Everyday Tidbits...

Fall, where are you? I get teasers of cooler weather, but you haven't arrived yet.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shoulder Bags and Shootings...DNF...Review

About the book:
Fashionista and amateur sleuth Haley Randolph is in hot pursuit of the season's newest must-have handbag. But soon she's also in hot pursuit of a killer--when she discovers the corpse of none other than her designer purse party rival. . .

Life is beyond fabulous at the moment for Haley Randolph. She just spent two amazing weeks in Europe with her boyfriend Ty Cameron, owner of Holt's Department Store where Haley works. And now Ty's grandmother, Ada, is letting Haley drive her way-cool Mercedes. Things would be perfect if she could just get her hands on her latest fashion obsession: the new Sinful handbag.

Every store in town is out of stock, and Haley would rather die than buy a knockoff. But when she finds the body of her nemesis, Tiffany Markham, in the trunk of Ada's Mercedes, she's not so sure she wants to trade places after all. . .

Topping the list of suspects, Haley doesn't deny seeing red when Tiffany and her business partner not only stole her purse party idea, but also made more money. But Haley wasn't jealous enough to commit murder. Now she'll have to solve this mystery quickly--and find that Sinful bag--before she becomes a killer's next fashion fatality. .
.


I tried.  I just can't do it.  The premise sounded like fun, entertaining chick lit.  Unfortunately, the book is just like the main character, shallow and trivial.  Perhaps I'm just too old to enjoy a story about a flighty, superficial young woman whose sole purpose in life seems to be fashion and avoiding true responsibility.  Think the girl from Confessions of a Shopaholic.  I didn't read the book, but sat through the film trying not to fall asleep while everyone else around me laughed themselves silly.  Haley reminds me of Rebecca.  So, if you liked Confessions, I think you'll like Shoulder Bags and Shootings.

You can find a more positive review with a different perspective at Booking Mama.

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

Read 7/10


1/5 Stars




Friday, July 30, 2010

Hanging By The Thread...Review

About the book:
For ten years, a secret society has risen to power. They have infiltrated every facet of the federal government. They are powerful. They have extraordinary access to public funds. They have incredible technologies. And freedom is their nemesis.

They have sought to destroy economic freedom, amass power to the federal government, and create mass dependency. They call themselves THE THREAD. And now, they are poised to destroy the Constitution and rise to power.
 

But, on the eve of their burst into power, a copy of their plan falls into the hands of a young man in the Utah State Capitol building. A small group forms and comes to understand the plan of The Thread. And now, the race is on. Time is short and the group must struggle to preserve their lives, their nation, and freedom itself.

I'm not a political junkie.  I have a limited (at best) knowledge of economics. But, I think this story is timely.  Very timely.  You can say what you want about conspiracy theorists but many people are concerned about what they see happening in America today.

Colton Wiser discovers an interesting and disturbing document in a copy room at the Capitol Building in Salt Lake City.  Curious, he shows it to his roommates and soon finds himself racing to meet an economics professor at Brigham Young University.  As the four men study this plan, they realize that the future of America and the very freedoms they cherish are in danger. When masked men burst through the door, they realize they, themselves, are also in danger.  They must find a way to prevent a bomb detonation and make the country aware of a terrifying plan to overthrow the government. 

A fast-paced story that spans 24 hours. Think an educated Jack Bauer, but with a lower body count and a bit more control. 

This was a terrific, albeit somewhat pedantic, way to explain and teach economics to others.  Dr. Isaacson's lectures at the back of the book are thought-provoking lessons about economic freedom and the way it relates to human happiness.

Overall, a compelling debut novel and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to the author and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Donald B. Anderson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici...Review

About the book:
The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

 The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris,
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.


I've seen such glowing reviews of this book and while it was promising, I just expected something different. The book is well researched, but the author takes liberties and much of the story is, understandably, speculation.  Historically, Catherine's story is rich and mythical with much suspense, intrigue and sorrow.  She was a strong, enigmatic woman who fought hard for what she believed in.  I found the inside peek into royalty fascinating:  children married off at early ages simply for political reasons, mistresses who exert incredible influence and the early deaths of so many.  The explanations and descriptions of the conflict between the Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants) was interesting, but ultimately dragged the story down and I finally just had to skim a lot of parts.

I don't normally force myself to finish books I don't like, and I wish I'd just set this one aside when I was first tempted to do so. The tone of the book didn't set well with me for some reason and there was too much sex for my reading tastes.  Many others enjoyed the book and you can find more positive reviews at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time, Cafe of Dreams, and Booking Mama.

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

Read 7/10


1/5 Stars


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lunch in Paris...Review

About the book:
In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman--and never went home again. 

Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak'spink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? Lunch in Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs--one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world's most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2 femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate soufflé) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart.

Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.

Having been to Paris some years ago, reading this book makes me want to return.  Elizabeth captures the essence of Paris and the differences between the French and American cultures.  Elizabeth's voice is lyrical and descriptive. The book is simply a pleasant diversion, nothing stellar or radically new.  At times it's heartwarming, at other times it's a bit whiny.

Some readers will want to know that the book includes mild, unnecessary profanity and non-graphic pre-marital sex.   It opens with the line, "I slept with my husband halfway through our first date" and that nearly turned me off of reading it.  But, while similar in tone to Under the Tuscan Sun and other such memoirs, this was a book that I ultimately enjoyed.  I really loved the inclusion of so many recipes.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can learn more about Elizabeth Bard here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * *
3/5 Stars


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How do people find my blog, Part 3

It's been almost a year since my last installment of How Do People Find My Blog. Sometimes, it's quite interesting, and even a bit confusing! So, sit back and laugh at some of the searches that have brought people to 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews.


 find something for my kids to do when i do my house work... LOL! Lock them in their bedrooms? Lock them out of the house? Give them chores to do too?

BOOK about only allowed having two kids... Ok, how many children you have is UP TO YOU. It's between you and your husband. If you're a Christian, it's between you and your husband and God. No one else can tell you how many you should or shouldn't have. Now, if you're looking for a book written about someone who was only allowed to have two kids, that's a different story...

whats the book where two kids have adventures in a garden... It's called The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's one of my favorites. And, the play is awesome too.

does god want me to go to college... Don't be looking online for that answer here, dear. You need to ask God directly, and then listen for His answer.

spells that work for kids instantly... Um, sorry. You won't find anything like that here. We're strictly a non-spell family.

kids new york tired getting around... I've never been to New York. Sorry. Can't help you.  

modern recipes for kids... Wrong blog. I don't necessarily have recipes for kids on my cooking blog, but I have a lot of easy recipes that my kids like to make with me.

flatline book on medical corruption...
My doctor husband would like this one.

why kids love cookies... Um...because they're smart, and duh, they're kids!

a done kids book review to copy... You are dishonest, and if it's for your child, you're being a terrible example. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Seeker...Review

About the book:
Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers--a religious group that does not marry--she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. 

With the country--and her own household--on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road toward unforeseen peace--and a very unexpected love. 

The setting is the early years of the Civil War.  Charlotte Vance's new stepmother does all she can to force Charlotte out of her home.  After her fiance's desertion and with the threat of the servants she loves being sold off, Charlotte decides that leaving Grayson plantation is her only choice.  She and her slave Mellie join the Shakers, as Charlotte wants a place to hide and a way to convince Edwin that he should marry her.  When Adam Wade, illustrator for Harper's Weekly reenters her life, she must search within herself to find out where her true conviction lies.

I loved the historical aspect of this novel.  The Shakers abhorred violence of any kind and wouldn't take up arms, but did feed and help all manner of soldiers who passed through their village.  Ann Gabhart did a fantastic job of interweaving the Civil War into the story, while making Charlotte's story center.  The letters between Charlotte and Adam were terrific.

Before reading Ann Gabhart's book The Believer, I was not familiar with the Shaker religion at all. I found it fascinating.  I don't understand the conviction of those who chose that lifestyle, but I do admire their faith and diligence in living it. Like The Believer, this novel also explores the idea of following one's heart and learning for yourself the path God wants you to take.

Available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler from the Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can find out more about Ann H. Gabhart here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ransomed Dreams...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:

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


When the going gets tough—or weird or wonderful—the daydreamer gets going on a new story. Sally John has been tweaking life's moments into fiction since she read her first Trixie Belden mystery as a child.

Now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life. Her passion is to create a family, turn their world inside out, and then portray how their relationships change with each other and with God. Her goal is to offer hope to readers in their own relational and faith journeys.

Sally grew up in Moline, Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, married Tim in 1973, and taught in middle schools. She is a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois.

She and her husband currently live in southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414327854
ISBN-13: 978-1414327853

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Topala, Mexico

Eighteen months later

Like everything about the small village tucked into the foothills of the Sierra Madres in central Mexico, sunrise was a leisurely event.

Sheridan waited for it, tea mug in hand, shawl over her cotton nightgown, bare feet chilled against the tile floor of the second-story balcony. Alone, she listened in the dark to the squawk of roosters and clung to their promise that the world would once again know light.

“Oh, good grief,” she murmured to herself with a groan. “That is so maudlin. Truly and hopelessly maudlin. You might try something more chipper. Something like . . . Something like . . .” Her foggy brain offered nothing.

She scrunched her nose in defeat. The morning had shuffled in on the heels of a sleepless night. Chipper was not going to happen, no matter how hard she tried to talk herself into it.

If she could turn the calendar back eighteen months, she would not be talking to herself. No. Eliot would be right next to her, responding, most likely pointing out a dozen chipper thoughts in that funny way of his.

Nostalgia and regret hit her, a powerful one-two punch that still took her breath away. She clenched her teeth, waiting for it to pass, mentally spewing forth a verbal attack at the counselor who had promised her that time healed all wounds, that month by month they would see improvement.

What drivel that was! Eighteen months—or to be more precise, seventeen months, three weeks, and two days; but who was counting? All that time had passed and only one thing was healed: Eliot’s gunshot wound. His other wounds, the invisible ones, still oozed like toxins from a waste dump site. He was not the same man she had married.

Sheridan took a deep breath and let the bitter argument go. Nostalgia and regret settled back down into whatever corner of her heart they’d found to hide out in. Their impact, though, lingered.

Would time ever erase her longing for the Eliot she had married? The animated one, the one others adored, the one who was engaged in every detail of life, whether simple or complex, with every person who crossed his path. The one from B.C.E., Before the Caracas Episode. Now, in their A.C.E. days, he might as well be a deaf-mute for all the interest he showed in the world around him.

Sleep-deprived, she totally blamed him. She didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like he had much of a choice. The bullet that shattered his nerves shattered their life. Everything about it was over. Health, career, home, friends. All gone. Kaput. Some days she barely recognized herself and Eliot. Where were the Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery she once knew? These routines, hometown, health, acquaintances, and even personalities seemed lifted from the pages of some stranger’s biography.

“Oh, honestly. Get over it already, Sher.” She forced a swallow of tea and focused on the scene before her.

A lone sunbeam pierced between two mountain peaks and sliced into the distant mists. Another followed. And another and another until finally pure light broke free. Valleys and canyons burst into sight. Loud birdsong erupted. Then, as if God had uncurled His fist, long fingers of sunlight shot forth and touched the wrought-iron railing where she stood.

It was achingly gorgeous.

Sheridan flicked at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye. “You should have stayed in bed, you foolish, stubborn woman.”

Sunrises were the worst because they represented the best of what had been.

Most days she could ignore that thought. Evidently not today. She and Eliot were morning people. Had been morning people. Their daily ritual of tea and conversation at an east-facing view, awaiting dawn, was seldom missed. With crazy-full schedules, they needed such a time to relate on the deepest levels. Some days their hearts positively danced and sang in union. Naturally, through the years the tune changed now and then, the tempo sped up and slowed down, but the music never stopped. It never stopped. They always talked. They always connected.

Until that day in Caracas.

Now she watched sunrises by herself.

“You really should’ve stayed in bed.”

But it was so beautiful. And it went on and on like a slow waltz. At the bottom of her street now, purple haze still shrouded the town square. The sky brightened in slow motion above it, the fiery ball itself still hiding behind a peak.

Something moved in the semidarkness below. A person. Early risers were not uncommon, but she was startled. Something felt off about this one.

Or was that just her hypervigilance? Compliments of the incident in Caracas, it kicked into gear at times without warning, filling her with anxiety and suspicion.

Now she could see that it was a man. He passed the bandstand, his strides too deliberate for a villager, too American. He headed straight for the steep incline that led up to her house. In city terms, the distance was perhaps a block. In Topala terms, it was simply up beyond the sculptor’s shop.

The sun overtook the peaks and the man came into view.

“No way.” Her heartbeat slowed, but not quite to normal.

Even with his face concealed by a ball cap, his body clothed in a generic khaki jacket and blue jeans, a city block separating them, she recognized him. She recognized him simply because the air vibrated with him.

Luke Traynor owned whatever space he occupied.

Sheridan set the mug on the table beside her, tightened the shawl around her shoulders, and massaged her left arm. She felt no surprise at his unannounced arrival nor at the early hour. It was as if she had always expected him to show up sooner or later.

But as he climbed the narrow street, an uneasiness rose within her. Her muscles tensed. Why was he here? He had promised not to come. Sixteen months ago he promised. Not that she was keeping track. . . .

The sound of a soft whistle drew her attention back toward the square. Javier, the young sculptor, stood on the porch steps outside his shop. Behind him, the handicraft shop owner emerged from his door.

Javier raised his chin in question.

Sheridan gave a half nod. They needn’t be concerned. The stranger was, so to speak, a known quantity. Not that she felt the least bit glad to see Luke. Eliot would most likely be severely distressed at his arrival.

Wishing Luke were an apparition did not make it so. He continued his steady pace, arms swinging gently, head down as if he studied the cobblestones, making his way to her house.

Since that day in Caracas—the day her husband died in every sense except physically, the day this man saved her life—Sheridan had understood intuitively that Luke would always be a part of her life. And there he was, out of the blue, ascending her street in the middle of nowhere on a spring day as if he visited all the time.

She suddenly remembered the date. “Good grief.”

It was Annunciation Day, a day of remembrance, of celebration for when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced her future. How apropos. Luke appeared without warning. He would not have come unless he had something to tell her, some message that would irreversibly change her future.

Was this his joke or God’s?

Luke neared and looked up, straight at her.

She saw not the man whose presence had always triggered apprehension in her, but rather the guardian angel who had saved her life.

Sheridan turned and made her way inside, down the stairs, and through the house.

* * *

Sheridan opened the front door and stopped.

Luke Traynor stood less than six feet away, at the low gate in the stone wall where her front terrace met the steep hill.

She returned his steady gaze, knowing full well her own expression did not mirror the one before her. While dread, relief, and excessive gratitude rearranged every muscle on her face, his remained perfectly composed. The sharp nose, thin lips, and deep-set eyes could have been made of the same cobblestone he stood on.

He flashed a rakish grin. “I was in the neighborhood.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

He cocked his head, somber again. Always the gentleman, he waited for her to make the first move.

Sheridan clutched her shawl more closely and resigned herself to riding out the emotional disarray rumbling through her. She both loathed and loved this man. Of course he knew that, so it didn’t matter how she reacted to him except that she’d like herself better if she were polite.

With a quiet sigh, she walked to him, planted a kiss on his scruffy, unshaven cheek, and eased into his embrace. Nestled against the rough collar of his jacket, she smelled the familiar scent of him, an indescribable mix of earth, sun-drenched air, and confidence that bordered on lunacy. She felt the hardness of his body, always unexpected given his average height and build.

“Sheridan. How are you?”

“Fine.” She backed away, crossing her arms.

“And Eliot?” he said. “How is he?”

“Fine.”

Luke blinked, a slow movement of lids indicating he could take the truth.

She wanted to shriek obscenities at him. The disconcerting thing about angels, though, was that it was impossible to keep up any sort of pretense. Like an angel, Luke had stayed close beside her for long weeks after the shooting. He had gone with her to the edge of hell, holding on to her until she came back. He knew her better than she knew herself. Glossing over answers was a waste of time with him.

She tried another phrase. “We’re doing about as well as could be expected.”

He nodded.

“Eliot is still asleep.”

“It’s early. Perhaps I can greet him later.”

The resistance drained from her. Yes, Gabriel had come to deliver a message, and he would not leave until he’d done so.

She had no inkling how to shield Eliot and herself from this unexpected source of distress but gave a lame attempt. “I don’t suppose you’re passing through town and simply must be on your way right now, this very minute?”

“Sorry.”

She inhaled, her shoulders lifting with the effort, and blew the breath out with force. “Coffee?”

“Love some.”


Excerpted from Ransomed Dreams by Sally John. Copyright 2010 by Sally John. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Country House Courtship...Review

About the book:
It is 1818 and Miss Beatrice Forsythe is determined to marry well. After all, her sister married the Paragon, Mr. Phillip Mornay, five years earlier--which all but guarantees that she, Beatrice, can also make a famous match to a wealthy man.
But her sister and husband have disappeared from high society as they raise a family at their country estate.

Can Beatrice persuade them to chaperone her in London?

Meanwhile an old acquaintance, Mr. Peter O'Brien shows up at the house as the candidate for a vicarage to which Mr. Mornay holds the rights. Will old passions and jealousies be revived? Or can Mr. O'Brien and the Mornays ever live near each other as friends? And what about Beatrice's rash promise to marry the curate, made years earlier? At seventeen now, she has no wish to marry a mere clergyman--despite his agreeable countenance and winsome gentle ways.

When Mr. Tristan Barton comes on the scene as the tenant of the Manor House, Beatrice's hopes seem to have found their object. But when Ariana falls gravely ill, secrets come to light, motives are revealed, and the pretenses that are easy to keep up in the sunlight begin to crumble. Hearts are bared, truths uncovered, and when all is said and done, a country house courtship like no other has occurred!


Linore Rose Burkard's books are simply delightful.  This is the third and final installment in the stories of Forsythe/Mornay families.  Beatrice is an endearing, charming character.  A bit jealous of her sister's situation in life, Beatrice longs for her own wealthy match.  She's disappointed that her sister and Mr. Mornay have retired to their country estate and have no plans to return to London, and Beatrice worries that she'll miss her season of coming out.

However, drama comes to the country as an old acquaintance shows up to apply for the position of curate.  At the same time, a charming, if not roguish visitor also moves into the neighborhood.  Beatrice finds her attentions divided as she grows up and learns that what she searches for is often right in front of her.

A simply charming story and a fitting end to the Regency trilogy.  The books Before the Season Ends and The House in Grosvenor Square as well as this one all stand alone, although I recommend reading them in order, simply for wonderful stories, as well as character history.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review.  You can learn more about Linore Rose Burkard here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Sister Wife...Review

About the book:
An unlikely shipboard romance occurs in 1840 between a wealthy young Mormon convert from England, Mary Rose Ashley, traveling with her family from England to America, and Gabriel MacKay, one of the builders and designers of the new Cunard line who is evaluating the clipper ship’s performance. Married on board, the newlyweds make their way to the new Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois and are just settling in when Prophet Joseph Smith receives a revelation from God about polygamy. As one of their close friends from the voyage is suddenly widowed during anti-Mormon riots, Gabriel announces he will marry the beautiful Bronwyn and raise her baby as his own.

Mary Rose loves Bronwyn like a sister, but cannot imagine sharing her husband. Assuming that the relationship will remain platonic, she agrees, and Bronwyn and Mary Rose begin to come to terms with what plural marriage truly entails. Is this really what God wants for them?


I find it interesting when a non-Mormon attempts to write about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I've seen mixed reviews about this book and I was interested enough to check it out of my library.

The novel is mildly compelling, but the characters are one-dimensional and the story was somewhat contrived.   I do think the persecution and mob scenes were accurate, and the conflict that Mary Rose and Bronwyn shared as they struggled with polygamy was believable.  I don't think that any woman asked to practice plural marriage would automatically accept it unconditionally.  However, there are multiple sides to every story.  Those early saints who practiced polygamy did so because they believed it to be a commandment from God. Those who entered into it with a spirit of obedience and love seemed to be blessed.  Others struggled with it and to say that everyone had a positive experience with polygamy is as incorrect as portraying all polygamous marriages as miserable. The LDS church discontinued the practice a hundred years ago and it's in the past, but the fascination and negativity remains.

I appreciate that Diane Noble did her research and documents it.  Still, there are inaccuracies and I would hope that those reading this don't take it as a completely accurate portrayal of the church at the time. 

I didn't hate this story, but I didn't love it, although it was fascinating.  I will admit to being disappointed in some of the discussion questions at the end, as many are negative towards the church.  For a different perspective on a polygamous marriage and one based on factual history, check out Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  I will probably check out the next two books in the trilogy, just to see where Diane Noble goes with this story, especially after the family arrives in Salt Lake City.  I simply don't see her having Mary Rose accept this lifestyle.

Read 7/10

* * 
2/5 Stars


Monday, July 19, 2010

Courting Morrow Little...Review

About the book:
Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?

This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.


Laura Frantz has done it again. If it's possible, I think I enjoyed this one more than The Frontiersman's Daughter. Morrow Little returns to the wild Kentucky wilderness after having spent several years in the east with her aunt. She has never come to terms with the fact that years earlier, raiding Indians killed her mother and baby sister and abducted her older brother. While her father has found the ability to forgive, Morrow hasn't. However, her father has befriended Shawnee Indians and as Morrow allows herself to get to know them, her heart begins to soften.

When she falls in love with Red Shirt, Morrow is aware that her life will change, and she will not be accepted everywhere she goes, just as he isn't. Thrilling adventure and frightening peril await her. But with love in her heart and faith in God, Morrow knows she can overcome anything.

Laura's descriptions are vivid and stunning. She has an exceptional way of showing, not telling. Her characters are well developed and you're drawn to them and care about them. Morrow's fear on the trail becomes your fear. Her heartache is your heartache.

This was a book I couldn't put down, and one I was sad to see end. Enthralling and easily recommended, especially for fans of historical novels. I look forward to more from Laura Frantz.

Available July 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 Laura Franz here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


Friday, July 16, 2010

In a Heartbeat...Review

About the book:
First came the bestselling book, then the Oscar-nominated movie—the story of Michael Oher and the family who adopted him has become one of the most talked-about true stories of our time. But until now, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy have never told this astonishing tale in their own way and with their own words.

For Leigh Anne and Sean, it all begins with family. Leigh Anne, the daughter of a tough-as-nails U.S. Marshal, decided early on that her mission was to raise children who would become "cheerful givers." Sean, who grew up poor, believed that one day he could provide a home that would be "a place of miracles." Together, they raised two remarkable children—Collins and Sean Jr.—who shared their deep Christian faith and their commitment to making a difference. And then one day Leigh Anne met a homeless African-American boy named Michael and decided that her family could be his. She and her husband taught Michael what this book teaches all of us: Everyone has a blind side, but a loving heart always sees a path toward true charity.

Michael Oher's improbable transformation could never have happened if Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy had not opened their hearts to him. In this compelling, funny, and profoundly inspiring book, the Tuohys take us on an extraordinary journey of faith and love—and teach us unforgettable lessons about the power of giving.

Oh. My. Goodness.  I loved the film The Blind Side, but I really loved In a Heartbeat.  Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy share their story, in their words.  The chapters alternate between Sean's voice and Leigh Anne's voice, as well as several chapters they write together.  All three Tuohy children:  Collins, Michael and S.J., as well as Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw each write something as well.

Sean and Leigh Anne share a strong faith in God and a strong belief in making a difference.   I love Sean's Popcorn Theory about noticing others:  that, "you can't help everyone.  But you can try to help the hot ones who pop up right in front of your face."  The Tuohy's didn't plan on stopping to pick up Michael Oher, they didn't plan on giving him a home and they didn't plan on adopting him.  They are very open about the fact that their decision to stop and pick him up changed their lives, in a heartbeat.

The Tuohy's share their stories; how they each grew up and the experiences that shaped them.  They believe in being cheerful givers and in raising their children to be cheerful givers.  In a Heartbeat is an inspiring story about a remarkable family.

I loved the humor.  I loved the honesty.  The little asides, like the one where Leigh Anne says she doesn't actually wear skirts as tight as the ones Sandra Bullock wore in the film, simply make this book more personable.

Thanks to First Wildcard and The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here

Read 7/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

In a Heartbeat...Wildcard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:

Henry Holt and Co. (July 13, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist for The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


A Memphis, Tennessee native, Leigh Anne was raised by her devout Christian mother and tough-as-nails U.S. Marshall father, a JFK appointee who served the administration in its efforts to racially integrate schools in the Deep South. She attended Briarcrest Christian School and went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss,” with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design. There Leigh Anne met Sean Tuohy, her husband of 27 years. Both were active and ambitious college students. Leigh Anne was a cheerleader, campus favorite, homecoming maid, and active member of her sorority; Sean became a record-breaking SEC basketball champion and still holds several SEC assist records. Drafted by the NBA’s New Jersey Nets in 1982, he opted to continue his career overseas before returning to the U.S. to be with his father in his final days. He became a successful entrepreneur, building a company that now owns and operates 70 fast food restaurants, including Taco Bell and Long John Silver’s franchises. The Tuohys are the proud parents of daughter Collins and sons Michael Oher and Sean Jr.

Visit their website.



Product Details:

List Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (July 13, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805093389
ISBN-13: 978-0805093384

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

The Popcorn Theory

LEIGH ANNE and SEAN

We all begin on the same page and we're all going to end on the same page.—Sean Tuohy

After many years of getting and spending, of being broke, then rich, then almost broke again, of cashing in and paying up, and—let's face it—hoping to die with the most toys, we're convinced that it's better to give than receive. Some folks call that philanthropy. But we aren't the fancy types. We don't always have enough starch in our shirts and our household is about as formal as a sandbox. Instead, we live by a more informal notion, which we call the Popcorn Theory.

It goes like this: "You can't help everyone. But you can try to help the hot ones who pop right up in front of your face."

The Popcorn Theory is about noticing others. It starts with recognizing a fellow soul by the roadside as kindred, even if he doesn't seem to belong in your gated community and, at six foot five and over three hundred pounds, is the biggest piece of popcorn you ever saw. It's about acknowledging that person's potential and value. It's about seeing him, instead of looking past him.

"Like with popcorn, you don't know which kernel's gonna pop," Sean likes to say. "But the hot ones just show up. It's not hard to spot 'em."

Except, that first day we almost drove right by him.

It was a raw autumn morning in late November 2002, the day before Thanksgiving. A light dusting of snow had just fallen, which we in Memphis, Tennessee—being Southerners—considered a blizzard. Ice draped the roof gutters and the sky was dull and blanched, a waste-colored day.

We were on our way out to breakfast. He was trudging down the street in nothing but a T-shirt and shorts, his arms wrapped in a sad knot, his breath visible in the cold.

We glanced at him, briefly. Then we did what comes too easily to all of us. To be honest—gut-punch honest—we kept on driving and passed him by. Past the occasional patches of snow that lay on the yards like sheets half pulled back. Past the stubbled lawns and the freeze-cracked sidewalks.

But, as we left him behind, a thought tugged at Leigh Anne's consciousness. It was as faint as the wind, as indistinct as the chittering of birds.

"Turn around," Leigh Anne said.

With that, our lives changed in a heartbeat.

If you are among the millions of people who saw the movie The Blind Side, or read the book it was based on, then you know what happened next. You know how a wealthy suburban couple pulled over and spoke to young, rootless Michael Oher. How Michael was a ward of the state, his mother an addict, his father murdered. How he ran away from twenty foster homes and passed through eleven schools before he met us. How he eventually became a second son to us and earned a football scholarship to the University of Mississippi, where he made the Chancellor's Honor Roll. How he then went on to stardom in the National Football League. How an Academy Award–nominated film was made about our family, and how Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne.

You probably think you know everything about us, our whole story. Actually, you only know part of it. Don't get us wrong. Our friend Michael Lewis, the author of The Blind Side, wrote a wonderful book that deserved to be a bestseller. (Most of his books sell big. We haven't read all of them, but if you see him, tell him we did.) Our friend Sandra Bullock is a brilliant actress and her star turn in the movie, all nerve and bluntness, was perfect. (Leigh Anne doesn't actually wear skirts that tight, but it's a minor point.) Compared to our real lives, though, the book and movie were just sketches.

For instance, people ask all the time: "Is Leigh Anne Tuohy really like that?"

Our friends are quick to answer: "It's worse. The movie could only get an hour and a half of her in."

The truth is, childbirth is easier to explain than our story. So in this book we'd like to introduce our family properly, tell you how we saw events through our own eyes, and deliver our message in our own voices.

It's a message about giving. We often say that our son Michael gave us much more than we gave him. That confuses people: how is it possible that a homeless kid could give anything to wealthy parents who already had two perfect children? It's possible because in every exchange with Michael, we came out on the better end. We gave him a home—and he gave us back a stronger and more centered family. We gave him advice and support—and he gave us back a deeper awareness of the world. We gave him love as a boy—and he gave us back a man to be proud of. Each thing we gave to him has been returned to us multiplied.

But before any of that could happen, something else had to happen first. A fundamental precondition had to be met.

We had to notice him. We had to see him.

At this point we should pause to explain why a couple of well-heeled suburbanites would go out to breakfast on a weekday morning. The answer is that we don't cook. Or, to be more specific, Leigh Anne doesn't cook. As Sean likes to tell people, "My wife believes that if somebody else cooked it, and we bring it home and eat it, that's ‘home cooking.' "

Our son Sean Junior, who we call S.J. for short, claims that our conversations about meals always consist of the following exchange:

"What's for dinner?"

"Whatever you pick up."

S.J. also likes to tell the story of our Kroger's supermarket card. A while back the local grocery started a program: for every fifty bucks spent at Kroger's, four dollars would go to the school or charity of your choice. After about a year, our grand contribution to the team, based on the amount of food we purchased, came to just seven dollars. The only things we ever bought were Diet Coke and Gatorade.

Actually, we almost didn't even have a kitchen in our house. Several years ago we moved into a lovely home in the upper-crust River Oaks section of Memphis, thanks to our dual success in business—Leigh Anne as an interior designer, Sean as an entrepreneur in the fast-food business. Due to the growth of Leigh Anne's firm, Flair I Interiors, and Sean's company, RGT Management—which over the years has acquired more than eighty Taco Bells, Pizza Huts, and Long John Silver's—we were fortunate enough to be able to buy and remodel a beautiful four-bedroom, cream-brick manor on a bucolic street called Shady Grove Lane.

Leigh Anne handled the remodeling discussions with the architect, who then drew up some plans. When she showed the blueprints to the rest of the family, we all stared at them for a long moment.

"Where's the kitchen?" Sean said to Leigh Anne.

Meaningful pause.

"I don't plan on cooking."

Longer pause.

"All right," Sean replied patiently, "let's approach this from the practical side. What if we ever want to sell the house? Who would buy a house with no kitchen?"

Stubborn, emphatic pause.

"I don't plan on selling the house."

Eventually, we struck a compromise: a small passageway lined with bookshelves was converted into a galley kitchen. Sean likes to show it off to visitors by spreading his arms out in the tiny space. "See this?" he'll say. "This was a negotiation."

Even now, it's immaculate because it's so seldom used. As our daughter, Collins, tells her friends, "It's like a hospital operating room."

S.J. enjoys throwing open the refrigerator door to show visitors what's inside: nothing but bottles. We have drinks. We have sauces. We have condiments, ketchup, and mustard. We have seasonings, stuff to put on food. But no actual food.

By now you may have gathered that our family is a little . . . odd.

So that's why we were out driving that morning. We were on our way to get some home cooking.

That day in the car when we spotted Michael, ambling slowly along a tidy cement walk and past a series of wrought iron gates behind which peeked the tall gables of grand homes, we each had the same fleeting thought. We wondered, inwardly, what a black kid was doing in that neighborhood at nine thirty in the morning. Frankly, he was out of place. In that part of town, it's a little unusual to see someone walking on foot, much less a very tall, very large, dark-complexioned person in shorts.

"He looks like a fish out of water," Leigh Anne said aloud, peering through the windshield.

Memphis, of course, has a long and tortured racial history. But if you live in River Oaks—a stately, wholly white enclave—it's easy to avert your eyes from the city's race and class divisions, or ignore them altogether. Thick-chimneyed Mock Tudors and faux French chateaus are tucked behind whitewashed brick walls. The subdivisions have European names like Normandy Court and they exude affluence and seclusion. They are sheltered by old oaks and pines and heavy hedges and protected by thick garden walls. There's no concertina wire, but you get the idea.

As we passed Michael, Sean recognized him. He was the "new kid" everyone was talking about at Briarcrest Christian School.

The pleasant, redbrick high school where we sent our children was just four blocks from our house. Briarcrest had been founded in 1973 as a response to the court-ordered racial integration of the Memphis City Schools, when the flight of white parents had resulted in a burgeoning of small, private, reassuringly homogenous halls of education. Most of the kids at Briarcrest came from the same neighborhoods and their families enjoyed the same income levels.

But, to its credit, Briarcrest had begun to seek out and admit minority children, partly out of a philanthropic impulse, partly in the interest of giving its affluent students fuller exposure to the actual world around them. Michael was one of these minority kids—he'd only just arrived and he stuck out like a sore thumb.

As it happens, Michael was the same age and in the same class as our daughter, Collins. One day she had encountered him on the staircase on her way to anatomy. He was going up and she was going down, and he took up the entire passageway. She had to back up so he could get past her. She remembers thinking, "That's the largest person I've ever seen."

The next day she introduced herself to him. He just said, "Hey." She didn't get many words out of him in their first few encounters.

Sean had also noticed him at Briarcrest, where he volunteered in the afternoons as a basketball coach. It was his habit to drop by the school during his lunch break and he had spotted Michael in the gym, sitting in the bleachers watching some kids play ball. One afternoon Sean spoke with Michael briefly, and he came home talking about the huge new kid who had great hands and feet to go along with his size. Sean saw right away that Michael might be a real asset to the Briarcrest athletic teams.

As we left Michael in the rearview mirror that November morning, the two of us had a brief conversation.

"That's the new kid at Briarcrest I told you about," Sean said.

"What's he doing out here this time of day?" Leigh Anne asked. "School's not in session."

"I don't know."

And that was it. No question about it, we intended to keep driving. We were more concerned with breakfast. Actually, we were preoccupied with food in general, given that it was the day before Thanksgiving. We wouldn't be cooking ourselves, of course, but the previous evening we had spent a couple of hours helping Leigh Anne's mother—who would be hosting the family meal extravaganza—dice and chop.

Later on, we learned that Thanksgiving didn't mean much to Michael. Neither did Christmas, or his birthday. These days weren't for celebrating, quite the opposite. They were bleak, neutral days that only reminded him of want. "I went through a lot of those days with nothing," he told us. "A holiday was just another date to me."

We glided down the street in our BMW, a plush and comfortable silver cloud, fine with the world. But then it began to sleet, and that's when the thought whispered to Leigh Anne.

Why doesn't he have long pants on in November?

The thought grew until it forced itself into her throat and demanded to be spoken aloud.

"Turn around."

"What? Why?"

"Go back and let's see what he's doing here."

"Maybe he's going to the school."

"That's all fine, Sean, but why does he only have a T-shirt and shorts on in this weather?"

"I don't have a clue."

"TURN AROUND."

Anyone who has heard Leigh Anne Tuohy speak in that tone invariably does what he is told. Sean promptly U-turned the car right in the middle of the street, as ordered.

One of the things Mister Tuohy understands after twenty-eight years of marriage is how not to aggravate Missus Tuohy. Another thing he understands is how aggressive she is when a kid has needs—aggressive being a polite term for borderline obnoxious. Kids drive her crazy, because whatever is wrong in their lives is not their fault. Just by looking at Michael, Leigh Anne could tell that he had never hurt a soul. And he was shivering.

We pulled up beside him and Sean rolled down the driver's side window with an electric hum.

"Hey, Michael, what are you doing over here today?"

Slowly, Michael folded himself in half and bent down to the window. His expression was placid, gentle eyed. His voice when he spoke was mellow, deep chested, and surprisingly beautiful. He had a voice like a cello.

"I'm going to shoot hoops."

"Well, the gym's not open."

To Leigh Anne, leaning across from the passenger seat, it was immediately apparent that Michael was disappointed. He had an "Oh, no" kind of look. It was obvious to her that he now had no mission, no plan—and no place else to go.

"They got heat there," Michael said uncertainly.

He was going to the school because it was warm.

"Let us take you home," Leigh Anne said.

"Oh, no, no, no," he replied, with something like alarm. "I'm okay, I don't need anything."

"Well," said Leigh Anne, "why don't you at least let us take you back up to the bus stop where you got off. When does another express come by?"

"I don't know," he said.

After another minute of conversation, Michael clearly realized how persistent Leigh Anne intended to be. We simply weren't going to leave him standing there in the sleet in a T-shirt. Finally, he agreed to let us drive him to another bus stop and he climbed in the car.

There was hardly any talk as we drove. A little basketball chitchat, nothing more. What was going through our heads? Not much. All these years later, Leigh Anne is the only one of us who can recall having a specific thought that day. The first thing she thought was, "This kid needs some clothes." It was apparent that he didn't own any cold-weather garments. Next, she thought, "I wonder who would know what size he wears?" But she couldn't bring herself to ask him any questions. We didn't know anything about him or his life and we didn't want to patronize him.

We arrived at the bus stop and let Michael out. He waved good-bye. That was it, the end of the first encounter. It was nothing, and everything.

The following Monday, when school was back in session, Leigh Anne went over to Briarcrest and began asking some questions. Who was this kid? Where did he live? Where were his parents?

No one had any firm answers. The counselors knew next to nothing about him, except that he had been brought to the school in September by a youth basketball coach named Tony Henderson, with whom he had spent a few nights. Henderson had persuaded the Briarcrest administration to enroll Michael as a hardship case, on academic probation.

Leigh Anne dropped by the gym and queried Briarcrest basketball coach John Harrington, who said, "I don't know that much about him yet, but I do think he probably is lacking in clothes." Leigh Anne said, "Will you ask him if he will let me take him shopping?" John said he would approach Michael and let us know. That night John called Leigh Anne to say that Michael had agreed to let her buy him some things.

The next day, as Michael climbed into the car after basketball practice, Leigh Anne began to grapple with the scale of his potential needs. For starters, he was such a big kid that she had no idea where to look for sizes that would fit him. Surveying him, she said, "Okay. Where are we going? Do you know where we could get you some clothes?"

Michael looked back at her with an impatient, adolescent expression, like she'd just said something stupid. He sort of snorted, "Yeahhh."

"Well, I certainly can't take you to Macy's," she shot back, "so point me in the right direction."

That was the first small seed of a rapport and it grew from there. In the months ahead, our relationship with Michael would develop with a lot of sarcastic back-and-forth, and a lot of teasing, which was what we did in our home. Michael learned pretty quickly that in the Tuohy household you can say just about anything and not get in trouble.

In the weeks that followed, Michael began spending more and more time hanging around the house. But he wasn't the only one. We had supported and cared for plenty of kids besides Michael. (We still do.) A lot of them were athletes looking for a way up and out through sports, kids who were on the margin financially or academically. We had a natural sympathy for them; earlier in our lives, as we will explain, we had had much less ourselves. Besides Michael, there was a boy in the band and a young girl on the softball team. We wanted our home to be open to them and to all of our children's friends. Our house was like a hive: kids came over to share our takeout, or to be tutored by Sean, or just to play video games with S.J. Michael was different only in that he had greater needs. Truth be told, he needed more than any kid we had ever met.

But if there is a fundamental misapprehension about Michael, it's that he needed saving. As we got to know him during those first few weeks, we discovered that underneath his shyness, his foot shuffling, and his head ducking, he had a tremendous will to determine the course of his own life. If he initially seemed forlorn, and searching, that was because he felt guarded and out of place because of what he'd been through. But buried under his skin, like rock under soil, was a deep confidence, a sense of his own capacities. You saw flashes of it when he would cut his eyes up at you and smile. In that instant, you could see all that he had inside of him, as if the landscape of his mind had just been lit up by lightning.

Eventually, we came to understand that Michael was almost always the smartest person in the room. It just took a while for all of us to realize it. If anything, he was almost too sharp for his own good. As Sean would sometimes joke, "He thinks he could perform surgery with a butter knife." Miss Sue Mitchell, his academic tutor in high school and college, once said, "If Michael and I are ever in a car wreck together, please do not let him operate on me. Because he thinks he can."

The point is, Michael was always going to find a way to make it out of his situation—and nobody was going to be more responsible for his success than he was. He knew what he wanted and he found ways to attain it. "I knew there had to be something better," he said later. "I'd say, ‚ÄòMan, there has to be something else. I just have to better myself.' "

Michael came to us this great, sweet, bright kid, ready-made for success. All we did was give him a few tools and step out of the way. We allowed him to become who he was supposed to be. He was such a self-made man, in fact, that when he later saw the portrayal of himself as a boy in the movie, he said, "I was never like that." He didn't like seeing himself as he was. He argued that he never had trouble meeting people and looking them in the eye, and he all but insisted that he was born with a 3.5 grade point average. To him, none of his past happened. What he is now is what happened. Sometimes we argue with him—in all honesty, it's still hard for us to know how to treat his past—but then we let it go. His childhood is his own property. He would probably not be the success he is without the ability to transcend his past. He simply refuses to let it catch his sleeve and drag him backward.

A couple of weeks after we picked Michael up and took him to the bus stop, he spent the night on our couch for the first time. At that point he was drifting from household to household, dividing his nights between three or four different families from Briarcrest. He occasionally spent nights with a young assistant football coach named Matt Saunders. He also spent a lot of nights with a classmate named Quinterio Franklin, who lived out in Mississippi about thirty-five miles away.

When Michael stayed with us, he slept on a sofa in our game room, a broad, many-windowed space that reflects the Tuohy love of toys. It's got three different flat-screen TVs, a Pop-A-Shot basketball machine, an Xbox rig, and a view of the swimming pool outside. It's also got a large L-shaped sectional couch.

The running family joke is that Leigh Anne took Michael into her heart the first time she saw how neatly he folded everything. He treated that sofa as if it were the property of the U.S. military. After his first night with us, we all stared at the blanket folded and cornered in a neat bundle and at the sheets he had so crisply squared.

"Instant love," S.J. remarked.

No one else in the household would have done such a thing. Except for Leigh Anne, of course. The rest of us are all wrecks—which is why we need her.

Collins's room during high school was so messy that it drove Leigh Anne to distraction. Collins lived in piles. You could see the Monday pile, the Tuesday pile, and the Wednesday pile. There was the formal-wear pile and the semiformal pile. Leigh Anne would take videos of the room and show it to visitors, in hopes of embarrassing Collins into cleaning up the mess. When that didn't work, Leigh Anne would scream, "I'm going to throw her out of the house!" Finally, Collins would clean her room . . . and a couple days later, you'd see the piles on the floor again.

For all the chaos and yelling, it was apparent to any outsider who walked into the Tuohy household that we were a close family—if a functionally dysfunctional one. We didn't come home to the smell of fresh-cooked meals every night but we laughed a lot. We didn't have many Dr. Phil moments, either. We were moving too fast. Our lives were simply too hectic—who's got time for serious conflict?

Michael's first impressions of the cast of characters in our house were pretty vivid. Here's what he saw in each of us.

Leigh Anne: a former cheerleader, and five foot two of plainspoken will. She wanted to get things done and usually what she wanted to get done needed doing. If anyone tried to stop her, she'd take his arm off and walk down the street with it. She had a shiny exterior, glittering and bejeweled, that covered for tenderness. She cried on Sunday at Grace Evangelical Church when Pastor Jimmy Young read her mother's favorite scriptures or called for her father's favorite hymn, "Up from the Grave He Rose." But that didn't mean you wanted to mess with her.

"I'm all about loving and giving," Leigh Anne would say, "but I'm going to kick your butt if you do something you're not supposed to do."

Sean: gently sarcastic in tone and in manner, he pretended to be the minority partner. "I get a 49 percent vote," he'd say. In reality, he was probably the strongest person in the family. Sometimes others in the family seemed almost to ignore him, but when there was a crisis, everybody ran right to him. He oversaw dozens of fast-food franchises and he was also a broadcaster for the Memphis Grizzlies, the local NBA team. He was short on time and big on results. He refused to read the instructions to anything—he just went from A to D and didn't want to know what steps B and C were.

Collins: picture a luminous changeling with waist-length hair—and biceps. Collins—or Collie-Bell, as others in the family liked to call her—managed to be all things at once, gorgeous and athletic, sweet and a smarty-pants. She was the member of the family to whom everything came effortlessly. Before Michael arrived she was the best athlete in the house. She would master a sport, become bored, and move on. She was a gymnastics prodigy and later one of the best swimmers in the city. She triple-jumped and then won a state championship in the pole vault.

Sean Junior: An antic child, with a thick slab of black hair falling over his eyes and speech that came all in a rush. Of everyone in the family, he was the most perceptive and attuned to others. He had a strange, hyperkinetic mind; he was a king of the universe at Xbox, and he made straight As though he hardly cracked a book. Somehow, against all odds, he was also self-assured. The youngest in a frenzied household, he was always being left behind but never seemed to mind it. His good humor was bottomless. When he played basketball for a local boys club team that was made up completely of black kids, except for him, his teammates nicknamed him "Spot."

The family came and went at all hours and seemed to live completely in the moment. Sean would need five clean suits for a road trip because in addition to overseeing his restaurants, he was traveling all over the country doing his broadcasting for the Grizzlies. Collins couldn't find her pole vault gear in all the piles, Leigh Anne was juggling decorating jobs, and S.J. needed a ride somewhere. The merry-go-round never stopped—or even slowed down.

Then Michael came along. It didn't take long for him to understand what we were all saying to him: "If you want to jump into this frying pan with us, let's go!"

There was never a moment when Michael formally joined our family. It just happened. Monday became Tuesday and Tuesday became Wednesday. He'd stop by the house to hang out between classes and practices, which became hanging out to study, which became spending the night, which became staying for three nights, which became staying for a month. All of a sudden six months had gone by. At some point we realized that Michael had been living with us for a long time. It just evolved into what it was.

At first we were just too busy to stop and think about what was happening. It was only later that we understood that a mutual awakening had taken place and began to measure the size of the awkward gaps we confronted, between privileged and poor, between black and white. And only then did we begin to bridge these gaps as a family.

One of the questions we're asked most frequently is, how were Collins, S.J., and Michael able to accept one another as brothers and sister without resentment? We're not exactly sure, except that they were born good-natured, and we didn't ruin them. For some reason, our three kids aren't sitting on some psychiatrist's couch saying, "I got screwed." How did that happen? We don't know. But we do know that the three of them cared for each other as much as anybody.

One possible answer is that we all laughed a lot. Another is that Collins and S.J. were open to Michael because they hadn't been raised in total privilege and prosperity. When they were younger, they saw us struggle economically, so they grew up with some sense for how hard we worked and how fortunate they were. We also tried hard not to sequester them socially—because when you're socially sequestered, you're susceptible to stereotypes and to viewing a lot of people as "others." We never wanted our kids to view anyone as an "other."

Not long before we met Michael, we sent Collins to a program called Bridge Builders. It's a weeklong seminar during which schoolchildren from the dead opposite ends of the city are placed in dormitory rooms on the University of Memphis campus and required to get to know each other. The program is run by a Memphis nonprofit foundation called Bridges, which for eighty years has been fostering racial and social justice through a variety of community initiatives. They mentor local "peacemakers" and help young dropouts get their equivalency degrees and find jobs. "Changing Memphis One Life at a Time" is the program's slogan.

For five days, Collins—who was then a sophomore in high school—roomed with a girl from Raleigh-Egypt High School on the other side of town. Raleigh-Egypt was the opposite of Briarcrest socially and economically; it had a mixed student body and its share of problems. On one occasion, for instance, a student had slapped a teacher.

None of the kids in the program were allowed to use cell phones except in an emergency. Communication with friends on the outside was strictly forbidden, so all the kids had was each other. Through a series of encounters and counselor-led seminars, Bridge Builders knocked down social barriers and forced the kids to lean on one another. At first Collins and her roommate were all about checking out each other's hair. But as they got better acquainted, they discovered they were separated by—and curious about—some of the simplest things.

One exercise in particular made a lasting impression on Collins. A counselor gathered about fifteen or twenty kids together in a room, lined them up single-file, and turned out the lights. In the dark, the counselor asked them to close their eyes and listen to a series of questions. The students were to respond to the questions simply by taking a step to the left or right. If the answer to the question was yes, they were to step to the right. If the answer was no, they had to step to the left.

"Are you going to get a car when you're sixteen?"

Collins heard shuffling in the dark. She took a step to the right.

"Do your parents have jobs?"

More shuffling. Collins took another step to the right.

"Do you have two parents?"

Still more shuffling. Collins again moved to the right.

After a few more questions, the counselor said, "Open your eyes."

The lights flickered on.

Collins stared around the room. Almost all of the kids were on opposite sides of the room. They had been pushed to either one wall or the other by their family's circumstances. Just a few kids stood in the center.

Collins thought, "So this is why we're the way we are."

If the message you take from our experience is that a rich white family tried to save a black kid, then you will totally miss our story's meaning. It has nothing to do with where we were from, how we lived, or how much money we had. It's not important what color we were, whether we had glasses or didn't have glasses, or what kind of shoes we wore. All of that is irrelevant. Some people have tried to make it relevant—but they emphasize the wrong thing.

It so happened that when we first met him, Michael was a black, sixteen-year-old male. But those words are just adjectives that describe the person we tried to help and ultimately came to love. Making him a part of the family was an unconscious act, and it happened in a heartbeat.

It's equally true, however, that the outlook on life that allowed us to open our hearts and home to Michael was developed over the course of our lifetimes. If the impulse was sudden, the two of us had been thinking for several years about our philosophy of giving.

One of our deepest beliefs is beautifully captured in the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, or 2 Corinthians. The seventh verse of the ninth chapter of 2 Corinthians reads: "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." After many years of attending church together, and helping to found one of the fastest-growing congregations in Memphis, Grace Evangelical, we came to believe that a cheerful, spontaneous offering, no matter how small, could be increased and made powerful by God. Our faith helped us understand that it was up to us to be generous and make ourselves available to be used by others.

We also became convinced that in order to really give, we had to get our hearts right. We had to learn that it was important to let go of any particular agenda. What were we hoping to achieve when we gave? We knew that it couldn't be "We're looking to go out and help a fourteen-year-old Hispanic boy today."

So many people we knew wanted to make a difference and yet they waited for a really important cause to come along. Or they waited for their big bonus check to come in. They said to themselves: "I want to save Africa." Or: "I want to save the American Indian." They had an agenda. But why is it necessary to have an agenda? Because it relieves our conscience? Or makes us look good to our bosses? Or makes us feel good about ourselves? Because it makes us more appealing to the congregation? Or gives us more points on our Visa card? Or means that the United Way is going to give us a plaque?

The more we thought about the nature of true charity, the more we realized that there's a paradox in Americans' general attitudes toward giving: as a citizenry we are at once charitable and stingy. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, 89 percent of American households give to charity. Sounds impressive, but think about this: on average, we donate just 1.9 percent of our household income. To be frank, that's miserly. Especially considering how enriched some of us are, that percentage is well below what it should be. And by biblical standards—as most Christians would undoubtedly agree—it's downright shameful.

As we reflected on our own ways of giving, we came to see that we often approached charity too formally. Giving shouldn't always be a prescribed ritual or ceremony; it doesn't need to be accompanied by properly stamped paperwork. If we worried less about the procedures and methods of giving and concentrated more on a giving state of mind, we might have more to offer than we knew.

It pained us to realize that we too often failed at the simplest kind of giving. While we were waiting for a great cause, or focused on an agenda, we chose not to notice someone standing right in front of us. We looked right past the woman in the grocery store taking things out of her basket because she was short on cash or the elderly disabled man in line at CVS.

Ultimately, we agreed that by embracing a smaller and more cheerful kind of giving, we might ease a lot of everyday problems. It took several years but slowly, informally, we found ourselves arriving at a simple conclusion: it wasn't important to do something great.

Instead, we decided to take this approach: do small things with great love. If we could do that, little opportunities to give might grow beyond our wildest dreams.

And that's exactly what happened when Michael walked into our lives. We didn't set out to take in a homeless kid. We just gave him a ride. He was the ultimate example of the Popcorn Theory.

Too often we think we lack the means to improve someone's lot. We're wrong. The Popcorn Theory doesn't oblige all of us to write impressively large checks or take in every hungry child with a face like a flame. It only requires that we perceive the person standing right in front of us.

Not long ago we heard the following story from a U.S. senator we met during a trip to Washington for an Adoption Coalition convention. There is a little-known congressional program that awards internships to young people who have aged out of the foster care system. These are kids who were never adopted and are no longer eligible for state support. They have no families and few prospects. The internship program is a way to give a few of them a decent professional start.

This senator we met during the convention employed one such young man as an intern. One morning the senator breezed in for a meeting and discovered that his intern was already in the office, reorganizing the entire mailroom. The senator said to the intern, "This is amazing—the mailroom has never looked so clean. You did a great job."

A few minutes later the senator decided to get a cup of coffee. As he passed by the mailroom, he glanced through the plate-glass window and saw that the intern had tears streaming down his face. The senator stopped short, wondering what could have upset him.

He returned to the mailroom and said, "Son, are you okay?"

"Yes," the intern answered quietly, wiping his tears away.

"Did I say something to offend you?"

"No, sir."

"Well, what's wrong?"

After a short silence, the young man said, "That's the first time in my life anyone's told me that I did something good."

A bit of attention and a kind word—that's how little it takes to affect someone's life for the better.

Thousands of people failed to notice Michael Oher, his quality and his promise. Every day, as he walked the long blocks from the bus stop to school, they drove right past him. Now, Michael was hard to miss. But nobody seemed to have noticed him. Nobody ever stopped to ask, "Where are you going?" Nobody even offered him a ride.

After we met Michael, we became very conscious of his old bus stop. Leigh Anne is a power walker who does five miles a day and, from that Thanksgiving on, whenever she strode up to that bus stop she always took note of the people who were waiting for a bus and stopped to speak to them. Sometimes she just said, "How is your day?" Or she paused to ask a few questions and find out more about them. There was an orthopedic clinic nearby and some of them were on their way to get medical care. (We never even knew the clinic was there.) Others were on their way to work at a Chick-fil-A on the nearby commercial strip. (We'd never thought about how they got to work.) Most of them were taken aback when Leigh Anne stopped for conversation. They got a look on their faces that said, "People don't usually talk to me in this part of town."

Try an experiment. At some point in the next twenty-four hours you're going to come across someone who seems of no consequence. Ask yourself if you see value in this person. It might be a young woman in a restaurant clearing off the tables. It might be the young man who parks your car in a garage. It might be someone standing on the curb at a red light or waiting at a bus stop. Pay attention to how you respond. You will glance at them, barely, and you will place some type of value on them. (You're lying if you say you don't.) You will pass right by them and if you give them a second thought, it will be this: you're better than they are.

By the time Michael was seventeen or eighteen, he might have completely fallen through the cracks, unnoticed by anyone. After all, who cared where Michael slept, what he ate, what he wore, or where he went? To be brutal about it, who really cared whether he lived or died?

Even after Michael made it to the NFL, people still didn't seem to value him, to see him, as clearly as they should have. For instance, when Sandra Bullock went on the Late Show with David Letterman, she had an exchange with Letterman that struck all of us. No doubt he didn't mean anything by it, but Letterman kept referring to "that boy in the movie." You could tell it got to Sandra. She finally said, "You mean Michael."

To us, the astonishing commercial success of The Blind Side is rooted in a kind of self-examination. Michael's story causes all of us to search our souls and it shows us how we too easily ignore, debase, and devalue each other. The experience of watching the movie is kind of like hearing a sermon when you've screwed up and suddenly the sermon seems directed right at you. But the movie also touches the part of us that wants to be better, that yearns to treat each other as family. The story it tells is a reaffirmation of the way we want to feel about who we are and the way we want our country to be.

We're often asked, wasn't it a risk to take Michael into your home? You know what? You take a bigger risk every day of your life. When you get in your car and drive across a bridge, you take a risk. You don't know if your tires are going to blow out, or if the bridge's pilings are going to hold up, or if there's a drunk driver coming at you from the other end of the bridge. But you don't stop and think about it, do you? You don't get up every morning and kick each of your tires. You don't stare at the bridge and say, "Yeah, I think it'll hold me." You go right ahead and cross that bridge without giving it a thought.

Everybody takes risks, every day. You just don't realize that's what you're doing. For us, loving Michael was like that. We just crossed the bridge without thinking about it. And the way we see it, these are the kinds of risks that all of us need to take more of.

This is not to say that we don't have problems or make mistakes. It's not like we give everything away and go around wearing sackcloth, either. Like most people, we spend too much money on too many things, from golf clubs to David Yurman earrings. All you have to do is take a look at Collins's Louis Vuitton MacBook cover—Michael bought it for her—or check out the four cars in our garage, including young S.J.'s Dodge Challenger—Michael bought it for him—to know that.

Moreover, we're the first to admit that we weren't always the most generous givers ourselves and also that our views about giving were strongly influenced by others, starting with our parents. In the chapters to come, we'll show you how giving was passed down as a legacy to us and how we're trying to pass it to our children.

As you'll see, we have our flaws. You could even say that we have major issues. But, in the end, we're like every family. We have our disagreements and our insensitivities. We don't always like how other members of the family behave. We fight. We make up. And we get over it.

That's what families do.

Excerpted from In A Heartbeat by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy
Copyright 2010 by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy
Published in 2010 by Henry Holt and Company
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.