Everyday Tidbits...

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Path Less Traveled...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:

WordVessel Press (October 18, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cathy Bryant for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A Texas gal since birth, Cathy Bryant continues the Mayberry RFD--only Texas Style!--stories with Book 2 in the Miller's Creek series, A Path Less Traveled. Her debut novel Texas Roads was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist. Cathy lives in a century-old Texas farmhouse with her husband of almost 30 years and a phobia-ridden cat.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: WordVessel Press (October 18, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984431128
ISBN-13: 978-0984431120

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One ~ Tolling Bells


In spite of the thousands of winking lights surrounding Trish James, a wedding somehow lost its luster in the wake of death. She nudged her shucked shoes out of the way with her big toe and adjusted the tulle on the wedding arch, the soft netlike fabric billowing beneath her fingertips as she encased the twinkle lights. The church sanctuary, with its white pews, stained-glass windows, and smoky blue carpet, served as the perfect backdrop to her design.

“This wedding must be hard on you after Doc’s death.” Dani spoke the words as if uncertain she should speak at all.

The ache in Trish’s heart started afresh, a wound that never healed, but she pushed it aside with practiced expertise. This wedding wasn’t about her. “I’m fine. It’s not everyday my brother marries the most wonderful woman in the world.” She forced a bright smile. “I’ve never seen Steve so happy.”

Her sister-in-law-to-be didn’t return the smile. Instead the area above her clear blue eyes creased. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yep.” Trish snipped the word and bent low to snag a sprig of silk ivy, then inserted it in the proper place and blinked away tears. In truth, it would be great to have someone to share her concerns with, but within boundaries—not right before the wedding, not with anyone who lived in Miller’s Creek, and definitely not with family members. The last thing she wanted was for them to feel like they had to come to her rescue.

She’d told Delaine some of the situation, but her best friend since high school now lived the fast-paced, Austin lifestyle, their conversations limited to when Delaine didn’t have something else on her agenda.

“I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be both mother and father to Little Bo.” Dani lowered her head, blonde ringlets framing her face. “And then trying to start a business on top of everything else.”

Oh, no. She wasn’t going there. Trish clenched her teeth. Steve had already given her this lecture. With his best brotherly concern, he’d told her she didn’t have to be Superwoman. Yeah, right. Try telling that to her empty checkbook and refrigerator. She glanced at Dani, who sat atop the piano railing swinging her legs. “Are you ready for the big day tomorrow?”

A happy glow wreathed her friend’s face. “And the day after, and the day after that. I think I’ve been getting ready to marry Steve my entire life.”

“I’m happy for you both.” Though it hurt to speak the words, she meant it. It wasn’t their fault her life was in the doldrums.

Dani sprang from her perch and trotted down the steps to view the stage. “You have such a gift, Trish. Everything looks magical.”

Trish gazed at the curly willow branches she’d ordered and spray-painted white, now wrapped with tiny sparks of light. The fairy tale forest blanketed the stage and meandered down the side aisles in an aura of enchantment. Once the ribbons and flowers were placed, and candles inserted into globes and nestled among the boughs, her vision would be complete. “I hope it’s what you wanted.”

“It’s better than I could’ve ever imagined.” Dani hurried over and draped an arm across her shoulder. “Once everyone in Miller’s Creek see this, you’re gonna get loads of business.”

A heavy sigh whooshed from her before she could contain it. “From your lips to my bank account.”

Dani’s eyes clouded. “I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it and get it over with. Are you okay? I mean…do you need to borrow money or something?”

No. Yes. Yes. She wasn’t okay. She needed money. She needed…something. “I’m fine.” The lie popped out as she stepped to the box perched on the piano bench. With care she lifted two delicate cracked-glass globes and moved to the candle stands. The words “I’m fine” were her constant mantra these days, like saying them made everything all right. Who was she kidding?

She closed her eyes and reopened them with a slow blink, weary of pretending. But what choice did she have? Her brother’s wedding wasn’t the time or place to air her personal problems. Besides, she was thirty-two years old, more than old enough to handle life on her own. A glance at her wristwatch sent her pulse on a stampede. Still so much to do to make the decorations perfect. God, please let this bring me business.

Dani plopped back onto the railing. “Is Little Bo doing better?”

How could he be? “Sure, if you don’t count the nightmares and barely letting me out of his sight.” She omitted the fact that he was a hairsbreadth away from flunking kindergarten unless she could help him catch up before the school year ended.

“So the psychologist is helping?”

Before Trish could respond, the double white doors at the rear of the church burst open. Incessant rain poured from the April sky and silhouetted the form of a man. Dani let out a squeal. “Andy!”

The petite blonde flew down the steps toward a man who looked vaguely familiar. He wore a lightweight suit with a loosened necktie, and had an easy-going smile that brightened the room. “Hey, how’s the bride?”

Dani looked up at him, her face radiant. “Never better.”

“Yeah, I can see that.”

She tugged his arm. “Come here. I want you to meet someone.”

His loose-limbed gait gave the impression of someone always relaxed, like he’d just returned from a vacation at the beach.

“This is Andy Tyler, my friend from Dallas. Andy, this is Steve’s sister.”

Sea-green eyes sparkled. “Well, does Steve’s sister have a name?” He jogged up the steps and held out a hand, his smile still bright.

Trish laughed and took his hand. “I’m Trish James. Nice to meet you.”

Dani’s face took on a crimson hue. “Sorry. Guess my mind is elsewhere.”

Andy’s gaze rested on her bare feet. “Glad to know you have a name. What about shoes?”

She couldn’t help but smile. “I have them, but kicked them off hours ago.”

The hall door squeaked behind them, and Mama Beth, Dani’s mother and the mother figure of all of Miller’s Creek, bustled into the room. Along with her came the smell of fresh baked bread wafting from the fellowship hall. Trish could almost taste the melt-in-your mouth rolls. Maybe she could sneak a few leftovers for her and Bo to nibble on next week.

“My goodness, Trish, if this isn’t the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.” Mama Beth hugged Andy’s neck. “Hi, Andy.”

A tender gleam lit his eyes as he wrapped his arms around the older woman’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Hi, sweet lady.” He turned raised eyebrows to Trish. “You did all this?”

She ducked her head, and pushed a silky strand of hair behind one ear.

“All of it.” gushed Dani. “And wait until you see the fellowship hall.”

“Speaking of fellowship hall, I could sure use your help in the kitchen.” Mama Beth’s voice took on a commanding tone as she scuttled to the door. “We’ve got enough work to do for this rehearsal dinner to keep an entire army busy.”

Dani looked torn. “But I can’t leave Trish down here to do all this by herself.”

Trish wrestled the wieldy greenery in place, longing to comment that she didn’t need help. It would suit her just fine if they’d all go away and leave her alone.

Andy rested his hands on his hips in mock protest, his tan jacket pulled back. “What am I? Pork belly? I’ll help Trish. You go help Mama Beth.” He held up a hand. “Trust me when I say I’ll be more help here than in the kitchen.”

“Good point. I’ve had your cooking.” Dani grinned and rushed after Mama Beth. “Y’all know where to find us if you need help.”

Andy chuckled and shed his jacket, then laid it across the front pew and turned her way. “What can I do to help?”

Trish mentally checked her to-do list. “I was actually waiting for someone with more muscles than me to come around. There’s a box full of candles I need brought in from my Suburban.” She pointed toward the side door. “It’s out there and it’s unlocked.”

He gave a mock salute that bounced his sandy curls. “Yes ma’am.” Andy’s stocky frame loped down the steps and disappeared through the doorway.

Her eyebrows rose as she made her way to the pile of greenery on the front pew. Dani’s friend was more handsome than she remembered. Trish burrowed through the tangled mess, remembering the promise she’d made Dani to help Andy feel welcome. As if she needed a man to take care of along with her other responsibilities.

The door slammed, Andy’s eyes and forehead barely visible above the box he white-knuckled. She ran to him. “Let me help. I know that’s heavy. I loaded it this morning.”

“Nah, I got it.” The words wheezed out. “You loaded this by yourself?”

She ignored the question and pointed to the stage. “Can you bring it up the steps?”

He shot her a ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding’ glare then labored up the steps, his face red, his breath coming in agonized spurts. As he reached the last step, the toe of his leather loafer snagged the extension cord snaking along the edge of the stage.

Trish tried to speak, but her words congregated behind locked lips. Andy stumbled, and the box flew from his arms, the candles launching like small missiles. He hit the floor with a thud, the box crash-landing at the base of the first tree.

In slow motion, like carefully-placed dominos, the trees rippled to the floor in a sickening staccato of crashes and breaking glass. As if to punctuate the effect, the white metal archway in the center leaned forward with a creak as it teetered, then toppled forward with a bang.

Her mouth hinged open, and her hands flew to her cheeks. All her hard work…ruined. In shock, it took a moment to realize Andy still lay face down on the carpet. “Are you all right?”

He pushed himself up on all fours and surveyed the devastation.

Assured he was okay, she slung herself down to the top step. The scene replayed in her mind. A giggle gurgled out then burst forth in an almost-maniacal laugh.

Andy chuckled and crawled to sit beside her.

Without warning, her laughter turned to sobs. She covered her face with trembling hands, rage surging at yet another unexpected crying jag. Now she’d never be ready on time. No one would be impressed. No one would want her services. No business. No money.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Andy slid a hand down her arm. “I’ll fix it, Trish, I promise. I’m so sorry.”

Trish fisted her hands, then straightened her spine and swatted at the tears on her cheeks. “Will you please stop apologizing?” There was no controlling her snappish tone. “For Pete’s sake, it was an accident. I’m not gonna sue.” She clamped her lips, rose to her feet, and waded through the ruins. Fingers at rest against her lips, she knelt to retrieve shattered slivers of glass from the broken globes. These weren’t even paid for.

Andy stooped beside her, his eyes boring a hole into her skull. “Here, let me get that. You start putting things back where you want them.”

Trish could only nod at his softly-spoken words, a knot wedged in her windpipe. She lifted a tree into position, the light strands dripping from the branches like a child had thrown them in place. So far her determination to prove herself capable had been met with nothing but industrial-strength resistance.

* * *

It’s all your fault. The familiar words in Andy’s head relentlessly accused, ushering forth memories and ghosts from the past. Trish obviously spent hours on the wedding decorations, and he’d managed to undo her work with one false step. He forced the finger-pointing voice to the back of his mind and attempted to burn off the chill that now hung in the room. “You live here in Miller’s Creek?”

“Yes.” Her answer sounded pinched. “My son and I live here. At least for now.” She didn’t look at him while she maneuvered the lights back on the branches with agile fingers.

Son? Now he remembered. Dani had mentioned something about Steve’s sister losing her husband in a freak accident. A cow kick, or was it a horse? And how long ago? “You’re leaving town?”

“I don’t want to, but we don’t always get what we want, do we?”

True, but sometimes what you thought you wanted wasn’t what you needed. Andy rose, his hands cupped to contain the glass shards. “No, we don’t. You have a trash can?”

Trish’s tawny eyes looked his way. She grabbed an empty box and hurried to him. “Here.” She glanced around the stage, her face gloomy, her shoulders slumped. “Are they all broken?”

“Don’t know.” He dumped the pieces in the box, where they pinged against each other. “Is there some place I can buy replacements?”

She rubbed one arm and shook her head. “No. I had them shipped in. I’ll drive to Morganville tonight after the rehearsal to see if I can find something that’ll work.”

The sadness on her face made his breath stick in his throat. He’d been in Miller’s Creek less than an hour and had already goofed things up. “I’ll go with you and pay for them since it’s my fault.”

Trish’s shoulders rose then fell. “It’s no one’s fault. It’s just something that happened.” She returned to the branches and hoisted another one back into position.

Just something that happened. A shaft of light streamed through the stained glass windows and rested on her, and she slumped over like she couldn’t bear the weight of the world any longer. Was she remembering the accident? He removed a pack of peppermint gum from his shirt pocket and popped a piece in his mouth. Her problems made the mess with Sheila seem trivial. What could he do to make things better?

“Dani told me you’re engaged. When’s the big day?” Trish strung lights along a tree branch. Perfectly.

He shifted his weight to the other leg then squatted to pluck glass from the carpet. “Uh, we’re not…I mean…well, it’s over between us.”

She raised her head, and her brown hair shimmered under the light. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Don’t be.” He stood. “It’s for the best.”

“How so?”

Andy let out a half-laugh. “Turns out she still had a thing for her ex-boyfriend.” Thank the Lord he’d found out in time. A wife would be wonderful, but not the wrong wife.

For a moment she didn’t speak, but her face took on a knowing look. “That must’ve been painful.”

He nodded, his lips pressed together. “It was hard, but God can bring good from hurt.”

Trish stared at him like she was trying to get a read on him then turned back to the lights. “So neither one of us are really in the mood to celebrate. Especially a wedding.” Her face matched her cynical tone.

Out in the hallway, muffled voices grew closer. The hall door swung open, and the smell of Mama Beth’s home-cooking watered his mouth. A little boy that looked like Trish raced toward them, then stopped, his dark eyes round. “Whoa! What happened here?”

Dani and Mama Beth followed, their mouths ajar. After them came Steve Miller, the mayor of Miller’s Creek, and Dani’s soon-to-be husband.

“It’s all right. Don’t worry.” Trish rushed to the two women and laid a hand on each of their arms. “It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, I promise. We just had a little accident.”

Andy watched through narrowed eyes. Now she comforted the two women when just a few minutes before she’d been in tears. A good way to get a severe case of whiplash.

Steve sauntered toward him, his boots scuffing against the carpet, a friendly grin on his face.

He shook Steve’s hand. “How you doing, Mayor?”

The other man’s grin expanded as he tucked his fingers in jeans that looked new. “I’ll be doing a lot better in a couple of days.” Lightning fast, Steve untucked one hand and grabbed the boy’s arm as he streaked by. “Hold on, tiger. I don’t think you have any business up there. Have you met Aunt Dani’s friend?”

The boy skewed his lips in a thoughtful pose and shook his head.

“This is my nephew, Bo.”

Andy stretched out a palm. “Give me five, buddy.”

Bo reared back and delivered a hearty slap.

“Ouch!” Andy pretended to shake off the sting. “Man, I’ll bet you can throw a baseball really far with that kind of muscle power.”

The boy nodded, his face creased with a grin. “Yep, but I can’t catch so good.”

“Well,” corrected Trish, as she came to stand with them. “You can’t catch well.”

Andy assumed a catcher’s position beside him. The little guy had to be missing his daddy. Maybe he could help. “I used to be a catcher, so I can give you some pointers later. Would you like that?”

Bo’s eyes lit. “Yeah.”

“Yes sir.” Trish’s tone held a warning.

“I mean, yes sir.” He looked toward his Mama. “Is it okay if we play catch, Mom?”

She sent Andy a tight-lipped smile, her expression cloaked with reserve, but when she turned toward her son her face softened, and she tousled his hair. “Of course, but it might be tomorrow since Mr. Tyler’s already promised to help me clean up this mess.” “Almost looks like a tornado touched down in here.” Steve rocked back on his heels and jangled the coins in his pocket.

“A tornado named Andy.” Trish gave a play-by-play account.

Steve laughed, but Mama Beth and Dani still fussed about like a couple of hens. “That’s one way to get out of carrying more boxes.” Steve winked. “I’ll have to remember that move.”

“Hey, look at me!” Little Bo perched on the piano railing, one foot in front of the other, his arms out to balance. Andy’s heart moved to his throat. One wrong step would hurdle him toward the carpet, still full of glass.

All of them raced for the railing, but Andy arrived first. He grabbed him by the waist and slung him over one shoulder, amused at Bo’s contagious belly laugh. “Come here, buddy, before you fall and hurt that amazing pitching arm.”

Trish joined them, eyes wide with panic, her face white and strained. She gripped Little Bo’s arms. “How many times do I have to tell you not to pull stunts like that?” Her voice shook as she bent down, her face inches from his.

The boy said nothing, his lips stuck out in a pout.

Steve laid a hand on her shoulder. “Sis.”

Volumes passed between the brother and sister before Little Bo bolted for the door. Trish raced after him, her dark eyes full of hurt.

Both men faced the door, an awkward silence between them. Steve cleared his throat and turned, his eyes fixed on the floor. “Sorry about that. Trish is…uh…going through a rough time.”

Andy nodded. An understatement if he’d ever heard one. Based on what he’d seen, he was pretty sure not even Steve knew exactly how rough.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Photo used with permission from Rosehaven Cottage.

Thanksgiving: 
1: the act of giving thanks
2: a prayer expressing gratitude
3: a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness


"To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven."  --Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter Bloom...Review...DNF

About the book:
There would be tunnels of roses, beds of strawberries, fountains of overflowing herbs. And there might even be love...


In the heart of bustling modern Dublin is a littered, overgrown garden of tangled weeds and a stagnant, hidden pond. Belonging to an iron-willed elderly lady named Mrs. Prendergast, who is rumored to have murdered and buried her husband there, the garden draws Eva Madigan, a young mother struggling to move on from the pain of her past. Eva is joined by Emily, a beautiful but withdrawn college dropout; Uri, an old-world immigrant; Seth, his all-too-handsome son; and occasionally even Mrs. Prendergast herself. But what drives Eva to transform the neglected urban wilderness? What makes the others want to help her? Even as Mrs. Prendergast puts the land up for sale, the thorny lives of all the gardeners are revealed and slowly start to untangle. Overgrown secrets are dug up and shared. Choices are made; a little pruning is in order. Now Eva is about to discover that every garden is a story of growth toward a final harvest...

It's a story of friendship and how care for an abandoned garden brings people together, which is a terrific premise.  It just wasn't a book I could get into.  I didn't find the characters particularly likeable and, ultimately, there wasn't anything to motivate me to finish it.

The book contains prolific and unnecessary use of the F-word.

Thanks to Simon & Shuster for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tara Heavey here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can find other, positive reviews at Bookalicious Babe, Frugal Plus, and Novel Chatter.

Read 11/10

*
1/5 Stars

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nightingale...Review

About the book:
Esther Lange doesn’t love her fiancĂ©—she’s trapped in an engagement after a mistaken night of passion.

Still, she grieves him when he’s lost in battle, the letters sent to her by the medic at his side giving her a strange comfort, so much that she strikes up a correspondence with Peter Hess, an Iowa farmboy. Or is he? Peter Hess is not who he seems. Indeed, he’s hiding a secret, something that could cost them both their lives, especially when the past comes back to life. A bittersweet love song of the home front war between duty and the heart...a battle where only one will survive.

Don’t miss book 1 in this stand-alone collection, Sons of Thunder.

Esther must live with the consequences of a one-night stand.  While she loves her daughter, she doesn't love her fiance and living with his parents is a nightmare.  When a letter arrives that leads Esther to believe that Linus has been killed, she begins to correspond with the medic who cared for him.  As Esther and Peter fall in love, they must face the realities of war and the knowledge that the secrets they keep from each other could separate them forever. 

This one kept me on my toes.  I loved Esther and Peter.  The story is historically rich, and I had no idea German POWs were housed in America during World War 2.  A fascinating and entertaining story.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Susan May Warren here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 11/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Within My Heart...Review

About the book:
Determined to fulfill her late husband’s dream, Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her ranch afloat with the help of her two young sons. But some days it feels as though her every effort is sabotaged. When faced with a loss she cannot afford, she’s forced to trust Rand Brookston, the one man in Timber Ridge she wishes to avoid. And with good reason. He’s a physician, just like her father, which tells her everything she needs to know about him. Or so she thinks...
Dr. Rand Brookston ventured west with the dream of bringing modern medicine to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies, but the townspeople have been slow to trust him. Just as slow in coming is Rand’s dream to build the town a proper clinic. When a patient’s life is threatened, Rand makes a choice—one that sends ripples through the town of Timber Ridge. And through Rachel Boyd’s stubborn heart.

A strong female protagonist and a handsome doctor with a secret.  Rachel struggles to keep her ranch and deal with a challenging child.  Rand works to build his medical practice and open a proper clinic. This story isn't just about Rachel and Rand.  The secondary characters all play a strong role too.

I wish I'd known ahead of time that it was part of a series.  I haven't read the first two books. And, while I think it probably does stand alone, it has many references to what I assume are character experiences from other books and, at times, it felt like I was missing out.

Ultimately, it was still an enjoyable read.  Not quite a light, fluffy romance, but still somewhat compelling.

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

Read 10/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mermaid's Pendant...Review...DNF

About the book:
Inspired by the beloved classic The Little Mermaid, The Mermaid's Pendant is a modern fairy tale about growing up and discovering who you are—and what you believe in. At times lyrical, this novel is a fantastic journey filled with magic, myth, romance, and adventure.


Four years after John Wilkerson claims the mermaid Tamarind for his wife, they have an idyllic marriage that depends on a talisman that she crafted on their island paradise. But Tamarind learns a painful truth: it takes more than legs to live on land and more than magic to sustain a bond. When the talisman breaks, she and John are forced to rely on themselves instead of magic.


Three wise women play key roles in the young lovers’ journey to mature love. Ana, Tamarind’s aging mentor, casts spells and performs seductions to keep the lovers apart. Valerie, an ex-pat jewelry maker cum fairy godmother, works her own magic to bring them together. Lucy, their widowed neighbor, grounds the couple in the realities of marriage, parenting, and family.

The Mermaid's Pendant is a story for anyone who has ever believed in the transforming power of love.

The premise of this story sounded so good.  I love the story of the Little Mermaid and the beginning of the book is a modern retelling of that story.  The second half is the story of the "happily ever after" and what might happen after the beautiful mermaid, turned human flies off into the sunset with the handsome man?  Life, family and employment struggles happen, and magical forces conspire to separate them emotionally.

I wanted to like this story so much.  The writing is descriptive, but it's laborious and time consuming. I never connected with the characters and, ultimately, I didn't care enough about them to finish the book.  Some will like to know that there is mild profanity and at least one well described scene where an adult sends a child pornography.

Many others loved the book, and you can see other, more positive reviews at The Cajun Book Lady, and Colloquim, and other tour stops here

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Leann Neal Reilly here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/10

*
1/5 Stars

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heidegger's Glasses...Review...DNF

About the book:
A mysterious compound deep underground.
A love affair larger than a World War.
A fairy tale with atrocities.
And it all begins with one single letter….

Heidegger’s Glasses opens during the end of World War II in a failing Germany coming apart at the seams. The Third Reich’s strong reliance on the occult and its obsession with the astral plane has led to the formation of an underground compound of scribes–translators responsible for answering letters written to those eventually killed in the concentration camps.


Into this covert compound comes a letter written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist, who is now lost in the dying thralls of Auschwitz. How will the scribes answer this letter? The presence of Heidegger’s words–one simple letter in a place filled with letters–sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and well-being of the entire compound.


Part love story, part thriller, part meditation on how the dead are remembered and history presented, with threads of Heidegger’s philosophy woven throughout, the novel evocatively illustrates the Holocaust from an entirely original vantage point.

Some books just resonate with you, some don't.  This one didn't move me at all.  Historically, it sounds fascinating and it's certainly a different perspective from which to look at World War 2 and the Third Reich.

The writing style was surreal and philosophical and reminded me of something you might read in an advanced English class in school.  I found the book difficult to follow and I was more confused than intrigued.  Ultimately, I didn't have the time nor the energy that this book required of me and I didn't finish it.

My reaction to the book seems to be in the minority.  For many others, this book is a favorite and you can see other, positive reviews at Diary of an Eccentric, Life in the ThumbUnabridged Chick, Book and Movies, That's What She Read, and 'Til We Read Again

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Thaisa Frank here.  You can see other stops on the tour here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/10


1/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Immanuel's Veins...Preview

About the book:
This story is for everyone--but not everyone is for this story.
It is a dangerous tale of times past. A torrid love story full of deep seduction. A story of terrible longing and bold sacrifice.

Then as now, evil begins its courtship cloaked in light. And the heart embraces what it should flee. Forgetting it once had a truer lover. With a kiss, evil will ravage body, soul, and mind. Yet there remains hope, because the heart knows no bounds. Love will prove greater than lust. Sacrifice will overcome seduction. And blood will flow.

Because the battle for the heart is always violently opposed. For those desperate to drink deep from this fountain of life, enter. But remember, not everyone is for this story.

About the author:

Ted Dekker was born to missionaries who lived among the headhunter tribes of Indonesia. Because his parents’ work often included extended periods of time away from their children, Dekker describes his early life in a culture to which he was a stranger as both fascinating and lonely. It is this unique upbringing that forced him to rely on his own imagination to create a world in which he belonged.

After leaving Indonesia, Dekker graduated from a multi-cultural high school and took up permanent residence in the United States to study Philosophy and Religion. Upon earning his Bachelor’s Degree, he entered the corporate world and proceeded to climb the proverbial ladder. But his personal drive left him restless and, after many successful years, he traded corporate life for wide range of entrepreneurial pursuits that included buying and selling businesses, healthcare services, and marketing.

In the early nineties while visiting a friend who had just written a book, Dekker decided to pursue a long held desire to be a novelist. Over the course of two years he wrote two full length novels before starting from scratch and rewriting both. Now fully enamored by the the process and the stories, he realized that storytelling was in his blood and a new obsession to explore truth through story gripped him anew.

He sold his business, moved his family to the mountains of Western Colorado and began writing full-time on his third novel. Two years and three novels later his first novel, Heaven’s Wager, was published.

Now, eight years from the publication of his first novel, Dekker’s novels had sold over 3.4 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies with more in production. Dekker resides in Austin, Texas with his wife Lee Ann and two of their daughters.

---------------------------------
Thanks to Jennifer Funck of C. Grant and Company and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to preview this book.  You can learn more about Ted Dekker here.   You can purchase your own copy here.

Look for my review at a later date.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas at Harrington's...Review

About the book:
Christmas is approaching, and Lena Markham finds herself penniless, friendless, and nearly hopeless. She is trying to restart her life after false accusations landed her in prison, but job opportunities are practically nonexistent. When a secondhand red coat unexpectedly lands her a job as Mrs. Santa at a department store, Lena finally thinks her luck is changing. But can she keep her past a secret? This tender story about fresh starts will charm readers as all of Melody Carlson's Christmas offerings do. Full of redemption and true holiday spirit, Christmas at Harrington's will be readers' newest Christmas tradition.

My first Christmas book of the season and it didn't disappoint!  This was a lovely story of redemption and hope.  People can be truly cruel, life isn't always pretty and, too often, doesn't go the way we plan.

Lena Markham is one of those to whom life was cruel.  Falsely imprisoned, she is released eight years later with a chance to start over.  Finding herself in a small town, she meets a sweet woman who takes on the role of her guardian angel.  When Lena is offered a job as Mrs. Santa, she begins to find hope. 

The story is Christian, with Lena learning that God is a loving, forgiving God, rather than the harsh, unyielding God her father raised her to know.   When her past is exposed, Lena finds the strength to persevere and realizes that redemption is possible, that true friends stand by you, and that Christmas is a wonderful time of year.

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

Read 11/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dining with Joy...Review

About the book:
Joy Ballard has a secret: she's a cooking show host who can't really cook.
When her South Carolina-based cooking show, Dining With Joy, is picked up by a major network, Joy Ballard's world heats up like a lowcountry boil.

Joy needs help. Then she meets chef Luke Davis who moved to Beaufort after losing his Manhattan restaurant. A cook at the Frogmore Cafe, he's paying debts and longing to regain his reputation in the elite foodie world.

Luke and Joy mix like oil and water…until Joy is exposed on national television. With her career and his reputation both under fire, they'll have to work together to fix the mess. Is it possible that they can learn to feast on God's love and dine with joy?

The premise for Dining with Joy is cute and a little far-fetched.  Joy can't cook and, after her father's sudden death, took over his cooking show out of obligation.  Rather than learning to cook, she perpetuates the myth that she's a celebrity chef with help from her staff, family and friends.  When her show is sold to a new producer, her secret is threatened.   However, she doesn't voluntarily confess to anyone, yet she professes belief in God.

I'm sorry, anyone who seems to be as bright as Joy is, can learn kitchen basics.  I found myself frustrated with her and her self-centered attitude. Although, after her secret is exposed, she began to redeem herself and became more likeable.  Luke is the charming Mr. Perfect who falls in love with Joy and simply wants to help her succeed.  Side characters are quirky and fun.

Everyone manages to find themselves and get their just rewards.  The story starts out light and frothy like something Luke might whip up in his kitchen, but by the end, we see more substance and meat. Third in a series, it seems to stand alone just fine.  I haven't read the first two, but didn't feel like I'd missed anything crucial.

I have a hard time taking a book seriously when there are proofing errors on the back cover.  My enjoyment of the book goes downhill when I find multiple editing errors as I read, especially careless ones.  Being an editor myself, I know that no one is infallible and mistakes do happen.  But, computers have spell check for a reason.  However, spelling a character's name wrong on the back cover is simply unacceptable.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Rachel Hauck here and here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Season of Miracles...Review

About the book:
Looking back on the 1971 Little League season, Zack Ross relives the summer that changed his life...Gunning for the championship is all that matters until twelve-year-old Zack meets Rafer, a boy whose differences make him an outcast but whose abilities on the baseball field make him the key to victory.  Admired for his contributions to the team, Rafer turns everyone's expectations upside down, bestowing a gift on Zack and his teammates that forces them to think--is there more to life than winning and losing?  And what is this thing called grace?

Written as a memoir, this is a book of fiction, and I wish it was a true story.  I wish Zack was out there somewhere, coaching Little League as an adult.  I loved his character.  I loved the entire Robins baseball team.  These were fantastic boys.  Not perfect by any means and in so many ways, your typical 5th and 6th graders.  But, as they come together to play baseball, they learn so much more.

When Zack sees the potential that Rafer has when it comes to baseball, he convinces his coach and teammates to put Rafer on the team. The baseball season that follows is unlike any they will experience again as they learn about teamwork and the worth of others.  Rafer's autism permits him to see the world differently and his ability to teach his teammates about life and God is remarkable.  But, it's truly a coming of age for Zack and he learns about true friendship, love for others and the role God plays in his life.

Those who love the game of baseball will treasure this novel for the memories it invokes and those who don't will certainly appreciate it for the heartwarming, moving story it is.  Rusty Whitener has written a grand slam.  I can't recommend it enough.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Kregel for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Rusty Whitener here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

A Season of Miracles...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:

Kregel Publications; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Rusty Whitener is a novelist, screenwriter, and actor. His first screenplay, Touched, won second place at the 2009 Kairos Prize at the Los Angeles Movieguide Awards and first place at the Gideon film festival. That screenplay soon became A Season of Miracles. The movie version of this book is now in production with Elevating Entertainment.

Find out more at www.aseasonofmiraclesmovie.com.

Read more about the book, get discussion questions, and see Rusty’s chapter videos at www.aseasonofmiraclesbook.com.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825441919
ISBN-13: 978-0825441912

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I didn’t set out to believe in miracles. Nobody does. That’s what makes them miracles.

The events of 1971 would pick me up in a tornado of changes and set me down in an amazing place of grace. As with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it would be a kind of homecoming, except that I would be coming home for the first time.

Around the middle of March, about the time my hometown of Silas started to escape the gray Alabama winter, Little League baseball would crowd out everything else for my attention.

I wasn’t alone. Those days, Little League in our county was akin to a small-town parade down Main Street. Everybody went, not really expecting to see the remarkable so much as the familiar. Pretty near every boy in town played the game. And most every player’s parents went to watch, clap, groan, and cheer.

Little League is a game played by Charlie Browns and Joe DiMaggios. Most children that age are Charlie Browns, still struggling with how to handle an oversized pencil, let alone how to grip a baseball and hurl it a particular direction. They are likely to throw the ball farther from their target than it was when they retrieved it. They even look like you imagine Charlie Brown would, running in preadolescent distress to recover the ball they just threw in the wrong direction. On the weaker Little League teams, Charlie Browns mosey around the outfield, and DiMaggios man the infield. Players who hit the ball over the infielders’ heads usually have an easy double. Stronger teams have a DiMaggio anchoring center field, or maybe left. If anyone better than Charlie is in right, then either the team is stacked with talent or something magical is going on. Maybe both.

I don’t remember ever not being able to hit the ball into the outfield. I didn’t think much about it, really, except for the basics: relax, breathe, don’t swing so hard, don’t pull your head. Bring the bat to the ball and drive it on a line. I was a little tall for my twelve years, but I also had something much better than size. Confidence. I knew I could hit the ball, and hit it hard. Not every time, but most of the time. And batting over .500 with power will scorch any league.

I was the best hitter I had ever seen. Until 1971.

It was a cool Saturday in mid March. I called my best friend, Donnie White, and he called Batman Boatwright and Jimmy Yarnell. I really didn’t spend a lot of time with Batman and Jimmy throughout the rest of the year. Just spring and early summer. When Little League season came into focus, so did Batman and Jimmy.

I always took the back way to the old field, cutting through woods so thick and dark it was like traveling and hiding at the same time. My wicked cool Sting-Ray, with butterfly handlebars and a fat banana seat covered in leopard spots, gave me an edge in races with the guys. But in woods that thick, I’d just get to pumping the pedals hard before I’d have to dismount and negotiate the bramble bushes and low hanging, cobwebbed pines that duped nature by growing with so little sun.

Sawdust wasn’t real keen on those woods. A hound-collie mix, he had followed me home two summers before and decided I needed him. Through these woods, along the rough path of moss and bracken, he got nervous when I had to stop the bike and walk. He looked back and forth and around, seemingly wary that something might sneak up on us. He barked his approval when we climbed the last ridge and tumbled out of the sun-spun shadows crisscrossing our wooded trek and into the sun’s soaring shine over the ancient baseball field behind Mill Creek Fire Station.

It wasn’t a real baseball diamond anymore, just a big space of worn-down grass. But it was enough of a practice field for us. There was even an outfield fence of sorts, a lot of chain no longer linked. A backstop someone put up years before helped us out. If the ball got by the hitter, it caromed off the chain links and dribbled in the general direction of the pitcher. If it didn’t get a good enough carom to send it close to the mound, the batter picked it up and tossed it back to the pitcher. Who needed a catcher?

Donnie, Batman, and Jimmy were already there, tossing the ball in a triangular game of catch.

“It’s about time, Pardner!” Donnie raised his arms in a “what’s the deal?” gesture. “We’re startin’ to take root here.” He dropped his arms and threw the ball too high in Jimmy’s direction. Jimmy threw his glove after the ball, and then turned to look at Donnie like he couldn’t believe he put up with a friend who threw that poorly.

“Sorry,” said Donnie with a big smile. “Too high, I guess.”

“Zack,” Jimmy said, turning to me, “can you tell this guy about cool?”

“What do I know about cool?” I said, not really asking.

Sawdust barked at Jimmy and Batman, darting between the two. He made quick little circles around Jimmy, like they were old friends. They weren’t.

“Whaddya always have to bring the mutt for?” Jimmy sounded seriously miffed.

“Sawdust likes chasing the balls,” I said.

“I know that,” said Jimmy. “He gets ’em all slimy.”

Batman drawled, “He’s got your glove now, Hoss.”

Jimmy gave a squawk and bounded after Sawdust, who was running in large circles back and forth across the field.

“I’ll make a glove outta you, ya mutt!” Jimmy’s threat broke us up, and I laughed pretty hard until I saw the new kid. At first, I thought something was seriously wrong he was so still. He sat at the base of a tree, his back ramrod straight against the trunk, his legs straight out from his body, arms at his sides. He looked almost unreal, not moving his head, stock-still, eyes frozen. Not moving anything.

“Whatcha looking at, Pardner?” Donnie gave nicknames to people he really liked, and people he struggled to like. Come to think of it, that’s just about everybody. He once told me it was hard to call someone by a good nickname and still not like them. Donnie wanted to like everybody.

“That boy,” I said, “over there.”

“Oh man, he don’t look so good.” Donnie stared. “He even . . . is he alive?”

“What kind of a question is that?” I said, still staring at the kid under the tree, who still had not moved. “Of course he’s alive. I mean . . . don’t you think?”

Batman jogged up to us. “Are we gonna play or what?”

“Look at that kid over there.” Donnie pointed with his gloved hand.

“I see him,” Batman said. “So what?”

“Is he alive?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I mean he doesn’t look alive.” Donnie said the words slowly, as if he were announcing something important, like the moral at the end of a story.

“Well he’s not dead,” said Batman.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because he sits there like that all the time. I’ve seen him before, when we come here to play.”

“Really?”

“Lots of times,” Batman said. “I think he’s a retard.”

“Come off it.” Donnie looked at Batman and shook his head, like he was disappointed in him.

“It’s the Forrester kid,” Batman said. “Everybody knows he’s touched.” Batman was blowing massive bubbles and struggling to move the gum to the side of his mouth so he could talk. “Don’t tell me ya’ll haven’t seen him at school.”

“I seen him,” said Donnie.

“I don’t think I have,” I said. “How come, you reckon?”

“Maybe ’cause you’re always looking at Rebecca Carson,” Batman joshed. “Anyway, he’s touched.”

“Okay, he’s got some problems . . . ,” Donnie started.

Batman decided to pluck the wad of gum out of his mouth and hold it in his free hand, a rare move he reserved for emergencies. “Serious problems,” said Batman.

“Okay,” said Donnie, “serious problems, but we don’t have to call him—”

“Hey guys,” I said. “Guys, I think he’s coming over here.”

The Forrester kid was on his feet, walking toward us.

“Holy metropolis,” Batman whistled. “Look alert, Batfans.”

Jimmy ran up, holding his glove away from his body, between a thumb and forefinger, the leather shiny with Sawdust drool.

“This is so foul, ya’ll. I can’t play with this nasty thing. Do ya’ll . . . do ya’ll know that fella is coming over here?”

“Yeah Jimmy, we know,” I said.

“Do ya’ll . . . do ya’ll know he’s a retard?”

“He’s not a retard. He has some problems, that’s all,” said Donnie, loudly.

“His problem is he’s a retard—and his dad’s a drunk, ’cording to my folks.”

I really don’t think Jimmy meant to say anything mean. That’s just the way he was. Shoot from the lip and take no prisoners.

“Shut up, Jimmy,” Donnie’s voice was a sharp whisper now. “There’s nothing wrong with his ears.”

Rafer Forrester walked straight up to me, stepping up close, his face no more than a foot from mine. The other kids instinctively took half-steps back, clumsily trying to give me more space. Sawdust sauntered into the picture, sat down razor close to Rafer and put a paw on the boy’s shoe. Without looking, Rafer put his hand on the dog’s head and stroked it.

“Hey,” I said quietly. “How’s it going?”

I guess I hadn’t really expected an answer. But I did expect him to say something. After some long seconds he did.

“Hit.”

“You wanna hit?” I asked.

Silence.

“You wanna hit?” I said again.

“Hit. Rafer hit.” His face was still devoid of expression.

I heard Jimmy’s voice behind me. “I think the fella wants to try to hit the baseball.”

“You mean the ball?” I held it up in front of me, about six inches from his eyes.

“I don’t think he’s blind, Zack-man,” Batman said, his voice joining Jimmy’s in a nervous flutter of laughs.

“All right, guys,” said Donnie. “Hey, Pardner, why don’t you let him try?”

“Oh, come on, Donnie,” Batman said. “Jimmy and me gotta go in about thirty minutes. We don’t have time.”

“Let him try, Pardner. Just a couple of tosses.” Donnie was already walking toward home plate. “I’ll catch so we don’t have to keep fetching the balls.”

I looked right in Rafer’s eyes. “You want to hit the baseball a little?”

“Rafer hit.”

“Okay, Rafer. Do you wanna take the ball yourself”—I pressed the ball gently in his hand—“and just toss it up in the air and hit it?” I figured he could do that. Hitting a pitched ball didn’t seem plausible, no matter how slow I tossed it.

“Rafer hit.” He pushed the ball back at me.

Batman moaned and sat down on the ground. “C’mon guys, we’re wasting time.”

“Okay, I can pitch it,” I said.

Rafer walked slowly toward home plate and picked up the bat. Donnie was already crouched behind the plate calling to me. “Okay, Pardner. Toss it in, and Rafe here is gonna knock the cover off the ball. Here we go, Pardner.”

Rafer stopped in front of Donnie and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Zack pitch. No Pardner.”

Behind me I heard Jimmy’s chuckle. Batman, sitting on the ground behind the pitcher’s mound, laughed so hard his gum started slipping down the back of his throat. “Oh . . . oh, my gosh. I almost swallowed it, ya’ll,” he managed to say.

Donnie just smiled real big at Rafer. “That’s right, Rafer, my buddy. He is Zack.” Then, rocking back and forth in a low catcher’s crouch, he called to me. “Okay, Zack, just toss it in gentle-like.”

So I did. I tossed the ball underhand, as slow as I could, across the plate. As fat a pitch as I could make it.

Rafer didn’t swing. He watched the pitch the whole way and the bat never left his shoulder. Donnie threw the ball back to me, and I tossed it again. Again, no swing.

From his spot now reclining on the ground, his head resting on his glove, Batman’s groans were like a sick boy’s. “Oh, guys. We’re gonna be here all day. And we gotta go home soon.”

“Batman,” said Jimmy, “if we gotta go home soon, then we can’t be here all day.”

Jimmy crashed on the ground next to Batman, resting his head on his glove. Then an odd expression invaded his face. He bolted upright, frantically wiping dog spit from the back of his head. “Oh, that’s stinking! Oh, that’s so raw!”

Batman just groaned again.

Donnie called to me, “Maybe you need to get closer, Pardner . . . I mean Zack. You know, toss it from a shorter distance.”

As I started to step off the mound, Rafer bellowed, “No!”

I froze.

“No!” he said again. “Zack pitch. Rafer hit.”

“Okay, okay.” I got back on the mound. I tossed it again, underhanded, only this time as the ball was crossing home plate, Rafer caught it with his right hand. He dropped the bat. For several seconds he did not move. “Zack pitch,” he said again as he started moving through an elaborate windup, turning his body like Tom Seaver and kicking his leg high like Juan Marichal, coming down with his throwing hand over the top. The ball rocketed from his hand to my glove, which I reflexively raised to protect my face.

Dead silence.

Then Jimmy drawled, “Well, good night, ya’ll.”

Donnie, barely audible, said, “He wants you to pitch it fast, I guess. God help us.” I wasn’t sure what to do. I had a strong arm from playing third base.

“Come on, Zack. Fire it in here.” Donnie was suddenly confident about the situation.

“Can you catch it?” I asked him.

“Oh, come on, of course I can catch it. You’re not that fast, you know.”

That was all my adolescent ears needed to hear. I wound up and released, letting the ball spring naturally out of my grip. The ball crossed the heart of the plate in a white blur.

At least it would have.

Rafer dropped the head of the bat, quick like a cat, just in front of the ball. Coaches tell hitters to focus on getting the barrel of the bat on the ball, and let the pitched ball do all the real work, ricocheting off the bat. That’s what Rafer did. And my perfect strike was now a perfect line drive, streaking into the gap in left center field. It had just started to drop when it banged off the old outfield fence.

“Throw him another one, Pardner!” yelled Donnie.

“He Zack,” said Rafer.

“I know, I know, he Zack! I mean, he’s Zack. Throw him another one, Pardner! And put some real zip on it this time.”

I wound up and put everything I had into the pitch. Again, Rafer swung as if he were simply dropping the bat onto the ball in one quick, measured motion. The ball left his bat and left no doubt. It cleared the fence in left field, disappearing in trees ten or fifteen feet past the fence. We had never seen a ball travel that far off this field. Not even when Jimmy’s brother, a starter on the high school JV team, had tossed a few in the air and socked them as far as he could.

“Don’t throw him any more,” Jimmy hollered, climbing over the fence with Batman after the ball. “These are my brother’s balls, and he’ll kill me if I don’t bring ’em all back.”

Donnie ran out to me at the mound. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We can get him. I bet he ain’t on a team . . . I bet my silver dollar he ain’t. We can get him.”

I walked up to Rafer, still standing in the batter’s box, expressionless. “Rafer, how old are you?”

“Rafer twelve.”

Donnie went into a silent victory dance, a kind of jump and twirl.

“Do you wanna play on our team, on our Little League team, the Robins?”

“Yeah. I play.”

“Great,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Great, Rafer. We’re going to have tryouts, right across the street, at McInerney Elementary School. I pointed in the direction. Right on that field, this coming Monday after school. Can you be there?”

He didn’t seem to get what I said. Just when I thought he wasn’t going to say any words, he said three.

“Mack . . . and Ernie.”

“Who are they?” said Donnie. “No, no, you tell him we just want him.”

Donnie was standing right next to both of us. I didn’t know why he thought I was Rafer’s interpreter, except that I kind of felt that way too. Like I was a bridge between Rafer and Donnie and whomever.

“Who are Mack and Ernie, Rafer?” I asked.

“Mack and Ernie School.”

“Oh.” I smiled. “I get it. Hey, that’s pretty funny, Rafer.”

Only Rafer wasn’t smiling, and I worried about him not showing up for the tryouts.

“Rafer, can you be here”—I pointed to the ground—“next Saturday?” I figured I could walk across the street with him to the actual tryouts.

“Mack and Ernie,” he said without expression.

Donnie started to laugh and I gave him a sharp look. I was trying to get something important done.

“Rafer, I will meet you right here, next Saturday, by your tree.” I pointed. “Then you and me will go to tryouts . . . I mean, play some baseball together. All right? Saturday morning. Is that okay?”

“Rafer hit.”

“That’s right. Saturday morning, you’ll hit.”

“I hit Saturday.” I probably imagined it, but it looked like his mouth was turning at the corners in a small smile. Then he turned and started to walk. He passed his tree.

Watching Rafer disappear into the woods, I heard Donnie’s anxious voice. “We can’t let the other coaches see him bat. We gotta find a way to make him a Robin without, you know, without the others seeing him bat.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ll think of something.”

From a long ways off we heard Jimmy, sounding like someone you hear hollering when you’re in your house with the windows closed.

“I found it. Hey guys, I . . . found . . . it.”


Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Cool Woman...Review

About the book:
In 1971, Bill Mann, a pilot who sought to make aerial combat his guiding star, is already lost whether he knows it or not. Although he’s at the top of his Air Force class and married to a beautiful woman, his life is centered on drinking and partying—perhaps a way to escape a haunting memory. As a ten-year-old, Bill killed the two white men who beat his black mother to death.

In 1972, Mann is in Vietnam, flying his aircraft, The Cool Woman, in combat environs that have been called the most hazardous in air warfare history. He remains confident and considers himself "the envied of the envied" until the moment his beautiful wife says she wants a divorce, and the downward spiral of Mann’s life and his survival odds begins.


Military novels aren't always my genre of choice, but I often find them fascinating and educational.  This one sounded terrific. A hot-shot pilot.  A beautiful woman.  Lots of action.

As a retired military pilot, John Aubrey Anderson has a vivid way of describing some of Bill's experiences.  I thought the perspective of a lone black pilot in 1970's Vietnam was accurate . 

I did find a lot of the story hard to follow at times.  There is detailed military language and even though there is a glossary at the back of the book, I was often lost. However, I could still get the gist of what was happening even if I didn't completely understand it, but it was frustrating.  At other times, the narration was a bit disjointed as far as back history goes and I'd keep thinking I'd missed something.

I've seen other reviewers mention the "come-to-Jesus" theme and it is very strong here.  Bill Mann is about as far away from Jesus as a man can get and there is a lot of preaching from other characters towards converting him.

Still, an interesting novel and those who enjoy military history will probably enjoy this one too.  You can see another positive review at Relz Reviews.

Thanks to Danielle at Planned Television Arts for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about John Aubrey Anderson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, November 12, 2010

Crestmont...Review

About the book:
“A dream, after all, needn’t be fueled by particulars, only by desire.”

So notes main character, Gracie Antes, in Crestmont, a historical fiction gem set in the 1920s.

Determined to take control of her life, sheltered Gracie Antes leaves her unhappy home in 1925 to pursue her dream of a singing career. On her way to the big city, she accepts a job as a housemaid at the bustling Crestmont Inn. Once there, Gracie finds a life-changing encounter with opera singer Rosa Ponselle, family she never imagined could be hers, and a man with a mysterious past. Relive the 1920s with a colorful cast of characters. Discover with Gracie that sometimes we must trade loss for happiness.

Set in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, the story is interwoven with details about the town, the rich history of the Crestmont Inn, and the family who passed ownership from one generation to the next. Many attempts have been made to explain how the mountaintop lake nestled in this tiny town came to be. Crestmont gives a new twist to an old Native American legend, setting the tone of grace around which the story is built.

Let the period of the Roaring Twenties spark your interest with its unique social mores, fashion, jazz, and yes, a little bootlegging thrown in for pizzazz.

I'm having a difficult time putting my thoughts to paper, or rather to virtual paper.  I enjoyed Crestmont, but reading the book, I kept wondering what the point/purpose/reason was for telling the story.  Oh, it is Gracie's story and how she finds herself and what is important in her life, but there is no true conflict, no real villains, and nothing dastardly or tragic happens.  It reads almost as if it's a memoir of the Crestmont Inn itself and the narration is just what happens to Gracie and those in and around the inn.  Perhaps that is what the author intended. 

I liked Gracie, although she was a little too good and there were many other endearing characters in the story. The narration moves in and out of several people's lives, without the reader ever really knowing the whole story.  I often wished for more detail and character development.  I was left with lots of unanswered questions.  The book does bring to mind a different time and era and is historically rich in its descriptions.  The author includes an extensive section at the end which is devoted to research and references.

It's an easy, smooth read.  I enjoyed it, I didn't adore it. In short, a sweet, mellow Christian novel. 

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

Read 11/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Crestmont...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:

Star Publish (April 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Holly Weiss for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Holly Weiss is a vocal instructor, retired professional singer and a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. A polio survivor, she lives in upstate New York with her husband. Crestmont is her first novel.


Visit the author's website.






Product Details:

List Price: $18.95
Paperback: 340 pages
Publisher: Star Publish (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935188100
ISBN-13: 978-1935188100

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


En route to Eagles Mere

1925



People buzzed around the Allentown train station the next day, stopping only to check departure times or to collect their children and suitcases. Gracie bought her ticket, hurriedly counting the rest of the money in her purse. Selecting a magazine called Time from the newsstand next to the ticket counter she leafed through it, lingering over an article about President Coolidge.

“Watch it, Missy,” growled a man pushing a huge steamer trunk on a dolly. She jumped out of the way and hastily handed the vendor the money for the magazine and a Milky Way candy bar. Thinking she might feel less overwhelmed outside the station, she checked the board for the departing platform for the Wilkes-Barre train and dodged her way out of the terminal.

On the platform, people were crammed into each available seat, but quickly rose to board when the train to Philadelphia was announced. Gracie sat down alone, set her red suitcase between her legs, and wolfed down the candy bar. She glanced distractedly at the cover of the magazine, realizing she hated the news and politics, but instructed herself to read it on the train to Wilkes-Barre so she could be better informed.

Ducking her head nervously when people filtered in to catch the next train, Gracie spied a book someone had abandoned called Sister Carrie. Quickly, she snatched if off the bench and browsed through it. The main character was a girl who wanted to go to Chicago and be a famous actress. Excited now that she had a friend with a similar goal to keep her company; she put it in her suitcase just as the conductor called “All aboard!” Nervously climbing the steep steps onto the train, she settled into a brown leather seat and opened the Time magazine. She tried to read, but remorse gnawed at her concentration like a woodpecker hammering her skull.

“Ne-e-xt stop, Wilkes Ba-a-are.” Clutching her red suitcase, Gracie stepped off the train with an unsettling combination of anticipation and fear. After consulting a man in a maroon uniform with a name tag on his breast pocket, she found the east entrance of the train station where she was to meet the Crestmont car. The clock on the wall said 10:45. Sitting on a bench in the sun, she nervously paged through her magazine while she waited.

A huge black Buick Touring Car pulled up to the curb with “The Crestmont Inn” painted on the side in yellow letters. A spindly man in his mid twenties climbed out. He was impeccably dressed in gray and black pinstriped trousers and a gray jacket. Gracie guessed the yellow of his tie had been chosen to match the lettering on the car. He was so skinny that she giggled, imagining herself pushing him over with one finger. He had a very prominent Adam’s apple, a broad forehead and a face that narrowed into a pointy chin.

Waving to someone behind her on the tracks, he shouted, “Dorothy, still keeping those students of yours in line?” His wide smile made Gracie relax a bit.

Shyly, she stepped forward. “Hello, my name is Gracie Antes. Is this the shuttle to the Crestmont Inn?”

“You must be the new girl.” He stuck out a bony hand. “I’m PT, driver, bowling alley attendant and gofer for Mr. Woods, Crestmont’s owner. Hop in.”

“Well, I don’t know. I mean, my interview is this afternoon. Will we make it on time?”

“Yup.” Feeling like she had been given an order, Gracie slid into the middle seat of the car.

The generously proportioned middle-aged woman he had called Dorothy ran from the platform to the car, straw hat flopping, struggling with a suitcase and hatbox. She threw her free arm around PT and kissed him loudly on the cheek. “Oh, my word, if it isn’t PT. Isn’t it a long time between summers?” He stashed her suitcase in the trunk along with Gracie’s, and Dorothy slid into the passenger seat in the front.

A sickeningly sweet odor of roses filled the car. Gracie discretely wound her window down a few inches to let in some air.

“I nearly missed my trolley to the station. Dear me, I am just neither here nor there without my car. I need to pick it up next week, PT, so I’ll be shuttling back here with you. Hello, there, dear,” she said, extending a hand back to Gracie. “I’m Dorothy, one of the antique waitresses.”

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am. I’m Gracie Antes.”

“Oh, please don’t ma’am me. My students do it all year and it makes me feel old. I need my Crestmont summers to liven up these forty-five-year-old bones. Call me Dorothy. Whew, it certainly is hot enough. Oh look, there’s Isaiah and Olivia. Yoo-hoo!” She beckoned to them from the car window. “All aboard the Crestmont shuttle.”

A burly man with skin like coal and big apple cheeks protectively ushered a dainty woman with copper skin into the car. The woman’s elegance and quiet nature made Gracie like her immediately.

“Guess that’s it for this run,” PT said, starting the engine.

After they introduced themselves, Isaiah pounded Gracie on the back and said, “One big happy family, right, Olivia?” He drew the palm of his wife’s tiny hand to his lips and kissed it. Sniffing suspiciously, he wrinkled his nose. “Lord Almighty, Dorothy, I hate that roses stink stuff you wear. Don’t you bring that smell into my kitchen, hear?”

“It’s imported Ashes of Roses eau de cologne, Isaiah,” she corrected him. “It was Lawrence’s favorite, bless my dear husband’s soul, and as long as Sears carries it, I will continue to wear it. And as far as your kitchen goes, there are so many aromas floating about no one will notice a little perfume. Besides, Mrs. Swett loves it and says so each summer when she hands me a fine tip.”

“I don’t know how you can be so hotsy-totsy to those old biddies in the dining room. They act like they run the place instead of Mr. Woods. You are crazy to take those tables near the lakeside windows, Dorothy. Why, you have to deal with all three of them at once, plus two husbands. Who’s that one always feeling like she’s sick—Mrs. Pennyswoon?”

“Mrs. Pennington, Isaiah. Be kind, now,” Olivia said softly, with a slight accent Gracie couldn’t identify.

“First of all, Isaiah,” Dorothy instructed, “if you ever stepped out of your kitchen you would see that the west window tables afford a commanding view of the lake and are therefore reserved for our, shall we say, more faithful, well-to-do guests. Secondly, Mrs. Woods has graciously assigned them to me because she feels I have the maturity and skills to mitigate some of their outlandish behavior.”

“Hey, PT,” Isaiah chuckled, “translate, please.”

“Dorothy is good at keeping the Rude Regals in line, so Mrs. Woods gives her the tables where she gets really great tips.”

“Thanks, pal,” said Isaiah.

“Oh, my word, I simply am beside myself when I hear people call them the Rude Regals. They are people with problems, just like you and me. Mrs. Pennington’s ailments are an indication that she needs some attention. Miss Woodford simply feels she is of a higher station than anyone else. If I can show some special attention or give deference to make someone happy, then I will do it. Besides, I find it a challenge to use my people skills on a higher level with the adults at the Crestmont than with my elementary students.”

The more everyone else talked, the more Gracie knew it would take some doing to feel like she fit in. Her stomach grumbled, and she wished she had bought more than a candy bar for lunch. The clouds she watched from her window glided like wavy streamers in the sky. As they motored toward the Crestmont, her eyes got heavy. Realizing that she would need a lot more energy before the day was over; she turned her head toward the window and tried to sleep. “Dear God,” she prayed, “Please make this be all right. If I was wrong to do it, then turn it for good.”

After a long drive, PT slowed the car when they passed through stone pillars on either side of the Crestmont driveway. They ascended a steep hill to an immense three-story brown building with yellow awnings. PT parked the car. Gracie stood nervously by while the others grabbed their luggage and dashed off in a flash, saying, “See you soon!”

“Come on, I’ll show you to Mr. Woods’ office,” PT said, lifting Gracie’s suitcase out of the trunk. Gracie took in the immensity of the porch as they walked up the center steps. Once they were inside the striking lobby area, PT pointed to a huge grandfather clock. “That’s my favorite. Name’s Old Tim,” he explained. “Mrs. Woods’ father had it shipped from England when he built the place.”

Gracie’s heart started to flutter. Oh, honestly, what had she gotten herself into? She tried not to trip over her own feet.

PT knocked on an office door, flicked his eyes toward it and said, “They’re swell people. Good luck.”

“Come in!” called a high-pitched, authoritative male voice.