Everyday Tidbits...

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." - Anne Shirley

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Books I Grew Up With

Christy at Southern Sassy Girl had a post like this a few days ago and it got me thinking of my own favorite childhood books.  I did a similar post last year about how I developed my love of reading.  I have loved books from birth.  I can't remember a time where I didn't love reading or didn't have a lot of books around.  We got books in our Christmas stockings and in our Easter baskets.  We got books for good behavior or special occasions. 

As a very small girl, I loved the Little Golden Book, Little Mommy.  I had it memorized before I could read.  It was out of print for many years and the only copy I had was a tattered, incomplete version.  Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago, when I found that it was reprinted!

These are books I checked out of the library over and over again.  (These will definitely date me.)


A Room for Cathy, by Catherine Wooley (the whole series)  I loved these as a girl.  Cathy was the oldest sister and so was I.  She always wanted to be a grown-up and she had an annoying little sister.

Don't Call Me Katie Rose, by Lenora Mattingly Weber.  I loved Katie Rose and I could understand her frustrations.














Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary.  I loved Jane.  Stan was just the perfect hero!  The Luckiest Girl was one of my other Cleary favorites. 

Double Date, Double Feature, and Double Wedding, by Rosamond Du Jardin.  I loved Pam and Penny.  I loved the descriptions of their dance dresses and dates!

Favorite books I had at home, to name a very few:










The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Mine were the yellow books!

Heidi by Johanna Spyri and Heidi Grows Up and Heidi's Children by Charles Tritten.  I adored Heidi, and when I discovered the two "sequels" I was thrilled.  I enjoyed them just as much.  I loved seeing Heidi and Peter get married!

 












The Happy Hollisters and The Bobbsey Twins.  I had them all. I read them all over and over again. I can't quite part with them yet!  I wish my boys would like them, but they don't.















Little Women, by Lousia May Alcott.  I can't imagine any girl not liking Little Women.  I have three sisters and I adore books, so I completely related to Jo!

Nancy Drew, by Carolyn Keene. I had them all.  One of my best friends and I would call each other Nancy and George, and we'd even write letters in code, like Nancy did in one of her books.  I gave away all my Nancy Drew books to my girlfriend's daughter, because I don't have a daughter of my own. 














Piper to the Clan and The Iron Peacock, by Mary Stetson Clarke.  I still have all of her books, not just these two.  I still read them.  Loved the historical aspect, but loved Joanna and Ross too.

What about you?  What books did you grow up reading?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Simply from Scratch...Review

About the book:
A luminous, tender-hearted debut novel about a young widow, a nine-year-old girl, and a baking contest that will change both their lives.

Rose-Ellen “Zell” Carmichael Roy wears her late husband Nick’s camouflage apron even when she’s not in the kitchen. She can’t remember the last time she wore a bra, and she speaks to her dog in the voice of a pirate. That’s her widow style.

It’s been over a year since Nick died tragically during a post-Katrina relief mission in New Orleans. Long enough, according to the grief pamphlets, to have begun moving on with her life. But Zell is still unable to enter her attic, which is full of Nick memories. She hasn’t even turned on her oven because cooking was Nick’s chore. That is, until she decides to enter celebrity chef Polly Pinch’s first annual Desserts that Warm the Soul baking contest, hoping to win the $20,000 grand prize to donate to Katrina survivors in Nick’s honor.

Meanwhile, in the adjacent apartment of Zell’s two-family house, nine-year-old Ingrid Knox is learning to cope with the loneliness of growing up without a mother. With an imagination as big as her heart, Ingrid treasures her doting father but begins to plot how she will meet her mother, whom she fiercely believes is Polly Pinch.

When an embarrassing baking mishap brings Zell and Ingrid together, they form an unlikely friendship that will alter both of their lives forever. Together, and with the help of a lively and loveable cast of friends and family, they embark on winning the Desserts that Warm the Soul contest – and learn that through the many sorrows and joys of life, with a little bit of flour and a pinch of love, anything is possible.


I loved the cover and it was about cooking.  How could I go wrong?  I couldn't.  Quirky characters and a cooking contest add a bit of lightness to what could be a heavy, depressing topic of grief and recovery.  Instead, it's a sweet story about friendship and recreating a life after a devastating loss.  I liked Zell.  I loved Ingrid.

The story wraps up neatly, but wasn't completely predictable.  It's first person for Zell and present tense for everyone else, which is so awkward.  When I started it, I kept wondering where it was going to do and what the purpose was.  Once I let myself simply enjoy the ride and gave up trying to figure things out, I appreciated the story.

The Katrina tragedy was a terrific backdrop, revealing that service and help are still ongoing and needed in New Orleans.  I think this is a terrific debut novel.  I loved that Alicia Bessette included the contest recipe at the end of the book! 

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

Read 10/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Best Body Now: Look and Feel Fabulous at Any Age the Eat-Clean Way...Review

About the book:
Bestselling author Tosca Reno knows exactly how you feel. She went from being a flabby, 200+ pound woman to a slim and sexy fitness expert—all past the age of 40! Now, for the first time ever, she reveals her secrets to looking better every year. Using the simple, Eat-Clean principles that have helped millions lose weight and featuring all-new advice from Tosca and her team of top experts, discover how you, too, can:
· Boost your metabolism to burn fat fast
· Turn back the clock and age-proof your body
· Look and feel younger than you have in years
· Create your best body—now!

I can relate to much of what Tosca shares in her book, especially in regards to her story.  I'm probably in the worst shape I've ever been in, and at age 43, was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure.  This book is one that I will be rereading as I work to improve my own health.  It's a great guide including chapters on exercise, recipes, beauty and more.  I think there is something for everyone here, especially those of us over 40!

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

Read 10/10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ice Cream Theory...Review

About the book:
The Theory was hatched when Steff Deschenes was trying to make sense of her first heartbreak.  In the midst of that grief, she realized that, in the same way humans have ice-cream preferences, humans have people preferences. Like ice cream flavors, social preferences shift based on age, experience, even mood. There are exotic flavors that one craves when feeling daring, comforting flavors to fall back on, flavors long-enjoyed that eventually wear out their welcome, and those unique flavors that require an acquired taste. Like people, no ice cream flavor is perfect every single time...and it is in this realization that the crux of Deschenes’s theory lies.

Deschenes neatly brings together anecdotes from her own adventures with broader-reaching social commentary to help others recognize the wisdom and joy inherent in a beloved dessert.


With its cheeky self-help slant, The Ice Cream Theory is an endearing and light-hearted addition to any bookshelf.  It's a must read for anyone bruised by life's tough lessons and in need of a cheerful pick me up!


I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a book like this.  Is it a memoir? Is it a self-help book?  It's simply a book of humor?  It's all of the above.  I love the idea of the Ice Cream Theory.  That just as we all have taste preferences for ice cream, we have people preferences for humans.  Some people you click with and some you don't.  Sometimes those preferences change with time and experience, sometimes they don't. 

Steff goes through different flavors and shares anecdotes and experiences with friends and people for each one.  It's a humorous and enlightening read about friendship.  Rather than trying to put myself and those around me into her flavors, I found myself assigning my own.  Which is what you should do.

I love ice cream.  I always have. I worked at Swensen's when I was in high school and I think I tried every ice cream flavor they had and nearly every topping/ice cream combination they had.  Funny how vanilla with hot fudge is still my favorite.  Simple, elegant and yummy.  My favorite flavor of ice cream is licorice.  Not many places have it.  Sub Zero does and it's phenomenal.  But, I digress.

Simply put, this is a fun book.  You'll laugh, you'll ponder and you'll come away wanting some ice cream!

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Steff Deschenes and The Ice Cream Theory here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Highland Blessings...Review

About the book:
Highland Blessings is the story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise he made to his dying father. Bryce MacPhearson, a highland warrior, kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. 

While Akira's strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment when he forces her to wed him, hoping to end a half-century-old feud between their clans. 

While Akira begins to forgive, and Bryce learns to trust, a series of murders leaves a trail of unanswered questions, confusion, and a legacy of hate that once again rises between their families. Clearly, a traitor is in their midst. Now the one man Akira loves no longer trusts her, and her own life is in danger. Can Bryce look beyond his pain and seek the truth? Will Akira discover the threat against her before it's too late? How will God turn a simple promise into bountiful Highland blessings?

I love historical novels set in Scotland.  I don't care which time period, I just love novels about Scotland!  And, for the most part, I enjoyed this one. It has feuding clans, kidnapped brides, heroes and villains.  The characters are a bit one-dimensional, but still likeable.  Akira is strong in her faith and in her belief that marriage to Bryce will unite their clans and end the feuding.

One minor pet peeve was that there was never any mention nor implication of the marriage finally being consummated.  We understand in the beginning that Akira refuses to consummate the marriage because she was married by proxy.  At the end of the story, she is pregnant.  Now, I don't expect, nor do I want a sex scene in a novel like this. However, I do think it would have been a good idea to let the reader know the relationship had changed between the Akira and Bryce.

Still, this is a great debut novel.  I think that Jennifer Hudson Taylor is only going to get better and I look forward to reading more.  I enjoyed the fascinating Author's Note at the end of the book which talked about kilts and plaids. 

