm memories of spending time on Okracoke and Cape Hatteras.  So, the North Carolina beach setting of this story was appealing to me.  I've never been to Sunset Beach, which is south, near the North/South Carolina border, but I certainly want to go now.  I want to visit the Kindred Spirit mailbox, which is a real mailbox on Bird Island.

The story is told through narration and letters spanning a period of 20 years.  Lindsey and Campbell are the classic teen summer romance separated by choices and time.  Reunited once again, they each have baggage and issues to work through with ex-spouses and angry, hurt children.  But, both also learn that God knows and loves them and they each realize they've been given a second chance at love.  

The description of the mailbox and the real person who secretly cares for it and keeps the letters was fascinating.  I know nothing about the real mailbox or if there is a person who retrieves the letters and keeps it stocked with writing supplies.  I almost hope so, because it seems like such a tender, sweet thing to do.

I would have loved more exploration about Nikki's history, which is something she hints at with her father, but is something we never learn. 

In many ways, this should simply be a sappy Nicholas Sparks-esque piece of drivel.  But, instead, it's a thoughtful, heartwarming, well written story.  I'd say it's a terrific debut novel and I look forward to many more from Marybeth Whalen.

Thanks to First Wildcard, David C. Cook Publishing, and Audra Jennings of the B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can learn more about Marybeth Whalen here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

The Mailbox...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:

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marybeth Whalen is the general editor of For the Write Reason and The Reason We Speakas well as co-author of the book Learning to Live Financially Free. She serves as a speaker for the Proverbs 31 Ministry Team and directs a fiction book club, She Reads, through this same outreach. Most importantly, Marybeth is the wife of Curt Whalen and mother to their six children. She is passionate about sharing God with all the women God places in her path. She has been visiting the mailbox for years.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403693
ISBN-13: 978-0781403696

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Sunset Beach, NC

Summer 1985


Campbell held back a teasing smile as he led Lindsey across the warm sand toward the mailbox. Leaning her head on Campbell’s shoulder, her steps slowed. She looked up at him, observing the mischievous curling at the corners of his mouth. “There really is no mailbox, is there?” she said, playfully offended. “If you wanted to get me alone on a deserted stretch of beach, all you had to do was ask.” She elbowed him in the side.


A grin spread across his flawless face. “You caught me.” He threw his hands up in the air in surrender.


“I gotta stop for a sec,” Lindsey said and bent at the waist, stretching the backs of her aching legs. She stood up and put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes at him. “So, have you actually been to the mailbox? Maybe the other kids at the pier were just pulling your leg.”


Campbell nodded his head. “I promise I’ve been there before. It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.” He pressed his forehead to hers and looked intently into her eyes before continuing down the beach.


“If you say so …” she said, following him. He slipped his arm around her bare tanned shoulder and squeezed it, pulling her closer to him. Lindsey looked ahead of them at the vast expanse of raw

coastline. She could make out a jetty of rocks in the distance that jutted into the ocean like a finish line.


As they walked, she looked down at the pairs of footprints they left in the sand. She knew that soon the tide would wash them away, and she realized that just like those footprints, the time she had left

with Campbell would soon vanish. A refrain ran through her mind: Enjoy the time you have left. She planned to remember every moment of this walk so she could replay it later, when she was back at home, without him. Memories would be her most precious commodity. How else would she feel him near her?


“I don’t know how we’re going to make this work,” she said as they walked. “I mean, how are we going to stay close when we’re so far away from each other?”


He pressed his lips into a line and ran a hand through his hair. “We just will,” he said. He exhaled loudly, a punctuation.


“But how?” she asked, wishing she didn’t sound so desperate.


He smiled. “We’ll write. And we’ll call. I’ll pay for the longdistance bills. My parents already said I could.” He paused. “And we’ll count the days until next summer. Your aunt and uncle already said you could come back and stay for most of the summer. And you know your mom will let you.”


“Yeah, she’ll be glad to get rid of me for sure.” She pushed images of home from her mind: the menthol odor of her mother’s cigarettes, their closet-sized apartment with parchment walls you could hear the neighbors through, her mom’s embarrassing “delicates” dangling from the shower rod in the tiny bathroom they shared. She wished that her aunt and uncle didn’t have to leave the beach house after

the summer was over and that she could just stay with them forever.


The beach house had become her favorite place in the world. At the beach house, she felt like a part of a real family with her aunt and uncle and cousins. This summer had been an escape from the reality of her life at home. And it had been a chance to discover true love. But tomorrow, her aunt and uncle would leave for their home and send her back to her mother.


“I don’t want to leave!” she suddenly yelled into the open air, causing a few startled birds to take flight.


Campbell didn’t flinch when she yelled. She bit her lip and closed her eyes as he pulled her to him and hugged her.


“Shhh,” he said. “I don’t want you to leave either.” He cupped her chin with his hand. “If I could reverse time for you, I would. And we would go back and do this whole summer over.”


She nodded and wished for the hundredth time that she could stand on the beach with Campbell forever, listening to the hypnotic sound of his voice, so much deeper and more mature than the boys at school. She thought about the pictures they had taken earlier that day, a last-ditch effort to have something of him to take with her. But it was a pitiful substitute, a cheap counterfeit for the real thing.


Campbell pointed ahead of them. “Come on,” he said and tugged on her hand. “I think I see it.” He grinned like a little boy. They crested the dune and there, without pomp or circumstance,

just as he had promised, stood an ordinary mailbox with gold letters spelling out “Kindred Spirit.”


“I told you it was here!” he said as they waded through the deep sand. “The mailbox has been here a couple of years,” he said, his tone changing to something close to reverence as he laid his hand on top

of it. “No one knows who started it or why, but word has traveled and now people come all the way out here to leave letters for the Kindred Spirit—the mystery person who reads them. People come from all over the world.”


“So does anybody know who gets the letters?” Lindsey asked. She ran her fingers over the gold, peeling letter decals. The bottom half of the n and e were missing.


“I don’t think so. But that’s part of what draws people here— they come here because this place is private, special.” He looked down at his bare feet, digging his toes into the sand. “So … I wanted to bring you here. So it could be our special place too.” He looked over at her out of the corner of his eye. “I hope you don’t think that’s lame.”


She put her arms around him and looked into his eyes. “Not lame at all,” she said.


As he kissed her, she willed her mind to record it all: the roar of the waves and the cry of the seagulls, the powdery softness of the warm sand under her feet, the briny smell of the ocean mixed with the scent of Campbell’s sun-kissed skin. Later, when she was back at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, she would come right back to this moment. Again and again. Especially when her mother sent her to her room with the paper-thin walls while she entertained her newest boyfriend.


Lindsey opened the mailbox, the hinges creaking as she did. She looked to him, almost for approval. “Look inside,” he invited her.


She saw some loose paper as well as spiral-bound notebooks, the kind she bought at the drugstore for school. The pages were crinkly from the sea air and water. There were pens in the mailbox too, some

with their caps missing.


Campbell pointed. “You should write a letter,” he said. “Take a pen and some paper and just sit down and write what you are feeling.” He shrugged. “It seemed like something you would really get into.”


How well he had come to know her in such a short time. “Okay,” she said. “I love it.” She reached inside and pulled out a purple notebook, flipping it open to read a random page. Someone had written about a wonderful family vacation spent at Sunset and the special time she had spent with her daughter.


She closed the notebook. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. She couldn’t imagine her own mother ever wanting to spend time with her, much less being so grateful about it. Reading the notebook made her feel worse, not better. She didn’t need reminding about what she didn’t have waiting for her back home.


Campbell moved in closer. “What is it?” he said, his body lining up perfectly with hers as he pulled her close.


She laid the notebook back inside the mailbox. “I just don’t want to go home,” she said. “I wish my uncle didn’t have to return to his stupid job. How can I go back to … her? She doesn’t want me there any more than I want to be there.” This time she didn’t fight the tears that had been threatening all day.


Campbell pulled her down to sit beside him in the sand and said nothing as she cried, rocking her slightly in his arms.


With her head buried in his shoulder, her words came out muffled. “You are so lucky you live here.”


He nodded. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He said nothing for a while.

“But you have to know that this place won’t be the same for me without you in it.”


She looked up at him, her eyes red from crying. “So you’re saying I’ve ruined it for you?”


He laughed, and she recorded the sound of his laugh in her memory too. “Well, if you want to put it that way, then, yes.”


“Well, that just makes me feel worse!” She laid her head on his shoulder and concentrated on the nearness of him, inhaled the sea scent of his skin and the smell of earth that clung to him from working

outside with his dad.


“Everywhere I go from now on I will have the memory of you with me. Of me and you together. The Island Market, the beach, the arcade, the deck on my house, the pier …” He raised his eyebrows as

he remembered the place where he first kissed her. “And now here. It will always remind me of you.”


“And I am going home to a place without a trace of you in it. I don’t know which is worse, constant reminders or no reminders at all.” She laced her narrow fingers through his.


“So are you glad we met?” She sounded pitiful, but she had to hear his answer.


“I would still have wanted to meet you,” he said. “Even though it’s going to break my heart to watch you go. What we have is worth it.” He kissed her, his hands reaching up to stroke her hair. She heard his words echoing in her mind: worth it, worth it, worth it. She knew that they were young, that they had their whole lives ahead of them, at least that’s what her aunt and uncle had told her. But she also knew

that what she had with Campbell was beyond age.


Campbell stood up and pulled her to her feet, attempting to keep kissing her as he did. She giggled as the pull of gravity parted them. He pointed her toward the mailbox. “Now, go write it all down for the Kindred Spirit. Write everything you feel about us and how unfair it is that we have to be apart.” He squinted his eyes at her. “And I promise not to read over your shoulder.”


She poked him. “You can read it if you want. I have no secrets from you.”


He shook his head. “No, no. This is your deal. Your private world—just between you and the Kindred Spirit. And next year,” he said, smiling down at her, “I promise to bring you back here, and you can write about the amazing summer we’re going to have.”


“And what about the summer after that?” she asked, teasing him.


“That summer too.” He kissed her. “And the next.” He kissed her again. “And the next.” He kissed her again, smiling down at her through his kisses. “Get the point?


“This will be our special place,” he said as they stood together in front of the mailbox.


“Always?” she asked.


“Always,” he said.


Summer 1985


Dear Kindred Spirit,


I have no clue who you are, and yet that doesn’t stop me from writing to you anyway. I hope one day I will discover your identity. I wonder if you are nearby even as I put pen to paper. It’s a little weird to think that I could have passed you on the street this summer and not know you would be reading my

deepest thoughts and feelings. Campbell won’t even read this, though I would let him if he asked me.


As I write, Campbell is down at the water’s edge, throwing shells. He is really good at making the shells skip across the water—I guess that’s proof that this place is his home.


Let me ask you, Kindred Spirit: Do you think it’s silly for me to assume that I have found my soul mate at the age of fifteen? My mom would laugh. She would tell me that the likelihood of anyone finding a soul mate—ever—is zero. She would tell me that I need to not go around giving my heart away like a hopeless romantic. She laughs when I read romance novels or see sappy movies that make me cry. She says that I will learn the truth about love someday.


But, honestly, I feel like I did learn the truth about love this summer. It’s like what they say: It can happen when you least expect it, and it can knock you flat on your back with its power. I didn’t come here expecting to fall in love. The truth is I didn’t want to come here at all. I came here feeling pushed aside and unwanted. I can still remember when my mom said that she had arranged for my aunt and uncle to bring me here, smiling at me like she was doing me some kind of favor when we both knew she just wanted me out of the picture so she could live her life without me cramping her style.


I tried to tell her that I didn’t want to come—who would want to spend their summer with bratty cousins? I was so mad, I didn’t speak to my mom for days. I begged, plotted, and even got my best friend Holly’s parents to say I could stay with them instead. But in the end, as always, my mother ruled, and I got packed off for a summer at the beach. On the car ride down, I sat squished in the backseat beside Bobby and Stephanie. Bobby elbowed me and stuck his tongue out at me the whole way to the beach. When his parents weren’t looking, of course. I stared out the window and pretended to be anywhere but in that car.


But now, I can’t believe how wonderful this summer has turned out. I made some new friends. I read a lot of books and even got to where I could tolerate my little cousins. They became like the younger siblings I never had. Most of all, I met Campbell.


I know what Holly will say. She will say that it was God’s plan. I am working on believing that there is a God and that he has a plan for my life like Holly says. But most of the time it feels like God is not aware I exist. If he was aware of me, you’d think he’d have given me a mom who actually cared about me.


Ugh—I can’t believe I have to leave tomorrow. Now that I have found Campbell, I don’t know what I will do without him. We have promised to write a lot of letters. And we have promised not to date other people.


A word about him asking me not to date other people: This was totally funny to me. Two nights ago we were walking on the beach and he stopped me, pulling me to him and looking at me really seriously. “Please,” he said, “I would really like it if you wouldn’t see other people. Is that crazy for me to ask that of you when we are going to be so far apart?”


I was like, “Are you kidding? No one asks me out. No one at my school even looks at me twice!” At school I am known for being quiet and studious—a brain, not a girl to call for a good time. Holly says that men will discover my beauty later in life. But until this summer I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t admit that no one notices me at school because, obviously, he believes I am sought after. And I knew enough to let him believe it. So I very coyly answered back, “Only if you promise me the same thing.”


And he smiled in that lazy way of his and said, “How could I even look at another girl when I’ve got the best one in the world?”


And so now you see why I just can’t bear the thought of leaving him. But the clock is ticking. When I get home, I swear I will cry myself to sleep every night and write letters to Campbell every day. The only thing I have to look forward to is hanging out with Holly again. Thank goodness for Holly, the one constant in my life. In math class we learned that a constant is something that has one value all the time and it never changes.

That’s what Holly is for me: my best friend, no matter what.


I wonder if Campbell will be a constant in my life. I guess it’s too soon to tell, but I do hope so. I’m already counting down the days until I can come back and be with Campbell. Because this summer—I don’t care how lame it sounds—I found my purpose. And that purpose is loving Campbell with all my

heart. Always.


Until next summer,

Lindsey

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 28, 2010

West to the Sun...Review

About the book:
In his new historical adventure novel, West to the Sun, author T.G. Good portrays for his juvenile audience the pioneering spirit in America's past and shows the sacrifices that made America great and the struggles that any people go through to learn the value of family, friends and faith.

Accompanied by a long line of adventurers, some rich, some poor, some in wagons, some pushing carts, some just walking, the Jedediah Symons family makes its way across the country to Oregon in the 1800's. They battle disease, hunger and wild animals and through it all eleven year old Jeremiah Symons continually asks himself what he can do to help his family reach Oregon, their new home.

The trek along the Oregon Trail is one of the largest migrations of American people and in some ways defines the American spirit of adventure. From the daily drudgery of walking mile after mile to the excitement of buffalo hunts, to the thrill of seeing mountains reaching the sky, and bighorn sheep battling for primacy, young Jeremiah experiences a different learns what it means to be a man.

Author T.G. Good offers this fictional tribute to the spirit of individuals willing to leave behind a known life to build a new home in the American West. Concerned that there has been too much recent emphasis on the negatives of American history, Good hopes to present to his youthful audience the essentially positive nature of the American spirit.

"Although our national history is not one of total purity," Good acknowledges, he wants to show people like the Symons family who lived their values and followed their dreams because families like this show the best of the human spirit.


Told from the perspective of young Jeremiah Symons, West to the Sun, is a fascinating look at the western migration. His family's trip isn't without tragedy and trial but Jeremiah learns about faith and family and hard work. Jeremiah is a great kid and I think a lot of boys would relate to his voice.  There are some laugh-out-loud funny parts as he deals with some of the other, more obnoxious boys also on the wagon train.

The Symon's family's faith is an integral part of their lives and so the novel is Christian in nature.  While Jeremiah often sounds older than his 11 years and the narration is somewhat formal in dialogue, the story flows well, with a terrific historical aspect and research.  I anxiously awaited and recognized their their arrival in Idaho.

As the Symon's wagon train comes upon a Mormon wagon train, I appreciated Jedidiah's explanation to his son that while he disagreed with the Mormon faith, he didn't approve of the persecutions they received.

While geared to pre-teen boys, girls and adults will enjoy this novel.  It's easy to read and fascinating from a historical perspective.  With vivid descriptions, this is a well researched story and would be a great book to read aloud with your children. 

Thanks to the author and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book.  You can purchase your own copy here.  When the boy gets around to finally reading it, his review will be posted too.

Read 6/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Misconception: One Couple's Journey from Embryo Mix-Up to Miracle Baby...Review

About the book:
In February of 2009, Shannon and Paul Morell were especially eager to bring a new life into the world. After years of infertility and miscarriages they had, in 2006, finally scrimped and saved enough to have in vitro fertilization. The result? Two dear daughters had been born, and six precious embryos had been frozen. 

They counted the days until they could transfer the six remaining embryos. Until the fateful day of February 17, 2009, when the clinic called. “The doctor would like to you to come in today?” Shannon writes, “Face to face with the doctor, I noticed that his face was gravely serious. 'There's been a terrible incident in our lab,' he said. 'Your embryos have been thawed.' A pause, as we both exchanged disbelieving looks, and he went on...'Your embryos have been transferred into another woman.'"   

The Morells have a story to tell. A cautionary tale of medical errors, unexpected miracles, sincere mourning, and grateful bonding with their son. Amazingly, theirs is also a story of joy-filled thanksgiving... a story of life: life that is precious, sacred, and treasured. 

Shannon and Paul's story is a straight-forward and honest commentary about their experience.  I've seen mixed reviews about it and reviewers commenting that the book is poorly written and all Shannon does is complain. I simply thought that it was one family's honest account of their difficult experience. I also think this story is one that you truly cannot understand unless you live it.  I can only imagine how I would feel.

The Morells share their IVF experience with conceiving their twin daughters and how they planned for future children by freezing their remaining embryos.  A week before the planned appointment to being IVF the second time, they were told by their doctor that their embryos had been thawed and mistakenly implanted into another woman.

I remember seeing this story in the media and being shocked.  I realize that no one is infallible, but I can't imagine a mistake on this level.  My disappointment in this book is that there is no information about the consequences for the fertility clinic.  There should be severe consequences for the clinic.  The portrayal of their doctor is that he was rather cavalier, even while being apologetic, and that the clinic kept trying to get them to come back for more IVF.   

This is a really fast read, and an interesting one. The Morells talk a lot about their Christian belief and view of IVF and include many references at the end.  I did find Shannon to be somewhat self-centered. Everything was about her and she showed very little concern for the Savage's feelings.

I'd love to read Sean and Carolyn Savage's story, if they ever choose to write about it.  I think they must be incredibly selfless people to put aside their own disappointment and carry this child for someone else.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own here.

Read 6/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Friday, June 25, 2010

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana...Review


About the book:
Julia Cavanaugh has never left New York City. But in 1890, the young woman must head west to ensure that the orphans under her care are settled into good families. After her final stop in Montana, she plans to head straight back east. But upon arriving in the remote town of Lonesome Prairie, Julia learns to her horror that she is also supposed to be delivered into the hands of an uncouth miner who carries a bill of purchase for his new bride. She turns to a respected circuit preacher to protect her from a forced marriage but with no return fare and few friends, Julia's options are bleak. What is God's plan for her in the middle of the vast Montana prairie?

A light Christian romance, set in the late 19th century.  Julia is a little too perfect, other characters are annoying and the plot is predictable.  It's full of mix-ups, accidental shootings, a bad guy, the lovely newcomer and the preacher.  The orphan trains have always fascinated me and this account is interesting.   Those who like the Love Finds You series, will enjoy this.  This one is perfect when you want something light to read.  It's a sweet diversion, nothing special. 

This is the first Love Finds You book I've read, but the series seems to be quite popular.

Thanks to First Wildcard and LitFuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tricia Goyer here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

 Read 6/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Doctor Who: The Krillitane Storm...Review

About the book:
When the TARDIS materializes in medieval Worcester, the Doctor finds the city seemingly deserted. He soon discovers its population are living in a state of terror, afraid to leave their homes after dark, for fear of meeting their doom at the hands of the legendary Devil's Huntsman. And, after a terrifying encounter with a deadly Krillitane, the Doctor realizes the city has good reason to be scared!

A good follow-up to the series two episode School Reunion, which introduced us to the Krillitanes.  This one is set in medieval England, rather than current day.  With Krillitanes, bounty hunters, medieval soldiers and amoral fortune hunters, the Doctor finds himself on another grand adventure.  All we're missing is K-9 and Sarah Jane!  As it is his way, the Doctor always attempts to reason with the enemy and here, he manages to work with most of the Krillitanes at first to find a solution to the issues at hand. 

I liked this one, although it was much more serious than funny.  It's also got an incredibly high body count.

Thanks to my local bookstore for having a copy I could buy for the boy.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Love on a Dime...Review

About the book:
Turn of the century novelist Lilly Westbrook learns that being faithful to her calling means more than just putting pen to paper.

It's the summer of 1899 in Newport, Rhode Island, and Lilly Westbrook is struggling to conceal her career from family and friends because of the stigma attached to dime novels. Lilly feels good about her secret-after all, she's enlightening working class girls with her books and honoring God by using her talents to His glory.


But her secret is threatened when Jackson Grail, a former suitor, becomes Lilly's new publisher. He's determined to revive his floundering publishing house by maximizing their most promising--and most secretive--author. His plan? Find "Fannie Cole" and convince her to go public.


When a gossip columnist discovers Lilly's true identity, she finds that being faithful to her calling involves more than just putting pen to paper. It requires that she stand up for her faith and for herself, no matter the consequences.


A charming, light summer read.  Lilly is a delightful young heroine who feels called by God to write stories.  For a young woman of her class and privilege, however, means that working at all, let alone writing dime store novels is unacceptable.  Lilly write anonymously, but when an unscrupulous gossip magazine threatens to reveal her identity, she's torn with what to do.

An interesting commentary of the time: it's the late nineteenth century, and high society is summering at the coast.  I have always found the rigid adherence to a strict code of conduct to be fascinating, especially when it is at the expense of people and friendship.  Lilly longs for something other than a life of looking pretty and visiting with women in order to gossip and discuss others.  Jack is a dashing, unlikely hero and, like Lilly, desires to do what God wants.

A fine debut novel.  Light, but not too fluffy.  An enjoyable diversion and easily recommended.  The first in a series, I look forward to the rest.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Cara Lynn James here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Doctor Who: Autonomy...Review

About the book:
Hyperville is 2013's top hi-tech 24-hour entertainment complexa sprawling palace of fun under one massive roof. You can shop, or experience the excitement of Doomcastle, Winterland, or Wild West World. But things are about to get a lot more exciting—and dangerous...

What unspeakable horror is lurking on Level Zero of Hyperville? And what will happen when the entire complex goes over to Central Computer Control?


For years, the Nestene Consciousness has been waiting and planning, recovering from its wounds. But now it's ready, and its deadly plastic Autons are already in place around the complex. Now more than ever, visiting Hyperville will be an unforgettable experience...


Daniel Blythe completely captures the essence of David Tennant's 10th doctor.  In the not so far away future, the Doctor encounters the Nestene Consciousness again as it attempts to take over the earth.  We see the Autons in a different light as they have evolved in ways the Doctor never imagined.

As he attempts to stop the Nestene Consciousness, the Doctor encounters an odd assortment of allies.  Kate would've made an awesome companion and Chantelle was refreshing as the bright, intelligent teenager who figures out how to stop the Autons.

Simply put, this is a run romp with the Doctor.   I think any Doctor Who fan would enjoy it. It's a fast, easy read.  I finished most of it sitting by the pool while my kids played.

Thanks to my local bookstore for having a copy I could purchase for the boy.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Monday, June 21, 2010

Healer...Review

About the book:
Sixth-century Scotland—in the time of Arthur….

“The Gowrys’ seed shall divide your mighty house and bring a peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul.”

Her mother’s dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O’Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted—by the O’Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen. So she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from an ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?

Fascinating.  Absolutely fascinating.

Brenna is an unlikely heroine and one who, at times, seems a little too good and perfect. Her history is marked by murder and she lives in hiding, but she is raised in the Christian faith and grows up strong and capable, with a heart full of love for all things and people.  As she nurses Ronan O'Byrne, the last thing she imagines is falling in love with him.  But, having inherited her mother's healing abilities as well as her ability to see into the future, Brenna also knows what is to come and that she and Ronan have the potential to unite their warring clans.  Together they uncover mystery and intrigue as they attempt to persuade his father Tarlach to see reason.

I loved the interweaving of Arthurian legend with the early beginnings of the Christian church and pagan traditions in Celtic Scotland. The use of herbal healing or nature magic was interesting as it was used for both good and bad, often accompanying dark magic. Windsor's research is exhaustive and there is an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, as well as extensive notes.

A bit medieval and Lord of the Rings-ish, this was a compelling story and one I had hard time putting down. I thought that there might be too many characters to keep track of, but that wasn't the case.  I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

Thanks to First Wildcard, David C. Cook and Audra Jennings of the B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this novel.  You can learn more about Linda Windsor here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Healer...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:

David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



With an estimated one million books in print, Linda Windsor is an award-winning author of fifteen mainstream historical novels and one contemporary romance. She has also written another thirteen books for CBA publishers, including nine romantic comedies, laced with suspense, and a Celtic Irish trilogy for Multnomah entitled the Fires of Gleannmara series. A former professional musician, Linda speaks often (and sometimes sings) for writing and/or faith seminars. She makes her home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and prays for courage and strength to meet the needs of today's readers with page-turning stories that entertain, teach, and inspire.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764788
ISBN-13: 978-1434764782

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Glenarden, Manau Gododdin, Britain


Although cold enough to frost one’s breath, the day was as fair as the general mood of the gathering at the keep of Glenarden. The only clouds were those breaking away, fat with snow from the shrouded mountains—and the ever-present one upon the face of the bent old man who stood on the rampart of the gate tower. No longer able to ride much distance, Tarlach O’Byrne watched the procession form beyond.


Clansmen and kin, farmers and craftsmen—all turned out for the annual hunt, but they were more excited over the festivities that awaited their return. In the yard about the keep, gleemen in outlandish

costumes practiced entertaining antics, delighting the children and teasing the kitchen servant or warrior who happened to pass too near. Great pits had been fired. On the spits over them were enough succulent shanks of venison, boar, and beef to feed the multitude of O’Byrnes and the guests from tribes in the kingdom under the old king’s protection.


Below the ramparts, Ronan O’Byrne adjusted the woolen folds of his brat over his shoulders. Woven with the silver, black, and scarlet threads of the clan, it would keep the prince warm on this brisk day. A fine dappled gray snorted in eagerness as Ronan took his reins in hand and started toward the gate. Beyond, the people he would govern upon his father’s death waited.


The youngest of the O’Byrne brothers rode through them, unable to contain his excitement any longer. “By father’s aching bones, Ronan, what matters of great import keep you now?”


Were the pest any other but his youngest brother, Ronan might have scowled, deepening the scar that marked the indent of his cheek—the physical reminder of this travesty that began years ago. Alyn was the pride and joy of Glenarden, and Ronan was no exception to those who admired and loved the precocious youth.


“Only a raid on the mill by our neighbors,” Ronan answered his youngest sibling.


His somber gaze belayed the lightness in his voice. The thieves had made off with Glenarden’s reserve grain stores and the miller’s quern. Ronan had already sent a replacement hand mill to the mistress. But now that the harvest was over and the excess had been sold, replacing the reserves would be harder. It galled Ronan to buy back his own produce at a higher price than he’d received from merchants in Carmelide. This was the hard lot he faced—this farce, or hunting down the scoundrels and taking back what was rightfully his.


Every year on the anniversary of the Gowrys slaughter, Tarlach insisted that the O’Byrne clan search the hills high and low for Llas and Joanna’s heir. But instead of going off on a madman’s goose chase after his imagined enemy—a mountain nymph who was rumored to shape-shift into a wolf at will—the O’Byrnes manpower spent their time ransacking and burning one of the Gowrys mountain settlements in retribution, for they were undoubtedly the culprits. It was the only reasoning the Gowrys thieves understood—burn their ramshackle hovels and take some of their meager stock in payment.


Even so, taking such actions only stalled their mischief for a little while. Then it was the same thing all over again. As it was, Ronan had sent trackers out to mark their escape route, lest the wrong camp be destroyed.


“Can I ride after them on the morrow with you?” Alyn’s deep blue eyes, inherited from their Pictish mother, were alight with the idea of fighting and possible bloodshed—only because he’d never tasted it firsthand. “After the Witch’s End?”


Disgust pulling at his mouth, Ronan mounted the broad and sturdy steed he’d acquired at last spring’s fair. Witch’s End. That’s what Tarlach O’Byrne had dubbed the celebration of the massacre that had made him an invalid and driven him to the brink of insanity. In the old chief ’s demented thought, he’d brought justice to those who had betrayed him and stopped an enchantress forever. Sometimes, as on this particular day, it pushed him beyond reason, for it was a reminder that there was one thing left undone. The heiress of Gowrys still lived to threaten Glenarden … at least in his mind.


“The mill raid is no different from any other raid and will be handled as such,” Ronan answered.


“So I can go?”


“Nay, return to your studies at the university.” The hunt for a nonexistent witch was one thing, but Gowrys were skilled fighters. “’Twould suit a Gowrys naught better than to send a son of Tarlach

earthways with an arrow through your sixteen-year-old heart.”


“So you and Caden will go after the brigands.”


Alyn’s dejection rivaled that of Tarlach’s, except the youth’s would be gone with the next change of the wind. The older O’Byrne’s would not leave until his last breath faded in the air.


Ronan opened his mouth to assuage the lad when a downpour of water, icy as a northern fjord, struck him, soaking him through. “Herth’s fire!” Startled, his gray gelding danced sideways, knocking into the door of the open gate. “Ho, Ballach,” Ronan soothed the beast. “Easy laddie.”


“Take that, you bandy-legged fodere!” a shrill voice sounded from above.


“Crom’s breath, Kella, look what you’ve done,” Alyn blustered, struggling to control his own spooked steed. “Called my brother a bandy-legged deceiver and soaked him through.”


Wiping his hair away from his brow, Ronan spotted the cherub faced perpetrator of the mischief peering over the battlement, eyes spitting fire. Lacking the ripeness of womanhood, Kella’s overall appearance was unremarkable, but she surely lived up to her name with that indomitable warrior spirit, bundled in the innocence of youth. It was an innocence Ronan had never known. The daughter of Glenarden’s champion, Kella O’Toole was like a breath of fresh air. For that Ronan could forgive her more impetuous moments.


“And for what, Milady Kella, do I deserve the title of a bandylegged fool, much less this chilling shower?”


Kella gaped in dismay, speechless, as she took in Ronan’s drenched state. But not for long. “Faith, ’twasn’t meant for you, sir, but for Alyn! ’Tis the likes of him that finds the company of a scullery maid more delicious than mine.”


Ronan cast an amused glance at his youngest brother, who had now turned as scarlet as the banners fluttering overhead.


“Ho, lad, what foolrede have ye been about?” Caden O’Byrne shouted from the midst of the mounted assembly in wait beyond the gate. Fair as the sun with a fiery temperament to match, the second of Tarlach’s sons gave the indignant maid on the rampart a devilish wink.


“’Tis no one’s business but my own,” Alyn protested. “And certainly not that of a demented child.”


“Child, is it?”


Ronan swerved his horse out of range as Kella slung the empty bucket at Alyn. Her aim was hindered by the other girls close at her elbows, and the missile struck the ground an arm’s length away from its intended target.


“I’ll have you know I’m a full thirteen years.”


“Then appeal to me a few years hence when, and if, your Godgiven sense returns,” the youngest O’Byrne replied.


Ronan moved to the cover of the gatehouse and removed his drenched brat. Fortunately, the cloak had caught and shed the main of the attack. Already one of the servants approached with the plain blue one he wore about his business on the estate. Irritating as the mishap was, his lips quirked with humor as his aide helped him don the dry brat. It wasn’t as princely as the O’Byrne colors, but it was more suited to Ronan’s personal taste.


It was no secret that Egan O’Toole’s daughter was smitten with Alyn. With brown hair spun with threads of gold and snapping eyes almost the same incredible shade, she would indeed blossom into a beauty someday. Meanwhile, the champion of Glenarden would do well to pray for maturity to temper Kella’s bellicose manner, so that his daughter might win, rather than frighten, suitors.


Then there was Alyn, who hadn’t sense enough to see a prize in the making. Ronan shook his head. His brother was too involved in living the existence of the carefree youth Ronan had been robbed of the night of the Gowrys bloodfest.


“So, are you now high and dry, Brother?” Caden O’Byrne called to Ronan with impatience.


Ronan’s eyes narrowed. Always coveting what wasn’t his, Caden would like nothing better than to lead the hunt without Ronan. Would God that Ronan could hand over Glenarden and all its responsibilities. But Caden was too rash, a man driven more by passion than thought.


“Have a heart, Beloved,” a golden-haired beauty called down to him from the flock of twittering ladies on the rampart. Caden’s new bride spared Ronan a glance. “Ronan’s had much travail this morning already with the news of the Gowrys raid.”


“Had he as fair and gentle a wife as I, I daresay his humor would be much improved.” Ever the king of hearts, Caden signaled his horse to bow in Lady Rhianon’s direction and blew his wife a kiss.


“No doubt it would, Brother,” Ronan replied.


There was little merit in pointing out that the ambitious Lady Rhianon had first set her sights on him. No loss to Ronan, she seemed to make his more frivolous brother a happy man. The couple enjoyed the same revelry in dance and entertainment, not to mention the bower. Too often, its four walls failed to contain the merriment of their love play. Neither seemed to care that they were the talk of the keep. If anything, they gloried in the gossip and fed it all the more.


Battling down an annoying twinge of envy, Ronan made certain his cloak was fast, then swung up into the saddle again. Alyn’s problems were easier to consider, not to mention more amusing. “Is your wench disarmed, Alyn?” Ronan shouted in jest as he left the cover of the gate once again.


Beyond Lady Kella’s tempestuous reach for the moment, Alyn gave him a grudging nod.


Ronan brought his horse alongside his siblings, facing the gatehouse of the outer walls, where Tarlach O’Byrne would address the gathering. Like Alyn’s, Caden’s countenance was one of eagerness and excitement. How Ronan envied them both for their childhood. He longed to get away from the bitterness that festered within the walls of Glenarden. His had been an apprenticeship to a haunted madness.


Tarlach straightened as much as his gnarled and creaking joints would allow. “Remember the prophecy, shons of mine,” he charged them. He raised his withered left arm as high as it would go. It had never regained its former power since the night he’d tried to attack Lady Joanna of Gowrys. Nor had his speech recovered. He slurred his words from time to time, more so in fatigue.


“The Gowrys sheed shall divide your mighty house … shall divide your mighty housh and bring a peace beyond itch ken.”


Ronan knew the words by heart. They were as indelibly etched in his memory as the bloody travesty he’d witnessed through a six-yearold’s eyes. The quote was close, but whether Tarlach’s failing mind or his guilt was accountable for leaving out “peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul,” only God knew. If He cared … or even existed.


“Search every hill, every glen, every tree and shrub. Find the she-wolf and bring back her skin to hang as a trophy in the hall, and her heart to be devoured by the dogs. Take no nun-day repast. The future of Glenarden depends on the Gowrys whelp’s death.”


At the rousing cry of “O’Byrne!” rising from his fellow huntsmen and kin, Ronan turned the dapple gray with the group and cantered to the front, his rightful place as prince and heir. He didn’t believe the girl child had survived these last twenty years, much less that she’d turned into a she-wolf because of her mother’s sins. Nor did he wallow in hatred like his father.


A shudder ran through him, colder than the water that had drenched him earlier. Ronan looked to the west again, where thick clouds drifted away from the uplands. May he never become so obsessed with a female that his body and soul should waste away from within due to the gnawing of bitterness and fear. Superstitious fear.


On both sides of the winding, rutted road ahead lay rolling fields. Winter’s breath was turning the last vestiges of harvest color to browns and grays. Low, round huts of wattle and daub, limed white and domed with honey-dark thatching, were scattered here and there. Gray smoke circled toward the sky from their peaks. Fat milk cows and chickens made themselves at home, searching for food. Beyond lay the river, teeming with fish enough for all.


Glenarden’s prosperity was enough to satisfy Ronan. Nothing less would do for his clan. The tuath was already his in every manner save the last breath of Tarlach O’Byrne … though Ronan was in no hurry for that. Despite his troublesome tempers, Tarlach had been as good a father as he knew how, breaking the fosterage custom to rear his firstborn son under his own eye. A hard teacher, he’d been, yet fair—equal with praise as with criticism.


