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Friday, July 31, 2009

The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace...Review

About the book:
My husband and I eagerly accepted positions as private tutors for a visionary princess in Saudi Arabia. She dreamed of providing the best education possible for her children and secretly opened a private school. We championed her dreams as if they were our own. However, a year later, we encountered a medieval system of palace intrigue and subterfuge. Under threat of imprisonment, we were detained and coerced into signing false statements. Would God's deliverance come in time or would we be forgotten and imprisoned in a foreign land? Journey with us to the center of the human heart and to the mysterious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the shifting sands are full of dreams, intrigue and revenge.

I find books about the Middle East and about Islam, in general, to be fascinating. When a book speaks of both Islam and Christianity, it really intrigues me. Believing that God was leading them, Kristin and Randy Decker went to Saudi Arabia for what seemed to be a wonderful teaching opportunity. They would be private tutors to a young Saudi prince and princess. Their experiences with the young royals was positive and fulfilling. Their experiences with those in leadership positions, however, was much different. As they watched friends being evicted from the country because of false accusations and lies, they never dreamed their Saudi friends would turn on them as well. But, even as they are forced to leave the country, they know that they touched the lives of the young prince and princess and that experience was for their own good as well.

Kristin and Randy's Christian beliefs are strong and very much a part of this book. Kristin recounts conversations between them and other Americans living in Saudi Arabia. The differences between Christianity and Islam are discussed, and as far as I could tell, are discussed realistically, without a complete negativity toward Islam. The cultural differences between the East and West continue to astound me, especially in regards to the treatment and degradation of women. Quite a bit of Middle Eastern history in sprinkled throughout the book and I found it fascinating.

An interesting and enlightening book. One I enjoyed and can easily recommend.

Thanks to Scott Lorenz at Westwind Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kristin Decker and purchase the book here or here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Innocent War...Review

About the book:
It is 1940. The dawn of Italy’s WWII for the Italian colonies of Libya has arrived. Young Nino woke up to his regular routine; but by the end of the day, his life would have changed into a nightmare – but through Nino’s eyes, it was an adventure. Follow a boy’s exploits, through a child’s innocent view of the war’s hardships, dangers, and tragedies. Accompany him as he shares his growing up years, spiced up with Nino’s humor, innocence, and awakening. And more experiences are about to be unraveled as he continues his story…

Personal histories have always been compelling to me. There is no need to fictionalize anything: the drama of real life experiences is enough. Nino Assenza's story is told as his daughter listens to his life history, as he has recorded it on audio tapes. His story begins as Italy enters World War 2 and Nino is a young boy living in the Italian colonies in Libya.

Nino tells how the excitement of war turns to the fear for survival: seeing his father called to the front lines, daily bombings, losing his childhood friends to death, seeing the Jewish families taken away and scavenging for food. Through it all, his mother's faith and determination to persevere keeps her family safe and together. Like all curious young boys, Nino finds adventures, even as the world is changing around him.

Fascinating and compelling. I read it in a couple of hours. The opening prologue is a bit awkward to read because of its mixture of tenses, but the story really moves once we begin reading Nino's first person narrative. I learned a great deal about the history of the time, from a perspective most Americans don't ever hear. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can easily recommend it.

From my understanding, this is the first in a fictionalized series written by Nino's daughter Susan and is based on his historical experiences. I look forward to learning the rest of Nino's story.

Thanks to Elizabeth McCurry of Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Susan Violante here and you can learn more about the book and purchase it here. You can also purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sugar Queen...Review

About the book:
Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

Delightful. Enchanting.

Josey Cirrini, at 27, has lived her entire life under her mother's critical thumb. She's in love the mailman who delivers their mail, she has a secret closet filled with forbidden sweets and romance novels, and she swears that her favorite red cardigan has magical qualities.

Set in a quirky, North Carolina ski resort Josey's story is terrific. One morning, Della Lee Baker shows up in Josey's closet, needing a place to hide out, and she won't leave. Della Lee is a bit of a mystery herself, and although Josey can't admit it, is a bit of a fairy godmother too. Through their conversations and arguments, Della Lee slowly helps Josey come out of her shell, make new friends, stand up to her mother and, most importantly, find herself. Secrets are revealed, friendships are formed and relationships strengthened.

I loved Josey and Chloe. I loved Chloe's relationship with books. How cool would it be for the book that you need in your life to suddenly appear? I enjoyed watching Josey blossom and become comfortable and happy with herself. Like Sarah Addison Allen's previous book Garden Spells, this one has a dusting of magic. I love the concept that ordinary people have extraordinary gifts.

There is mild, disappointing use of the "F" word. Most people would say it is used in context, but I just find it vulgar and unnecessary. So many other words could be used. Still, I loved the book. I can easily recommend it. Absolutely charming.

You can purchase your own copy of this charming book here.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society...Review

About the book:
Sometimes life has to unravel before you can knit it together…

On the third Friday of each month, Eugenie, Ruth, Esther, Merry, and Camille meet at the Sweetgum Christian Church to enjoy the two things that connect them: a love of knitting and a passion for books. Their camaraderie remains unthreatened until Eugenie, the town librarian, introduces an angry teenager into their midst. Eugenie also gives them a new reading list: the classic novels of girlhood that young Hannah has never read. Little Women. Pollyanna. Heidi. Books that remind the women of the hopes and dreams they have lost along the way.

With each click of their needles, the ladies of the Knit Lit Society unravel their secrets: A shadow from Eugenie’s past haunts the controlled order of her life. Merry’s perfect little family is growing again–but will she continue to feel her identity slip away? Camille dreams of leaving town but is bound by ties of love. And the sisters, Ruth and Esther, must confront a lie they have lived with for over thirty years.

As Hannah is reluctantly stitched into their lives, the women discover the possibility that even in sleepy Sweetgum, Tennessee, they can still be the heroines of their own stories.

I've seen many good reviews of this book, and nearly every one praises it. I received the second book as an ARC and figured I should read this one first. It's a nice story: a group of women get together once a month to talk about the latest book and knit. Sounds lovely. Predictably, each woman has a crisis of some sort in her life and by the end of the story, everything has worked out.

While the characters are probably true to life, I didn't really find them likeable: Esther and Eugenie are downright prickly. There wasn't really anything that drew me to any one of them. The chapters alternate telling each story and showing what happens at the latest meeting. The friendship aspect was really lacking. Other than getting together once a month, these women really had nothing in common and little contact outside the Knit Lit Society.

I did appreciate how the author tried to tie in each month's book with what was going on in these women's lives: especially choosing childhood classics to help Hannah, the young teenager they reluctantly all adopt into their circle.

I'll read the sequel and hope I find it more enjoyable than this one. Light Christian, but unfortunately there was nothing stellar about it. A promising story that fell flat. Many other people enjoyed it more than I did, so you will find a lot of good reviews out there, too.

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

Read 7/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mailbox Monday 7/27

It's time for another Mailbox Monday, hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This last week I received quite a stash. It even surprised me:

Leadville by James Best
Passeggiata, by G.G. Husak
The Lacemakers of Glenmara, by Heather Barbieri

Live Relationally: Lessons from the Women of Genesis and Live Deeply: A Study of the Parables of Jesus, by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose

God Has Never Failed Me, But He's Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times, by Stan Toler
The Buzzards are Circling, But God's Not Finished With Me Yet, by Stan Toler
Not So Fast, Slow-Down Solutions For Busy Families, by Ann Kroeker

When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels through First-Century Jewish Eyes, by Neb Hayden
The Blue Enchantress by M.L. Tyndall
What new books did you receive last week?
For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out The Printed Page.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Receive Me Falling...Review

About the book:
Every slave story is a ghost story. The haunting words of an historian and former cane worker on the Caribbean island of Nevis launch Meghan Owen on her quest to unlock the secrets of an abandoned sugar plantation and its ghosts. After Meg's parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she's inherited on Nevis. A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants. 

Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father's estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father. In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Upon the arrival of British abolitionists to the hedonistic 19th century plantation society, Catherine Dall is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. An angry confrontation with Catherine's slave, Leah, results in the girl's death, but was it murder or suicide? Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest. 

An enthralling and captivating read.

After her parents die in a car accident, Meghan Owen postpones her wedding, takes a leave of absence from her job and heads to the Caribbean. Among the inheritances from her parents is a property in Nevis: a former sugar plantation called Eden. Needing to get away, Meg decides to take a vacation and check out her new acquisition.

As Meg begins learning about Eden and the sugar industry of Nevis, she makes some interesting discoveries, including unearthing a previously unknown painting by a famous artist. But, disturbed at the thought that her family were slave owners, Meghan dives into research to find out all she can. During her adventure, she also learns that her father embezzled from his clients, and that she will probably be sued for the money. Before she can sell the property, however, she must find the answers she searches for: what happened to the original owners of Eden and their slaves.

The story is told in alternating chapters between Meg's experiences in the present day, and the drama of the Dall family in the 19th century. Catherine Dall and her father Cecil were the original owners of Eden. After slavery was outlawed in England, British abolitionists journeyed to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean to do what they could to overturn slavery there.

The historical aspect of the novel was astounding: well researched, with fascinating accounts about the lives of the plantation owners and their slaves. The harsh realities aren't glossed over. The brutalities that these people were forced to endure is tragic, and Erika does a great job of portraying it in a realistic yet, sympathetic way.

A terrific debut novel filled with intrigue and romance, friendship and love, scandal and confessions and the occasional ghost.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Erika Robuck here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garden Spells...Review

About the book:
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants--from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys--except for Claire's rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire's quiet life is turned upside down--along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own.

Enchanting and a bit magical.

For multiple generations, the Waverley family has always been the odd family out in Bascom, North Carolina. The Waverley women all have unique, somewhat peculiar and intuitive gifts. Their garden is rumored to have magical properties and the apple tree has a personality of its own. They each have their own personal issues too.

Abandoned by their mother, Waverley sisters Claire and Sydney have forged their own lives. Sydney rebelled and left Bascom as soon as she could. Claire, in need of roots and stability, stayed. As a successful caterer, Claire has found her place in Bascom: the dishes she prepares with her mystical plants are in demand for their special properties. When an unwanted suitor moves in next door, she prepares meals for him in the hopes of discouraging his amorous intentions.

When Sydney returns home with her young daughter, the two sisters are able to reconnect as Sydney finally accepts her legacy of being a Waverley.

A charming book about life and relationships and family. I loved the characters, I loved the dialogue. There is mild, but disappointing and unnecessary, use of the "F" word and a brief rape scene (somewhat necessary to the story). Some readers also might want to be aware that a theme of using s*x to trap and keep a husband runs through the book due to another Bascom family. If not for these issues, I would have given it 4 stars, instead of 3 on Goodreads.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words...Review

About the book:
Her future was just coming into focus. But what will she do when everything becomes a blur? Indigo Burns's life is going according to plan. She possesses the ambition and talent to be a professional photographer, and she thanks God for all the blessings that surround her. Now, all at once, Indigo's family life, love life, and hopes for success have flipped upside down. Indigo loves the Lord, but can she trust him to work his plan in her life? Worth a Thousand Words dramatically explores the tough decisions one woman must make in the world of love, relationships, and career. Will Indigo find the courage to face her own truths--and accept those being harbored by the people she loves most? Either way, she risks losing everything she's ever wanted.

When Indigo's boyfriend, Brian, proposes marriage, she's not sure she's ready for it and knows it will interfere with her graduate school plans. His own life isn't as steady and sure as he would like, with uncertainty in his own future as he struggles with secrets of his own.

Indigo's desire has always been to become a professional photographer. When her life's plans seem derailed, she learns that she must let go and let God guide her life. Always easier said than done, Indigo finds the courage to face her uncertain future. I liked Indigo and her family. They are close and as they deal with some difficult issues, they do so together. Definitely Christian fiction as there are lots of life lessons and discussions about listening to God and trusting him guide one's life.

While it's the second book in the Jubilant Souls series, the book stands alone. You will find at least one unexpected twist, but as Stacy Hawkins Adams explores some difficult topics, she does so in a realistic, straight forward and non-offensive manner.

Thanks to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Stacy Hawkins Adams here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Sword and The Flute...Review

About the book:
The first book in the Matterhorn the Brave series finds Matthew Horn summoned to First Realm by the Sword of Truth. In the process, his trip through a portal instantly matures him to adulthood. He will need all of his new muscles to stay alive when he goes with veteran Traveler Aaron the Baron to medieval Ireland.

Their mission? To find Ian’s Flute, one of the Ten Talis hidden on Earth by the king of First Realm. But the Flute has been stolen from the leprechauns and sold to a treacherous pirate. In their pursuit of the sacred object, Matterhorn and the Baron come up against kidnappers, arsonists, bounty hunters, wraiths and the shadowy Bonehand. The only thing more exciting than the quest is what it leads to next!

Fantastic! The first in the Matterhorn the Brave series, The Sword and the Flute introduces us to Matthew Horn, a typical daydreaming 12-year old who imagines himself on many grand adventures. Matt loves to read and one day, finds an unusual book in his school library. As he leafs through the pages, a portal opens up and Matt finds himself traveling through time on a new adventure in medieval Ireland. Armed with the Sword of Truth and alongside his new friend, Aaron the Baron, Matterhorn must find a missing magical flute.

Matt and Aaron are normal boys who rise to the occasion and find strength and courage to accomplish the tasks set before them. Filled with adventure and danger, this is a terrific, fun book. I found it clever, well-written and exciting.

My 11-year old son is currently reading The Sword and The Flute and has decreed that we need to acquire the sequels as soon as possible! I agree wholeheartedly.

Thanks to First Wildcard for the opportunity to read this book. You can read the first chapter here. You can learn more about Mike Hamel here and here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1)...Wild Card!

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:

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1)

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


From Mike's Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with over a dozen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed, Executive Influence and Giving Back.

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 35 years, Susan.

In July of 2008 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer—Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of the Diffuse Large B-Cell kind. I started this blog to chronicle my journey toward the valley of the shadow of death. I wanted to de-mystify the disease by sharing what I was learning and experiencing.

After several rounds of chemo I was tumor free for the first few months of 2009, but the cancer has returned so the adventure continues.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of introspective writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

Mike's Blog, OPEN Mike, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please email the author at emtcom@comcast.net.

His website: Matterhorn the Brave Website is temporarily down.



Personalized Autographs

Matterhorn Readers – In addition to lowering the price on the six books in print, I am making the last two volumes available as e-books for the same low price of $7.

AMG is not going to publish books 7 and 8 but I will no longer keep my readers in suspense while I look for a new publisher.

E-books of volumes 7 and 8 are now available at www.MatterhornTheBrave.com.

#7 – Tunguska Event

Matterhorn and his friends travel to Siberia to try and prevent the largest natural disaster in history: The Tunguska Event! But despite help from a legion of fairy folk, they fail to stop the blast, which hurtles Matterhorn and Nate into the distant past.

The Baron, Jewel, Sara, Kyl, and Elok search through the centuries for their missing friends, taking incredible risks that will leave two of them dead! Queen Bea and Rylan return to First Realm to persuade the Curia to send the elite Praetorian Guard to Earth.

The inevitable showdown comes inside the sealed tomb of the Chinese Emperor Zheng. The future of the human race will be determined by what happens inside this eight wonder of the ancient world.

#8 – The Book of Stories

The thrilling conclusion of the struggle to control Earth’s destiny between the heretics from First Realm and the human Travelers: Matterhorn, the Baron, Nate the Great, and Princess Jewel.

The year is 1983. The setting is Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois; location of the most powerful machine in the world, the Tevatron particle accelerator. The heretics plan to use the Tevatron to make Carik the unchallenged ruler of the planet! Learning of this plot, Matterhorn and his friends must save themselves before they can save the world.

The Book of Stories is full of surprises, including the most important revelation of all—the identity of the Tenth Talis!

Order copies of all eight books by emailing the author at emtcom@comcast.net as his website, www.MatterhornTheBrave.com, is temporarily down.

And spread the word!

~Mike Hamel

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mailbox Monday 7/20

I decided it was time to participate in a Mailbox Monday. I never really keep track of what arrives, I just check my calendar for scheduled blog tours and add it all to my TBR stack. But, I enjoy reading other Mailbox Monday posts and figured I'd add my own!

This last week I received:

Sweetwater Run, by Jan Watson for FIRST Wildcard
The G-Free Diet, by Elisabeth Hasselbeck
Things Left Unspoken, by Eva Marie Everson from Baker Publishing Group

The Believer, by Ann Gabhart from Baker Publishing Group
Lizzi & Fredl, by Dr. William R. Stanford from Bostick Communications.
Everyday Greatness, by Stephen R. Covey from Thomas Nelson Publishers

What new books did you receive last week?
For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out The Printed Page.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Confessions of a Trauma Junkie: My Life as a Nurse Paramedic...Review

About the book:
Share the innermost feelings of emergency services workers as they encounter trauma, tragedy, redemption, and even a little humor. Sherry Jones Mayo has been an Emergency Medical Technician, Emergency Room Nurse, and an on-scene critical incident debriefer for Hurricane Katrina. Most people who have observed or experienced physical, mental or emotional crisis have single perspectives. This book allows readers to stand on both sides of the gurney; it details a progression from innocence to enlightened caregiver to burnout, glimpsing into each stage personally and professionally.

Honest and engrossing. I enjoyed this first responder perspective. Sherry Jones Mayo has been an EMT, Emergency Room Nurse and a Critical Incident counselor. She brings the reader into the ER and into the ambulance. So much of our medical experience is from television shows like ER and House, and Grey's Anatomy. But, unless you're a medical professional, you have no way of understanding the experience and pressure Emergency Service Personnel face on a daily basis. These people choose these professions; they choose to be on the front lines of emergency care and saving lives.

Sherry's book is a series of vignettes, some her own experiences, some from other EMS personnel. Many are hysterically funny and irreverent about those strange and obnoxious patients. Others are tender, recounting an EMTs first patient loss, or the aftermath of a traumatic experience and the importance of crisis counseling for care givers.

It's a rare look into the healing profession. As I read, I came away with a greater appreciation for those who save lives daily.

Thanks to Sherry for sending me her book. You can learn more about Sherry Jones Mayo here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Shopkeeper...Review

About the book:
In 1879, Steve Dancy sells his New York shop and ventures west to explore and write a journal about his adventures. Though he's not looking for trouble, Dancy's infatuation with another man's wife soon embroils him in a deadly feud with Sean Washburn, a Nevada silver baron.

Infuriated by the outrages of two hired thugs, the shopkeeper kills both men in an impulsive street fight. Dancy believes this barbarian act has closed the episode. He is wrong. He has interfered with Washburn's ambitions, and this is something the mining tycoon will not allow.

Pinkertons, hired assassins, and aggrieved bystanders escalate the feud until it pulls in all the moneyed interests and power brokers in Nevada. Can the former city slicker settle accounts without losing his life in the process?

A fun western. I haven't read a lot of westerns, but this one was enjoyable. New York shopkeeper Steve Dancy sells his shop and travels west, looking for adventure. His travels take him to the silver mines of Nevada. A gentleman who prefers books and cards with friends, Steve inadvertently finds himself a gunslinger embroiled in a feud with a silver baron. Add a beautiful woman, hired killers and some early Nevada history and you have The Shopkeeper.

The story was fast paced and entertaining. The hero isn't the most upstanding guy: he'll lie and cheat to get what he wants, but he's clever enough to manage it all, and take a few of the bad guys out along the way.

I liked the characters, and the portrayal of friendship. I liked the strength of Jenny, the main female character, and I cheered when her mother-in-law received her own just rewards. My main complaint is the moderate profanity, which I found annoying and unnecessary. I think there are plenty of other words one can use instead of the ubiquitous "F" word.

This is obviously the first in a series about Steve Dancy and I look forward to more.

Thanks to
Paula Krapf of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about James D. Best here and his Steve Dancy character here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars