Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wisdom Hunter

I was sent two books from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing to review.

The first book was another page turner by an author that I had not read before. Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur was a thought provoking book. After reading the Author's note before reading the book, I was intrigued.

This suspenseful novel touches on breaking free from Christian legalism and finding God. The main character let's God "out of the box" that he has been putting him in for years as a preacher.

I have never had the experience of a legalistic church, but the topics drew me in and really made me think about how I at times put God in a box.

This book was first released in 1991 and caused controversy between the author and the missionary administration for which he served. I think this was an amazing book in the genre that I love.

You can check out this book at RandomHouse.com

The second book that was sent to me by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing was Shadow Government by Grant R. Jeffrey. I am still working on getting through this book. I think that the book has some interesting concepts, but I am not sure I am in agreement with them. Here is a summary of the book from Random House.com.

about this book:
Security cameras, surveillance of your financial transactions, radio frequency spy chips hidden in consumer products, tracking of your Internet searches, and eavesdropping on your e-mail and phone calls. Without your knowledge or consent, every aspect of your life is observed and recorded. But who is watching the watchers?

An ultra-secret global elite, functioning as a very real shadow government, controls technology, finance, international law, world trade, political power, and vast military capabilities. Those who hold power are invisible to all but a few insiders. These unrivaled leaders answer to no earthly authority, and they won’t stop until they control the world.

In Shadow Government, Grant Jeffrey removes the screen that, up to now, has hidden the work of these diabolical agents. Jeffrey reveals the biblical description of Satan’s global conquest and identifies the tools of technology that the Antichrist will use to rule the world.

Your eyes will be opened to the real power that is working behind the scenes to destroy America and merge it into the coming global government. Armed with this knowledge, you will be equipped to face spiritual darkness with the light of prophetic truth.

You can find out more about this book at purchase it at RandomHouse.com

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mom Needs Chocolate

Thanks to Glass Road Public Relations and First Wild Card Tours I found a great Christmas gift for all the wonderful women in my life. I probably shouldn't write about it since hopefully some of the wonderful women in my life read this little blog. . . In my head I envision a basket with chocolate goodies, a new journal and pen and the book Mom Needs Chocolate by Debora M. Coty.

Just this morning I was thinking of all of the drama that takes place in my house. My 3 year-old was in a mood. She was even mad at Dora the Explorer. She said, "That is not Amarillo or Azul", then I heard her mumble something about not knowing how to speak Spanish. . .seriously?

I thought it would be nice to curl up in my recliner with a blanket, hot cup of coffee and this book. Last night when I was reading it I was laughing out loud. Mom Needs Chocolate will have you laughing and thinking about life and your relationship with God. The book is written so that even if you only have a few minutes you can read a chapter and have something to think about.

Make sure you read the first chapter below. One of my favorite parts is the prayer at the end.

Son of Man, thank You for the blessing of family and the miracle of babies. Make me more like You because they may end up being like me.

Isn't that the truth. . . Make me more like You because they may end up being like me. Amen to that!


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:


Mom NEEDS Chocolate: Hugs, Humor and Hope for Surviving Motherhood

Regal (April 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Public Relations, LLC for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Debora M. Coty is the author or contributor to several books, including Mom NEEDS Chocolate: Hugs, Humor and Hope for Surviving Motherhood. A resident of Florida where she lives with her husband, Coty raised two children and enjoyed a dedicated career as an Occupational Therapist before beginning to chase her God-given dream of writing. She is known for communicating sound biblical concepts with a refreshing, light-hearted style. Her writings can be read in her monthly newspaper column, Grace Notes: God’s Grace for Everyday Living.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Regal (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0830745920
ISBN-13: 978-0830745920

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


My Cups Runneth Over

Pregnancy

A baby is an inestimable blessing and a bother.

Mark Twain

As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.

Genesis 9:7, NASB

There are a few things I’ve learned while fulfilling the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate.

Pregnancy draws you closer to your spouse. During an emergency stop in our driveway while I tossed my cookies in the grass, my husband, Chuck, tried to comfort me. Soon we were throwing up side by side. It was the most romantic thing he’s ever done. Those two brown spots on our lawn were the envy of all my friends.

Childbirth classes are invaluable informational sources. At the country hospital we’d chosen, one young farmer raised his hand the week after we learned about Braxton Hicks false labor contractions. He earnestly addressed the nurse instructor, “Ma’am, my wife’s been miserable all week. Could you tell us again about them Briggs and Stratton things?” He was the same strapping fellow who confided the first week, “We ain’t ever had any babies, but we’ve birthed a lot of cows.”

The budding momma’s swelling belly and the ledge over her innie-turned-outie navel aren’t the only evolutions in the body’s profile. Average-sized breasts become huge globes that bump into everything. It’s like having volleyballs attached to your chest. These alien chest globes take on their own personalities. I called mine the Bobbing Twins, Freddie and Flopsie. I addressed them directly: “Freddie, stop bouncing around or I’m going to fall off this bike,” or “Flopsie, you’re gonna have to squeeze into this DDD cup—there is no E.”

Finally, you’re in your ninth month. Ah, but the surprises are not over. After hours of sweating, teeth grinding and PUSHing, you are rewarded with a tiny screaming miracle. The little bugger has a surprisingly strong sucking reflex, and when he latches on, it feels like a vice grip to this incredibly sensitive part of your anatomy. You’re awfully glad you did that desensitization with the washcloth beforehand. I once commented to Chuck after performing this unpleasant ritual that rubbing myself with terrycloth made me empathize with that old table he was sanding.

“Hmmm. Yes, dear,” he answered, only half listening. I later overheard him inform his sister on the phone, “Debbie uses sandpaper on her chest to get ready for the baby.” No wonder his family thinks I’m weird.

Shortly after giving birth, my friend Julia (also a nursing mother) and I decided to take a well-deserved tennis break. Leaving the babies with their daddies, we headed for the courts. The blissful quiet was shattered by a wailing infant in a passing stroller, triggering that mysterious internal milk breaker switch. Julia and I simultaneously clutched our chests like gunshot victims at the incoming flood.

“Stop it, Freddie! Not now, Flopsie!” I pleaded with the Twins as two dark, wet spots appeared in strategic locations on the front of my white tennis shirt. Julia and I mopped ourselves between points with a soggy sweatband, bringing strange new meaning to the term, “bosom buddies.”1

Son of Man, thank You for the blessing of family and the miracle of babies. Make me more like You because they may end up being like me.



Note

1. Adapted from “My Cups Runneth Over” by Debora M. Coty, first appearing in Today’s Christian Woman, November/December 2004 issue. Used by permission.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Work vs Play

I recently began working very part-time while my little one is going to preschool. So three days a week I spend my morning with her and then I take her to school and work the entire time she is gone. It has been great to find something that fits into my schedule and doesn't take away from my family time.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for three years. I have always felt blessed to be able to be home with my kids, but I have not always appreciated it. Over the past month, I have learned to appreciate every moment I am home and not in the workplace. I am cherishing the days that we can be in our pj's until lunchtime. I am savoring the days we can play, eat lunch when we want and enjoy a slow day with no agenda.

Today I am joining Emily over at Chatting at the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped. Yesterday she wrote this statement in her post about Tuesdays Unwrapped "unwrap the small and sacred gifts of your Tuesday. May your perspective be such that it is hard for you to pick just one."

Do you take the time to notice your "small and sacred gifts"? What small things are you noticing today?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Operation Christmas Child


It is time again to dig out our extra shoe boxes and take the girls shopping for Christmas. I know it is not quite Halloween, but the deadline is approaching to get our boxes in.

Every year our family participates in Operation Christmas Child. If you don't know about the program click here to get more info.

For the past three years each of our girls decides if they want to put a box together for a boy or girl and the age group that they would like to do their box for. We take them shopping and they fill their boxes to the brim with toys, toothbrushes, colors, etc. They love this project and we take a lot of time to talk about the kids that will receive them.

Two years ago we were getting ready to take the boxes to the car to get them to the drop off point at our church. My middle child, who was 5 at the time, thought we were going to the airport. She wanted to fly them over and give them away herself. Hopefully someday we will go on a mission trip as a family and she can give to children in need in person.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD
(reprinted from www.samaritanspurse.org)

PRAY. The most important part of packing a shoe box is your prayers for the child who will receive it. Ask God to use your gifts to reveal His love in a special way and draw the child to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

PACK. Fill a shoe box with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, hard candy, and a personal note. Label it for a girl or boy age 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. We ask for a $7 donation to help cover shipping and other project costs. During National Collection Week—November 16-23—we will open 2,500 drop-off centers across the U.S. To find a convenient place to drop off your boxes, click here and enter your ZIP code.

GIVE. Through our church partners worldwide, we not only distribute shoe box gifts and Gospel storybooks, but we also invite children to participate in our Discipleship Program with Bible lessons that help them become faithful followers of Christ. Those who complete the course receive a children’s New Testament in their local language. The cost of the Discipleship Program is $2 per child, and each New Testament is $4.

FOLLOW YOUR BOX. Make your donation online, then print out the EZ Give label included in your e-mail receipt. The bar code on the label will enable us to track your gift. When the boxes are shipped, you will receive an e-mail telling you the destination of your gift, along with information about our ministry in that country. Click here for more information.

I encourage you as an individual or as a family to get involved in this amazing ministry! Collection week is November 16-23, 2009.

Don't forget to go to my Kiss Me Again Post and enter to win a copy of Barbara Wilson's new book.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snow & Sickness

I really am here and not just reviewing books. . .I have just been crazy busy with birthdays and sickness.

I just got home from a weekend of being unplugged. It was a nice little getaway to the Black Hills to my aunt and uncle's cabin on the mountain. This morning we woke up to about 6 inches of snow. It was so beautiful. . .but then I was back to reality that it is still October and we had to get down the mountain.

I came home to a sick little girl. Hoping it is just a cold and not strep throat or the flu. My husband had a great weekend with the girls and everyone missed me. It is nice to come home to smiles.

When I sat down in my chair tonight I opened my Bible. I flipped to a few different books, but I couldn't focus. I am headed to bed now and tomorrow I hope to start fresh with a cup of coffee and the Lord.

Double Cross

My Review of Double Cross: One of my favorite genres of book is mystery. I was recently sent the book Double Cross by James David Jordan to review for the First Wild Card Book tour. Cross has written three novels. This is the first that I have read.

The main character Taylor Pasbury, was first introduced in another novel by Cross titled, Forsaken. I had not read that novel, but I was quickly intrigued by the character in this book and I am excited to get Forsaken and learn more about Taylor Pasbury.

Double Cross is an intense novel that draws you into an intricate plot of blackmail, extortion and murder. It touches lightly on the different characters and their relationship or lack of relationship with God. However, in the end it focuses on grace and the amazing gift that we receive from Jesus Christ.

If you enjoy the mystery genre you should check out this new title by James David Cross.


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:


Double Cross

B&H Books (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



James David Jordan is a business attorney in Texas and was named by the Dallas Business Journal as one of the most influential leaders in that legal community. He holds a journalism degree from the University
of Missouri as well as a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois and lives with his wife and two children in the Dallas suburbs.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447547
ISBN-13: 978-0805447545

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The day my mother came back into my life began with a low December fog and a suicide. Mom was not responsible for the fog.


I hadn’t seen her for twenty years, and the idea that she might show up at my door was the farthest thing from my mind on a Thursday morning, a few weeks before Christmas, when the music alarm practically blasted me off my bed. With the Foo Fighters wailing in my ear, I burrowed into my pillow and tried to wrap it around my head. I rolled onto my side and slapped the snooze bar, but smacked the plastic so hard that it snapped in two, locking in another minute and a half of throbbing base before I could yank the cord from the wall socket. It wasn’t until my toes touched the hardwood floor and curled up against the cold that I remembered why I was waking up at five-forty-five in the first place. Kacey Mason and I were meeting Elise Hovden at eight o’clock in a suburb northwest of Dallas. We would give her one chance to explain why

nearly half a million dollars was missing from Simon Mason World Ministries. If she couldn’t, our next stop would be the Dallas police.


Since Simon Mason’s murder earlier that year, I’d been living in his house with Kacey, his twenty-year-old daughter. I had promised to watch out for her if anything happened to him. It wasn’t a sacrifice. By that time Kacey and I were already so close that we finished each other’s sentences. I needed her as much as she needed me.


I slid my feet into my slippers and padded down the hall toward Kacey’s door. Chill bumps spread down my thighs in a wave, and I wished I’d worn my flannel pajama bottoms to bed under my Texas Rangers baseball jersey. Rather than turning back to my room to grab my robe, I decided to gut it out. I bent over and gave my legs a rub, but I knew they wouldn’t be warm again until I was standing next to the space heater in the bathroom.


I pressed my ear to Kacey’s door. The shower was humming. Of course she was awake. Had there ever been a more responsible college kid? Sometimes I wished she would let things go,

do something wild. For her, that would probably mean not flossing before going to bed. If hyper-responsibility got her through the day, I supposed it was fine with me. After all, she was a markedly better person than I had been at her age.


By the time I met her father I was twenty-nine, and thanks to a decade of too much alcohol and too many useless men, I was dropping like a rock. But Simon Mason caught me and held me

in place for a while, just long enough to give me hope. Then he did what he had to do, and he died for it. Some things are more important than living. He and Dad both taught me that. So now I was changing. To be accurate, I would say I was a work in progress. I hadn’t had a drink since before Simon died, and I’d sworn off men completely, albeit temporarily. Frankly, the latter was not much of a sacrifice. It wasn’t as if a crowd of guys had been beating a path to my door. I simply figured there was no use getting back into men until I was confident the drinking was under control. One thing I had demonstrated repeatedly in my life was that drinking and men just didn’t go together—at least not for me.


As for Kacey, after everything she’d been through, it was amazing she hadn’t folded herself into a fetal ball and quit the world for a while. Instead, she just kept plugging along, putting one foot in front of the other. I was content to step gingerly behind her, my toes sinking into her footprints. She was a good person to follow. She had something I’d never been known for: Kacey had character.


I shook my head. I was not going to start the day by kicking myself. I’d done enough of that. Besides, I no longer thought I had to be perfect. If a good man like Simon Mason could mess

things up and find a way to go on, then so could I. Even in his world—a much more spiritual one than mine—perfection was not required. He made a point of teaching me that.


I closed my eyes and pictured Simon: his shiny bald head, his leanly muscled chest, his brilliant, warming smile. As I thought of that smile, I smiled, too, but it didn’t last long. Within seconds the muscles tightened in my neck. I massaged my temples and tried to clear my thoughts. Soon, though, I was pressing my fingers so hard into my scalp that pain radiated from behind my eyes.


If only he had listened. But he couldn’t. He wanted to die. No matter how much he denied it, we both knew it was true. After what he had done, he couldn’t live with himself. So he found the only available escape hatch. He went to preach in a place where his death was nearly certain.


I lowered my hands and clenched them, then caught myself and relaxed. This was no good. It was too late. Not this morning, Taylor. You’re not going to think about Simon today. I took a deep breath and ran my fingers back through my hair, straightening the auburn waves for an instant before they sprang stubbornly back into place. Today’s worries are enough for today. That was the mantra of the alcohol recovery program at Simon’s church. It was from the Bible, but I couldn’t say where. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention as closely as I should. Regardless of origin, it was a philosophy that had worked for my drinking—at least so far. Maybe it had broader application: Focus on the task at hand and let yesterday and tomorrow take care of themselves.


At the moment, the first priority was to get the coffee going. I started down the hall.


When I turned the corner into the kitchen, I could see that Kacey had already been there. The coffee maker light was on, illuminating a wedge of countertop next to the refrigerator. In the red glow of the tiny bulb, the machine chugged and puffed like a miniature locomotive. Two stainless steel decanters with screw-on plastic lids waited next to the ceramic coffee jar, and

the smell of strong, black coffee drifted across the room. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and pictured the cheese Danish we would pick up at the corner bakery on our way out of our neighborhood. That was plenty of incentive to get moving. I headed back down the hall.


When I reached the bathroom I flipped on the light, closed the door, and hit the switch on the floor heater. I positioned it so it blew directly on my legs. Within a minute the chill bumps were retreating. I braced my hands on the edge of the sink, leaned forward, and squinted into the mirror. Glaring back at me was a message I had written in red lipstick the night before: Start the coffee!


I wiped the words off with a hand towel and peered into the mirror again. A tangled strand of hair dangled in front of one eye. I pushed it away, blinked hard, and studied my face. No lines, no bags, no creases—no runs, no hits, no errors, as Dad used to say. I was beginning to believe the whole clean living thing. Zero liquor and a good night’s sleep worked like a tonic for the skin.


It was tough to stay on the wagon after Simon’s death. I had never been an every-day drinker. My problem was binge drinking. With all that had happened during the past six months, the temptations had been frequent and strong, but I was gradually getting used to life on the dry side of a bourbon bottle. There was much to be said for routine. Maybe that’s why dogs are so happy when they’re on a schedule. When everything happens the same way and at the same time each day, there’s not much room for angst.


On second thought, the dog analogy didn’t thrill me. I pulled the Rangers jersey over my head, tossed it on the floor, and turned to look in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Standing in nothing but my bikini panties, I rocked onto the toes of one foot, then the other. My long legs were still lean and athletic. Fitness was something Dad had always emphasized—fitness and self-defense. There were times when I had hated him for it, but now I was glad for the benefits. It would be years before I had to worry about really showing age. I might have lived harder than most twenty-nine year olds, but I could still turn heads in a crowded room. No, the dog analogy was not appropriate. I had plenty of issues, but I was no dog. At least not yet.


I turned on the water and cupped my hands beneath the faucet. It was time to wake up and plan what we would say to Elise. After splashing my face and patting it with a towel, I turned around, leaned back against the countertop, and crossed my arms. I caught a whiff of the lavender cologne I’d taken to spraying on my wrists before bed. The Internet said it would soothe me into peaceful slumber. For fifty dollars an ounce, it should have brought me warm milk and rocked me to sleep. I tried to recall how I’d slept the past few nights, then caught myself. I was just looking for ways to waste time. I needed to focus. The issue at hand was Elise.


Simon informed me about the missing money just before he left for Beirut. His former accountant, Brandon, had confronted him about it, thinking that Simon had been skimming. Simon wanted someone to know that he hadn’t done it, someone who could tell Kacey that her dad was not a thief. That’s why he told me. In case he didn’t come back. And as the whole world knew, he didn’t come back.


Elise was the obvious person for the board of directors to choose to wind up the business of Simon’s ministry. She had been his top assistant for years. When I told Kacey about the missing money, though, she bypassed Elise and went directly to the board to demand an audit—impressive gumption for a twenty year old. It didn’t take the auditors long to confirm that Simon had nothing to do with the missing money.


The accountants concluded that the board had assigned the cat to clean the birdcage. Elise had set up dummy vendor accounts at banks around the country in a classic embezzlement scam. Simon’s ministries had major construction projects going, and Elise issued bogus contractor invoices to Simon

Mason World Ministries from fake businesses with P.O. box addresses that she controlled. When the ministry mailed the payments, she picked up the checks from the post office boxes and deposited them in the bank accounts. Who knows where the money went from there?


The ministry had grown so quickly during the years before Simon’s death—and Simon was so trusting—that controls were lax. When the invoices came in, the payables department

paid them without question. By now the money was probably stuffed under a mattress in some tropical paradise. That was another thing I intended to pursue with Elise. She had developed a great tan.


Before I stepped into the shower, I wrapped myself in a towel and went back into the bedroom. I pulled my Sig Sauer .357 out of my purse and checked the magazine. It was full. I slipped the pistol into the inside pocket of my purse. Elise didn’t strike me as the type to get violent, but people did weird things when backed into a corner. If I’d learned anything during my time in the Secret Service, it was to hope for the best—and prepare for the worst.


Kiss Me Again Giveaway


When I picked up the book Kiss Me Again by Barbara Wilson I really was not sure what I would think about reading it. The subtitle reads, "Restoring Lost Intimacy in Marriage." Of course I started thinking about my marriage and I thought we have a lot of intimacy so I don't really need to restore anything.

However, as I started to read the book I realized that Wilson really gave me some things to think about in my marriage and that it is possible for my spouse and I to become more intimate.

The focus of the book is healing from your past relationships. For anyone that knows my story, you know that I was pregnant with my first child before I was married. Wilson explains that even if we had premarital sex with the man that we later married, we still have some restoration to do with God and with our spouse.

The book takes you through exercises and Wilson gives you many scenarios to get you thinking about your past. She also shares many stories of women that she has worked with and the struggles they have had in their own lives. Also, the results that those women have had through their healing process.

Waterbrook Multnomah has given me one book to send to a reader. If you would like a chance to receive a copy of this book, leave a comment by Wednesday, October 28th at midnight. On Thursday I will choose a winner from random.org.

Here is a little more info about the book and the author.
Summary:
Many married women genuinely want to feel more desire toward their husbands. But while sex before marriage was hard to resist, now resisting seems like all they do. In her new book, Barbara Wilson shows how couples can suffer for years from the “invisible bonds” of previous relationships without even knowing it. Hidden emotions of distrust, shame, and resentment can sabotage even the most loving marriage.

In Kiss Me Again, Wilson:

· Shares her own story of healing and renewed desire
· Helps women forgive themselves and their husbands for past choices
· Shows readers how to break free from “invisible bonds”
· Explains God’s plan for helping a husband and wife to re-bond
· Includes conversation helps for both wives and their husbands
· Helps couples reignite the passion that they thought was lost

With assessment tools, write-in exercises, and gentle guidance, Kiss Me Again offers a biblical plan for rekindling the closeness and passion women long for in marriage. Because no past is beyond the reach of God’s healing touch.

Author Bio:
Barbara Wilson is the author of The Invisible Bond and former director of sexual health education for the Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Sacramento. She speaks nationwide to youth and adults with her message of sexual healing, and she teaches frequently in the women’s ministry at the multi-campus Bayside Church in Northern California. Barbara and her husband, Eric, have been married for twenty-eight years.

You can purchase this book at the Random House Website.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love is a Battlefield

I love finding new authors. The latest First Wildcard Tour book that I am reading is Annalisa Daughety. This is her first book in her "A Walk In The Park" series. Daughety is a new author in the Christian women Contemporary fiction genre. This is a story of love and most importantly forgiveness. Check out the first chapter below and go to Barbourbooks.com for more information on this new author.

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:


Love is a Battlefield

Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Annalisa Daughety lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she works as an event planner. After attending Freed-Hardeman University, where she majored in American Studies, Annalisa worked at Shiloh National Military Park as a park ranger. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves gardening, shopping, and watching sports. For more information, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602604770
ISBN-13: 978-1602604773

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


If someone had told Kristy O’Neal that the battlefield at Shiloh would see another casualty nearly one hundred and fifty years after the battle ended, she’d have thought they were crazy.

Yet, two weeks ago, one last soldier had been injured on the majestic field. And Kristy had the battle scars to prove it. Admittedly, her wound was emotional, not physical, but she still wondered if the splintered pieces of her heart might be tougher to knit back together than a bullet-shattered bone.

Ready or not, her recovery time was over, so she squared her shoulders and headed back onto the hallowed ground. Never let it be said that Kristy couldn’t soldier up with the best of them. Ranger hat firmly in place and gold badge glinting in the May sunlight, she marched briskly to the visitor center.

“Morning, Kristy.” Ranger Owen Branam stopped putting money in the cash register slots long enough to nod in her direction. “You have a nice trip?” He closed the drawer, finished with his preparations for the day’s visitors.

Nice trip? A cruise spent faking allergies to explain away tears. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

“Lovely.” she managed what she hoped was a convincing smile. “The weather was great.” Scooting past him, she attempted to make it to her office without further questioning.

“Umm. Kristy?”

The apprehension in the older man’s voice made her stop in her tracks. She slowly turned to look back at Owen.

He ran his finger around the neck of his shirt as if he had a little too much starch in the collar. “The chief asked me to have you go straight up to his office when you got in.” He motioned toward the counter. “You can leave your things here. I’ll keep an eye on them while you’re upstairs.”

Only five minutes into her morning and her plan to fly as far under the radar as possible had already gone out the window. So much for the low-key first day back she’d hoped for.

“Thanks, Owen.” Kristy put her hat on the counter and tucked her purse underneath the desk.

As she got to the top of the stairs, an unfamiliar voice called out a greeting to Owen. Twisting around, she peeked over the railing. Wow. A Johnny Depp lookalike was helping Owen straighten the brochures. The second thing she noticed about him, after his movie star resemblance, was the park service uniform he wore. Surely, he wasn’t a new employee. She’d only been gone a few weeks. Things didn’t usually happen that quickly at Shiloh National Military Park.

“Glad to have you back.”

The gruff voice of Chief Ranger Hank Strong made her jump and turn around.

She felt her face grow hot. Had he been watching her ogle Ranger Depp? She cleared her throat.

“Glad to be back.” She followed him into his office and perched on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in front of his desk. Her gaze skimmed over a hodgepodge of furniture, maps, and historical books. None of the furnishings matched, except for Hank’s oversized desk and equally oversized chair that had always reminded her of a king’s throne.

“Good, good.” Hank settled himself behind the desk and peered at her over his round bifocals. “Look, Kristy. There’s no easy way to tell you this.” For a moment, an expression that looked like uncertainty flitted over his weathered face.

Uh-oh. As befitted his name, Hank Strong was always sure of himself. Whatever he was about to say, she wasn’t going to like it.

“I told you before you left on your trip there’d be a job waiting for you when you got back,” Hank paused.

Kristy could tell he was choosing his words carefully.

She nodded. “Yes. And believe me, I’m so grateful.” When she’d turned in her two-week notice, it had felt like she was letting him down, letting the park down. After all, she’d begun working at Shiloh while she was still in college. It was the only place she’d ever worked—or ever wanted to work, for that matter. After her plans had abruptly changed, she’d been relieved when Hank stepped in and told her there was still a place for her at Shiloh.

“Well, there was one thing I didn’t mention.”

“Oh?” Why do his words sound so ominous?

“By the time I found out you weren’t moving and were still available to work, your position had been filled.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Kristy. The paperwork had already gone through. There was nothing that could be done.”

She tried to catch her breath. Knowing she was at least able to come back to work at the park was the only thing that had gotten her through the past two weeks. “But you said. . .” Her voice trailed off as she willed herself not to panic.

“I know. I said I had a position for you. And I do.” He leaned back a little in his chair, visibly relieved to have the bad news off his chest. “You’re welcome to stay on as a seasonal ranger.”

Seasonal? That was where she’d started, nine years earlier, the summer after her freshman year of college. She glanced around, hoping for a paper bag she could breathe into. Of course, what she needed most was a rewind button that would allow her to go back in time and decide not to quit her job. But if she could travel back to the past, knowing what she did now, there wouldn’t have been a reason to leave Shiloh in the first place.

“You want me to be a seasonal?” Kristy’s voice squeaked. “What about my salary?”

A frown drew his bushy brows together. “There’ll be a pay cut. And you’ll move to the office shared by the seasonal staff. In fact, Owen has already put your box of office doodads in there.”

If she hadn’t been so shell-shocked, she probably would’ve laughed at his word for the contents of the box she’d left in her former office weeks earlier. Instead, all she could think was how she’d planned to stop by and pick her things up once the movers arrived. But the moving van had been permanently rerouted.

“You can still live in park housing. I know you’ve already packed most of your things, but Owen said he didn’t think you’d actually moved anything out yet.” He handed her a manila folder. “Your decision, kiddo. We’d love to keep you around. You’re a great park ranger. But I understand if you want to go in a different direction now.”

She took the file from him and glanced at the paperwork inside. The contents of the folder would effectively help to move her back down the career ladder she’d been climbing.

“What happens in September?” The seasonal positions at Shiloh ran from Memorial Day through Labor Day. And since they were only a few days shy of Memorial Day, she figured she should feel lucky there was even a seasonal position still available. They usually filled pretty quickly.

“Well.” He leaned back even farther and pressed his fingertips together. “At that juncture you’ll have a few options. Perhaps a permanent position will open here. Or we can look around at other parks and try to get you a transfer.”

Or I can leave the park service.

He rose to his feet. “If you want to think about it for a day or two, that’s fine.”

She knew Hank well enough to know that giving her time to consider the offer was his way of being sympathetic. Despite her trembling legs, she managed to stand. “Thank you,” she mumbled and scurried for the stairs, her mind spinning like a recently fired cannonball.

A permanent position opening at Shiloh was pretty much out of the question. Most of the rangers planned to stay until retirement age, some of them even longer. And she wasn’t interested in a transfer. This was the park she loved. Kristy had grown up in nearby Savannah, Tennessee, and some of her earliest memories were of the cannons and monuments at Shiloh.

Owen avoided eye contact with her as she descended the stairs.

Thanks a lot, buddy.

He’d obviously known what the meeting was going to be about, but hadn’t had the nerve to give her a warning before she went upstairs. Kristy couldn’t blame him though. No one liked to be the bearer of bad news.

And with her newfound knowledge, the mystery of the unfamiliar ranger was solved. The Johnny Depp lookalike was the ranger who now had her position. Not to mention her office.

She silently gathered her hat and purse from the front desk and took them to the room reserved for seasonal staff. As she passed the office she used to occupy, a fleeting glance told her that Ranger Depp wasn’t inside. The seasonal office, if it could even be called an office, was full of old desks and equipment. Kristy turned on the light and took in the sparsely decorated white walls. It was a far cry from the cheerful yellow she’d painted her former office last year. Thankfully, the other members of the seasonal staff wouldn’t arrive until Monday. At least I should have peace until Memorial Day. She could even move the desks and junk, buy some paint for the walls, and live out the next few days in Pretend Everything’s Okay Land.

Except, eventually, she’d have to face reality.

She flipped on the computer and silently tapped her fingers on the desk as she waited forever for it to boot up.

Can I do this? Can I take a step down in pay and status? Seasonals were at the low end of the totem pole. She remembered those days all too well. Getting assigned the tasks no one else wanted to do and being expected to do them without grumbling. Would they do that to her again? Or would she continue to be treated as permanent staff, despite the demotion?

Demotion. Ouch.

Either way, it wouldn’t be pleasant.

She glanced down at the box of her things on the floor next to the computer, and tears flooded her eyes. Empty picture frames peeked out from the box flaps. The pictures that had once been in them were nowhere in sight. Someone had wanted to spare her feelings today. Either that, or they didn’t want to be stuck with an emotional female to console.

The frames might’ve been without pictures, but Kristy knew what they’d once held. Her heart pounded as she grabbed all three frames and tossed them in the trashcan, taking unexpected pleasure in the sight and sound of shattering glass. A yellow and white wad under a large shard caught her eye. She couldn’t resist carefully fishing it out of the can, even though she knew better.

Kristy unwrinkled the ball and smoothed it out on the old, beat-up desk, running her hand over the creases in the paper. Fancy paper, as Owen called it months ago when he’d first seen it. Her vision blurred with fresh tears, but she didn’t need to read the words to know what they said.

For a long moment, she stared down at the engraved invitation.

To her wedding.



Friday, October 16, 2009

The Sound of Sleigh Bells



I thought it was very appropriate to read The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall this week as it was snowing outside my home. Unfortunately it is October and I am not quite ready to get out my Christmas decorations. . .

This is the first book that I have read by Cindy Woodsmall. Here is a summary of the book.

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancĂ©. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?


I enjoyed reading this story as the characters developed throughout the plot. It is a love story formed out of heartbreak and loss. After finishing it my first thought was that it would be a great gift book for Christmas for anyone that loves to read.

Here is a little info about the Author: Cindy Woodsmall is the author of When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and The New York Times Best-Seller When the Soul Mends. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. A mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of thirty-one years.

You can get more info about this book here.

Happy Reading!

The Last Word

When I was given the option to receive a book by the author Kathy Herman, I jumped at the chance. Kathy Herman is one of my favorite Christian Fiction Authors. I have read almost every book she has written. Unfortunately this is the second book in the Sophie Trace Trilogy and I had not read the first book. However, I was not lost in this story. The first book would have given me more background information on the current story. If you are looking for a suspenseful book that keeps you turning every page. This is a perfect choice. Kathy Herman did not disappoint me with another amazing book! Check the summary out below!

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 Last Word (Sophie Trace Trilogy)

David C. Cook (2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Best-selling suspense novelist Kathy Herman has written fourteen novels, including CBA bestsellers The Real Enemy, Tested by Fire and All Things Hidden, since retiring from her family’s Christian bookstore business. Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Tyler, Texas.

Visit the author's website.





The Last Word, by Kathy Herman from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 340
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 143476785X
ISBN-13: 9781434767851

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Police Chief Brill Jessup pored over the department’s budget for the rest of the fiscal year and couldn’t see any way she could afford to hire another patrol officer without going to the city council. She sighed. The last time she asked those tightwads for additional funds she practically had to beg.


A strange noise interrupted her thoughts. She peered through the blinds on the glass wall into the bustling detective bureau and listened intently. There it was again.


A burly man appeared in the doorway. He bumped off either side, then staggered into her office. Facedown. Hands dripping with blood, clutching his abdomen.


“What in the world …?” She jumped to her feet, frozen in place.


Detective Sean O’Toole looked up and stretched out his hand toward her, his eyes screaming with pain. He collapsed in front of her desk and hit the floor.


“Officer down!” she shouted. “I need an ambulance—now!”


She hurried around the side of her desk, grabbed the clean hand towel next to the coffeepot, and got down on her knees. She laid the towel over the bloody wound and applied pressure.


“Sean, talk to me. What happened?”


The detective’s face was ashen. “He c-came from behind … put me in a choke hold … stuck a knife in my gut … said he was coming after you—to f-finish the job.”


“You never saw his face?”


“No. Hairy arms. White guy. Navy blue short sleeves. Smelled like c-cigarettes. Deep voice.”


“Where did this happen?”


“Hallway. Watercooler.”


Sean moaned, his face pallid and contorted with pain, his eyes slits of icy blue.


“Come on, Sean, stay with me.”


Detective Captain Trent Norris burst into her office. “I’ll take it from here, Chief.”


“How did he get from the watercooler to my office without someone in the DB seeing he needed help?”


“I guess we were all focused on other things. It’s been crazy.”


Trent got down on the floor and swapped places with her, his palms pressed over the wound. “Hang in there, buddy. The paramedics are just down the block. They’ll be here any second. You’re going to be fine. Stay with me. Talk to me.”



Brill sprang to her feet and hurried over to the officers who crowded outside her door. “O’Toole was just stabbed by some lowlife who snuck up behind him at the water cooler. We’re looking for a white man wearing a short-sleeve, navy blue shirt, possibly bloodstained.”


She locked gazes with Sean’s partner. “Detective Rousseaux, secure the scene and make sure it’s not compromised.


“Captain Dickson, lock down the building and search every corner of every room.


“Sergeant Chavez, set up a containment for two blocks around the building.


“Sergeant Huntman, clear the route to St. Luke’s and make sure we have officers in radio cars ready to escort the ambulance. Come on, people, move it!”


The officers scrambled in all directions, and she ran out to the restroom.


She tore off paper towels until she had a stack, folded them in half and held them under the faucet, then pressed out the excess water and rushed back to her office.


She got on her knees and gently pressed the wet towels onto Sean’s forehead, all too aware he was sweating profusely and still bleeding despite the pressure Trent was keeping on the wound. “We need something to elevate his legs.”


She went over to the bookshelf and grabbed several thick books and put them under Sean’s feet, hoping he wouldn’t die of shock before the paramedics arrived.


Lord, don’t take him now. He’s young. He’s got a wife and three kids.


“Come on, buddy, talk to me.” Trent patted Sean’s cheeks. “What else do you remember about this creep?”


“Tell Jessica I love her. The kids, too. Promise me.”


“You’re not going to die,” Trent said. “The bleeding’s slowing down. Talk to me, Sean. We want whoever did this to you.”


“He’s coming after the chief. Going to kill her.”


“Who’s going to kill her?” Trent’s dark eyes shot Brill a glance. “Give us something else. You’re too sharp of a detective to have missed anything.”


“Had a mark. Top of right hand.”


“What kind of mark?”


“A tattoo. Or b-birthmark. Size of a quarter.”


Brill heard voices and heavy footsteps in the DB, and seconds later two paramedics glided through the door and asked her to stand aside with Trent.



She observed in disbelief as the pair worked to save her detective’s life, heartsick that she might have to tell his wife and children he’d been murdered on her watch—and just feet away from armed police officers.


She started to brush the hair out of her eyes and realized her hands were bloody. She shuddered with the realization that whoever thrust a knife into Sean O’Toole had threatened to finish the job when he got to her.


~~~~~~~~~


Five hours later Brill sat at the conference table in her office with Detective Captain Trent Norris, Detective Beau Jack Rousseaux, Patrol Captain Pate Dickson, and Sheriff Sam Parker trying to assess where they were in the case.


“It’s a miracle Sean made it through surgery.” Brill looked from man to man. “We could be sitting here planning his funeral.”


“He’s too stubborn to die,” Beau Jack said.


“Stubborn’s no match for a knife blade, Detective. I want this animal locked up.”


“Don’t forget he threatened to come after you,” Trent said.


“How’d he get in here, anyway?”


Pate’s face turned pink. “One of my sergeants, Tiller, reported that a white man dressed in navy blue coveralls with the Miller’s Air Conditioning logo on the pocket was standing outside the door when he arrived this morning. The guy said he was here to fix the AC. He had a toolbox and a big smile. Dark hair and mustache. Big guy. Looked fifty to fifty-five.”


“So the sergeant just keyed in the combination and let him in without checking with maintenance?” Beau Jack said. “Real smart move.”


Pate stroked his chin. “Come on, Miller’s service people are in here all the time. The sergeant let down his guard. We’ve all done it.”


“Yeah, well, my partner nearly died because Sergeant Tiller let down his guard.”


“What’s done is done,” Brill said. “It’s not like we have a precedent for this kind of thing in the Sophie Trace PD.”


Beau Jack stuck a Tootsie Pop in his mouth. “I guess we do now.”


“We definitely need to tighten security,” Trent said. “Since we have no idea who this guy is, everyone we bring into the DB to be interviewed will be suspect.”


“I can’t spend the rest of my life in fear of this nutcase coming after me,” Brill said. “I have a job to do. Trent, you take charge of tightening security. All of us need to heighten our awareness of our surroundings. Anything or anyone that doesn’t feel right, check it out.”



Sam’s white eyebrows came together. “I can’t believe y’all were that trusting. My deputies would never let unauthorized individuals into a secured area. They’re trained to follow protocol.”


“So are my officers.” Brill forced herself not to sound defensive.


“But those of you in the county sheriff’s department deal with a broader range of criminals. Until now, the Sophie Trace PD had no reason to fear an officer being attacked in a secured area.”


“I’ll cover it in each briefing,” Trent said. “From this day forward, no one gets in the secured area until he has clearance. I don’t care how inconvenient it is to check him out.”


Brill looked over at Pate. “Tell me about your search of the building.”


“No evidence was found in the building, ma’am. My officers searched every nook and cranny and checked the sinks for hair and blood. Doesn’t appear the attacker stopped to clean up.”


“How’d Chavez do with the containment?” she said.


“He contained a two-block area around city hall, checked license plates, and talked with pedestrians. That yielded one female witness who passed the suspect on the sidewalk around 10:45—just after O’Toole was stabbed. The suspect was headed down First Street at a pretty good clip. Our witness says he was overweight, average height, dressed in navy blue coveralls and a black windbreaker and carrying a gray toolbox. She said he was wearing sunglasses and did not have a mustache. She’s working with Tiller and our sketch artist. We ought to have something soon.”


“Did she see which way he went?” Trent said.


Pate shook his head. “Once he passed her, she didn’t give him a second thought until Chavez questioned her.”


“Well,” Brill said, “I’m eager to see the sketch. If this man has threatened to come after me, I’d sure like to see if I recognize him.”


~~~~~~~~~


A short time later, Brill sat at her desk and studied the artist’s sketch of the man who stabbed Sean O’Toole. Sergeant Tiller was the only one who saw the suspect’s eyes, and the female witness was the

only one who saw his mouth without the mustache. He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t put a name to the face or even explain what it was about him that looked familiar.


Her cell phone vibrated, and she read the display screen.


“There you are,” she said. “I guess you got my message?”


“Honey, I’m so sorry,” Kurt Jessup said. “I’ve been following the news. I’m glad Sean pulled through. Must’ve been horrible for you.”


“I thought we were going to lose him.”


She told Kurt everything that had happened from the time Sean O’Toole staggered into her office until the paramedics took him to St. Luke’s in an ambulance—except that the assailant told O’Toole he was coming after her to “finish the job.” Why get into that over the phone?


“Sounds intense. You must be emotionally drained.”


“I don’t think it’s caught up with me yet. It was surreal washing Sean’s blood off my hands, and I had to throw away my uniform shirt. Beau Jack lent me the extra shirt he had in his locker so Emily wouldn’t have to see the mess. Does she know about the stabbing?”


“Yes, but I made sure she’s not planted in front of the TV, listening to the gory details. It’ll just trigger thoughts of the hostage ordeal, and we both know she’s not over it.”


Are any of us? Brill glanced up at the clock. “I’ll be home in forty-five minutes. Is Vanessa there yet? I can hardly wait to see her.”


“She’ll be here between seven and eight. Said not to plan on her for dinner.”


“By the time I get home, it’ll be too late to cook anything,” Brill said. “And you know what Friday night is like. If we go out, we’ll have to wait forever, and I don’t want Vanessa to come home to an empty house.”


“I’ve got it covered, honey. I bought a baked chicken and a quart of potato salad at the grocery store. We’ve got stuff here for a green salad. That should work.”


“What would I do without you?”


Kurt laughed. “I have no idea.”


“I’ll see you soon. I love you.”


“Love you, too.”


Brill hung up the phone and looked out the window. Through the leafy trees and beyond the ridges of hazy green foothills, the blue gray silhouette of the Great Smoky Mountains dominated the early evening sky. She sat for a moment and just enjoyed the beauty and the calm.


Lord, thank You for letting Sean pull through.


Her office phone rang, and she picked it up. “Yes, LaTeesha.”


“Captain Donovan from the Memphis PD is on line one for you.”


“Thanks.” She pushed the blinking button. “Hello, John.”


“Hey. It’s great to hear your voice. Saw you on the news last fall. I figured you’d make a name for yourself, but I didn’t think you’d go to such extreme measures.”


She smiled. “Things got pretty crazy, all right. So are you enjoying my old office?”


“Not today. I’ve got bad news … Zack Rogers was stabbed night before last. Happened in his driveway. Some worthless piece of garbage came up behind him and stuck a knife in his gut, and said to tell District Attorney Cromwell he was coming after him. I didn’t call you because the doc said Zack was going to be all right. But his heart gave out …”—John’s voice cracked—“an hour ago. No one saw it coming. His kids are still in high school, and with their mother dead … well, it’s a tragic loss. I knew you’d want to know since you and Zack were partners for so long.”


Brill felt a wave of nausea sweep over her, a decade of memories flashing through her mind in an instant.


“The thing is,” John said, “we knew Zack was being targeted because one of my detectives was stabbed last week, and the perp told him he was coming after Zack. We offered Zack protection, but you know how independent he was—bound and determined he could take care of himself.”


Brill’s heart pounded so hard she was sure he could hear it. “John, one of my detectives was stabbed today just outside the detective bureau. The attacker told him he was coming after me, to finish the job. This can’t be a coincidence.”


There was a long moment of dead air, and she figured John was processing the implications.


“You and Zack helped put away lots of perps, Brill. And Jason Cromwell was district attorney during the time you two were partners. Did anybody ever threaten you?”


“Are you kidding? All the time. We blew it off.”


“Well, looks like one of them was dead serious. Anybody in particular stand out?”



“Sure, Bart and Sampson Rhodes. But they’re lifers and not eligible for parole. Zack and I busted them what, nine or ten years ago? If they had been serious about taking us out, they could’ve snapped their fingers and gotten it done in nine or ten minutes.”


“Maybe they’re patient,”


“Or maybe this is someone else,” Brill said. “Someone who was forced to wait a long time for the chance to get even—someone who served out his sentence. Someone who wouldn’t think of hiring a hit man, but rather delights in the systematic elimination of the people who put him away. Someone who enhances his enjoyment by first stabbing a person who is close to the intended victim and making sure that person lives long enough to tell the intended victim that he or she is next.”


“You’ve worked with the FBI profilers so long you actually sound like one.”


“Unfortunately, John, I think I’m right.”


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Last Word by Kathy Herman. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coffee Beans and an Empty Cup

This morning when I woke up I stumbled to the coffee pot in my half awake half asleep slumber to make my first pot of coffee to get me going. I sat in the chair and waited for it to perk. A few minutes later I went out to pour my first cup. To my surprise no coffee was waiting for me. At that point I realized, I forgot to add the water. I had ground my fresh coffee beans, placed them in the filter and turned the pot on, but with no water, no coffee could be made.

If you haven't noticed, my blog posts have been few and far between. It isn't that I have not wanted to write, but I haven't really felt like I had anything to write about.

This morning as I thought about the coffee I tried to make without the water, I started to think about my writing. How am I supposed to write about God if I am not adding His Word.

Before I sat down with my Bible this morning, it had been a week since I sat down with the intention of studying His Word.

It has been snowing this week and it has been cold and dark outside. On top of the dreary weather, I have been sick with a terrible cold. As I have been looking out the window wondering where the beautiful fall weather disappeared to, I have been looking at my heart and attitude.

I opened my Bible to the book of James with the intention of reading the book through in one sitting. God had a different plan. I didn't get passed the first few verses.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

I went to the dictionary to read the definition of the word persevere: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement.

These verses say that "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete." It would be great to think that I will face one trial, persevere and be mature and complete after that one instance and not have to endure any more trials. However, when I look at the definition of persevere I realize that my life is full of counterinfluences, opposition and discouragement and I am far from mature and complete.

God has given me a choice. I can let the darkness of the world engulf me or I can be a light shining in the darkness. I know I am going to have days that I don't feel like persevering. I am going to have days that I want to let the opposition win. But I need to remember that the end of the story has already been written and in the end God Wins.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Coming Home

It is always so much fun to travel, but it is always good to come home. It is so funny to hear how people respond when I say I am from "South Dakota". A lot of people wonder why I live here and if I will ever leave here. It always gets me to start thinking about my life and the choices I have made.

I love to visit the big cities and experience the busy non-stop life, but I am always ready to slow down and return to the place I call home. The trip I just returned from was wonderful. I was able to meet some of my favorite bloggers in real life and I was able to reconnect with a childhood friend.

Yesterday as I was driving home from the airport, (which was a 7 1/2 hour drive), it was a little bitter sweet. I had so much fun on my little adventure, but I missed my family so much. As I entered South Dakota the sun was starting to set. This picture is a view from the car.



The picture does not even show the beautiful picture that God had painted for me across the sky. The sky was filled with pink and orange hues, bursting through the fluffy white clouds. At that moment I was reminded that South Dakota is my home. The peace and beauty of the wide open plains and the combines harvesting in the fields.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1


What place do you call home? What makes it home to you?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stretch Marks

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:


Stretch Marks

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kimberly Stuart holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Iowa. After teaching Spanish and English as a second language in Chicago, Minneapolis, Costa Rica, and eastern Iowa, she took a huge increase in pay to be a full-time mom. She makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and three young children. She is also the author of Act Two: A Novel in Perfect Pitch.


Visit the author's website.

Stretch Marks, by Kimberly Stuart from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448921
ISBN-13: 978-0781448925

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Under the Weather


Mia's nose was stuck in her own armpit. Not a lot of glamour there, but she was working toward a higher purpose.


“Think of how your organs are thanking you for thinking of them, for being considerate enough to stretch them.” Delia's voice floated from the front of the room where, Mia knew without looking, she joined the class in a binding pose that could make most grown men cry like little girls.


Mia breathed an audible breath, collecting a healthy whiff of deodorant-infused sweat. In the nose, out the nose, throat relaxed. She closed her eyes, feeling the ends of her fingers beginning to slip out of the bind. Liver, pancreas, you're welcome, she thought and felt her stomach make an uncharacteristic lurch. The radiator kicked in beside where she stood, infusing heat and a bass hum to the room. Mia focused on an unmoving spot on the floor and not on the spandexed and heaving tush of the woman on the mat in front of her.


“And now using the muscles in your core, slooowly release and come back to mountain pose.” Delia manipulated her voice and cadence to stretch like honey. On any other day, her instructor's voice sounded like a lullaby to Mia, a quiet but persistent reminder to breathe deeply and recycle paper and plastic. Today, though, Mia felt an urge to ask Delia to speak up. She wanted concrete sounds, solid sounds; the feathery intonations landing lightly around the room made her insides itch. She pulled out of the bind and stood at the top of her mat, feet planted, palms outturned.


“Feel better yet?” Frankie whispered to Mia from the mat next to her.


Mia sighed. “Not yet.”


“Let's move into our warrior sequence.” Delia modeled the correct form on her lime-green mat and the class obediently followed suit.


Four poses later Mia hadn't shaken the bug she'd hoped was just an out-of-sorts feeling to be shed with a good workout. She felt elderly, cranky. Not even downward-facing dog had brought any relief. She lay on her back during the last minutes of class, trying to melt into the floor, be the floor. The spandexed woman was snoring. This final pose, savasana, was intended to provide participants final moments to recover, to be still and let their minds quiet before reentering the chaos of the outside world. Most yoga aficionados soaked up the pose. In Mia's class she'd spotted a plump, permed woman wearing a sweatshirt that declared in stark black print “I'm just here for the savasana.”


Today, though, Mia couldn't keep her eyes shut. She curled and flexed her toes, wishing Delia would crank up some Stones or Black Crowes instead of the Tibetan chimes lilting out of the stereo. Her impatience with a woman who freely quoted Mr. Rogers was beginning to worry her. Even in the hush of the room, her thoughts continued in an unruly spin, and when Delia brought everyone back to lotus, Mia glimpsed a scowl on her reflection in the mirror.


“Let's just enjoy the long, strong feeling of our bodies,” Delia said. Her eggplant yoga gear revealed taut muscles. “Our organs are thanking us for a good massage.”


Right. Organs. Mission accomplished, Mia thought, trying to concentrate on the gratitude her body owed her. But her mind crowded with images of bloody, squishy masses, pulsating or writhing in the way organs must do, and she found herself springing from her mat and bolting to the back of the studio. She threw open the door to the ladies' room and gripped the toilet bowl in a new pose, aptly christened “riotous and unexplained retching.” “Mia?” Frankie's voice was subdued, even though a postclass din was making its way through the restroom door.


Mia emerged from the stall. “I guess sun salutations weren't such a good idea.” She washed her face and hands at the sink, trying not to inhale too deeply the scent of eucalyptus rising from the soap. She watched her face in the mirror, noting the pale purple circles under eyes that persisted even with the extra sleep she'd indulged in that week. Mia smoothed her eyebrows with clammy fingers, taking care not to tug the small silver piercing, and glimpsed Frankie's concerned expression in the mirror. “Don't worry,” Mia said. “I feel much better now. Must just be a virus.”


Frankie handed over Mia's coat and a hemp bag proclaiming Save the Seals. “I'll walk you home. Let's stop at Gerry's store for soup and crackers.”


Mia made a face. “Crackers, yes. Soup, definitely not.”


Outside the studio weak February sunshine played hide-andseek with wispy cloud cover. Frankie planted her arm around Mia's waist.


Mia glanced at her friend. “I like the blue.”


Frankie turned her head to showcase the full effect. “Do you? I meant for it to be more baby blue, less sapphire, but I got distracted with this crazy woman on the Home Shopping Network and left the dye on too long.”


In the two years Mia had known her, Frankie had demonstrated a keen affection for adventurous hair coloring. Magenta (advent of spring), emerald green (popular in March), black and white stripes (reflecting doldrums after a breakup), now blue. The rainbow tendency endeared Frankie to Mia, who'd braved an extended though unsuccessful flirtation with dreadlocks during college, but otherwise had settled for a comparatively conformist 'do of patchouli-scented chestnut curls.


“How did this change go over with Frau Leiderhosen?”


Frankie whistled. “She loved it. In fact she wondered if we could have a girls' night out this weekend and take turns trading beauty secrets.”


Mia snorted, which was an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct of her laughter. The snorts only encouraged Frankie.


“'But, Esteemed Employer,' I said, 'I can't possibly instruct the master! A mere mortal such as I? It'd be like a Chihuahua taking over the dressing room of J-Lo! Or Sophia Loren! Or Gisele Bundchen, a woman who shares with you, dear boss, an impressive German name and an uncanny sense of style!'”


“Stop it.” Mia clutched her stomach and groaned. “Yoga and laughter are off limits until further notification from my digestive tract.”


Frankie sighed. “I do feel sorry for her. I never should have shown up with a mousy blonde bob cut for the initial interview. I was so average librarian.” She shook her head as they slowed near Gerry's Grocery. “Only to turn on her the first week on the job.”


It had occurred to Mia more than once how much she could have benefited from a green-haired librarian in the small Nebraska town where she'd grown up. Not until she was well into adulthood did she realize that not all librarians were employed to scare children, like the dreaded circulation director at Cedar Ridge Municipal Branch with the spidery braid and hairy mole. Mia had cowered behind the legs of her father when he would stop in to check out an eight-track or the latest release by Louis L'Amour. The moled woman had snapped at Mia once when she'd fingered a book on a stand, announcing down her nose that the book of Mia's interest was for display only and could not be checked out. Never mind that Bird Calls of the Northeast had not exactly beckoned to eight-year-old Mia anyway, but the chastisement was enough to keep books at an arm's length for years. How different Mia's interest in reading could have been had a spitfire like Frankie been the one behind the desk! Frankie's supervisor, Ms. Nachtmusik, with her impossible surname that changed with each conversation, didn't know the gift Frankie was to her patrons.


“Hello, ladies.” Gerry looked over his glasses. He stopped pecking madly at a calculator on the front counter. “How are things with you?”


“Mia's sick, Gerry.” Frankie patted Mia on the head. “We need sick stuff.”


Gerry pushed back on his stool and stood. He clucked like an unusually tall occupant of a henhouse. “Sick, Miss Mia? Headache? Stomach? Fever?”


Mia shook her head. “Stomach, I guess. I think crackers will be enough.”


Gerry looked disgusted. “This is not your duty to decide. Miss Frankie and I will take care of the illness. Sit.” He pointed to his stool and waved at her impatiently when she didn't jump at his command. Gerry shuffled off, muttering about the tragedy of young people living in cities without their parents.


Mia slipped Frankie a rolled-up reusable shopping bag and whispered, “Make sure to steer him away from pesticides.” Frankie winked at Mia and skipped behind the man on his mission.


Mia greeted the next few patrons entering the store. She tried watching the game show on Gerry's small black-and-white, but she couldn't seem to follow the rules. I'll just lay my head here for a moment, she thought, pushing Gerry's calculator aside. “Oh, good heavenly gracious, we need to call an ambulance!” Gerry's words seeped like molasses through Mia's subconscious. She wondered who was injured and if it had anything to do with the impossible rules on that game show.


“Mia, honey, are you okay?” Frankie was tugging on her shoulder.


“Hmm?” Mia pulled her eyelids open into the glare of fluorescent lights. Her head was, indeed, on the front counter, but so was the rest of her body. She turned her head slowly to face Frankie, who had crouched down beside her and was inches from her face. “I'm lying on the conveyer belt.”


“Yes, yes, you are,” Frankie said while guiding Mia to a sitting position. She gauged her tone of voice to fit a three-year-old on Sudafed. “Gerry and I left to get some groceries and when we returned,” she enunciated, “you were lying on the counter.” She nodded up and down, up and down.


Mia shook her head. “I was really tired. I needed to sleep.” Her voice trailed off. She kept her hands on her face for a moment, fingers brushing past a stud in her right nostril and the ring in her eyebrow. Eyes open, she peeked through the cracks in her fingers. Behind Gerry, who was patting his pockets frantically for cigarettes that hadn't been there since he'd quit a decade before, stood his son, Adam. Mia tried running her fingers through her yoga-tangle of hair.


Adam cleared his throat and smiled.


Mia realized she'd dropped her hands and had commenced a creepy stare session. “Hi, Adam,” she said too loudly. “How are you?”


Adam bit his cheek in an attempt to take seriously a question coming from a woman sprawled next to a cash register. “I'm great, Mia. You?”


“Fantastic,” she said and swung her legs to the side of her perch. Gerry rushed forward to offer her his arm, Adam close behind. Mia held up her hands in protest. “I'm fine, really,” she said. “Just a little tired, apparently.” She walked slowly to the front door and turned to wave. “Thanks, Gerry. You're a great host. Adam, good to see you. Frankie, are you ready?” She opened the door without waiting for a response and stepped out onto the sidewalk.


Gerry pushed away Frankie's twenty-dollar bill and handed her the sack of sick stuff as she fell in behind her friend. They walked five minutes in silence. Dusk was long gone, the sun having set early in the February evening. Mia was from the Midwest and didn't much mind Chicago winters; Frankie, however, hailed from Southern California and moaned every few steps as wind from the lake found its way through coats and mittens and headed straight for skin.


“I will never know why we have chosen this misery.” Frankie held Mia at the crook of her arm like a geriatric patient. Mia felt too exhausted to protest. At the foot of the stairs leading to her apartment building, she stopped. She watched a dapper older gentleman with mocha skin descend the steps and allow his eyes to fall on her.


“Hey, Silas,” she said.


“Evening, girls,” Silas said. He dropped his keys in the side pocket of his suit and tipped his hat, a soft brown fedora trimmed in striped black ribbon. He cocked his head slightly and narrowed his gaze at Mia. “Girl, you don't look so hot.” Silas furrowed his brow and looked at Frankie. “What's the story, Francesca?”


“We're not sure,” Frankie said. “But don't worry. I'm taking her straight upstairs before she can toss her cookies again.”


Silas took a nimble step back, sidestepping puddles in his retreat. “Honey, I'm sorry. Ain't no fun getting sick.”


“Thanks,” Mia said. She handed him a box of Lorna Doones from her stash of groceries. “Brought your favorites. Goodness knows I won't be needing a visit with Miss Lorna this evening,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the thought.


Silas clucked and shook his head. “Your mama raised you right, girl. I thank God for you, Mia, and I know my dear Bonnie is happy to look down from glory and see me so well taken care of.” He patted her gloved hand. “I couldn't ask for a better neighbor. You get better now, you hear?”


The girls took the steps slowly. When they reached the front door and waited for Mia to fish keys out of her bag, Frankie cleared her throat.


“So, um, what was that business at Gerry's all about?”


Mia shook her head. She dug deeper in her purse. “This is one bizarre virus. I don't even remember making the decision to go to sleep.”


“Yes, right. I didn't mean the counter episode. I meant the eye-lock with Gerry's son.”


“Found them,” Mia said and pushed her key into the lock. “Sorry, what were you saying?”


“Hair-fixing, googly-eye thing with Fig Leaf.” Mia tried to look disapproving. “You and your nicknames. I like the name Adam. I cringe to think of what you call me behind my back.” “Hmm,” Frankie said. “Today would be a toss-up between Vomitronica and Queen of Feigned Emotional Distancing.”


“I'm not feigning anything, for those of us who've read too much Jane Austen,” Mia said. She led the way into the lobby elevator and pushed the button for the fourth floor. The door closed with a shudder and Mia shrugged. “It's really nothing.”


Frankie crossed her arms and positioned her finger above the emergency stop button.


“All right.” Mia sighed. “When I first moved to my apartment, I was momentarily single and also in need of a neighborhood grocery. I found Gerry's, and Adam was always there with his perfect smile and impeccable Persian manners.” She sighed and watched the numbers light up on their ascent.


“Oh, my gosh. This is so Rear Window.”


“Isn't that the one where the woman is paralyzed?”


“No,” Frankie said with labored patience. “That's An Affair to Remember. I'm hinting less at paralysis, more at love at first sight.”


Mia rolled her eyes as the elevator door opened. “I noticed him, he noticed me, we flirted, and then I was no longer single.” Mia stepped into the hallway. “It was nothing. Seriously. As you might remember, I'm happily in love with another man. End of story.” She led the way to her apartment door. “Sorry to disappoint. I was recovering from an episode, remember.”


“Exactly!” Frankie was triumphant. “Your defenses were down, you were caught off guard and didn't have time to censor what was and wasn't socially appropriate--”


“Shh. He might be home.” Mia paused at her apartment door and ignored Frankie's dramatic jab of her finger down her throat.


“That would be so unusual,” Frankie said, sotto voce. “You can't mean he would be eating your food and smashing organic potato chips under his rear as he watches Baywatch reruns on your couch?”


Mia called into the room, “Anybody here?”


Frankie muttered, “Because we wouldn't expect you to be anywhere else.”


Mia pinched Frankie's arm when she heard rustling in the living room. “Lars?”


He stepped into the entryway, blond hair tousled, mouth opened in a wide yawn. “Hey, babe,” he said around his yawn. “Hey, Frankie.”


“Hi, Lars,” Frankie said sweetly. Mia avoided eye contact with her friend and instead pulled her arms around Lars and gave him her cheek to kiss.


“Don't exchange any of my germs,” she said. “I think I'm sick.”


Lars stepped back, nudging Mia out of the embrace. “Really?” He wrinkled his nose. “Like puking sick?”


Mia unbuttoned her coat. Frankie tugged her friend's arms out of the sleeves and unwrapped her from a bulky crocheted scarf. “Like, totally puking sick,” she said, watching Lars for any recognition of her mocking tone. None detected, she rambled on. “She, like, ralphed after yoga and then at Gerry's she totally fell asleep under the scanner.”


Lars had turned and was heading for the fridge. Mia shot a pleading look at Frankie, who sighed and nodded a momentary truce.


“You should have called and told me you were going to the store. We're almost out of soy milk,” he said, nose in the fridge. “And I ate the last Carob Joy after lunch.”


Mia filled a glass with water. Lars had piled his dishes in the sink, and it occurred to her to thank him, as this was a marked improvement from finding them all over the apartment, crusty, molding, and sometimes neglected until they smelled of rot. Determined not to conjure up any more detail of those images and too tired to explain to Frankie later why dirty dishes piled in the sink was a step upward, she sipped her water and shuffled toward the bedroom.


“Thanks, Frankie, for taking care of me,” she said. “I owe you. But I can't think about it right now, okay?”


Frankie followed her into the bedroom. She turned the covers down as Mia undressed and placed a saucer of crackers on the bedside table. “You take care of yourself, do you hear me?” For a woman with blue hair, Frankie could command the maternal authority of Olivia Walton when summoned. “Call me tomorrow morning. Or before if you need me. Not that Lars isn't the nurturing, restorative type …”


Mia moaned. She lowered herself into bed and curled up into a fetal position.


“All right, all right.” Frankie spoke softly. She turned out the light. “Sleep well, Mimi.” She waited a moment for an answer from under the down comforter but Mia was already drifting toward sleep.



©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



Review: I wanted a book to take with me on a recent trip. Stretch Marks was a great travel companion. It was a fun and entertaining book that I read in one flight. The tone of the book was light and it added just enough drama to keep you interested in the story. The story captured the drama of a soon-to-be single mom and her journey through pregnancy. Her friendships helped her through this new chapter in her life. If you are looking for a light and entertaining read, Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart is a great book.