“You are the arm I lost, lad,” Tarlach told him again and again, especially when the drink had its way with him. “The hope and strength of Glenarden.”


~~~~~


Ronan humored the old man as much as followed his orders. At midday, instead of stopping as usual for the nun repast, he paused for neither rest nor food for his men. They ate on the move—the fresh bread and cheese in the sacks provided by the keep’s kitchen. The higher into the hills they went, the sharper the wind whipped through the narrow pass leading to the upper lakelands. Ronan was thankful that the former stronghold of the Gowrys wasn’t much farther.


“Faith, ’tis colder than witches’ milk,” Caden swore from the ranks behind Ronan.


“Witches’ milk?” the naive Alyn protested. “What would you know of such things?”


“A good deal more than a pup not yet dry behind the ears. ’Tis a fine drink on a hot summer day.”


“Or for the fever,” Egan O’Toole chimed in.


His poorly disguised snicker raised suspicion in the youth. “They play me false, don’t they, Ronan?”


“Aye, ask our elder brother, lad,” Caden remarked in a dry voice. “He has no sense of humor.”


Somber, Ronan turned in his saddle. “I have one, Brother, but my duties do not afford me much use of it. As for your question, lad,” he said to their younger brother, who rode next to Caden, “there’s no such thing as witches, so there can be no witches’ milk.”


“What about the Lady Joanna?” Alyn asked. “She was a witch.”


“Think, lad,” Ronan replied. “If she’d truly possessed magic, would she or her kin have died? It was love and jealousy that addled Father.”


“But love is magic, little brother,” Caden put in. “Make no mistake.”


“’Tis also loud enough to set tongues wagging all over the keep,” Alyn piped up. He grinned at the round of raucous laughter that rippled around them at Caden’s expense.


But Caden showed no shame. “That’s the rejoicing, lad.” He turned to the others. “Methinks our Lady Kella has little to fret over as yet.” With a loud laugh, he clapped their red-faced little brother on the back.


Rather than allow the banter to prick or lift an already sore humor, Ronan focused on the first few flakes of snow already whirling in and about the pass ahead of them and the nightmare that already had begun. Twenty years before, this very pass had been just as cold and inhospitable. With possible flurries blowing up, Ronan had no inclination to prolong the outing.


The crannog, or stockaded peninsula, was now little more than a pile of rubble rising out of the lake water’s edge. Cradled by overgrown fields and thick forest on three quarters of its periphery, the

lake itself was as gray as the winter sky. On the fourth was the jut of land upon which Llas of Gowrys had restored an ancient broch, bracing it against the rise of the steep crag at its back. With no regard for what had been, yellow spots of gorse had taken root here and there in the tumble of blackened stone.


Ronan could still smell the blaze, hear the shrieks of the dying.Ignoring the curdling in the pit of his stomach, a remnant of the fear and horror a six-year-old dared not show, Ronan dispersed the group. “Egan, you and Alyn take your men and search north of the lake. Caden, take the others and search the south. When I sound the horn, everyone should make haste back here. The sooner we return to warm hearths and full noggins of ale, the better.”


“I want to go with you,” Alyn declared, sidling his brown pony next to Ronan’s gray.


“I intend to stay here in the cover of yon ledge and build a fire,” Ronan informed him, “but you are welcome to join me.”


“I think not.”


Alyn’s expression of disdain almost made Ronan laugh.


“What if a raiding party of Gowrys happens upon you?” Caden spoke up. A rare concern knit his bushy golden brows.


“Then I shall invite them to the fire for a draught of witch’s milk.”


Caden laughed out loud. His square-jawed face, bristling with the golden shadow of his great mane of hair, was handsome by even a man’s standard. “I misjudged you, Brother. I stand corrected on the account of humor but would still hold that you act too old for your twenty-six years.”


“The Gowrys aren’t given to visiting the place where they were so soundly trounced … and I’m no more than a horn’s blow from help, should my sword not suffice,” Ronan pointed out.


He had no taste for this nonsense. What he craved most at the moment was the peace that followed after the others rode off, whooping and beating their shields lest the spirits of the slain accost them.

The hush of the falling snow and the still testimony of the ruins were at least a welcome change from the ribald and oft querulous babble of the hall. Time alone, without demand, was to be savored, even in this ungodly cold and desolate place. All he had to do was keep the memories at bay.


A movement from just above a hawthorn thicket near the base of the cliff caught Ronan’s eye, raising the hackles on the back of his neck. With feigned nonchalance, he brushed away the snow accumulating on his leather-clad thigh and scanned the gray slope of rock as it donned the thickening winter white veil. Nothing.


At least, he’d thought he’d seen something. A flash of white, with a tail—mayhaps a large dog. Beneath him, the gelding shivered. With a whinny, he sidestepped, tossing his black mane as if to confirm that he sensed danger as well. A wolf?


Drawing his sword in one hand, Ronan brought the horse under control with a steadying tone. “Easy, Ballach, easy.”


The speckled horse quieted, his muscles as tense as Ronan’s clenched jaw. The scene before him was still, like that of a tapestry. At his gentle nudge, the horse started around shore toward the high stone cliff. Dog, wolf, or man, Ronan was certain the steel of his blade was all the protection he’d need.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Healer by Linda Windsor. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Somewhere to Belong...DNF...Review

About the book:
Johanna Ilg has lived her entire life in Main Amana, one of the seven villages inhabited by devout Christians who believe in cooperative living, a simple lifestyle, and faithful service to God. Although she's always longed to see the outside world, Johanna believes her future is rooted in the community. But when she learns a troubling secret, the world she thought she knew is shattered and she is forced to make difficult choices about a new life and the man she left behind. Berta Schumacher has lived a privileged life in Chicago, and when her parents decide they want a simpler life in Amana, Iowa, she resists. Under the strictures of the Amana villages, Berta's rebellion reaches new heights. Will her heart ever be content among the plain people of Amana?

I tried.  I really tried.  I just couldn't get into this story.  The story was told from alternating perspectives of Johanna and Berta, and each perspective was first person.  For me, it was an awkward way of writing.  I don't care for first person in the best of situations, and two first-person accounts was too much.  I was not familiar with the Amana communities or their faith and I could not understand it or the desire for communal living.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book, I wish I could have enjoyed it enough to finish it.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10


1/5 Stars


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sixteen Brides...Review

About the book:
Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community." Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledgling community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival! 

Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them. These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be. 

An enjoyable read.  I was so glad that the original 16 war widows narrowed down to 5, which was a much more manageable number.  The premise was a bit different and refreshing take on the mail-order bride scenario.  These women had spunk and drive and weren't afraid to stand up to the sneaky land speculator who deceived them.  They go off on their own and, together, establish themselves on joined land claims.

As they ingratiate themselves into the community, they make friends and predictably, a few enemies.  But, love conquers all.

5 is much more manageable than 16 main characters, but when you add the supporting characters and love interests, it could be difficult to keep track of everyone.  Stephanie Whitson does a great job of making it all work.  These are likeable women and you really cheer for them to succeed. I found her take on the premise interesting.

This is an easy enjoyable read, especially for those who love historical novels, and especially historical westerns.  Light Christian. 

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Stephanie Grace Whitson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Friday, June 18, 2010

She Walks in Beauty...Review

About the book:
During New York City's Gilded Age...THE GAME is played amid banquets and balls. THE PRIZE is a lifetime of wealth and privilege. THE RULES will test friendships and the desires of a young woman's heart. Clara Carter is the social season's brightest start... BUT AT WHAT COST? 


For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. 

Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. 

When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game. 

I'd had my eye on this book for some time, simply because the cover was so gorgeous.  The book itself is fantastic.

I normally don't like first person narration, but Siri Mitchell really carries this off.  Clara is a wonderful heroine.  Strong, spunky and ever so likeable.  As she reluctantly enters the debutante season, we are privy to the inside workings of 1890's Gilded Age high society which is, at once, both intriguing and tragic.

Clara loves books and learning.  She wants to marry for love.  But, her father and aunt seem to think that the family's honor is at stake and she must marry the richest, most sought-after bachelor.  Clara must procure his affections, no matter the cost of friendships or deception.  In order to debut, Clara is put through an amazing rigmarole of etiquette lessons, dance lessons and dress fittings. Her slim, 22-inch waist is deemed gargantuan by her aunt and she is fitted for a corset that will force her to eventually achieve an 18-inch waist, because that is what society demands.

I always knew that corsets were one of the worst articles of clothing ever inflicted on women, and the insights from Clara proved this to be true.  So many health issues arose from the wearing of the corset yet, irregardless of them, women still allowed themselves to be pressured into wearing them to achieve some horrific, superficial results.

Clara's frustrations at the need to be socially entertaining, yet unable to talk about anything of substance are a perfect example of that ridiculous social mores people seemed to think important.  I loved her spunk and the way she finally fought back.  As she uncovers secrets about the society she moves within, she also uncovers secrets about her family and discovers truths about the world outside.  A world that hers avoids.

Light Christian, this is a wonderful narrative of the time, and an engaging story about a delightful young girl coming of age in 1890's New York.  I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to reading Siri Mitchell's other books.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Siri Mitchell here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ransome's Crossing...Review

About the book:
To get to her secret fiancĂ© in Jamaica, Charlotte Ransome disguises herself as a midshipman and joins the crew of one of the ships in the convoy led by her brother William. First Lieutenant Ned Cochrane has only known his captain’s younger sister for a brief time, but is sure she’s the wife he’s been praying for—except he’s about to leave for the Caribbean for at least one year.

An attack on the convoy gains Ned the promotion to commander he has long dreaded—especially once he discovers one of his midshipmen is actually Charlotte Ransome in disguise. After seeking Julia’s advice, Ned decides to keep Charlotte’s secret… and hopes to win her love. Charlotte will soon discover that losing her heart to Ned is not the greatest danger she’ll face on this Atlantic crossing.

Wanting to join her secret fiance in Jamaica, Charlotte is a spunky, brave young heroine who manages not only to join the crew of a ship, but to prove herself a better sailor than many young men.  She manages to ingratiate herself to some crew members and irritate others. Ned has his own demons to face when he reluctantly accepts a promotion to Captain, but it's in that position where he discovers Charlotte and realizes not only his love for her, but how much he depends on her as a crew member.  The details about sailing and ship life were fascinating. 

Julia and William have married and Julia is accompanying her husband on his voyage to Jamaica.  Each must adapt to Julia's being on board ship, even as they adapt to marriage.  When William discovers that Julia was aware of Charlotte's deception, he's understandably not very happy.

Second in the Ransome Trilogy, this was an entertaining sequel and ends with a cliffhanger that will be answered in the third and final book.  While it does stand alone, it is in a reader's best interest to have read Ransome's Honor first. 

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Kaye Dacus here. You can read the first chapter here.You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Ransome's Crossing...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:

Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kaye Dacus, author of Ransome’s Honor has a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a minor in history, and a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. Her love of the Regency era started with Jane Austen. Her passion for literature and for history come together to shape her creative, well-researched, and engaging writing.


Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927549
ISBN-13: 978-0736927543

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Portsmouth, England
August 17, 1814

Ned Cochrane, first lieutenant, HMS Alexandra, stepped out of the jolly boat onto the stone dock and glanced around at the early morning bustle of the dockyard crew. Only nine days remained to fill the crew roster and fit out the ship with the supplies needed for the first leg of a transatlantic voyage. With yesterday lost in celebrating Captain—no, Commodore Ransome’s wedding—and since the commodore’s attention would be necessarily split between distractions on land and his duties to his ship, Ned would shoulder the burden of preparing the ship and crew.

“Sir, look out! Lieutenant Cochrane!”

Ned spun—and fell back just in time to save himself from being swept off the quay by a net full of barrels swinging at the end of a crane. His hat wasn’t so fortunate.

The cargo swayed menacingly overhead. Ned scrambled backward, out of harm’s way. Once clear, he leapt to his feet. “You, there! Watch what you’re about. Secure that crane,” he yelled at the negligent dock crew.

“Are you all right, sir?”

The voice—an odd timbre in the chorus of tenor, baritone, and bass tones usually heard in the dockyard—matched the one which had called the warning. He turned.

A young man, not really more than a boy in a worn, ill-fitting midshipman’s uniform, stood holding Ned’s dripping hat. Sure enough, the lad’s right sleeve was wet to the shoulder.

“Nothing injured but my pride.” Ned took his hat and studied the midshipman. The boy’s tall, round hat concealed most of his dark hair, but…Ned squinted against the bright glare of the sun off the water and surrounding gray stone. “Do I know you, lad?”

The boy touched the brim of the shabby hat. “Charles Lott, sir. We spoke last week. You said there might be a place for me aboard your ship.”

“Ah, yes.” Ned now recalled meeting the midshipman, who’d answered Ned’s questions when the boy had first approached him about a position aboard Alexandra last week, even the question Ned had missed the first time he’d stood for his lieutenancy examination. “I’m sorry, but we have filled the positions on Alexandra.”

Shocked disappointment filled the boy’s elfin face.

“However, I have recommended you to the captain of Audacious.” Ned struggled to keep the smile from his face.

“Audacious? Captain Yates, then?”

Ned sighed. He liked Commodore Ransome’s friend extraordinarily and had looked forward to the fun to be had on Jamaica station with two such commanders. “Alas, I am afraid to say Captain Yates has resigned his commission. Captain Parker is taking command of Audacious.” Ned glanced around the quay. “There is his first officer. Come, I shall introduce you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Midshipman Lott straightened the white collar and cuffs of his too-large coat.

Ned caught his counterpart’s attention and met him near the steps to the upper rampart. He made the introduction and stood back as the first lieutenant of Audacious, Montgomery Howe, put a series of questions to the lad. Lott answered each quickly and with near textbook precision.

“Well done, Mr. Lott. You are ordered to present yourself day after tomorrow to begin your official duties.”

The boy’s face paled. “Sir, may I have until next Thursday?”

“The day before we sail?” Howe crossed his arms and glared at Ned and then at Lott.

Ned ground his teeth at the boy’s impertinence, which was casting him—Ned—in a bad light. He’d recommended the lad, after all.

“Yes, sir. I am aware it is an inconvenience, but my mother is a widow, and I must see that she is settled—that our business affairs are settled—before I could leave on such a long journey.”

“And it will take a sennight?” Ned asked.

“We live in the north part of the country, sir. ’Tis a three days’ journey by post, sir.” Lott spoke to the cobblestones below his feet.

Aye, well should he be ashamed to make such a request…though many years ago, a newly made captain had let a newly made lieutenant have four days to see to his own widowed mother and sister.

Apparently, from the expression that flickered across Howe’s face, he had also received a similar mercy some time earlier in his career. “Very well, then. You are to present yourself to me on deck of Audacious no later than seven bells in the morning watch Thursday next. If you are late, your spot will be given to someone else. Understand?”

“Aye, sir!” Lott touched the brim of his hat again. “Thank you, sir.”

“Dismissed—oh, and Mr. Lott?”

The boy, a few paces away already, halted and turned, at attention again. “Aye, sir?”

“Make yourself more presentable by next week if you can. You can find plenty of secondhand uniforms available in the shops in much better condition than yours. And get a haircut. I do not allow midshipmen to tuck their hair under their collars.”

Lott’s hand flew to the back of his neck, eyes wide. “Aye, aye, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

Ned moved to stand beside Howe as the boy ran down the quay. “Sorry for the inconvenience, Monty, but I have a feeling that boy will do well by you.”

“I’ve never heard a lad recite the answers so perfectly. He’s slight. Says he’s fifteen? Can’t be more than thirteen or fourteen.”

“Some boys don’t mature as quickly as others. You should remember that quite well.” Ned bumped his shoulder against his former berth mate’s.

Howe shoved him back. “Just because you gained height and a deeper voice before I did doesn’t mean you matured faster, Ned. In fact, you could probably learn manners in decorum and respect from little Charlie Lott.”

Ned guffawed and bade his friend farewell. He wasn’t certain if he could learn anything from the young midshipman, but he would certainly look out for him and do whatever he could to promote the boy’s interest. He had the feeling Charles Lott would make a good officer some day.


Charlotte Ransome dived behind a large shrub and held her breath. Footsteps crunched on the gravel garden path, coming toward her closer and closer.

Had he seen her?

Keep walking. Please, Lord, let him keep walking.

When he reached her shrub, Charlotte squeezed her eyes shut, fearful of blinking. If the gardener had seen and recognized her, he would report her to the Yateses, who would in turn report her to her mother and brother—and all would be lost.

A gust of wind rustled the verdure around her. Her heart thundered against her ribs, and she feared she might be sick.

But the gardener did not stop. Long after his footsteps faded, Charlotte kept to her hiding place. Quiet descended until only the noise of the streets and alleys beyond the garden walls filtered in around the enclosure behind the enormous townhouse.

Peeking around the shrub, she found the path clear once again.

Sneaking into the garden through the servants’ entrance in the rear had proven risky but successful. She hadn’t been sure she’d avoid being spotted by any of the servants, busy with their early morning duties, but Providence appeared to be with her.

She cautiously made her way across the garden to the back of the house. She peeked through the window of Collin Yates’s study and, finding it empty, slipped inside, relieved no one had discovered that she’d left it unlocked when she sneaked out of the house near dawn. She stuck her head out into the hallway, and, hearing no movement, made her way upstairs as quietly as she could. She paused on the landing and looked around the corner, down the hallway on which all of the bedrooms opened. No stirrings, no sounds. Heart pounding wildly and trying to keep her feet from touching the floor, she made her way along the thick carpet to the bedroom at the end of the hall and slipped inside, pushing the door closed with a soft click.

Movement across the room caught her eye. Turning to face the intruder, she found herself looking at a bedraggled boy in an oversized coat and britches, a tall, round hat jammed on his head almost down to his eyes.

She laughed, and the bedraggled midshipman in the mirror did likewise. Yes, her disguise was convincing enough to startle even herself. With a sigh she unbuttoned the coat and pulled it off, dropping it to the floor. When Lieutenant Cochrane had looked at her with recognition in his gray eyes, she was certain her entire plan would crash like a ship against a rocky shore. She sent up a quick prayer of thanks that he hadn’t connected her appearance as Charles Lott with her true identity.

Sinking into the chair at the dressing table, she yanked off the hat and pulled her long thick hair out from under the high collar of the uniform coat. She’d tried pinning it flat to her head, but the cumbersome length of it—past her waist when unbound—created too much bulk for even the oversized hat to conceal.

The small porcelain clock on the mantel chimed once. Half-past eight. Panic once again rising, Charlotte peeled out of the uniform—picked up for mere pennies the first time she’d been able to sneak away from her mother’s and Mrs. Yates’s chaperonage a few days ago—stuffed it in the bottom of her trunk, threw her sleeping gown over her head, and jumped into the bed, still trying to find the sleeves with her hands as the bedroom door swung quietly open.

At the thump of the water pitcher on the commode, Charlotte sat up as if awakened by the sound.

Her maid curtsied. “Good morning, miss. I brought you fresh water for washing.”

“Thank you.” Charlotte grabbed her dressing gown from the end of the bed and shrugged into it, and then she stepped behind the screen in the corner. The scent of lilacs drifted up from the warm water as she poured it into the porcelain basin in the top of the exquisite dark-wood cabinet.

After running most of the way back from the dockyard, the wet cloth felt good against her skin, especially on her neck and back where her thick braid had been pressed against her by her uniform coat.

With the maid’s assistance, she soon stood before the mirror where Midshipman Charles Lott had been reflected less than an hour ago, now looking upon a fashionable young lady. Fear that she wouldn’t be able to pull off her plan swirled in her stomach, but she pushed it aside.

“The irons are ready, miss.”

Charlotte sat at the dressing table, sipped the coffee which had been delivered while she dressed, and reviewed her plans for the next eight days as the maid twisted and twirled and pinned her hair.

Anticipation, anxiety, and excitement danced within her veins. In just over a week, she would leave Portsmouth on a grand adventure. A grand adventure that would culminate in arriving in Jamaica, being reunited with Henry Winchester, and marrying him.


“Your new rank suits you, Commodore Ransome.”

William met Julia’s green eyes in the mirror’s reflection. Sitting in the middle of the bed in her white sleeping gown, her coppery hair cascading in riotous curls around her shoulders and back, she looked as young as when he’d made the gut-wrenching decision to walk away from her twelve years ago.

Now she was his wife. His knees quaked at the thought.

He returned to the examination of his new uniform coat, delivered from the tailor just this morning. “I am indebted to your father for arranging the promotion. There are many officers more deserving. All will say I received special favor because I am now his son-in-law.”

“As you should know by now,” Julia said, climbing off the bed and crossing to her dressing table, “my father does nothing unless he thinks it best for the Royal Navy.” Drawing her hairbrush through her fountain of hair, she ambled across the colorful carpet toward him. “He secured your promotion before he knew of our engagement, so that did not have any bearing on his decision.” She pulled the mass of her hair over her left shoulder and continued pulling the soft bristles of the brush through it. “And when have you ever worried about rumors going around about your being favored by my father?” A mischievous grin quirked the corners of her full lips. “Isn’t worrying about rumors and gossip what got us here in the first place?”

The fact she’d forgiven him, that she could now joke about the past, both thrilled and humbled him. He did not deserve her.

She set the brush down and came to stand behind him, looking around him at the reflection. She ran her hand along his sleeve to the braid-laden cuff. His arm tingled in reaction. He did not want to respond to her like this—every time she spoke, moved, breathed, he lost track of everything but her. He had to conquer it; otherwise, her presence aboard ship would be detrimental to his command.

A knock on the door roused both of them. The maid Lady Dalrymple had assigned to Julia entered on Julia’s entreaty.

“I will leave you.” William inclined his head and made for the door, and then he stopped as soon as he reached it. He turned and smiled at her. “Do not be long.”

“I will join you for breakfast shortly.”

He stood in the hallway a few moments after the door closed, separating him from Julia for the first time since their wedding yesterday morning. Pleasure and regret battled within him. Marrying Julia Witherington had, in less than twenty-four hours, brought him more joy than he could ever have dreamed or deserved. Yet when he thought of his duty, of his commitment to the Royal Navy, to king and country, he couldn’t help but fear he’d made his life more difficult by marrying at such a time.

The east wing of the manor house at Brampton Park, home to Lady Dalrymple, rang with emptiness. While William appreciated the privacy afforded them by the dowager viscountess’s invitation to stay in the unused section for their wedding night—with hints she would like them to stay even longer—the grandeur of it made his skin crawl, and he could not wait until he could deposit Julia at her father’s house and return to his ship.

After two wrong turns, he managed to find the small breakfast room, unused for nearly a century according to Lady Dalrymple, since the new wing and the much larger dining room had been completed.

The small room, paneled with dark wood, set him somewhat more at ease. By ignoring the narrow, tall windows, he could almost imagine himself aboard a ship in this room.

He paced, waiting for Julia, pondering how he could recover his good sense around her. When she entered the room a little while later—queenly in a purple dress, her hair the only crown she would ever need—he realized the only way he would be able to regain control of his mind would be to limit his contact with her.

Trying not to watch her serve eggs, sausage, and toast onto her plate, nor admire the curve of her neck above the lace set into the neck of her gown, William piled food onto his own plate, held Julia’s chair for her, and then took his place at the head of the small table.

“I must return to my ship today.”

Julia stirred sugar into her coffee. “Of course. I knew you would need to spend your days preparing Alexandra for the voyage.”

He cleared his throat of the bite of egg that wished to lodge there. “What I mean is that I must return to reside aboard my ship.”

Julia’s spoon clanked against her cup. Her face paled, and the light which had danced in her eyes all morning vanished.

William’s innards clenched. Perhaps he should have eased into the idea instead of blurting it out. He blamed it on her. He could not think clearly in her presence.

“Have…have you received word from your crew that there is trouble?” Her voice quavered.

“No. It is nothing like that.” Unable to stop himself, he reached across the corner of the table and took her hand in his. “My duty is to my ship, to my crew. I am needed there. Here, my attentions and loyalty are divided.”

For a brief moment, Julia’s chin quivered. But she pressed her lips together and drew in a deep breath. “I understand. And I have no desire to draw you away from your duties. I have already created too much inconvenience and upheaval in your life. I do not wish to generate more. However, I have promised Lady Dalrymple we would join her tonight for her dinner and card party as her honored guests. If we were to abdicate from her hospitality today, how would that reflect on her?”

Though well masked, the pain in Julia’s expression made William want to retract his words, to promise her he would stay here with her the remainder of the time they had in England. Any other woman would have been offended by his blundering, unreasonable demand. Julia apologized for inconveniencing him.

He raised her hand and kissed the back of it. “Aye. We will stay one more night.” Then, giving in to impulse, he leaned over, cupped that quivering chin, and claimed her lips in a searing kiss. “And I will not have you thinking yourself an inconvenience to me.”

His action resulted in the desired effect—the spark rekindled in her green eyes. She ran her finger along his jaw. “You lie too well, Commodore Ransome.”

“You start off our marriage ill, Mrs. Ransome, if you believe I would ever lie to you.” He squeezed her hand and then tucked in to his breakfast.

“Conceal the hard truth, then,” she said, cocking her head and sending the spiral curls at her temples dancing, “for the last few days have not been a convenience to you.”

“An upheaval, certainly.” He feigned a close interest in the piece of sausage speared on his fork. “However, any inconvenience I have suffered has been more than adequately recompensed not just by gaining a wife, but by finally receiving the complete approbation of my admiral.”

Julia’s gasp preceded a gale of laughter.

A surge of contentment washed away the morning’s anxieties. Perhaps being married would not interfere with his duty to the navy as severely as he’d feared.