Everyday Tidbits...

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Most Important Catch...Review

About the book: 
She knew too much, and she’d seen too much. And the police refused to help. Knowing that she was to be the next scheduled death, Kelly Campbell hid under head to toe black leather and a tinted motorcycle helmet and ran for her life. 

When the weather turned cold, she turned south. She ended up in North Carolina, home to one of the most famed and eligible NFL football stars in the whole league; only she didn’t know that. She thought he was a businessman. Not being a huge fan, all she knew was that he was incredibly attractive, kind, generous, and that she was safe with him. Or was she?

His brand of fame proved to be all but deadly, but his fame wasn't nearly as lethal as his attraction. He kept her safe and protected. All except her heart.

When Kelly discovers that her employer is illegally dealing drugs, she also realizes her life is in danger.  On the run from Chicago, she ends up stranded in rural North Carolina and is rescued by Robby Robideaux.  Unaware that he is a famous football player, she finds herself quickly falling for him.  Robby realizes that Kelly is hiding from something and provides an employment opportunity for her remodeling an old farmhouse he recently purchased.  Inevitably though, everything she is running from eventually catches up with her and Robby wonders if they can ever have a future together.

I enjoyed the premise although I found bits of it rather implausible, such as Robby's efforts to prevent Kelly from discovering that he was a professional football player.  Kelly was simply too good to be true, but still a likeable and very capable heroine.  Robby was charming as the Steve Young-type football player:  handsome, LDS, single yet uncompromising in his standards and Christian values.

There was a great element of suspense and the LDS elements are simply a part of the book and in no way is it preachy.  I enjoyed the North Carolina setting.  Minor editing issues, but a clean, enjoyable story.

Thanks to The Book Bug for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jaclyn M. Hawkes here.  You can purchase your own copy here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 5/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Ride of Her Life...Review

About the book:
The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is a six year old. Widowed two years ago, Lilly leaves the shelter of her intrusive in-laws' home to stand on her own and provide for her young son by working for the summer as a cook at Lake Manawa. However, her in-laws find that life utterly unsuitable for their grandson, and when a row ensues, a handsome stranger--who designs roller coasters, of all things--intercedes on her behalf. Still, Lilly is not about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky (though charismatic) gentleman. Little does she know she is about to begin the ride of her life. 

Filled with delightful characters and the romance of summer, The Ride of Her Life is another supremely entertaining story from the witty Lorna Seilstad. Readers will laugh out loud and sigh contentedly as they spend the summer of 1906 in Lake Manawa

Persistence is often necessary when it comes to love and Nick Perrin is the definition of persistence.  Lilly and Nick were wonderful.  Levi is adorable.  Lilly's in-laws were frustrating and mean and the story is compelling and entertaining.  This is a story full of humor and the dips and swirls and speed of Nick's roller coaster.

Marguerite, Tripp, Emily and Carter from Making Waves and A Great Catch all return although the book, like the others, stands alone well.  It's a much richer story, however, when you read them all in order.

A fantastic end to an enjoyable trilogy.  I was sad to say good-bye to Lake Manawa.  I enjoyed learning about roller coasters and the author's notes in the back.

Available May 2012 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 Lorna Seilstad here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In My Father's Country...Review by the Doctor

About the book: 
In Afghanistan, there is a Pashtun saying known by every woman and by every girl: “A woman should leave her house only twice in her life: once as a bride to go to her husband’s house, and once to the cemetery to be buried.” 

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saima Wahab seemed destined to lead the life of any Pashtun female—a life of dependence, without education, a probable child bride—but today, more than three decades later, it is clear that this now American-Pashtun, “Human Terrain” specialist was destined for far greater things. In her new book, In My Father’s Country, Saima shares her remarkable journey: At age three, she watched while her father was arrested and taken from their home by the KGB. She would never see him again. 

When she was fifteen, an uncle who lived in Portland, Oregon brought her to America. Having to learn an entire new language, she nonetheless graduated from high school in three years and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree. In 2004, she signed on with a defense contractor to work as an interpreter in Afghanistan, never realizing that she would blaze the trail for a new kind of diplomacy, earning the trust of both high-ranking U.S. army officials and Afghan warlords alike. 

When she arrived in Afghanistan in the winter of 2004, Saima was the only college-educated female Pashto speaker in the entire country. As a Pashtun-born American citizen, Saima found herself in an extraordinary position—to be able to explain the people of her native land to those of her adopted one, and vice versa, in a quest to forge new and lasting bonds between two misunderstood cultures. 

In My Father’s Country follows Saima from child refugee to nervous Pashto interpreter to intrepid “Human Terrain” specialist, venturing with her 25-man security detail into isolated Pashtun villages to engage hostile village elders in the first dialogue they’ve ever had with an American. It is also an examination of her life as an American-Pashtun woman; a woman working to create a balance between the two conflicting cultures that comprise her past and shape her future.

Born just before the Soviet invasion that would claim the life of her father, Saima Wahab was just another Pashtun daughter, whose life should have been one of minimal travel and lesser opportunities. Instead, she was evacuated from Afghanistan in a harrowing journey which eventually brought her to the Northwest coast of America. There, with minimal English, she forged her own independence and her own life against family and cultural pressures that would have seen her taken back to Afghanistan and a life with few choices. Instead, she began her own life, which eventually led to her being a civilian contractor working with the US military in her home country of Afghanistan. Amid the horrors of war, and fighting cultural prejudices which at times threatened her very life, she was at first an interpreter and eventually a "cultural liaison", trying to bring peace and understanding between her old world and her new.

I had just started a long-awaited novel when, for some reason, I picked up this book and just read the book jacket. I asked my wife if I could read it before she did, and so began the loss of a weekend. I was touched and moved by Saima’s story of the pain and difficulty of growing up in one culture, while living in another. I was inspired by the bravery she shows in choosing to serve her country in a way that very few people ever could. Her honesty in describing her feelings of frustration as she tried to find peace in her soul and peace in the world was heart wrenching. Above all, I was incredibly impressed by the courage that she showed, risking her life and her sanity in an attempt to understand the country that her father died for, and the rich cultural heritage that would have denied her the place she took in the world.

Thank you Saima, for a wonderful and moving book that widened my understanding, and enriched my soul. You have indeed fulfilled your father's promise, and I am sure made him proud.

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

Tuesday, April 24th:  Book Addict Katie
Wednesday, April 25th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, April 30th:  Bibliosue
Tuesday, May 1st:  Broken Teepee
Wednesday, May 2nd:  My Book Retreat
Thursday, May 3rd:  A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 7th:  Book Dilettante
Tuesday, May 8th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Wednesday, May 9th:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, May 14th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, May 15th:  Luxury Reading
Wednesday, May 16th:  Lit and Life
Thursday, May 17th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Monday, May 21st:  Chew & Digest Books
Tuesday, May 22nd:  Twisting the Lens
Wednesday, May 23rd:  2 Kids and Tired Books

Read 5/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, May 20, 2012

FoodTrients...Giveaway Winner!

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

Jayedee from Life in the Lost World!

I've already received her mailing information. Thanks to all who entered! Check out the sidebar for other giveaways. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms...Review

About the book:

Annie Martin loves the Plain ways of her Old Order Mennonite people, like those revered by her beloved grandfather. Retreating from a contentious relationship with her mother, Annie goes to live with her Daadi Moses in Apple Ridge.

But as spring moves into Pennsylvania and Annie spends time amongst the cherry trees with the handsome Aden Zook, she wishes she could forget how deeply the lines between the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite are drawn.

Can Annie and Aden find a place for their love to bloom in the midst of the brewing storm?

I've read Cindy Woodsmall before and I enjoyed her Sisters of the Quilt series.  The premise of this book is fascinating and learning about the differences between Old Order Mennonite and Old Order Amish intrigued me.

I liked Annie and Aden and reading their story.  Unfortunately, I think the story was too short to be told well.  Written as a novella, I think this would be a much richer story if it was longer and the characters allowed to develop and the story more detailed.  I wanted to know more about Roman and Marian.  I think that there might be some back history in the novella A Christmas Singing, but I haven't read that one, so I don't know for sure.  I just know that this story, while sweet, left me wanting more.

I read my personal copy.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stardust...Preview

About the book:
Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Peyton unexpectedly inherits the derelict Stardust motel from a distant relative. Despite doubts from the community and the aunt who raised her, she is determined to breathe new life into it. But the guests who arrive aren't what Georgia expects: Her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive but down-on-his-luck drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past.

Can Georgia find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxy to face the future? And will her dream of a new life under the flickering neon of the STARDUST ever come true?


About the author:
Carla Stewart's writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She launched her writing career in 2002 when she earned the coveted honor of being invited to attend Guidepost's Writers Workshop in Rye, New York. Since then, her articles have appeared in Guideposts, Angels on Earth, and several regional magazines and anthologies.

Carla received two American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis awards for unpublished authors. The novel that won in 2007 went on to become her first published novel-Chasing Lilacs which has garnered many rave reviews including a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly and 4 stars from Romantic Times Reviews. Her second novel, Broken Wings, releases in June 2011.

Carla graduated from the University of Oklahoma and worked as a registered nurse for a number of years. She and her engineer husband are the parents of four married sons and relish the adventures of their six grandchildren. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, great books, and weekend getaways with her husband.

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Thanks to Sarah at FaithWords for the opportunity to preview this book.  You can learn more about Carla Stewart here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cottage at Glass Beach...Review

About the book: 
Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm. 

Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke's Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides. 

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades—not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt's friend Polly suggests, a selkie—a mythical being of island legend—summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles? 

Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own—a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past. 

I enjoyed The Lace Makers of Glenmara and so I was excited to read Heather's next book.  Unfortunately, it just wasn't something that grabbed me.  The setting had promise, but I kept feeling as if something was missing.  I also struggled with the narration style and never really connected with the characters.  I couldn't stand Nora's daughter Ella. She wasn't just a rude pre-teen, she was horrible.    This was just one story that tried too hard to be something special and didn't live up to its potential.  My review is one of many and is in the minority, as usual.  You will see other, more positive reviews on the tour shown below.

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

Tuesday, May 15th: 2 Kids and Tired
Wednesday, May 16th: Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, May 17th: Sarah Says Read
Friday, May 18th: My Two Blessings
Monday, May 21st: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, May 23rd: All Grown Up?
Thursday, May 24th: Paperback Princess
Friday, May 25th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, May 29th: Bookstack
Wednesday, May 30th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Thursday, May 31st: My Bookshelf
Monday, June 4th: Life In Review
Tuesday, June 5th: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, June 6th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Thursday, June 7th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, June 11th: Tiramisu Mom
Tuesday, June 12th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Friday, June 15th: Luxury Reading

Read 5/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pursuit of Lucy Banning...Review

About the book:
Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago.

When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.

A compelling look into historical Chicago and a terrific, strong heroine.  Wealthy, but one who devotes her times and talents to helping others and educating herself, Lucy is fantastic.  Here is a young woman who easily crosses between two worlds; her privileged own and the working class.  Will is terrific and the World's Fair backdrop is a rich setting.

I would have loved more of Charlotte's story and I'm thrilled to know that a sequel about her is due out later this year.

Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna from Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Olivia Newport here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Inspired Design...Preview

About the book:
Drawing from a rich family history and her own collection of acclaimed designs, California-based interior designer Roxanne Packham has joined with her teenage daughter, Hannah to create Inspired Design (Inspired Design Publications, 2010), an idea-provoking book filled with stunning photographs, treasured family traditions and a plethora of truly inspirational tips for creating a warm and welcoming home.

Whether seeking unique ways to entertain, celebrate with friends, begin new family traditions or showcase the family history, talents and passions in the home’s interior design, the Packhams have shown the way. In doing so, they have utilized the beautifully structured pages of Inspired Design to reveal the classic truth that any home is made more beautiful when it is filled with love, joy and the determination to make those who enter it feel welcomed.

Decorating can be a daunting task, whether it is in preparation for family or for a spouse’s office party. Roxanne offers simple ideas for making your home welcoming and comfortable for guests. Hannah is able to offer, from a teen’s perspective, ways of getting the entire family involved in preparations while teaching your children the art of hospitality. With today’s busy, high-tech lifestyle, these are important lessons we often overlook.

With a desire to celebrate the beauty of home and family, the mother-daughter duo has skillfully melded their own store of family memories and candid observations with photos of impeccably designed interiors to remind the reader of the home’s power and ability to change lives. Their purpose in writing Inspired Design is straightforward: “To inspire you to create a home that touches the soul of those within, as well as all who walk through the doors.”

Borne on the wings of their earnest prayers, Inspired Design is far from being just another photo-rich book on interior design. Instead, it is a beautifully rich hospitality book focused as much on what visitors entering the home will feel as on what they might see. Once their collaboration on the book was finished, this mother-daughter duo knew they had found their calling. To continue the work they had begun, Roxanne and Hannah founded Inspired31.org, an organization devoted to inspiring teenage girls, mothers and others to find and follow God’s plan for their lives. Along with funding Inspired31.org, sales of the book go straight to Heart of Hope (a ministry that advocates for orphans and at-risk children in Romania) and other selected charities. The Packhams’ unified mission is to change lives one heart at a time.

About the authors:
Roxanne Hughes Packham is an acclaimed California-based interior designer, whose classic designs grace homes from San Diego to San Francisco. Born into a family of gifted artisans, including renowned silversmiths Allan Adler (her grandfather) and Porter Blanchard (her great-grandfather), Packham is a graduate of the University of Southern California, The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and the Paris Fashion Institute. Additionally, she studied French at the Sorbonne and French culture and literature at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. Roxanne operates her interior design business through a home studio during the hours her children are in school. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband Scott and children Justin and Hannah.

Continuing her family’s long tradition of design excellence, Hannah Packham’s interests include classical ballet, skiing and modern dance. She has participated in mission trips to Costa Rica and Romania and in 2010 was selected to participate in the Rotary Leadership Conference. Miss Packham lives at home with her family in Southern California. before Mother's Day

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Thanks to Diane of The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about the Packhams here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mom Connection...Review

About the book:
Parenting young children is an all-consuming task that can make moms feel isolated, disconnected, and ineffective beyond the walls of their own home. They want to have a part in the bigger scheme of things, to have real friends, and to make the world their children will inherit a better place.

In this witty, encouraging book, Tracey Bianchi guides moms on a journey toward celebrating and discovering the underlying rhythm of their lives and how that rhythm pulls them into vibrant relationships. Through stories of her own life as a mom and the experiences of others, she shows moms how to gracefully engage the people who cross their paths rather than viewing others as tasks on a list. She also offers a way to find balance in this busy exercise called motherhood.

Cultivating friendships as a mom of young children can be difficult.  Tracey Bianchi addresses just that in her book.  She talks about the importance of healthy rhythm in our lives: that life gets overwhelming and how maintaining balance is important, but so difficult.  Each chapter is filled with vignettes and ends with tips and suggestions, a place for journaling and additional references.

While Tracey's focus seems to be on mothers of toddlers and young children, this is a book for any mother of children.  My boys are pre-teen and teen and while I'm not in the naps/diapers/play dates stage of life, we're all in the motherhood trenches together and there is much to learn from one another.  I found much to learn here.  This is a book that will go on my shelf and be reread.

Available May 2012 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 Tracey Bianchi here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, May 4, 2012

Survival Mom...Review

About the book: 
Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe and Secure—No Matter What 

Undaunted by the prospect of TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It), Lisa Bedford tackles every what-if and worst-case scenario head-on, offering practical advice on how to prepare your family for whatever might come your way. From a few days without electricity to an unexpected job loss or total chaos after the destruction of a tornado, Survival Mom provides everything you need to become self-reliant and establish plans for your family, including: 

preparing the home for a natural disaster 
alternative sources of energy in a power’s-out situation 
everything you need to know about food storage 
personal protection (do I really need to learn how to shoot a gun?) 

Deep inside every mom is a Survival Mom whose passion for her family drives her to make the best of the present and prepare for the future. So tap into your Mama Grizzly instincts and channel your worries into action. Whether you’re a full-fledged “prepper” or just getting started, with real-life stories and customizable forms and checklists along with Lisa’s “you can do it” attitude, Survival Mom replaces paranoia and panic with the peace of knowing YOU have the power to keep your loved ones safe and secure.

Straightforward.  Organized.  Could be overwhelming to some, but a terrific book full of helpful information. A book you can read straight through or one you can just pick up and use for reference when you're interested in a particular topic on emergency preparedness or preparing for a specific disaster scenario.  This is one book that will end up underlined, highlighted and tabbed.  Check out The Survival Mom website as well.

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

Tuesday, April 10th: It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life
Wednesday, April 11th: A Homesteading Neophyte
Monday, April 16th: the state that i am in
Thursday, April 19th: The Apartment Prepper’s Blog
Monday, April 23rd: Cheerios Underfoot
Tuesday, April 24th: Being 5
Thursday, April 26th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Monday, April 30th: Mental Foodie
Friday, May 4th: 2 Kid and Tired Book Reviews

Read 5/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In the Bag...Review

About the book:
A successful chef and single mother, Daisy Sprinkle, is on vacation with her teenage daughter, Coco, who picks up the wrong duffle bag at the airport. That situation is not improved by the note Daisy finds tucked into her carry-on, apparently from the man in 13-C. Daisy is in no mood for secret admirer notes or dinner dates. Or even men, for that matter. 


Andrew doesn’t know what possessed him to do something like that. Hitting on strange women on airplanes is definitely not his typical style. But there was something about the woman in 6-B that could not be ignored. Of course, now he has no time to think about her, since his son Webb seems to have made off with a budding fashionista’s luggage. 

Determined to make the best of a bad situation, Daisy cooks up a plan to calm her daughter’s panic over the lost bag with a week of fabulous food, shopping, and museum hopping. Andrew is busy woking on his latest project and hoping Webb finds enough to entertain himself. Little do they know the teens are making their own plan. . . one that will ultimately reunite Ms. 6-B and Mr. 13-C.

I liked the characters well enough.  The chapters alternate characters and part of the narration is told through email.  Very contemporary.  The story is light, but entertaining. An interesting premise. Funny. Mild profanity.  Not one I'd necessarily re-read.  Perfect for a beach read.

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

Tuesday, May 1st: Seaside Book Nook
Wednesday, May 2nd: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, May 3rd: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, May 7th: Walking With Nora
Tuesday, May 8th: Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, May 9th: Book Journey
Thursday, May 10th: A Musing Reviews
Monday, May 14th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Tuesday, May 15th: Life In Review
Wednesday, May 16th: Book Reviews by Molly
Thursday, May 17th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Read 4/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Garden of Madness...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:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ruthie Dean of Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After earning a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University, she spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry before beginning to write fiction. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome and Persia, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.

She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Untold Story of King Nebuchadnezzar's Daughter.

For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.

Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an opulent but oppressive life in the palace. But her husband has since died and she relishes her newfound independence. When a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own is freedom threatened.

As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family's secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband's brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.

Product Details:
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 140168680X
ISBN-13: 978-1401686802

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

Babylon, 570 BC

My name is Nebuchadnezzar. Let the nations hear it!
I am ruler of Babylon, greatest empire on earth. Here in its capital city, I am like a god.
Tonight, as the sun falls to its death in the western desert, I walk along the balconies I have built, overlooking the city I have built, and know there is none like me.
I inhale the twilight air and catch the scent of a dozen sacrifices. Across the city, the smoke and flames lift from Etemenanki, the House of the Platform of Heaven and Earth. The priests sacrifice tonight in honor of Tiamat, for tomorrow she will be wed. Though I have questioned the wisdom of a marriage with the captive Judaeans, tomorrow will not be a day for questions. It will be a day of celebration, such as befits a princess.
Tiamat comes to me now on the balcony, those dark eyes wide with entreaty. “Please, Father.” 
I encircle her shoulders in a warm embrace and turn her to the city.
“There, Tia. There is our glorious Babylon. Do you not wish to serve her?”
She leans her head against my chest, her voice thick. “Yes, of course. But I do not wish to marry.”
I pat her shoulder, kiss the top of her head. My sweet Tia. Who would have foretold that she would become such a part me?
“Have no fear, dear one. Nothing shall change. Husband or not, I shall always love you. Always protect you.”
She clutches me, a desperate grip around my waist.
I release her arms and look into her eyes. “Go now. Your mother will be searching for you. Tomorrow will be a grand day, for you are the daughter of the greatest king Babylon has ever seen.”
I use my thumb to rub a tear from her eye, give her a gentle push, and she is gone with a last look of grief that breaks my heart.
The greatest king Babylon has ever seen. The words echo like raindrops plunking on stones. I try to ignore a tickling at the back of my thoughts. Something Belteshazzar told me, many months ago. A dream.
I shake my head, willing my mind to be free of the memory. My longtime Jewish advisor, part of my kingdom since we were both youths, often troubles me with his advice. I keep him close because he has become a friend. I keep him close because he is too often right.
But I do not want to think of Belteshazzar. Tonight is for me alone. For my pleasure, as I gaze across all that I have built, all that I have accomplished. This great Babylon, this royal residence with its Gardens to rival those created by the gods. Built by my mighty power. For the glory of my majesty. I grip the balcony wall, inhale the smoky sweetness again, and smile. It is good.
I hear a voice and think perhaps Belteshazzar has found me after all, for the words sound like something he would say, and yet the voice . . . The voice is of another.
“There is a decree gone out for you, Nebuchadnezzar. Your kingship has been stripped from you.”
I turn to the traitorous words, but no one is there. And yet the voice continues, rumbling in my own chest, echoing in my head.
“You will be driven from men to dwell with beasts. You will eat the herbs of oxen and seven times will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is ruler in the kingdom of men. To whom He wills power, He gives power.” 
The tickling is there again, in my mind. I roll my shoulders to ease the discomfort, but it grows. It grows to a scratching, a clawing at the inside of my head, until I fear I shall bleed within.
The fear swells in me and I am frantic now. I rub my eyes, swat my ears, and still the scratching and scraping goes on, digging away at my memories, at my sense of self, of who I am and what I have done, and I stare at the sky above and the stones below and bend my waist and fall upon the ground where it is better, better to be on the ground, and I want only to find food, food, food. And a two-legged one comes and makes noises with her mouth and clutches at me but I understand none of it and even this knowledge that I do not understand is slipping, slipping from me as the sun slips into the desert.
And in the darkness, I am no more.


Chapter 1

Seven years later

The night her husband died, Tia ran with abandon.
The city wall, wide enough for chariots to race upon its baked bricks, absorbed the slap of her bare feet and cooled her skin. She flew past the Ishtar Gate as though chased by demons, knowing the night guard in his stone tower would be watching. Leering. Tia ignored his attention.
Tonight, this night, she wanted only to run.
A lone trickle of sweat chased down her backbone. The desert chill soaked into her bones and somewhere in the vast sands beyond the city walls, a jackal shrieked over its kill. Her exhalation clouded the air and the quiet huffs of her breath kept time with her feet.
Breathe, slap, slap, slap.
They would be waiting. Expecting her. A tremor disturbed her rhythm. Her tears for Shealtiel were long spent, stolen by the desert air before they fell.
Flames surged from the Tower and snagged her attention. Priests and their nightly sacrifices, promising to ensure the health of the city. For all of Babylon’s riches, the districts encircled by the double city walls smelled of poverty, disease, and hopelessness. But the palace was an oasis in a desert.
She would not run the entire three bêru around the city. Not tonight. Only to the Marduk Gate and back to the Southern Palace, where her mother would be glaring her displeasure at both her absence and her choice of pastime. Tia had spent long days at Shealtiel’s bedside, waiting for the end. Could her mother not wait an hour?
Too soon, the Marduk Gate loomed and Tia slowed. The guard leaned over the waist-high crenellation, thrust a torch above his head, and hailed the trespasser.
“Only Tiamat.” She panted and lifted a hand. “Running.”
He shrugged and shook his head, then turned back to his post, as though a princess running the city wall at night in the trousers of a Persian were a curiosity, nothing more. Perhaps he’d already seen her run. More likely, her reputation ran ahead of her. The night hid her flush of shame.
But she could delay no longer. The guilt had solidified, a stone in her belly she could not ignore.
She pivoted, sucked in a deep breath, and shot forward, legs and arms pounding for home.
Home. Do I still call it such? When all that was precious had been taken? Married at fourteen. A widow by twenty-one. And every year a lie.
“I shall always love you, always protect you.”
He had spoken the words on the night he had been lost to her. And where was love? Where was protection? Not with Shealtiel.
The night sky deepened above her head, and a crescent moon hung crooked against the blackness. Sataran and Aya rose in the east, overlapping in false union.
“The brightest light in your lifetime’s sky,” an elderly mage had said of the merged stars. The scholar’s lessons on the workings of the cosmos interested her, and she paid attention. As a princess already married for treaty, she was fortunate to retain tutors.
Ahead, the Ishtar Gate’s blue-glazed mosaics, splashed with yellow lions, surged against the purpling sky, and to its left, the false wooded mountain built atop the palace for her mother, Amytis, equaled its height. Tia chose the east wall of the gate for a focal point and ignored the Gardens. Tonight the palace had already seen death. She needn’t also dwell on madness.
Breathe, slap, slap, slap. Chest on fire, almost there.
She reached the palace’s northeast corner, where it nearly brushed the city wall, slowed to a stop, and bent at the waist. Hands braced against her knees, she sucked in cold air. Her heartbeat quieted.
When she turned back toward the palace, she saw what her mother had done.
A distance of one kanû separated the wide inner city wall from the lip of the palace roof, slightly lower. Tia kept a length of cedar wood there on the roof, a plank narrow enough to discourage most, and braced it across the chasm for her nightly runs. When she returned, she would pull it back to the roof, where anyone who might venture past the guards on the wall would not gain access. Only during her run did this plank bridge the gap, awaiting her return.
Amytis had removed it.
Something like heat lightning snapped across Tia’s vision and left a bitter, metallic taste in her mouth. Her mother thought to teach her a lesson. Punish her for her manifold breaches of etiquette by forcing her to take the long way down, humiliate herself to the sentinel guard.
She would not succeed.
With a practiced eye, Tia measured the distance from the ledge to the palace roof. She would have the advantage of going from a higher to a lower level. A controlled fall, really. Nothing more.
But she made the mistake of looking over, to the street level far below. Her senses spun and she gripped the wall.
She scrambled onto the ledge, wide enough to take the stance needed for a long jump, and bent into position, one leg extended behind. The palace rooftop garden held only a small temple in its center, lit with three torches. Nothing to break her fall, or her legs, when she hit. She counted, steadying mind and body.
The wind caught her hair, loosened during her run, and blew it across her eyes. She flicked her head to sweep it away, rocked twice on the balls of her feet, and leaped.
The night air whooshed against her ears, and her legs cycled through the void as though she ran on air itself. The flimsy trousers whipped against her skin, and for one exhilarating moment Tia flew like an egret wheeling above the city and knew sweet freedom.
This was how it should always be. My life. My choice. I alone control my destiny.
She hit the stone roof grinning like a trick monkey, and it took five running steps to capture her balance.
Glorious.
Across the rooftop, a whisper of white fluttered. A swish of silk and a pinched expression disappeared through the opening to the stairs. Amytis had been waiting to see her stranded on the city wall and Tia had soured her pleasure. The moment of victory faded, and Tia straightened her hair, smoothed her clothing.
“Your skill is improving.” The eerie voice drifted to Tia across the dark roof and she flinched. A chill rippled through her skin.
Shadir stood at the far end of the roof wall, where the platform ended and the palace wall rose higher to support the Gardens. His attention was pinned to the stars, and a scroll lay on the ledge before him, weighted with amulets.
“You startled me, Shadir. Lurking there in the shadows.”
The mage turned, slid his gaze the length of her in sharp appraisal. “It would seem I am not the only one who prefers the night.”
Long ago, Shadir had been one of her father’s chief advisors. Before—before the day of which they never spoke. Since that monstrous day, he held amorphous power over court and kingdom, power that few questioned and even fewer defied. His oiled hair hung in tight curls to his shoulders and the full beard and mustache concealed too much of his face, leaving hollow eyes that seemed to follow even when he did not turn his head.
Tia shifted on her feet and eyed the door. “It is cooler to run at night.”
The mage held himself unnaturally still. Did he even breathe?
As a child, Tia had believed Shadir could scan her thoughts like the night sky and read her secrets. Little relief had come with age. Another shudder ran its cold finger down her back.
Tia lowered her chin, all the obeisance she would give, and escaped the rooftop. Behind her, he spoke in a tone more hiss than speech. “The night holds many dangers.”
She shook off the unpleasant encounter. Better to ready herself for the unpleasantness she yet faced tonight.
Her husband’s family would have arrived by this time, but sweating like a soldier and dressed like a Persian, she was in no state to make an appearance in the death chamber. Instead, she went to her own rooms, where her two slave women, Omarsa and Gula, sat vigil as though they were the grieving widows. They both jumped when Tia entered and busied themselves with lighting more oil lamps and fetching bathwater.
In spite of her marriage to the eldest son of the captive Judaean king, Tia’s chambers were her own. She had gone to Shealtiel when it was required, and only then. The other nights she spent here among her own possessions—silk fabrics purchased from merchants who traveled east of Babylon, copper bowls hammered smooth by city jewelers, golden statues of the gods, rare carved woods from fertile lands in the west. A room of luxury. One that Shealtiel disdained and she adored. She was born a Babylonian princess. Let him have his austerity, his righteous self-denial. It had done him little good.
One of her women stripped her trousers, then unwound the damp sash that bound her lean upper body. Tia stood in the center of the bath chamber, its slight floor depression poked with drainage holes under her feet, and tried to be still as they doused her with tepid water and scrubbed with a scented paste of plant ash and animal fat until her skin stung.
When they had dressed her appropriately, her ladies escorted her through the palace corridors to the chamber where her husband of nearly seven years lay cold.
Seven years since she lost herself and her father on the same day. Neither of them had met death, but all the same, they were lost. Seven years of emptiness where shelter had been, of longing instead of love.
But much had ended today—Shealtiel’s long illness and Tia’s long imprisonment.
She paused outside the chamber door. Could she harden herself for the inevitable? The wails of women’s laments drifted under the door and wrapped around her heart, squeezing pity from her. A wave of sorrow, for the evil that took those who are loved, tightened her throat. But her grief was more for his family than herself. He had been harsh and unloving and narrow-minded, and now she was free. Tia would enter, give the family her respect, and escape to peace.
She nodded to one of her women, and Gula tapped the door twice and pushed it open.
Shealtiel’s body lay across a pallet, skin already graying. The chamber smelled of death and frankincense. Three women attended her husband—Shealtiel’s sister, his mother, and Tia’s own. His mother, Marta, sat in a chair close to the body. Her mourning clothes, donned over her large frame, were ashy and torn. She lifted her head briefly, saw that it was only Tia, and returned to her keening. Her shoulders rocked and her hands clutched at a knot of clothing, perhaps belonging to Shealtiel. His sister, Rachel, stood against the wall and gave her a shy smile, a smile that melded sorrow and admiration. She was younger than Tia by five years, still unmarried, a sweet girl.
“Good of you to join us, Tia.” Her mother’s eyes slitted and traveled the length of Tia’s robes. Tia expected some comment about her earlier dress, but Amytis held her tongue.
“I was . . . detained.” Their gazes clashed over Shealtiel’s body and Tia challenged her with a silent smile. The tension held for a moment, then Tia bent her head.
She was exquisite, Amytis. No amount of resentment on Tia’s part could blind her to this truth. Though Amytis had made it clear that Tia’s sisters held her affections, and though Tia had long ago given up calling her Mother in her heart, she could not deny that her charms still held sway in Babylon. From old men to children, Amytis was adored. Her lustrous hair fell to her waist, still black though she was nearly fifty, and her obsidian eyes over marble cheekbones were a favorite of the city’s best sculptors. Some said Tia favored her, but if she did, the likeness did nothing to stir a motherly affection.
Tia went to Shealtiel’s mother and whispered over her, “May the gods show kindness to you today, Marta. It is a difficult day for us all.” The woman’s grief broke Tia’s heart, and she placed a hand on Marta’s wide shoulder to share in it.
Marta sniffed and pulled away. “Do not call upon your false gods for me, girl.”
Amytis sucked in a breath, her lips taut.
Tia’s jaw tightened. “He was a good man, Marta. He will be missed.” Both of these statements Tia made without falsehood. Shealtiel was the most pious man she had ever known, fully committed to following the exacting requirements of his God.
Marta seemed to soften. She reached a plump hand to pat Tia’s own, still on her shoulder. “But how could the Holy One have taken him before he saw any children born?”
Tia stiffened and brought her hand to her side, forcing the fingers to relax. Marta rocked and moaned on, muttering about Tia’s inhospitable womb. Tia dared not point out that perhaps her son was to blame.
“But there is still a chance.” Marta looked to Amytis, then to Tia. “It is our way. When the husband dies without an heir, his brother—”
“No.” 
The single word came from both her mother’s and her own lips as one. Marta blinked and looked between them.
“It is our way.” Marta glanced at Rachel against the wall, as though seeking an ally. “My second son Pedaiah is unmarried yet. Perhaps Tia could still bear a son for Shealtiel—”
“You have had your treaty marriage with Babylon.” Amytis drew herself up, accentuating her lean height. “There will not be another.”
Tia remained silent. Her mother and she, in agreement? Had Amytis watched her languish these seven years and regretted flinging her like day-old meat to the Judaean dogs? Did she also hope for a life with more purpose for Tia now that she had been released? Tia lifted a smile, ever hopeful that Amytis’s heart had somehow softened toward her youngest daughter.
“Jeconiah shall hear of your refusal!” Marta stood, her chin puckering.
Amytis huffed. “Take the news to your imprisoned husband, then. I shall not wait for his retribution.” She seemed to sense the unfairness of the moment and regret her calloused words. “Come, Tia. Let us leave these women to grieve.” She meant it kindly but it was yet another insult, the implication that Tia need not remain for any personal grief.
Tia followed Amytis from the chamber into the hall, her strong perfume trailing. Amytis spun on her, and her heavy red robe whirled and settled. Her nostrils flared and she spoke through clenched teeth.
“By all the gods, Tiamat! For how long will you make our family a mockery?”