Thanks to First Wildcard and the author for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jennifer Hudson Taylor here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Highland Blessings...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:

Abingdon Press (May 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jennifer Hudson Taylor is the author of historical and contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. Her fiction has won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, will be released May 2010. Other works have appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Publishers, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, genealogy, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte area of NC.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426702264
ISBN-13: 978-1426702266

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue
Scotland 1463

Cedric MacPhearson knew he was going to die, but he glanced up at the low clouds brewing into a storm and raised a fist, determined he would last until one of his sons found him. The survival of his clan depended upon it. And as ornery and stubborn as he had been all his life, no one would believe he had agreed to a peaceful settlement with the MacKenzies if he died, least of all his sons.

Beads of sweat broke along his brow as he struggled to remain conscious, mentally listing every black deed he had ever committed and then muttering a whispered prayer for each one. As the MacPhearson chieftain, Cedric’s word had been the unquestioned law. He had always thought himself a fair man with a firm ruling hand. Now as he prepared to meet his Maker, he wasn’t so sure. It was imperative that he complete one last goodwill before he closed his eyes forever.

The restless wind twirled faster, rustling scattered leaves around him. The cool air was a comfort, giving him a feeling of being lifted high and floating away as the pain in his chest faded to numbness. Lightning flashed silently, highlighting a lone rider approaching at top speed.

Rumbling thunder echoed in Cedric’s ears, drowning out the sound of a winded destrier pulled short and his son’s voice calling to him. Cedric’s head was gently lifted into the lad’s lap and tenderly cradled in youthful hands, strong with promise. Bryce, his middle son, peered down at him with intelligent, gray eyes full of concern.

“Da! What happened to ye?” He reached over and carefully lifted Cedric’s bloody tunic. Moisture gathered in his eyes at the sight of the large sword wound slightly below Cedric’s heart. “Likely, the villain got yer lungs.” His voice sounded like a man, but it shook with desperation. He looked deeply into Cedric’s eyes with painful certainty. “Who did this to ye?”

“A MacKenzie warrior struck me down. I came from signing the peace settlement with Birk MacKenzie, so I wasn’t expecting an attack.”

“I’ll kill the MacKenzie responsible!”

Cedric could hear the anger in his son’s voice and knew a century-old vengeance
coursed through his veins. Pride swelled in Cedric’s battered chest, and he was pleased that he hadn’t missed this opportunity to give his final command and say good-bye. He clutched his son’s shirt in his fist.

“Listen, lad. Birk MacKenzie didn’t order this. Even now he doesn’t know.”

The effort to speak quickly drained his energy and made his chest feel heavy. What blood had not drained from his body began to fill his lungs, and breathing became increasingly difficult. With a concentrated effort he motioned to his pocket and took a labored breath.

“Get paper.” His hoarse whisper brought blood to his mouth.

***


Bryce shuddered. Knowing time was of the essence, he frantically searched his father’s clothes and found a piece of paper. He unfolded it and scanned the signed documents.

Denial was on the tip of his tongue, when he looked at his father with defeat.
“Pro-mise . . . ye’ll . . . make E-van . . . hon-or . . . my word.”

A flicker of apprehension pierced him. He was uncomfortable making a promise of a life-long commitment for his elder brother, and even more afraid to spend these precious moments arguing with his dying father.

With the last of his strength, Cedric grabbed his wrist. “Pro-mise!” More blood spewed from his lips as the clouds opened with rain. Lightning struck and thunder roared.

Bryce bent forward, hating the entrapment of death he saw in his father’s eyes, and cradled his father to him. “Da, don’t die!” Tears blended with the downpour of rain. Cedric’s cold fingers squeezed. Out of desperation Bryce yelled over the storm. “I promise! I promise!”

He couldn’t bear the thought of his father dying without granting his last request.
Cedric released his wrist, and Bryce knew he was gone. Tears were difficult to shed. He couldn’t ever remember a time in his childhood when he allowed one to slip from his eye.

Now, alone in the storm, a lad of ten and four, Bryce grieved for his loss and a promise he prayed he could keep.

Chapter One
April 1473

Akira MacKenzie willed her knees not to fail her. She watched Gregor Matheson’s blond head disappear through the astonished crowd that slowly parted for him. He would have made her a perfect husband, but now he deserted her, placing her safety in jeopardy once again.

She swallowed the rising lump in her throat and straightened her shoulders. Akira clasped her hands in front of her and turned to face the expectant gazes of her Scottish clan. Hushed murmurs flowed through the crowd until one by one their voices faded into the restless wind.

“`Twill be no wedding this day.” She allowed her strong voice to echo over her kinsmen. The earth vibrated, and thunder rumbled in the distance. Akira paused, but naught seemed amiss. Green hills and hidden valleys lay undisturbed, draped with wildflowers and tall grass that rippled in the gentle breeze. Strands of golden-red hair lifted from her shoulder and brushed against her face. She whisked a wayward lock from her eyes.

She turned to Father Mike for encouragement. He stood in a brown robe gathered with a rope cord tied at the waist around his thin frame. Holding a small book in the crook of his arm, he shook his graying head. His aging face held laugh lines around the corners of his eyes and mouth, but today his wrinkles were pulled into a sad frown. His soft brown eyes settled upon her with understanding. Akira wanted to run weeping into his arms, but she held herself still.
More thunder rumbled and grew closer.

“’Tis the MacPhearsons!” A lone woman cried in alarm, pointing past where Akira stood on the grassy knoll.

Panic slashed through her clansmen, and they scattered to find shelter behind her father’s
castle gates. Unarmed MacKenzies sought their weapons before the riders reached them. Expecting a wedding celebration, few were prepared for battle.

Akira turned. The thunder she had heard was an army of warriors descending upon them. A savage barbarian riding a fierce gray stallion charged toward her, his army in quick pursuit. Together, the lead warrior and stallion embodied power. He led them as befit a king, but when his gaze fixed on Akira, her blood ran cold.

The MacPhearson chief wanted his bride. Akira hated her fear of him as it took root and gripped her insides.

“Lord, give me strength,” she murmured.

She would not run. No, she would stand and wait for him. If it was peace he wanted, then peace she would give him. She’d be calm, meet his gaze, and remind him of the letter her father received six months ago from the MacPhearson chief saying he would not honor the betrothal their parents had pledged years ago when she and Evan MacPhearson were children. Accepting it as the insult it was, Akira’s father granted his permission for her to wed a man of her choice. She had chosen Gregor Matheson, but now she realized even that had been a mistake.

Her brother Gavin broke through the madness and grabbed Akira’s arm, propelling her toward the castle gates. The sound of horses’ hooves pounding into the earth grew louder. One gray stallion ruptured forth, his rider targeting her. Knowing Gavin held no weapon to defend them, she fretted for his life and tried to wrench herself free.

“Run, Gavin! Run!” she yelled above the chaos.

Gavin wouldn’t leave her. He struggled to pull her along, but her heavy satin gown caught under her feet, nearly tripping her. While most wedding gowns of her clanswomen were of varying colors, Akira had wanted to look like a white dove. The front was simple, but elegant, with no beads or trim. The long sleeves widened at the wrists and the skirt portion draped over her figure like a long tapestry.

“Hurry, lass!” he urged as the material ripped.

The stallion’s labored breathing almost pulsed down her back. Her skin crawled with tiny prickles. The dark rider would soon overtake them. Jerking free of Gavin’s hold, she again urged her brother to safety.

“Leave me, Gavin.” Tears of despair threatened to snap her control. “I’ll not have ye die at the hand of a MacPhearson because of me.”

“Nay. Never!” Gavin protested.

The MacPhearson warrior bent, and his heavy fist slammed against Gavin’s jaw. Her brother landed several feet back. Iron fingers gripped her waist. The MacPhearson tightened his hold across her middle as he pulled her backward and up onto the horse. Akira screamed and kicked, lashing out blindly against him. He fought her with one hand while he guided his charger forward. The reins almost tumbled from his hand, and he lunged to grab them. His hard elbow rammed her cheek in the process.

“Don’t fight me, lass,” he roared. “Or else the blood of innocent men will be upon yer head!”
His words cut into her like a blade, and she ceased her struggles as he threw her over his lap and across the racing animal’s back. Akira believed him. A MacPhearson could have no compassion in a heart as black as death.

“How dare ye, MacPhearson!” Akira’s father bellowed behind them. She stole a glance through her tumbling hair. He ran after them with a fist raised in mid-air. He roared another promise of revenge before bending over his knees to catch his breath. Her father shook his graying head in disbelief.

“I love ye, Da,” she whispered, committing his image to memory.

The forest swallowed them, and for hours the MacPhearsons kept their fast pace. Akira tried to calm her heaving stomach, but it continued to twirl as she lay over his lap. The ride would have been much more tolerable had she been able to sit on her backside. Instead, her stomach suffered from the jarring of the stallion’s movements. The nausea finally overtook her, and she vomited.

They stopped. Left with no other recourse, she tried to wipe her mouth with her hand.

The warrior ripped off part of his plaid hanging over his tunic that reached down to his knees like a long shirt and belted at the waist. He wet it with water from his flask and offered it to her. His plaid of red and gray colors fell forward, and he shoved it back over his shoulder. Since the MacPhearsons lived in a different region, their plaids were made by a different weaver from the MacKenzies. Akira’s clan often wore plaids of blue and green.

She lifted her gaze to his menacing glare. Akira trembled in spite of her silent resolve not to fear him, for he looked as if he wanted to beat her, and she felt certain it wasn’t beneath him.
He leaned forward, thrusting the material in her face. “Take it and clean yerself,” he demanded, as if the sight of her disgusted him.

Grimacing, she looked down at his leg covered with her sickness. Her cheeks grew warm. He deserved what he had gotten for throwing her on his stallion and hauling her off like a prize he had won.

“Lass, don’t make me repeat myself.” His lack of patience was quite evident in his tone, but even more so as he shoved the damp material in her face.

Akira snatched it out of his hand and glared back, momentarily forgetting her danger.
“Ye blunderin’ fool, ’tis yer own fault it happened. Ye got no more than ye deserved.”

He leaned forward, his nose barely an inch from hers, and she leaned back as far as she dared without toppling off his stallion. His dark gray eyes turned black, and a vein pulsed rapidly in his neck as he stared down at her.

Once again her temper and boldness had gotten the better of her. Lord, help bridle me tongue, she silently prayed. Deciding she had pushed him far enough, Akira gripped his leg while she stroked the damp cloth over his skin in hopes of diverting his attention from her angry outburst. He flinched at her touch. She dropped his leg with a questioning gaze.
“I told ye to clean yerself, not me.”

“I’m not quite as messy.” She turned back to her task.

He lifted her from the stallion and dropped her on her unsteady feet. It took her a moment to recover. When she did, she found herself staring at her captor’s chest. Tall for a woman, Akira wasn’t used to a man’s height equaling her own, but this MacPhearson was a giant. His massive shoulders blocked the sun’s rays, filtering through the trees.

He bound her hands with a leather strap, pulling the knot secure against the flesh around the fine bone of her wrists. She noticed his skin was a shade or two darker than hers.

Akira stole the moment to study his profile. Shoulder-length hair the color of potted soil framed an authoritative, square face. His gray eyes were sharp and purposeful as he tended to his task. Up close he appeared more handsome than barbaric. His bronze face bore a recent shave.
The bridge of his nose smoothed over his face to striking, high cheekbones. He radiated confidence, but she sensed a stubborn streak hid behind his determined expression.

As he towered over her, she felt a rare fear and trembled. His hands gentled, and his voice softened.

“I’m sorry I was so rough with ye. I didn’t mean for my elbow to hit yer cheek.” He pulled the leather tighter, making her wince. “I apologize for this inconvenience, but I must see to it that ye canna escape.”

He stepped back, rubbing his chin in thoughtful concentration as if contemplating what to do with her. “Ye’re no ordinary woman.” He crossed his arms and circled Akira, observing her. She could feel the heat of his blazing gaze travel the length of her. “Any other woman would have fled.” He paused in front of her and looked into her eyes. “`Twas as if ye were determined to stand yer ground and wait for me until that man encouraged ye to run.” He raised a black eyebrow. “Why?”

“They’re my family and clansmen. If ye were coming to claim yer bride, then I was the one ye wanted, not them.”

“So ye’re a courageous lass. Willing to sacrifice yerself for their lives. Is that the way of it then?” He spoke in a firm, yet gentle tone. He touched her swelling cheek with the back of his knuckles. Akira flinched from the uncharacteristic gesture. He dropped his hand.

“Regardless of what ye think, I’m not in the habit of mistreating women.” He looked at her intently, his eyes almost willing her to believe him.

She stared over his shoulder at the dark forest, refusing to relieve him of his guilt—if he was human enough to feel any. “My brother did naught to ye. Why did ye hit him?”

“Yer brother would have interfered and caused a massacre of yer people. I had no wish for that to happen, so I took the only option I had. I took care of him before he could strike me and my men retaliate on my behalf.”

Akira stepped back in disbelief. She craned her neck to see into his dark gray eyes. “’Twas not the only option. He could still be unconscious this verra moment.”

He sighed, crossing his arms over his chest as if she were trying his patience. “I assure ye, lass, yer brother will be fine. I didn’t hit him hard.”

She leaned up on her tiptoes. “Then my eyes must have been deceiving me, for ye
knocked him plumb out.”

“Aye, that I did.” He grinned with pride as white, even teeth flashed in contrast to his dark profile. “But the blow will not cause any lasting effects, I assure ye.”

“There’s not a guilty bone in yer body.” A lock of golden-red curls fell forward covering her right eye. She reached up with her bound hands and tossed her long tresses over her shoulder. “Ye had no right to take me from my family.”

“Believe as ye wish.” He shrugged. “I may have taken ye against yer will, but I never commit harm unless I’m forced.” He placed a finger under her chin and tilted her face.

Her mind whirled in a daze. Akira purposely closed her heart to any generosity he might bestow upon her. “Gavin gave ye no reason to hit him. I hope I do naught to force yer mistreatment of me before ye return me to my family.” The sarcasm in her voice overshadowed her fear.

A sudden frown perplexed his otherwise perfect face, and she sensed a change in his demeanor. In one fluid motion, he lifted her upon his stallion. This time she was properly seated as he mounted up behind her. He urged the beast beneath them forward, signaled to his men, and they were again on their way. Akira had nearly forgotten that others were present to witness their exchange.

Under the circumstances, he set a much slower pace than she would have anticipated, knowing the MacKenzies could be following close behind. They traveled a good distance in silence.

After a long while had passed, he bent toward her ear. “I’m sorry.”

His warm breath floated over the skin at her nape, and she fought the urge to shudder. His apology stunned her speechless. Warriors did not apologize, least of all to bound prisoners or to women.

“Whether ye believe me or not, I do not mistreat women. And the blow to yer cheek wouldn’t have happened if ye hadn’t put up such a struggle.”

Akira remained silent. How was she supposed to have responded while being kidnapped away from her family and all that she held dear? She had no idea what to expect. All she knew was that she depended upon the Lord to give her sufficient grace to get through whatever she would be forced to endure at their hands.

“I see ye’ve naught else to say.” Disappointment carried in his voice.

She arched an eyebrow. He expected friendly conversation while he carted her halfway across the country against her will and kept her in bonds? “What would ye have me say?” She turned sideways in the saddle. “I can only wonder at what ye plan to do with me. Should I beg for mercy in hopes ye’ll spare my life? Or should I wait ’til ye’ve no more use for me?” She straightened away from him.

He chuckled. “I appreciate the ideas.”

“Why not take me home now before my da comes after me and more blood is shed?”

He tensed as if her words had struck some deep chord within him. “Believe me, lass, more bloodshed is not my intention. I took ye because I had to and that’s the end of it.”

Akira wisely remained silent. The man seemed to contradict even his own character. He didn’t want her to believe him a barbarian, yet he had ridden onto MacKenzie land with warriors and carted her off against her will, thrown across his lap like a sack of potatoes. Then he bound her wrists with a leather strap and tried to convince her that he was a caring gentleman with good manners. There could only be one explanation. The man was daft.

* * *


They rode well into the night. Bryce’s heavily muscled arms shielded her from branches and other brush in their path. They came to a clearing and Bryce halted. “We’ll camp here for the night. There’s a small brook beyond those trees.” He gestured to the right. He called two men over. “Backtrack and station yerselves to keep watch. I want to know of the first sign of a MacKenzie.”

Before she could object, large hands circled her waist and lifted her down. “Follow me.” He turned on his heel, leaving her with no choice but to do as directed. He led her into the dark woods, and she wanted nothing more than to turn and run the other way. Twigs cracked beneath the weight of their footsteps. An owl hooted in the distance. A small animal shifted and darted through the leaves. She wondered if it was a rabbit. Crickets sang around them. Akira rubbed her arms in discomfort and crouched close to his back to avoid the leaves and limbs he shoved aside.

They reached the brook, and he motioned for her to kneel beside him. She bent and watched him remove more of his plaid. He dipped it into the water and brought it against her face.
She jerked at the cold contact. What was this about?

“I merely want to bathe yer face.”

She leaned back. “Nay!”

His hands fell to his sides, still holding his wet plaid in one hand. “I can see the swelling and darkness just below yer eye, even in the moonlight.”

As if brought on by his words, the skin under her left eye tightened and grew numb. Her fingers inched to her cheek as she stared at him. He was stern with his men and they rushed to do his bidding. A man did not earn that kind of respect and power with a gentle nature. They feared him, and they wanted his approval. She could see it in their faces when they looked at him. Admiration shone in their expression.

“Ye’ve no reason to fear me, unless ye plan to make it so,” he interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll treat ye with all the respect owed and due a lady, but heed my warning: Don’t anger me by trying to escape. There is naught I despise worse than distrust and betrayal.”

Akira stood to her full height, prepared to challenge him. “As yer prisoner I owe ye no trust or loyalty.”

He rose beside her. “Consider yerself warned. ’Twould ease yer fear of me.”

He lowered his voice, and she sensed his tone carried great meaning.

“I’m not afraid. I simply wish ye not to touch me.” She hoped her tone carried the contempt she felt.

“As ye wish.” He stepped closer, pointing a finger in her face. “But I warn ye. Ye’ll remain bound, for I’ll not give ye the opportunity to flee. If ye eat, I shall feed ye. If ye
wash, I shall help ye. Ye belong to my brother, and I trust no one else save Balloch.”

Akira stood still, stunned. He was not the MacPhearson clan chief? She belonged to his brother? “Yer not Evan MacPhearson?”

“I am Bryce MacPhearson, the middle son.” He grinned. “I see ye’ve managed to remember the name of the man ye should have been saying yer vows to when I found ye, instead of that oaf ye were about to commit yerself to.”

He started to turn from her, but she gripped his arm. “Gregor is not an oaf. Though that is the best I can describe of ye.” She felt almost breathless. “What lies do ye speak? Evan MacPhearson sent my father a letter saying he had no intention of wedding me.”

“I speak no lies. The letter was a mistake.” He turned his full attention toward Akira and placed his hands on his hips, towering over her. “And as to a better description of me, do ye really lack that much imagination, lass? If this Gregor deserves such defense, then where was the brave groom when I found ye?”

Akira hated the truth of his words. Shivers ran up her spine, and she consciously tried to shake them off, but his last question brought her blood to a boil. Her thoughts turned to the humiliating scene. Warmth crept up her neck and into her face.

“Perhaps he was a wee bit late?” he taunted.

She refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing how much his words hurt. “Maybe he knew how miserable I could make his life, which would be my full intention if yer brother were to succeed in wedding me.”

His lips twisted into a sardonic grin. “As laird, Evan is only performing his duties by wedding ye. Marriages of convenience occur every day. I doubt he plans to spend enough time with ye to allow ye to wreak havoc in his life.”

“I haven’t agreed to wed Evan. And ye know naught of Gregor to throw insults in his absence.” She hated the fact that she felt forced to take up for Gregor. He did not deserve her loyalty any more than the MacPhearsons.

“I know enough.” His gray eyes grew darker and his voice a bit louder.

“What do ye know of him?”

“Enough.”

“If I must hear these accusations against him, then tell me.”

He reached for her, and not knowing his intention, she flinched. His palm rested on the side of her face, surprisingly as gentle as a breeze. “I know he is a complete fool to give ye up.” His voice broke to a husky whisper.

Akira blinked, wondering if she had heard him correctly. “Then I suppose yer brother would be an even greater fool, because me da received Evan’s letter releasing me from the betrothal agreement just six months past.”

Bryce’s expression didn’t change. “He is the fool of all fools.” He turned and walked away.

Akira followed him.

“Did he send ye for me?” She wanted to know if she was an unwelcome necessity in Evan’s life.

“Ye’ll know soon enough.”

Akira caught up with him and tugged on his arm. She needed answers. “Why didn’t he
take me?”

He shook off her arm. “Ye’ll sleep close by me.”

“I think not.” She turned from him and stomped off in the other direction, only to realize she still desired to know more about Evan MacPhearson. “Why did he not come for me himself?”

Bryce turned from her, rubbing his palm against his forehead. He walked past his men and pulled his furs from his stallion and threw them at her feet. “Here, sleep on those. ’Tis enough to cover ye.”

“My da will come for me.”

“I expect he will.” Bryce walked over to a tree, sat, leaned against the trunk and folded his arms over his knees.

“Ye plan to sleep that way?”

“Aye.” He let his head drop against the hard bark.

“Ye look uncomfortable.” She frowned in his direction. “But, I care not.” She assured him. “I’ll be home with me family in the comfort of me own bed soon.”

Akira brushed aside a few twigs and spread out her furs as best she could with her hands still bound. Then she crawled on top of the furs and brought one end over her. The chill had not bothered her as yet, but the night air promised dropping temperatures. The day had been warm for April and the first time it had not rained in days. It was a good omen for her wedding day—or so she had thought. An image of Gregor appeared in her mind, and sadness closed around her heart. The pain of his rejection hurt more than she cared to think on. She stifled a sob that nearly escaped her throat.

***


A muffled sound brought Bryce’s head up. He studied Akira’s feminine form under the moonlight. Her hair sprawled over her arms like silver ribbon. She sighed uncomfortably and shuffled around, restless.

The vision of her face, swollen and blue, made him squirm with regret. He had not meant to hurt her, and he despised his carelessness.

“Blunderin’ idiot!” he muttered under his breath.

“Are ye troubled?” The hope in her voice almost made him chuckle as she rolled over on her side and sat up on her elbow. The furs slipped from her shoulder. Akira’s silhouetted form shivered against the cool air settling in around them. Bryce looked away and shifted again to ease his discomfort.

“Nay.” He dropped his chin on his folded arms.

She continued to stare at him a moment longer before she lay back down to rest.

He let his head fall back against the bark of the tree and looked up at the outline of the branches and leaves above. Footsteps and twigs broke. Balloch plopped down beside him.
“The lady’s a beauty, is she not?” Balloch whispered.

“Aye, she is at that. In a few days she’ll hate me when she learns the truth.” For some reason, that realization bothered him. What should he care of her hatred for him? He wasn’t the one destined to wed her, but it bothered him nonetheless. As she prayed aloud for her family, her safety, and a swift return home, guilt plagued him.

When she prayed that God would soften his heart, Bryce could stand no more. He turned to Balloch. “Keep an eye on her. I’ll be back.”

In one fluid motion he stood and walked away from camp. Safely out of hearing, Bryce looked up at the clear bright stars.

“Lord, Vicar Forbes says to honor yer mother and yer father. I’m only trying to do so.” He sighed heavily, wondering if God would hear him after what he had done today. “I really do want peace between our clans. I’m tired of all the bloodshed. Show me how to keep my promise without causing another war.”

No answer came from the Almighty. Bryce dropped his head in shame. While he had never been an overly religious man, he had no desire to anger his Maker. Had he gone too far this time?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Miracle of Mercy Land...Review

About the book:
What if you had the power to amend choices you made in the past? Would you do it even if it changed everything?
 
 
Mercy Land has made some unexpected choices for a young woman in the 1930s. The sheltered daughter of a traveling preacher, she chooses to leave her rural community to move to nearby Bay City on the warm, gulf-waters of southern Alabama. There she finds a job at the local paper and spends seven years making herself indispensible to old Doc Philips, the publisher and editor. Then she gets a frantic call at dawn—it’s the biggest news story of her life, and she can’t print a word of it.
           
Doc has come into possession of a curious book that maps the lives of everyone in Bay City—decisions they’ve made in the past, and how those choices affect the future. Mercy and Doc are consumed by the mystery locked between the pages—Doc because he hopes to right a very old wrong, and Mercy because she wants to fulfill the book’s strange purpose. But when a mystery from Mercy’s past arrives by train, she begins to understand that she will have to make choices that will deeply affect everyone she loves—forever.


A beautifully written story about choices and their consequences on others.  But, while the writing is very lyrical and evocative and the characters are memorable, it just never clicked for me.  It's a slow moving story and I found myself impatient for it to be finished.  Magical realism is used in fiction to help the characters and readers see a deeper meaning to something.  Magical elements are portrayed as normal and, here, the book is just that: a magical book that suddenly appears and seems to have knowledge about people's lives, paths and choices.  For me, it was hard to accept the magical elements as anything but implausible.  Normally that is not the case for me, because I adore Sarah Addison Allen who incorporates magical realism so well into her books.

I believe the book is actually classified as Christian Fiction, but the Christian elements are very subtle, nothing overt.  This seems to be a story that resonates with many, it just didn't resonate with me.  You can find more positive reviews at Reading to Know, Reviews from the Heart, and From the Heart of a Bookworm.

Thanks to Kelly Blewett of KBK Public Relations for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about River Jordan here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Monday, October 25, 2010

Uncertain Heart...Review

About the book:
The year is 1866, and Sarah McCabe has wanderlust. In an effort to become independent of her family back in Missouri, she accepts a governess position in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, giving her a firsthand taste of the life she has always desired—a life of luxury, culture, and social privilege.

Richard Navis is a man determined to finish his indentureship to Captain Brian Sinclair and take over his family’s farm. But when he falls in love with Sarah, his homesteading goals blur. She doesn’t seem interested in settling down. What’s more, Richard fears she’s fallen victim to the captain’s charm and persuasion.

When Sarah’s reputation is questioned, Richard devises a bold plan in hopes of protecting her. But is he too late? Has Sarah already made her choice?

A simply charming book. In her quest for freedom and independence from her family, Sarah McCabe accepts a position as governess for a wealthy widower.  Captain Sinclair is a domineering man used to getting his own way.  Richard Navis is Captain Sinclair's assistant; a man indentured, but anxious to finish his term and return to farming.  Sarah finds herself drawn to both men, and she certainly enjoys the wealth and privilege that comes from working for the captain.

Sarah's character is delightful.  She's charming and funny and strong in her Christian faith.  The captain is an annoying, proud man who neglects his children and is intent on simply getting his own way.  Richard is a hero:  charming and considerate.

This was a story I completely enjoyed.  It's a sequel to Unwilling Warrior, but it stands alone just fine.  I liked it even better than the first one.  There's a bit of a teaser for the third book, Unexpected Love, and I'm anxiously awaiting it!

Thanks to First Wildcard and  Strang Book Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Andrea Boeshaar here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars