Everyday Tidbits...

The sun is shining and the sky is blue. My doors and windows are open.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ellis Island Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to random.org, the winner of the Ellis Island Giveaway is:


I've already received her mailing information and forwarded it to the publisher. Thanks to all who entered!

Check out the sidebar for my other current giveaways.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sons of An Ancient Glory...Review

About the book:
In Book Four of her bestselling The Emerald Ballad Series, BJ Hoff continues to build the drama and excitement of her sweeping mid-19th century Irish American saga. In Ireland, poet, patriot, and schoolmaster Morgan Fitzgerald is locked in conflict with his closest friend’s rebel son—who steals the heart of Morgan’s adopted daughter. Among the streets of New York, Pastor Jess Dalton and his feisty wife, Kerry, continue to battle against poverty and persecution while taking the Gospel to both the powerful and the poor of the city. Readers will be swept into an epic tale of life and death, heartache and victory, all the while revealing the ancient, enduring glory of an entire people.

The Fitzgerald, Whittaker and Burke families return in Book 4 of The Emerald Ballad series, along with some new additions.  Tierney has gone to Ireland to see Morgan and, true to form, finds trouble.  Morgan and Evan await the births of their children even as tragedy strikes and a young one is lost.  With the additions of Quinn and Billy especially, the story broadens and deepens.  It is a story about the strength of people who are undeterred in the face of adversity and who find those reserves of faith when everything seems bleak.  BJ Hoff has a remarkable way of showing us that God really does know his children individually.

Full of Irish history and with steadfast, unforgettable characters, epic is the perfect word to describe this series. I am anxious to read the last book, and to find out what happens to everyone. 
 
Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Land of a Thousand Dreams...Review

About the book:
In Book Three of BJ Hoff’s bestselling Emerald Ballad saga set near the middle of the 19th century, Irish patriot Morgan Fitzgerald, felled by a gunman’s bullet, strives to restore his life and reclaim his future. But even as he takes steps to provide a home for Belfast orphan Annie Delaney and nurture his love for the beautiful, mute Finola, he finds himself again locked in a fierce battle with the powers of darkness.

In America, Morgan’s friends Michael Burke and Nora Whittaker discover that the “Land of Opportunity” also teems with poverty, injustice, and corruption. From the opulence of Fifth Avenue to the squalor of the city’s slums, he fights against not only the evil running riot through the streets, but the immoral schemes of an old enemy bent on destroying Michael, the woman he loves, and his only son.

Readers will be mesmerized by a drama that spans an ocean, taking them on a journey of faith and love that encompasses the dreams of an entire people seeking not only survival, but a land of hope where they can live in freedom and peace.

Book 3 of the Emerald Ballad series does not disappoint.  Like the first two, it moves easily between New York and Ireland.

Michael plans to bring down Patrick Walsh, even as his wife Sara and Evan Whittaker befriend Patrick's wife Alice.  Alice is completely ignorant of Patrick's illegal and immoral activities and as she finds herself spending more and more time in the slums of New York, it's inevitable that she will discover that her husband isn't the honorable man she believes him to be.

However, I think it's more Morgan's story than any one else's.  Even amidst trial and heartache, Morgan finds a family, and hope for his future.  Finola's story fleshes out a bit and Annie starts coming into her own. 

The story has its sad moments, but this is an enthralling story about the goodness of people and how the light of Christ that shines through people can help and influence so many.

Captivating and easily recommended.  I'm looking forward to the remainder of the series.

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

* * * *
4 Stars

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Perfectly Invisible...Review

About the book:
It's Daisy Crispin's final trimester of high school, and she plans to make it count. Her long-awaited freedom is mere months away, and her big plans for college loom in the future. Everything is under control. Or is it? Her boyfriend is treating her like she's invisible, and her best friend is selling bad costume jewelry in the school quad—and hanging out with her boyfriend. To top it off, Daisy's major humiliation for the year will be remembered in the yearbook for all eternity. It's enough to make her wonder if maybe being invisible isn't so bad after all.

With more of the funny-but-too-true writing readers have come to expect from Kristin Billerbeck,
Perfectly Invisible shows teen girls that everyone is special—no matter what they're going through.

This is a sequel to Perfectly Dateless which I haven't read.  I don't know if it is intended to stand alone, but there are references to past events and I always felt like I was missing something.  I never connected with any of the characters and quite frankly, didn't even like them. I couldn't understand Daisy and Claire's friendship, especially since Claire isn't even very nice to Daisy. The book is full of high school drama and the Christian elements are light.  Perhaps I'm just too old for Teen/YA books now.  I don't know.

Still, I think that fans of Kristin Billerbeck will probably enjoy this, especially if they've read Perfectly Dateless.  It was cute, but not one I ultimately enjoyed. 

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  Thanks to Donna at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kristin Billerbeck here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, July 25, 2011

Next to Love...Review

About the book:
A story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and its aftermath, beginning with the men going off to war and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of their own adulthood.

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the novel follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.

Beautifully crafted and unforgettable,
Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

I've seen so many reviews of this book that just rave about it and give it the highest praise and once again, I am going to be in the minority and go against the popular opinion.  The premise of the story is terrific: three women thrust into the struggle and stress of World War 2 are left alone when their husbands go off to fight.  When the war ends, life goes on and America and its people are changed forever.

The novel is rich historically and provides a perspective of World War 2 that is interesting: what happens to those left behind and how does everyone adapt when the war is finally over?  And, while there are moments of drama and heartache, the story itself was disappointing and rather lackluster. Present tense narration is always frustrating to me and I don't think it helped the story.  Why do authors write in present tense anyway?  I have yet to read a book written in the present tense where that tense actually made the book better. I think, in part, it was the narrative that kept me from connecting with the characters and ultimately I felt it was a story that tried too hard to please. 

My opinion though, as is often the case, is in the minority and you will find many positive reviews from the list below.

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

Monday, June 6th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, June 8th:  Heart 2 Heart Reviews
Tuesday, June 14th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, June 15th:  Books Like Breathing
Thursday, June 16th:  Deb’s Book Bag
Monday, June 20th:  Acting Balanced
Thursday, June 23rd:  Life in Review
Monday, June 27th:  Girls Gone Reading
Tuesday, June 28th:  BookNAround
Wednesday, June 29th:  A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Tuesday, July 5th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, July 7th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Monday, July 11th:  girlichef
Wednesday, July 13th:  Melody & Words
Monday, July 18th:  The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, July 19th:  Rundpinne
Wednesday, July 20th:  Man of La Book
Monday, July 25th:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, July 26th:  Simply Stacie
Wednesday, July 27th:  Colloquium
Monday, August 1st:  Books and Movies
Tuesday, August 2nd:  That’s What She Read
Wednesday, August 3rd:  Book Addiction
Thursday, August 4th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, August 8th:  Alison’s Book Marks
Tuesday, August 9th:  Library of Clean Reads
Wednesday, August 10th:  Broken Teepee

Read 7/11

* *
2/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shadows on the Sand...Review

About the book:
She serves him breakfast at her café every morning...but he never seems to notice her.

Carrie Carter’s small café in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals...although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin.

When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries...and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all to present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.

Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry?

While they've known each other a long time, Greg and Carrie are drawn to each other when Greg begins helping Carrie attempt to figure out mysteries occurring with her staff.  Murder, a mysterious religious cult and twittering senior citizens make for an interesting and entertaining story.  Add Greg's and Carrie's respective pasts and baggage and you have Shadows on the Sand. But, put it all together and it works.  The plot moves along well and I enjoyed watching Greg and Carrie come to terms with their feelings for each other.

The book was a bit heavy on the whole social networking scene.  I don't twitter so I don't follow people and the idea that Seaside community was so interconnected via Twitter was interesting.  Somewhat implausible, but then again, I'm not part of that scene, so I have little understanding about it. 

I did wish for more details/depth about Carrie's relationship with her Mom.  I wanted to know what had happened to her Mom during their separation and what turned her around?  As this is apparently the first in a series, hopefully we will learn more back story as the series progresses.

An entertaining read.  I look forward to more from Gayle and Seaside.

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

Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Shadows on the Sand...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:

Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Gayle Roper, a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, is the multi-award-winning, best-selling author of Fatal Deduction and more than forty other books. She teaches and leads mentoring clinics at writers’ conferences across the country. Gayle lives in eastern Pennsylvania.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Carrie Carter’s small café in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals … although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin.

When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, leaving only cryptic clues in her Sudoku book, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all too present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.

Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry?


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420846
ISBN-13: 978-1601420848

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

So Bill punched him in the nose, Carrie!” Andi Mueller swung an arm to demonstrate and nearly clipped me. “He was wonderful!”

I leaned back and held up a hand for protection. “Easy, kiddo.” I smiled at the girl and her enthusiasm.

Andi giggled like the smitten sixteen-year-old she was. “Sorry.”

“Mmm.” I rested my elbows on the pink marble counter that ran along one wall of Carrie's Café, located two blocks from the boardwalk in the center of Seaside, New Jersey. I was the Carrie of the café's name, and Andi was one of my servers, in fact, my only server at the moment. She'd been with me almost two months now, taking up the slack when the summer kids left to go back to college or on to real jobs.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “On Saturday night Bill, who is your true soul mate, punched Jase, our Jase, for paying too much attention to you at a party.” I didn't think my voice was too wry, but soul mates at sixteen made me both cynical and scared, teen hormones being what they were.

Andi just grinned with delight of the even-mentioning-his-name-givesme-the-vapors kind and nodded as she sat on a stool at the counter. “Isn't it romantic?”

I was hearing this tale today, Monday, because now that the season was over, Carrie's was closed on Sundays. My staff and I had earned our day of rest over a very busy and marginally profitable summer. We might be able to stay open for another year if nothing awful happened, like the roof leaking or the dishwasher breaking.

Listening to Andi made me feel ancient. I was only thirty-three, but had I ever been as young as she? Given the trauma of my growing-up years, I probably hadn't. I was glad that whatever her history, and there was a history, she could giggle.

“How do you expect to continue working with Jase after this encounter?” I was very interested in her answer. Jase was one of three part-time dishwashers at the café. All three were students at the local community college and set their schedules around classes. Jase worked Tuesdays and Saturdays from six in the morning until three, and the last thing I wanted was contention in the kitchen between Andi and him.

Andi looked confused. “Why should I have trouble with Jase? I didn't punch him. Besides he's an old--” She cut herself off.

I wanted to pursue her half-thought, but the door of the café opened, and Greg Barnes walked in, all scruffy good looks and shadowed eyes. His black hair was mussed as if he hadn't combed it, and he had a two-day stubble. He should have looked grubby, but somehow he didn't. He looked wonderful.

All thoughts of Bill and Jase fled as my heart did the little stuttery Snoopy dance it always did at the sight of Greg. Before he could read anything in my face, assuming he noticed me as someone other than the person who fed him, I looked down at the basket of fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon-swirl muffins I was arranging.

Andi glanced from me to him and, much too quick and clever, smiled with a knowing look. I held my breath. She wasn't long on tact, and the last thing I wanted was for her to make some leading remark. I felt I could breathe again when all she did was wink at me. Safe for the moment, at least.

Greg came to the counter and slid onto his favorite stool, empty now that the receding flood of summer tourists left it high and dry this third week in October, a vinyl-covered Ararat postdeluge.

“The usual?” I asked, my voice oh-so-casual.

He gave a nod, barely glancing my way, and opened his copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Press of Atlantic City waited. I turned to place his order, but there was no need. Lindsay, my sister, partner, and the café's baker, had been listening to Andi's story through the serving window. She waved her acknowledgment before I said a word. She passed the order to Ricky, our short-order cook, who had stayed with us longer than I expected, long enough that he had become almost as much of an asset to Carrie's as Lindsay was.

My sister gave me a sly smile, then called, “Hi, Greg.”

He looked up from his paper and gave Lindsay a very nice smile, far nicer than he ever gave me.

“The sticky buns are all gone,” he said in mild accusation, nodding toward the glass case where we kept Lindsay's masterpieces.

She grinned. “Sorry. You've got to get here earlier.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Or you could make more.”

“I'll take the suggestion under advisement,” she said agreeably.

“Haven't you heard the adage about making your customers happy?”

“Yeah. So?”

He laughed and turned a page in the paper. I brought him a glass of OJ and a cup of my special blend.

“How're you doing?” I asked, just as I did every morning.

He gave me a vague smile. “Fine.” Just as he said every morning.

But he wasn't. Oh, he was better than, say, a year ago, definitely better than two years ago, but he wasn't well. Even three years after the tragedy that had altered his life, he was far from his self-proclaimed fine. If you looked closely--as I did--you could see the strain never completely left his eyes, and the purple stains under them were too deep and dark, a sure sign that a good night's sleep was still little more than a vague memory for him.

But he was sober. More than two years and counting.

“Keep talking, Andi,” Lindsay said as Ricky beat Greg's eggs and inserted his wheat bread in the toaster. “This is better than reality TV. It's really real.” She walked out of the kitchen into the café proper. “Bill bopped Jase,” she prompted.

“Our Jase,” I clarified.

Greg looked up. “Your dishwasher?”

I nodded.

“Hmm.” And he went back to his paper.

“And Jase went down for the count.” Andi's chest swelled with pride at her beloved's prowess.

I flinched. “Don't you think knocking a guy out for talking to you is a bit much?”

Andi thought for almost half a second, then shook her head. “It wasn't for just Saturday. He knows Jase and I work together, and he was staking his claim.”

I'd seen Jase and Andi talking in the kitchen, but there never seemed to be any romantic overtones. “Jase is a nice guy and a good worker. I don't want to lose him because of your boyfriend.”

“He is, and I don't want him to go either,” Andi agreed. “I like talking to him.”

“Me too.” Lindsay rested an elbow on the counter and propped her chin in her palm. “I think he's sad.”

“What do you mean, sad?” But I'd sensed he was weighed down with something too.

“He's funny and open most of the time,” Lindsay said, “but sometimes when no one's talking to him, I see this look of sorrow on his face.”

I nodded. “All the more reason to hate that he got punched.”

“Yeah.” Lindsay got a dreamy look in her dark brown eyes. “But there's something about a guy defending you, even if what he's defending you from isn't really a threat.” She sighed.

“Lindsay!” I was appalled. “Get a grip.” Though if Greg ever wanted to defend me, I was pretty sure I wouldn't mind. Of course, that presupposed he'd notice I was in trouble. I glanced at him bent over his paper. Not likely to happen. I bit back a sigh.

“Tell me, Andi. Does Bill plan to punch out any male who talks to you?”

“Come on, Carrie,” Andi said. “Don't be mad at Bill. You know how guys can be when they've had a few beers.”

I did know how guys could be, beers or no beers. “What were you doing at a party where there was drinking?”

She became all prim and prissy. “I did not drink.”

“I should hope not, but you shouldn't have been there.” Good grief. I was sounding more and more like her mother--or how her mother would have sounded if she weren't missing in action somewhere. Part of that history I didn't know.

“Order up,” Ricky announced as he walked to the pass-through. “The food is never better than when I plate it.”

You'd have thought he was Emeril or Wolfgang Puck or one of Paula Deen's sons, not a stopgap cook who couldn't find any other job after graduating from college with a psychology degree and who stayed around because he had a crush on the baker.

I grabbed Greg's scrambled eggs and wheat toast and served them. He accepted them with a nod and a grunt.

“So what happened to Jase?” I asked Andi. I found myself hoping Bill had bruised a knuckle or two in his violence, though I was pretty sure it meant I was a terrible person too. I didn't wish for a broken hand or anything that extreme, just something to remind him that punching wasn't the way to handle a perceived rival.

Andi waved her hand vaguely. “Bill and a buddy carried Jase to his car. They only dropped him once.”

I imagined the thunk of poor Jase's head hitting the ground and flinched in sympathy. No such thought bothered Andi. She was too busy being thrilled by Bill, who rode in like her shining knight, laying waste to the enemy with knuckles instead of the more traditional lance.

“How much older than you is Bill?” Lindsay asked.

Good question, Linds.

Andi studied the cuticle of her index finger. “He's nineteen.”

Lindsay and I exchanged a glance. Those three years from sixteen to nineteen were huge.

I couldn't keep quiet. “So he shouldn't have been drinking at this party either.”

Andi slid off her stool. If looks killed, Lindsay'd be sprinkling my ashes in the ocean tomorrow morning.

“What does Clooney think of you and Bill?” Lindsay asked. Clooney was Andi's great-uncle, and she lived with him.

Andi cleared her throat. “We don't talk about Bill.”

“Does he know about Bill?” Lindsay's concern was obvious.

Andi stared through long bangs that hung over her hazel eyes. The silky hair sometimes caught in her lashes in a way that made me blink but didn't seem to bother her. “Of course Clooney knows. Do you think I'd keep a secret from him?”

“I didn't think you would.” Lindsay smiled. “I'm glad to know I was right.”

So was I. Sixteen could go in so many different directions, and I'd hate for this pixie to make wrong choices--or more wrong choices.

“Is he going to college?” I asked. “Bill?”

“He was, but not now.” Her fingernail became even more absorbing. “He dropped out of Rutgers at the end of his freshman year.”

Uh-oh. Dropped out or failed out? “Does he plan to go back? Try again?”

She shrugged. “He doesn't know. Right now he's happy just being. And going to parties. And taking me.” By the time she was finished, she was bouncing at the excitement of it all, her strawberry blond ponytail leaping about her shoulders.

Greg looked up from his newspaper. “So this guy took you, a very underage girl, to a party where there was lots of drinking?”

Andi looked at him, eyes wide, acting as if he'd missed the whole point of her story. “Don't worry about me, Mr. Barnes. Or any of you.” She included Lindsay and me with a nod of her head. “I can handle any problems that might develop at a party. Believe me, I've dealt with far worse.”

I was intrigued. I'd stared down plenty of problems in my time too, and I wondered how her stare downs compared to mine.

She grinned and waved a hand as if she were wiping away her momentary seriousness. “But I'd rather talk about how great Bill is.”

“So how great is he?” Lindsay asked. “Tell me all.” At twenty-seven, she was an incurable romantic. I wasn't sure how this had come to pass, since she had every reason to be as cynical as I, but there you are.

I frowned at her. “Stop encouraging the girl.”

Lindsay just grinned.

I looked at Andi's happy face and had to smile too. “So what's this wonderful guy doing if he's not in school?” Besides being and partying.

“Uh, you mean like a job or something?”

“Yeah.” Lindsay and I exchanged another glance. Greg looked up again at Andi's reluctant tone.

“Well, he was a lifeguard over the summer. He's got this fabulous tan, and it makes him so handsome.”

Soul mate stuff if I ever heard it. I half expected her to swoon like a nineteenth-century Southern belle with her stays laced too tightly. “What about now? Postseason?”

“And he was the quarterback on the high school football team two years ago when they won the state championship.”

“Very impressive. What about now?”

“He was named Most Valuable Player.”

“Even more impressive. What about now?”

She began making sure the little stacks of sugar and sweetener packets in the holders on the counter were straight. “Right now he's just trying to figure it all out.”

Being. Figuring. And punching guys out while he thought. “You mean he's trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up?”

She glared at me. In her mind he was grown up. She turned her back with a little sniff and went to clean off a dirty table.

Lindsay swallowed a laugh. “Your sarcastic streak is showing, Carrie.”

Mr. Perkins, another regular at Carrie's Café and at eighty in better health than the rest of us put together, rapped his cup on the pink marble counter. He'd been sitting for several minutes with his eyes wide behind his glasses as he listened to Andi.

“No daughter of mine that age would ever have gone to a party where there was drinking,” he said. “It's just flat out wrong.”

Since I agreed, I didn't mention that he was a lifelong bachelor and had no daughters.

He rapped his cup again.

“Refill?” I asked, not because I didn't know the answer but because the old man liked to think he was calling the shots.

He nodded. “Regular too. None of that wimpy decaf. I got to keep my blood flowing, keep it pumping.”

I smiled with affection as I topped off his cup. He gave the same line every day. “Mr. Perkins, you have more energy than people half your age.”

He pointed his dripping spoon at me. “And don't you forget it.”

“Watch it,” I said in a mock scold. “You're getting coffee all over my counter.”

“And a fine counter it is.” He patted the pink-veined marble slab. It was way too classy and way too pricey for a place like the café. “Did I ever tell you that I remember when it was the registration counter at Seaside's Grand Hotel? And let me tell you, it was a grand hotel in every sense of the word. People used to come from as far as Pittsburgh, even the president of U.S. Steel. Too bad it burned down. The hotel, not U.S. Steel.”

“Too bad,” I agreed. And yes, he'd told us the story many times.

“It was in 1943,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes. “I was thirteen.” He blinked back to the present. “It was during World War II, you know, and people said it was sabotage. Not that I ever believed that. I mean, why would the Germans burn down a resort hotel? But I'll tell you, my father, who was an air-raid warden, about had a seizure.”

“I bet he was convinced that the flames, visible for miles up and down the coast, would bring the German subs patrolling offshore right up on our beaches,” Lindsay said with a straight face. “They might have attacked us.”

I glared at her as she repeated word for word Mr. Perkins's line from the story. She winked unrepentantly.

Mr. Perkins nodded, delighted she was listening. “People kept their curtains drawn at night, and even the boardwalk was blacked out for the duration, the lights all covered except for the tiniest slit on the land side, so the flames from the fire seemed extra bright. All that wood, you know. Voom! ” He threw his hands up in the air.

Lindsay and I shook our heads at the imagined devastation, and I thought I saw Greg's lips twitch. He'd heard the story almost as many times as we had.

Mr. Perkins stirred his coffee. “After the war some investor bought the property.”

“I bet all that remained of the Grand was the little corner where the pink marble registration counter sat.” Lindsay pointed where I leaned. “That counter.”

Again she spoke his line with a straight face, and this time Greg definitely bit back a grin.

Mr. Perkins added another pink packet to his coffee. “That's right. The buyer decided to open a restaurant around the counter and build a smaller, more practical hotel on the rest of the property.”

Even that hotel was gone now, replaced many years ago by private homes rented each summer to pay the exorbitant taxes on resort property.

I walked to Greg with my coffeepot. “Refill?”

He slid his mug in my direction, eyes never leaving his paper.

Be still my heart.



2

The café door opened again, and Clooney sauntered in. In my opinion Clooney sauntered through life, doing as little as possible and appearing content that way. I, on the other hand, was a bona fide overachiever, always trying to prove myself, though I wasn't sure to whom. If Clooney weren't so charming, I'd have disliked him on principle. As it was, I liked him a lot.

Today he wore a Phillies cap, one celebrating the 2008 World Series victory. His gray ponytail was pulled through the back of the cap and hung to his shoulder blades.

“You work too hard, Carrie,” he told me frequently. “You'll give yourself indigestion or reflux or a heart attack or something. You need to take time off.”

“If I didn't want to pay the rent or have insurance or eat, I'd do that very thing,” I always countered.

“What you need is a rich husband.” And he'd grin.

“A solution to which I'm not averse. There just seems to be a shortage of candidates in Seaside.”

“Hey, Clooney,” Andi called from booth four, where she was clearing. She gave him a little finger wave. Clooney might be her great-uncle, but try as I might, I couldn't get her to call him Uncle Clooney. Just “Clooney” sounded disrespectful to me, but he didn't seem to mind.

“Hey, darlin'.” Clooney walked over to Andi and gave her a hug. Then he came to the counter and slid onto the stool next to Greg. He did not take off his cap, something that drove me crazy. I've developed this manners thing, probably because my childhood was so devoid of anything resembling pattern or politeness. I know people thought me prissy and old-fashioned, but I am what I am, a poor man's Miss Manners.

Clooney pointed at a muffin, and I placed one on a dish for him. He broke off a chunk, then glanced back at Andi. “She tell you about that fool Bill?”

I grinned at his disgruntled expression. “She did.”

“What is it with girl children?” he demanded. “I swear she's texted the news around the world.”

“She thinks it's a compliment--her knight defending her.”

Clooney and Greg snorted at the same time.

“Slaying a dragon who's threatening the life of the fair damsel's one thing,” Greg said, actually looking at me. “Decking a kid for saying hi to a pretty girl is another.”

“Your past life as a cop is showing,” I teased.

He shrugged as he turned another page of the paper. “Old habits die hard.”

The door opened again, and in strutted the object of our conversation. I knew it had to be him because, aside from the fact that he looked like a very tanned football player, he and Andi gazed at each other with love-struck goofy grins. I thought I heard Lindsay sigh.

Andi hurried toward the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes from booth four. She squeaked in delight as Bill swatted her on the rump as she passed. Clooney stiffened at this unseemly familiarity with his baby. Mr. Perkins tsk-tsked his disapproval.

“Can I have breakfast now?” Andi asked when she reappeared empty- handed.

The wait staff usually ate around ten thirty at a back booth, and it was ten fifteen. We were in the off-season weekday lull between breakfast and lunch, and the three men on their stools were the only customers present. I nodded.

Bill looked toward the kitchen. He appeared overwhelmed at the prospect of food, unable to make a selection. He draped an arm over Andi's shoulder as he considered the possibilities, and she snuggled against him. Clooney's frown intensified.

Bill was a big guy, and it was clear by the way he carried himself that he still thought of himself as the big man on campus in spite of the fact that he was now campusless and unemployed. As I studied him, I wondered if high school football would end up being the high point of his life. How sad that would be. Clooney drifted through life by choice. I hoped Bill wouldn't drift for lack of a better plan or enough ability to achieve.

Careful, Carrie. I was being hard on this kid. Nineteen and undecided wasn't that unusual. Just because at his age I'd already been on my own for three years, responsible for Lindsay, who was six years my junior…

Bill gave Clooney, who was watching him with a rather sour look, a sharp elbow in the upper arm and asked, one guy to another, “What do you suggest, Clooney? What's really good here?”

Clooney's relaxed slouch disappeared. I saw the long-ago medal-winning soldier of his Vietnam days. “You will call me 'sir' until I give you permission to call me by name. Do you understand, boy?”

Bill blinked. So did I. Everyone in Seaside, no matter their age, called him Clooney.

“Stop that, Clooney!” Andi was appalled at her uncle's tone of voice.

“Play nice,” I said softly as I realized for the first time that I didn't know whether Clooney was his first name or last. I made a mental note to ask Greg. As a former Seaside cop, he might know. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, darlin'.” Clooney gave Andi an easy smile. He gave Bill a hard stare. “Right, Bill?”

Bill blinked again. “Y-yes, sir.”

Andi took her beloved's hand and dragged him toward the back booth. “Ignore my uncle. He's having a bad day.” She glared over her shoulder at Clooney, who grinned back at her.

“She's got spunk, that one,” he said with pride.

“How'd she end up living with you?” I'd been longing to ask ever since Clooney showed up with Andi just before Labor Day and asked me to give her a job. I did, and I guess I thought that gave me the right to ask my question.

Clooney disagreed because he said, “I think I'll have one of your amazing Belgian waffles with a side of sausage.”

“I'm on it.” Lindsay headed back to the kitchen before I said a word. “Got it, Ricky?”

“Got it.” Ricky tested the waffle iron with a flick of water. He smiled as the water jumped and evaporated. He was a handsome kid with dark Latino looks of the smoldering kind, a young Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately for him, his smoldering looks appeared to have no effect on Linds.

Another victim of unrequited love.

Andi came to the counter and placed an order for Bill and herself. I blinked. We could have served the whole dining room on less.

Mr. Perkins eyed me. “Are you going to make him pay for all that? You should, you know.”

True, but I shook my head. “Job perk. He's cheaper than providing health benefits and not nearly as frustrating.”

“So say you.” Clooney settled to his waffle and sausage.

I watched the parade of laden plates emerge from the kitchen and make their way to the back booth, making me reconsider the “cheaper” bit. Andi took her seat and stared at Bill as if he could do no wrong in spite of the fact that he leaned on the table like he couldn't support his own weight. Didn't anyone ever tell the kid that his noneating hand was supposed to rest in his lap, not circle his plate as if protecting it from famished marauders or little girls with ponytails?

“Look at him,” Clooney said. “He's what? Six-two and over two hundred pounds? Jase Peoples is about five-eight and one-forty if he's wearing everything in his closet.”

“Let's forget about Jase, shall we?” Andi's voice was sharp as she came to the counter and reached for more muffins. “The subject is closed.”

I grabbed her wrist. “No more muffins. We need them for paying customers. If Bill's still hungry, he can have toast.”

“Or he could pay.” To Mr. Perkins a good idea was worth repeating.

Andi laughed at the absurdity of such a thought.

Ricky had left his stove and was leaning on the pass-through beside Lindsay. “Four slices coming up for Billingsley.”

“Billingsley?” I looked at the big guy as he downed the last of his four-egg ham-and-cheese omelet. With a name like that, it was a good thing he was big enough to protect himself.

“Billingsley Morton Lindemuth III,” Ricky said.

“I should never have told you.” Andi clearly felt betrayed.

“But you did. And you got to love it.” Laughing, Ricky turned to make toast.

“He hates it,” Andi said.

I wasn't surprised.

Greg drew in a breath like you do when something terrible happens. We all turned to stare at him.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

He was looking at the front page of The Press of Atlantic City. “Jase Peoples.”

“What?” I demanded.

Clooney grabbed the paper and followed Greg's pointing finger.

I could see the picture and the headline above it: “Have You Seen This Man?”

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Dream...Review

The first book in the Seasons of the Heart series is set in Connecticut in 1888, the year of what historians call “The White Hurricane.” The story reveals the power of God’s love to change lives and heal hearts. Summer Dream tells of a young couple’s love for each other and the obstacles that stand in their path of happiness. Until Nathan Reed resolves his anger with God and his family, he has no hopes of courting Rachel Winston, the minister’s daughter.

As the daughter of a small-town minister in Connecticut, Rachel Winston believes the only way she’ll ever have a husband is to visit her aunt in Boston for the social season until Nathan Reed arrives in town. Although attracted to Rachel, Nathan avoids her because he has no desire to become involved with a Christian after experiences with his own family. When a devastating blizzard paralyzes New England, Nathan is caught in it and lies near death in the Winston home. Through the ministrations and tender care of Rachel and her mother, Nathan learns a lesson in love and forgiveness that leads him back to his home in the South. Before he can declare his love for Rachel, he must make amends with his own family. Will he return to Connecticut before Rachel leaves her home to head west as a missionary in Oklahoma Territory?


Rachel is drawn to Nathan, an unbeliever with a haunted past.  Being a preacher's daughter and strong in her faith, she knows that their future is uncertain until Nathan can come to terms with his past and his anger at God.

The story is fairly predictable and our characters discover that God knows and loves them.  My main complaint was the language.  The dialogue was very stilted and formal and conversations didn't flow naturally.  Still, it's a sweet Christian romance with likeable characters. A nice clean story.

I liked Summer Dream, but I didn't love it. I loved Martha Roger's Winds Across the Prairie series.  I didn't like the first book as much as the rest of that series and I hope that is what is happening here. That the subsequent books will be better than the first. I do look forward to more.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Charisma Media for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more abut Martha Rogers here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Summer Dream...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:

Realms (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This is a new series by Martha Rogers.

“Summer Dream is a sweet, heartfelt, and well-written story about faith in action and a love that never fails. I can't wait to read the rest of this series.”—Andrea Boeshaar, author of Unexpected Love and Undaunted Faith

A Heart in Need of Redemption. An Unlikely Love. And a God Who Can Bring Them Together.

As the daughter of a small-town minister in Connecticut, Rachel Winston fears that the only way she’ll ever find a husband is to visit her aunt in Boston for the social season. But when Nathan Reed arrives in town, she can’t help but wonder if he could be the one.

Although attracted to Rachel, Nathan has no desire to become involved with a Christian after experiences with his own family. What’s more, until he resolves his anger with God and his family, he has no chance of courting her.

When Nathan is caught in a devastating blizzard and lies near death in the Winston home, Rachel and her mother give him a lesson in love and forgiveness that leads him back to his home in the South. Will he make peace with his family and return before Rachel chooses a path that takes her away from him?



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616383607
ISBN-13: 978-1616383602

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Briar Ridge, Connecticut, February 5, 1888

Why did Papa have to be so stubborn? Rachel Winston stared at the gray clouds outside her window and fought the urge to stomp her foot like a spoiled child. However, young women of twenty years must behave as befitting their age, as Mama so often reminded her. Perhaps she should have shown the letter to her mother first. Too late for that now; Papa would tell Mama as soon as he had the opportunity.

The back door closed with a thud, and Rachel shuddered. Papa had left for the church. His departing meant she needed to finish dressing or she’d be late, and then Papa would be even more upset with her. It wouldn’t do for the preacher’s family to be late for the services.

The paper in her pocket crackled when she moved toward the bed to retrieve her boots. Rachel fingered the crumpled edges of Aunt Mabel’s letter. There was no need to read it again, for she knew the words by heart. Her aunt’s invitation to come to Boston for an extended visit had arrived at a most inopportune time with the winter weather in the northern states at its worst. Even so, she shared the letter with Papa, hoping he might be agreeable to the visit.

A metallic taste soured her mouth, and she swallowed hard in an attempt to squelch it. Papa argued that the unpredictable weather of February made travel from Connecticut to Boston dangerous. If only one of the many Boston trains came to Briar Ridge. Aunt Mabel meant well, but her timing left something to be desired. Papa didn’t even want her going to Hartford or Manchester to board a train. It took over three hours by horseback to make the journey to Hartford—longer in bad weather.

She grasped the wrinkled letter in her hand and pulled it from its resting place. “Oh, Auntie, why did you wait until now to invite me for a visit?” she said to the letter, as if Aunt Mabel could hear her. “Last spring when I graduated from the academy would have been perfect, but you had to travel abroad.” A deep sigh filled her, then escaped in a long breath and a slump of her shoulders.

Aunt Mabel believed that a young woman should go to finishing school before she thought of marriage and had offered to pay for Rachel’s tuition. Papa had frowned on the idea, but her mother finally prevailed. For that, Rachel was most grateful, and she wouldn’t have traded those years at the academy for marriage to anyone. But now that she was twenty, she found that the pool of eligible bachelors in her area was slim to nonexistent.

Going to Boston would have provided the opportunity to meet more young men.

Rachel sat on the bed to ease off her slippers and bent over for the winter boots thatwould protect her feet from the slush. The frozen ground outdoors called for them, but they were not the choice she would have liked to wear to church this morning. Rachel shoved her feet down into the sturdy boots designed for warmth, not attractive appearance.

Of the eligible young men in Briar Ridge, only one came to mind, but then Daniel Monroe didn’t count. His sister had been Rachel’s best friend since Papa came to be pastor of the Briar Ridge church nearly seventeen years ago. Daniel treated her more like his sister anyway. Two years older, and just starting out as a lawyer, he was far more knowledgeable than she, and keeping up a conversation with him took more effort than she deemed it to be worth. Rachel had finished at the seminary with good marks, but Daniel’s conversation interests leaned more toward science and new inventions like electricity and the telephone than things of interest to her.
Rachel’s anger subsided as she pulled on the laces of her boots. As she reflected on her father, she remembered that he loved her and wanted only the best for her. He had promised that when spring came, he’d talk to her about the trip. Until then she would be the obedient daughter he wanted her to be and dream of the trip ahead. The Lord would give her patience, even though that was not one of her virtues.

She smoothed her skirt down over her hips and picked up the letter to place it on the table beside her bed. A response to Aunt Mabel would go out with tomorrow’s mail to express her regrets in not being able to accept the invitation. Papa would probably write to her as well, but Rachel wanted her aunt to know how much she appreciated the invitation.

If Seth were here now, he could give her good counsel. He’d always been the one she’d turned to when things didn’t go well with Mama and Papa. She loved her older brother and missed him, but he’d be home from the seminary in May, and she could talk with him then. Since he studied to be a minister like Papa, he’d most likely leave Briar Ridge if his ministry took him elsewhere after his graduation.

She’d met a few young men while at school, but the strict rules and regulations set forth at Bainbridge Academy for Young Women in Hartford had given her few opportunities to develop a relationship. Not that she would have considered any of them, but she would have appreciated the chance.
Mama called to her, and Rachel hurried to the front hall. She noted the firm set of Mama’s jaw and braced for the scolding that would be in order. “I’m sorry to take so long, Mama.” She grabbed her cloak from its hook.
“You know how your father hates for us to be late to church. It is unseemly for the minister’s family to be the last to arrive.” Mama turned and walked outside, her back ramrod straight.

Rachel breathed a sigh of relief. No time for a scolding now. She set a dark blue bonnet firmly over her hair and fastened the ties. She followed her mother out to the carriage, where the rest of the family waited. As usual, Papa had gone on ahead to open the church and stoke the two stoves to provide heat on this cold winter morning. Rachel climbed up beside her sister, Miriam, and reached for the blanket.

“What delayed you, Rachel? There’s no excuse for not being ready with everyone else.” Mama settled in her seat beside Noah, who had taken over his brother’s responsibilities until his own departure for college next fall.
“Time slipped away from me.” No need to tell her everything now. Rachel tucked a blanket around her legs and glanced at Miriam beside her. Miriam’s eyebrows lifted in question, but Rachel shook her head.

Micah piped up from the front seat. “Did you make Papa angry?”

“Micah! Of course not.” Rachel glanced at her brother Noah and noted the smirk on his face. She frowned to let him know she didn’t approve.
His gaze slid to her now. “Oh, then why did he stomp through the kitchen and ride off without a word to anybody?”

Mama clucked her tongue. “Now, children, it’s the Sabbath. Papa was late and in a hurry to get to the church.” But the look in Mama’s eyes promised she’d speak to Rachel about it later, especially after Mama learned the real reason for the tardiness.

Even though his decision disappointed her, Papa simply wanted to protect her from danger. She should be grateful for his love and concern, not angry because he said no. The promise of a trip to Boston when the weather improved would have to be enough to get her through the remainder of winter.

A recent snowfall still covered the frozen ground. Most of it in the streets had melted into a hodgepodge of brown and black slush caused by carriages and buggies winding their way toward the church. Rachel breathed deeply of the clean, fresh air that seemed to accompany snow in winter and rain in the spring.
If not for the inconveniences caused by ice and snow, she would love this time of year, even when the leafless branches of the trees cracked and creaked with a coating of ice. She gazed toward the gray skies that promised more snow before the day ended. If it would wait until later in the day, she might manage a visit with her best friend Abigail this afternoon.
However, a warm house, a cup of hot tea flavored with mint from Mama’s herb garden, and a good book might entice her to stay home on this cold, winter afternoon. Tomorrow would bring the chores of keeping the woodpile stocked and the laundry cleaned. She enjoyed the winter months, although this year she wished them to hurry by.

Miriam snuggled closer. Rachel smiled at her sister, who had recently turned thirteen. “I see you’re wearing your Christmas dress today. Is there a special occasion?”
Miriam’s cheeks turned a darker shade of red. “Um, not exactly.”

“Then what is it . . . exactly?”
Miriam tilted her head to one side and peered up at Rachel. She whispered, “Jimmy Turner.”
So her little sister had begun to notice boys. “Well now, I think he’s a handsome lad. Has he shown an interest in you?”

Miriam nodded and giggled. Rachel wrapped an arm around her sister as the buggy slowed to enter the churchyard. She stepped down onto the snow-covered ground muddied by all the wagons crossing over it. Now she was thankful for the thick stockings and shoes she wore to protect her toes. She then reached up for Micah while Miriam raced ahead.

The little boy pushed her hands away. “I can get down by myself.”

Rachel couldn’t resist the temptation to laugh. At seven, her younger brother expressed his independence and insisted on doing things for himself. He jumped with his feet square in a pile of snow and looked first at his feet then up to Rachel. She shook her head and grabbed his hand to go inside the building. How that little boy loved the snow. He’d be out in it all day if Mama would let him.

When she entered the foyer with Micah, she spotted Miriam already sitting in their pew with Jimmy Turner in the row behind her. Rachel hastened to sit down beside her sister. Miriam stared straight ahead but twisted her hands together in her lap.

When had Miriam grown up? Even now she showed signs of the beauty she would one day be. Thick, dark lashes framed her brown eyes, and her cheeks held a natural pink glow. Papa would really have to keep an eye out for his younger daughter.
Rachel glanced around the assembly room and once again admired the beauty of the old church built not long after the turn of the century. Instead of the quarry stone and masonry of the churches in Boston and even New Haven, Briar Ridge’s church walls were of white clapboard with large stained-glass windows along the sides. On bright days, sunlight streamed through them to create patterns of color across the congregation.

Brass light fixtures hung from the high vaulted ceilings, and the flames from the gaslights danced in the breeze as the back doors opened to admit worshippers. As much as she loved her church here in Briar Ridge, she remembered the electric lights she’d enjoyed in Hartford, one of the first cities to have its own generating plant. How long before electricity would become as widespread in Briar Ridge as it was in the larger cities? Probably awhile since Briar Ridge wasn’t known for its progress.
When the family first came to town, Rachel had been three years old, so this was the only home and church she could remember before leaving for school. Familiar faces met her everywhere she gazed. A nod and smile greeted each one as she searched for her friend Abigail and the Monroe family.
Unexpectedly a new face came into view a few rows back. A young man with the most incredible brown eyes stared back at her. Rachel’s breath caught in her throat, and the heat rose in her cheeks.

She felt her mother’s hand on her arm. “Turn around, Rachel. It’s not polite to stare.”
With her heart threatening to jump right out of her chest, Rachel tore her gaze away from the stranger seated with the Monroe family. Papa entered from the side door and stepped up to the pulpit. The service began with singing, but Rachel could barely make a sound. Everything in her wanted to turn and gaze again at the mysterious person with the Monroe family, but that behavior would be unseemly for the daughter of the minister.

However, her thoughts refused to obey and skipped to their own rhythm. Rachel decided that whoever he was, he must be a friend of Daniel’s because Abigail had never mentioned any man of interest in her own life. In a town like Briar Ridge, everyone knew everyone’s business. She hadn’t heard any talk of a guest from Daniel or her other friends yesterday.
A prickling sensation crept along her neck as though someone watched her. She blinked her eyes and willed herself to look at Papa and concentrate on his message. However, her mind filled with images of the young man. Who was this stranger who had come to Briar Ridge?

Nathan Reed contemplated the dark curls peeking from beneath the blue bonnet. When she had turned and their eyes met, his heart leaped. He had never expected to see such a beauty in a town like Briar Ridge. His friend Daniel’s sister was attractive, but nothing like this raven-haired girl with blue eyes.
When she turned her head back toward the front, he stared at her back as if to will her to turn his way again. When she didn’t, he turned his sights to gaze around the church, so much like others he’d once attended. He wouldn’t be here this morning except out of politeness for the Monroe family. He’d arrived later than intended last evening and welcomed Mrs. Monroe’s offer to stay the night with them. The least he could do was attend the service today.

Nathan had no use for church or things of God. He believed God existed, but only for people who needed something or someone to lean on. God had forsaken the Reed family years ago, and Nathan had done quite well without any help these four years away from home.

He shook off thoughts of the past and concentrated once more on the blue bonnet several rows ahead. Perhaps Daniel would introduce him. She would be a nice diversion from the business he must attend to while in town. He blocked the words of the minister from his mind and concentrated on the girl’s back.
The little boy seated next to the young woman seemed restless, so she lifted him onto her lap. The child couldn’t be her son. She didn’t look old enough. Then the older woman next to them reached for the boy and settled him in her arms. In a few minutes the boy’s head nodded in sleep.
Nathan resisted the urge to pull his watch from his pocket and check the time. Surely the service would end soon. Potbellied stoves in the front and back of the church provided warmth, and the additional heat of so many bodies caused him to wish he had shed his coat. He fought the urge to nod off himself. Oh, to be like the young lad in his mother’s arms.
Finally the congregation rose, and the organ played the final hymn. It was none too soon for Nathan, for he had grown more uncomfortable by the minute. Long sermons only added to his distaste for affairs of the church. The singing ended and people began their exit, but he kept his eye on the girl in blue until the crowd blocked her from view.

He stayed behind the Monroe family, who stopped to greet the minister. Mrs. Monroe turned to Nathan. “Reverend Winston, this is Nathan Reed, our houseguest from Hartford this week and a friend of Daniel’s.”

The minister smiled in greeting and shook Nathan’s hand. “It’s very nice to have you in our services today, Mr. Reed. I hope you enjoy your stay in Briar Ridge and that we’ll see more of you.”

“Thank you, sir. I look forward to my visit here.” But the minister wouldn’t be seeing any more of him unless they possibly met in town.

When they reached the Monroe carriage, Nathan turned and spotted the girl coming down the steps. He watched as Daniel waved to the young woman and she waved back. Abigail ran to greet her, and the girls hurried over to where Nathan stood with Daniel. Abigail tucked her hand in the girl’s elbow.
“Nathan, this is my best friend, Rachel Winston. Rachel, this is Daniel’s former roommate in college, Nathan Reed.”

Rachel Winston? Nathan’s hopes dashed against the slushy ground on which he stood. Could she be the preacher’s daughter? He didn’t mind a young woman being Christian, but he drew the line at keeping company with one so close to the ministry.
When her blue eyes gazed into his, a spark of interest flamed, and it took him a few seconds before remembering his manners. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Winston.”
Her cheeks flushed red, and she glanced away slightly but still smiled. “Thank you. I’m pleased to meet you too, Mr. Reed. Perhaps we’ll see each other again if you’re in town long.”

Rachel’s smile sent a warmth into his heart that caused him to swallow hard. Although the length of his stay was uncertain, his desire to see the lovely Miss Winston again might just override his pledge to avoid anything or anyone with ties to the church.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Art of Forgetting Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to random.org, the winner of the The Art of Forgetting Giveaway is:


I've already received her mailing information and forwarded it to the publisher. Thanks to all who entered! Check out the sidebar for my other current giveaways.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Violets of March...Review

About the book:
A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line,
The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

After signing her divorce papers, Emily leaves New York for Bainbridge Island in Washington, home of favorite childhood memories and her beloved great-aunt Bee.  Desiring peace of mind and inspiration for a new story, Emily discovers a diary written in 1943.  As she reads it and learns Esther's story, she also discovers secrets about her own family relationships. 

While I wish there had been more development between Jack and Emily, I enjoyed seeing them get to know each other.  As she searches for answers, Emily meets a range of delightful people and along the way, as past meets present, finds herself.

What should have been cliched and predictable was, instead, a captivating novel and one I couldn't put down and didn't want to end.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this story.   I look forward to more from Sarah Jio. 

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

Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Year with Eleanor...Review and Giveaway

About the book:
After losing her high-octane job as an entertainment blogger, Noelle Hancock was lost. About to turn twenty-nine, she'd spent her career writing about celebrities' lives and had forgotten how to live her own. Unemployed and full of self-doubt, she had no idea what she wanted out of life. She feared change—in fact, she feared almost everything. Once confident and ambitious, she had become crippled by anxiety, lacking the courage required even to attend a dinner party—until inspiration struck one day in the form of a quote on a chalkboard in a coffee shop:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."
—Eleanor Roosevelt

Painfully timid as a child, Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated herself to facing her fears, a commitment that shaped the rest of her life. With Eleanor as her guide, Noelle spends the months leading up to her thirtieth birthday pursuing a "Year of Fear." From shark diving to fighter pilot lessons, from tap dancing and stand-up comedy to confronting old boyfriends, her hilarious and harrowing adventures teach her about who she is, and what she can become—lessons she makes vital for all of us.


While the book sounded fascinating, my first reaction was that it would be an excuse to capitalize on the whole, I'm-going-to-do-something-related-to-someone-famous-and-then-write-a-book-about it thing.  I had no idea who Noelle Hancock was when I started reading this book.  I don't follow celebrity/gossip blogs or magazines.  I don't read US Magazine in print or online.  I don't even watch television, so I don't always recognize celebrities anyway. 

I was so happy to find this to be an engaging and inspiring memoir.  Noelle is honest in admitting her fears and her faults.  So much of what she writes, I can relate to and understand.  I was once confident, but often I now find myself timid and unable to believe in my abilities.

Sitting in a coffee shop one day, Noelle found herself inspired by the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "Do one thing every day that scares you".  Realizing that she'd let herself become crippled by anxiety and fears, Noelle took this to heart and began her  "Year of Fear".  She went skydiving and shark diving.  She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, renegotiated interest rates, took trapeze lessons and interviewed old boyfriends about why they broke up with her.

Along the way, she read books about and by Eleanor Roosevelt and learned about the insecurities that Eleanor herself overcame. Many of Eleanor's own thoughts and experiences are included alongside Noelle's.

What I loved is that the book isn't simply an account of Noelle's adventures, but an intelligent, perceptive book about looking at one's self and discovering hidden strengths and courage. Noelle's narration is, at times, hysterically funny yet very insightful and often hit very close to home.

While I could have done without the profanity and occasional vulgarity, this is still an eloquent and inspiring account of one woman's year of discovery.

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Noelle Hancock here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, July 11: Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, July 12: Bibliosue
Wednesday, July 13: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Thursday, July 14: Melody & Words
Tuesday, July 19: Scandalous Women
Wednesday, July 20: Unabridged Chick
Monday, July 25: One Book Shy
Tuesday, August 2: “That’s Swell!”
Wednesday, August 3: The Book Chick
Thursday, August 4: Cozy Little House
Wednesday, August 10: Kahakai Kitchen

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GIVEAWAY:
Because I enjoyed My Year with Eleanor so much, thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a giveaway.

It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so a comment with your email address will suffice.

However:
If you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry.

I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment.

If you choose to become a follower or tell me you already are, you can gain an additional entry too.

If you wanted to blog or tweet about it, that's great too, and you'd get an extra entry for that.

Just tell me in your comment if you've done any of the extras. You don't need to leave separate comments for each thing (too annoying!).  Seriously though, just commenting is enough for me.

U.S. or Canada addresses only and no P.O. Boxes. Sorry!

This giveaway ends August 4th.

This giveaway is closed.
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Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Countdown to Love...Review

About the book:
Abandoned at the altar, Kelly Grace Pickens finds herself left holding not only the bouquet but also the exorbitant bill for an A-list wedding. Homeless, a once promising singing career floundering, and her life bearing an uncanny resemblance to one of her country music ballads, she reluctantly accepts a last minute offer to appear on a reality TV show akin to
The Bachelor. Pitted against silicon-enhanced supermodels in four-inch heels, Kelly feels confident that she will be among the first would-be fiancées to be excused. 

Only, when the mysterious bachelor from New York City, Dillon Black, invites her to stay, Kelly finds herself thrust into the vortex of a game she doesn’t have the first idea how to play. Nursing her hopelessly broken heart while avoiding the foils of her fellow contestants, Kelly is oblivious to Dillon’s affections as she wades through hurt and betrayal to discover, in the end, that somehow she has landed firmly on both feet.

Leaving behind Music Row in Nashville, TN, for the majestic Grand Teton mountains, Countdown To Love takes readers on a journey from duplicity to sincerity as Kelly discovers that being true to oneself is the first step in finding happiness and everlasting love.

Left at the altar, aspiring country singer Kelly Grace Pickens attempts to put her life back together.  When her television producer cousin invites her to be a contestant on a reality show, Kelly agrees simply because she needs the money.  After comparing herself to the conniving, beautiful women on the show, she's convinced she won't last.  Kelly's plans change when she makes an impression upon bachelor Dillon Black and she finds herself presented with rose after rose and invited back time and time again.  As the show progresses, Kelly finds herself torn between affection for her absent fiance and a new-found attraction for Dillon.

I'm not a fan of reality television and I've never seen an episode of The Bachelor so I have no idea how the show works.  But, using it as a setting for Kelly's story was a lot of fun.  There were laugh out loud funny parts and tender, poignant parts as well.  While I realize the focus of the story is on Kelly and her self discovery, I wish there had been more development of Dillon and his past/family history.  I think a sequel is definitely in order here!

This was, quite simply, a delightfully fun novel.  It's a clean, funny Christian romance and a story that I can wholeheartedly recommend!

Thanks to Tristi Pinkston and Cedar Fort Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Julie N. Ford here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Blessed...Review

About the book:
It is 1844 and Lacey Bishop's life is a tangled mess. Estranged from her own family, at age 16 she went to work for a preacher and his wife. When his wife died, the preacher convinced Lacey that the only decent thing to do was to marry him. That way she could continue to act as mother to the little girl who was left on his doorstop. 

But Lacey never expected he would decide to take them all off to a Shaker village. There she's still married but living in a community that believes marriage is a sin. And to make matters worse, she finds herself drawn to Isaac Kingston, a man who came to the Shakers after his young bride died. But of course any notion of love between them is only a forbidden dream. How will Lacey ever find true happiness?

Readers will find themselves engrossed in this heartrending tale of commitment and forgiveness, the latest from popular author Ann H. Gabhart.


Having worked in the home of a preacher for many years and being very close to his wife and caring for the child left on his doorstep, Lacey is unprepared when Preacher Palmer pressures her into marriage after the death of his wife.  Her love for young Rachel pushes her into accepting his offer.  When the preacher suddenly moves them all to a Shaker village, Lacey has no choice but to go along.

As she struggles to understand this new faith and what might have drawn the preacher into it, she meets others who touch her life in ways she never could have anticipated.  Romantic love and marriage are forbidden by the Shakers, but Lacey and Isaac must find their own way and discover whether they should stay in Harmony Hill or if their path takes them away from the community.  Like all of us, Lacey and Isaac must learn what purpose God has for them, individually.

I've enjoyed Ann H. Gabhart's Shaker series.  This is a people that truly fascinates me.  What I have appreciated most in these books, is that that she doesn't ever put down or ridicule the Shaker religion.  There are many faiths that are misunderstood or feared (my own included) and writers of religious fiction often have a point or purpose that is to make readers judge or dislike those religions.  They have their characters join a religion only to find that they ultimately don't believe it or want to follow it.  Their experiences are always negative and the faith is criticized and put down.  While Ann's characters often end up leaving the Shaker religion to go back out into the world, the religion itself is never ridiculed by her characters.  They learn that they must follow their own path, but they always respect those whose path is different.  This is so refreshing.

An enjoyable book and one I can easily recommend.  While part of a series, all the books stand alone.

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Ann H. Gabhart here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Game of Character Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to random.org, the winner of the A Game of Character Giveaway is:

Micah!

I've already received his mailing information and forwarded it to the publisher. Thanks to all who entered! Check out the sidebar for my other current giveaways.