Friday, October 30, 2009

What's on Your Nightstand--October

What's On Your Nightstand? is hosted once a month by 5 Minutes for Books. It happens on the fourth Tuesday of every month. It's a great chance to let others know what you like to read, and to find new bloggers with the same taste in books as you have. I'm a couple of days late in getting my post up, but better late than never, I suppose.

October was really good for me in regards to meeting my reading goals. I got everything read on my nightstand this past month with one exception--A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick. It needed to be returned to the library before I got a chance to read it. :o(

This next month, here's what I'm aiming to read:

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer
Thirsty by Tracey Bateman
Abide with Me by Delia Parr

I'm pretty positive that I'll get all four of these read, plus a few others. I'm not setting too large a goal because most of November is going to be spent doing a couple of things on the house (painting, chair rail in the living room, etc.) plus having the whole family over for Thanksgiving, so there won't be quite as much spare time for reading....I'll be too busy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: Kindred Bond by Deborah Raney

About the book:

For Claire Anderson, her position as a teacher in Hanover Falls is the realization of a long-held dream. In this loving community she attempts to cast aside the memories of her troubled childhood in the day-to-day interaction with the young lives entrusted to her care.

Michael Meredith finds worth as a nursing home administrator until an unwelcome investigation concerning suspicious deaths among the residents threatens his career. In the midst of this crisis, the linking of Claire's and Michael's lives creates a unique friendship that blossoms into a shared understanding neither has known before.

Both are empowered by the understanding and support they experience with each other until an agonizing secret is revealed that may tear the delicate fabric of their love. Is their faith strong enough to survive this astonishing discovery?

My thoughts:

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Deborah Raney. Her style of writing is just so easy to read, and the stories she tells have a way of stirring up all your emotions, especially if she's writing a tearjerker.

Kindred Bond is one of Deborah's first novels, and I can definitely tell that she has grown as a writer since this book. Not to say that this was a bad story....just that she has greatly improved since writing it. The book is geared more as a romance, and that part of the story is done very well--almost too well as I wanted to throw the book up against the wall a couple of times. :o)

There were a few spots that the story seemed to drag, but overall, I'd say it was a good book. If you're new to Deb's books, I would recommend starting with Beneath a Southern Sky or her Clayburn series first to get a better appreciation of her style.

3 1/2 stars

A-Z Wednesday

A-Z Wednesday is hosted by Vicki at Reading at the Beach. The rules are pretty simple.....

1. Visit Reading at the Beach to get this week's letter.
2. Find a book on your shelf that starts with this week's letter.
3. Post the title, picture, description and link of the book on your blog.
4. Go back to Reading at the Beach to post a comment with a link to your post.

This week's letter is L. I've decided to feature the following book--Lady of Milkweed Manor.

About the book:

Even a proper vicar's daughter can make a mistake.... and now Charlotte Lamb must pay a high price for her fall. To avoid the prying eyes of all who know her, she hides herself away in London's forbidding Milkweed Manor, a place of mystery and lore, of old secrets and new birth.

But once there, she comes face-to-face with a suitor from her past-a man who now hides secrets of his own. Both are determined, with God's help, to protect those they love. But neither can imagine the depth of sacrifice that will be required.

Sprinkled with fascinating details about the lives of women in Regency England, Lady of Milkweed Manor is a moving romantic drama about the redemption of past failings and the beauty of sacrificial love.

(I have a friend who has read this book and she said it was fabulous! Get I'd better get to it, eh?)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Read-a-thon Wrap Up

Well, I didn't make it as long as I'd hoped. :o( 13 hours was about all I could do once a headache started coming on. After my last update at 12 hours, I did start on another book, and read about 90 pages more, so I'll add that to my total stats. Even though I didn't last the whole 24 hours, I am still so glad that I managed to read 4 whole books, plus a little of another one. Maybe I'll attempt this the next time around...who knows! :o)

Also, I want to say a huge thank you to all the cheerleaders that stopped guys rocked!

Here's the final update:

Title of book(s) read: Diamond Place by Robin Lee Hatcher, Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove, Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray, The Parkerstown Delegate by Grace Livingston Hill, and Kindred Bond by Deborah Raney

Number of books completed since you started: 4

Running total of pages read since you started: 892

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Read-a-thon--Hour 12 Recap

Unbelievable.... I've been at this thing for 12 straight hours! Wow! It is the halfway point, and I only hope that I can make it for 12 more hours. Hubby will be bringing some yummy Sonic food home pretty soon so I can get recharged. :o)

Here's the latest update...

Title of book(s) read since last update: The Parkerstown Delegate by Grace Livingston Hill
Number of books completed since you started: 4
Running total of pages read since you started: 803

Read-a-thon--Hour 10 Recap

Well, I'm 10 hours into this thing, and I am so impressed that I've managed to read 3 books! I just wish I had this kind of free time all the time! :o) As of 5pm (CST), I finished Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove, and I'm absolutely speechless about how great it was.....holy cow!!!!! Now, if only all the rest of the books I read from this point on are that great....well, I may have no trouble making it the whole 24 hours. :o)

Here are the latest stats:

Title of book(s) read since last update: Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove
Number of books completed since you started: 3
Running total of pages read since you started: 655

Read-a-thon--Hour 7 Recap

I cannot believe I'm 7 hours into this thing! While I haven't finished a whole book in the past 2+ hours, I have made some more progress. Currently, I'm working on Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove, and it's incredible! Definitely will have to write up a review of it soon.

Anyhoo, here's my latest stats:

Title of book(s) read since last update: Nothing new...still working on one book
Number of books completed since you started: 2
Running total of pages read since you started: 448

P.S. A big thank you to all the cheerleaders that have stopped by my blog!!! You guys showed up in the nick of time! :o)

Read-a-thon--Hour 5 Recap

I'm still chuggin' away over here! Thanks to everyone who's stopped by already this morning to cheer me on. :o) I have given in, too, and done one or two of the mini-challenges. I knew I would...I have no self-control.

Here's an update:

Title of book(s) read since last update: Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray
Number of books read since you started: 2
Running total of pages read since you started: 301

Read-a-thon--Intro Post and Hour 2 Recap

I didn't do a post for the first hour because, well.... I kinda sorta got a late start. But be that as it may, I'm rip-roaring ready to go! I've taken some of the advice on the read-a-thon's main page, and started off with a short book. So, up next, I'll probably be in between one of these titles:

Hidden by Shelley Shepard Gray
Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove
Someday by Karen Kingsbury

Little longer than what I started off with, but I have a handful of novellas that I can turn to if I need a quick read.

Oh, and one other thing..... I probably won't post every hour so I can try to get as much reading done as possible. And I really doubt that I'll do any of the mini-challenges. I know how I am. I'll get started with something online, and spend time doing that instead of reading. But I will keep a running total of my progress throughout the day.

Here's what I've accomplished so far:

Title of book(s) read since last update: Diamond Place by Robin Lee Hatcher
Number of books read since you started: 1
Running total of pages read since you started: 67

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TV Thursday--Childhood Favorites

TV Thursday is a new meme for me hosted by Gofita's Pages. I came across this post this morning, and couldn't resist participating. :o)

Here's this week's question....

What were the TV shows that you just loved as a kid?

You'll probably think I'm crazy when I tell you that I didn't watch very many tv shows as a kid. Instead, I had a handful of movies that I just loved, and I would watch them over and over again. Seriously, I'm surprised I never wore out a tape (man, that sounds so weird saying "tape" instead of "dvd"). Anyway, in spite of that, there were a few tv shows that stuck with me.

1. Little House on the Prairie
I didn't get into this show until they started showing reruns on TBS. And no joke, it was a BIG DEAL when I got to watch this. You see, I grew up with no cable TV, but my grandmother had cable at her house. So, whenever I had a day with no school or was on summer vacation, I would spend some of those days with my grandmother. Little House on the Prairie always aired for 2 hours in the morning from 9:05 to 11:05 (how sad is it that I remember this?), and I always made it to her house just in time. Because I loved this show so much as a kid, I have managed to get all 10 seasons on DVD, and no way will I ever get rid of them! :o)

2. The Cosby Show
While I don't have a connection with this one like I do my first choice, I do remember watching this as a kid. Dad would occasionally pull up a chair and watch it with me. The only other thing that I remember was that it came on TV right after I got home from school....perfect timing. :o)

3. Saved by the Bell
I remember catching this only when I managed to wake up early enough on a Saturday morning. Oh, and remember my grandma's cable TV? When I got into junior high, they started showing the reruns of this on TBS. So, was a big deal all over again. :o) I remember it coming on about 4:05p to 5:05p, and my grandma would get so upset with me because she was missing the first five minutes of the news. (And back then, our local news used to come on for 1 hour at 5pm...they always repeated the top stories.) :o)

Those were my you have any?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Read-a-thon This Weekend

This weekend will be my first time participating in Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon, and let me just tell ya, I hope I can make it the whole 24 hours! I've only ever been awake that long maybe twice in my whole life, and the fact that I'll have to read/blog about reading the entire time is going to be a challenge. Oh, and let me also add that my start time is 7am!!!! AGH!!! I am SOOOOO not a morning person. Why can't the start time be 7pm? I'd do so much better with that, I think. :o)

Anyhooooo, I've got a few books that I know I want to read for the read-a-thon, and get the reviews written for them, too. Here's my initial list, but it may change:

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer
It's All About Us by Shelley Adina
Diamond Place by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hopefully, I can make it through this entire list if I go to the quietest part of the house. :o) I can best read when there is no noise, so I might want to grab a set of earplugs to ensure that. There will be some distractions in the house this weekend by way of DH hanging a new light fixture in the dining room as well as replacing our kitchen faucet. Yep, earplugs will definitely come in handy. :o)

A-Z Wednesday

A-Z Wednesday is hosted by Vicki at Reading at the Beach. The rules are pretty simple.....

1. Visit Reading at the Beach to get this week's letter.
2. Find a book on your shelf that starts with this week's letter.
3. Post the title, picture, description and link of the book on your blog.
4. Go back to Reading at the Beach to post a comment with a link to your post.

This week's letter is K, and from my bookshelf, I've decided to feature.....

Kissing Adrien by Siri Mitchell

About the book:

In this fresh and humorous tale, 29–year–old Claire agrees to supervise the renovation of the Paris apartment her parents have inherited. Ignoring her romantic surroundings, Claire is all–business and in a hurry to return to her job, home, and an “almost dating” relationship with Brian, an associate pastor.

When Adrien, a handsome and flirtatious friend of the family, agrees to help Claire, his spontaneity and joie de vie drives her crazy. But in time, even Claire cannot resist the City of Lights’ offerings, including the Rodin museum where the sculpture The Kiss raises the questions...who will be the love of her life? And will she ever learn to enjoy the life God has placed right in front of her.


Yet another one of the many books on my shelf that I need to read! I have read one of Siri's historical novels, but not one of her contemporary ones. The book description reminds me of a French book series I recently read--The French Twist series by Sandra Byrd (fabulous reading!).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Here are the rules:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week, my teaser comes from page 42 of Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh.

"At first look, the entryway appears as grand as ever with its far-flung walls and soaring ceiling. But at second look, it's tired like an old woman dressed in all her finery that, on closer inspection, reveals her shawl is pulled and yellowed, the folds of her skirt are rimmed with dust, and her slippers are worn."

Be watching in the coming weeks for a review of this very Southern book!

Monday, October 19, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour and Book Review: Love is a Battlefield by Annalisa Daughety

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:

Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)

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


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


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.

My thoughts:

If my preference in books was "sweet" stories, I probably would've enjoyed this book more. The story was just too structured, and the dialog was so very flat at times. Most of the characters had little to no depth, with Kristy, the main character, being a partial exception. Almost the entire story revolved around her and her recent wedding disaster of being left at the altar. Knowing good and well, though, that something is bound to happen between her and the main male character, Ace, I expected to see more depth to Ace's character, but was disappointed. His reason for working at Shiloh was to do research on his family history, but there's almost no mention of him doing it. Without giving anything away, I will only say that the final resolution with his research at the end of the story did not seem legit.

I did like the fact that the story was set in the Shiloh Military Park. After reading the author bio that she used to work at Shiloh, I expected more of her experience to show in the book. However, the way the park was described, it was nothing more than a place with monuments named after states and where a war was fought; very little additional info other than that was offered.

Someone who likes "light reads" will probably enjoy this book. For me, though, it just wasn't enough.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We Have a Winner!

We have a winner!

Renee (steelergirl83) has just won a brand new copy of Sandra Byrd's book, Pièce de Résistance! :o)

One little word of advice, Renee....this book is best enjoyed after reading the first two in the series. Oh, and you may want to visit a local bakery and pick up some pastries to eat while reading. You'll certainly get hungry!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Review: The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall

About 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 fiancé. 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?

My thoughts:

I had no idea that I would ever like an author's books this much. Ever since I read her first series (Sisters of the Quilt) earlier this year, I literally cannot wait to get my hands on her newest offering. Cindy's books have a way of touching me like few authors can. The characters she creates are so real and believable that I feel like I know them, and the circumstances those characters face provide lessons for everyone, even if you're not Amish.

While this was a much shorter story than her normal books, it was fascinating to read more about the business lifestyle of the Amish. Quite honestly, I was very surprised that two women were allowed to run a dry goods store in their local community, as well as Beth traveling to other small towns to do business. I also enjoyed that most of the storyline played out in the letters that were sent back and forth between Beth and Jonah. Even though this book could have just been a "sweet" story because it is so short, Cindy found a way to add depth to the story and give the reader something to think about.

Trust me, if you haven't hopped on the Amish bandwagon yet, you cannot go wrong if you start reading Cindy's books first. I've read several Amish stories by other authors, and Cindy Woodsmall is by far the best. Her books will keep you turning the pages well into the night, and you won't be able to stop reading until the book ends. For me now, it's just a matter of waiting for her next book....I am just not a patient person!

Many thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a copy of The Sound of Sleigh Bells to review!

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Furniture Part 2!

More new furniture....and the last of it for awhile (until my credit card recovers)! :o) While the old living room furniture needed to be replaced because of the overall "tiredness" factor, there is a legitimate reason for replacing the dining room furniture.

Here's why.... When we first moved to the house from our old apartment, we had a border collie during the move. Well, she got REALLY bored one day, and decided her next meal should be a table leg and a chair leg. After this little episode, she went to live with hubby's grandparents....couldn't deal with stuff like this on a regular basis and still keep my sanity. Fortunately, it was a perfect fit for them.

Here's the damage the dog did.... (Oh, and please ignore my dirty floor here. It got a good sweep and mop after it was hauled away.)

Here's a pic of the complete old dining room set:

And now, a picture of the new set:

You can't see it from this angle, but on the other side of the table, there is a bench that can seat 2 people. That was probably the single best feature about this table since we often have people over for games and such, and we're always scrounging up 2 extra chairs to put around the table. :o) Oh, and it's just in time for Thanksgiving which will be at my house again this year (yay!!).

But before Thanksgiving....we've got some painting to do, as well as tile the kitchen floor. I purposefully did not include the spot of vinyl on the floor that the dog (same one responsible for the other damage) decided to chew up one tile has been a long time coming.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour and Book Review: Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart

My thoughts:

I have really mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I thought Stretch Marks was a really trendy book, and had I not received a copy to review, I doubt I would've ever picked it up at a bookstore. It's not common to see a Christian fiction book with talk of yoga, PETA, and carbon footprints. On the other hand, the author tackled the subject of single motherhood, and I really applaud her for thinking outside the box and writing about a subject that is more common in Christian circles than most people like to admit. I did enjoy the Christian element in the book of bearing one another's burdens (taken from Galatians 6:2). I like what one character said in the book--it's the law of Christ, not a suggestion. With that said, this was not a preachy book; in fact, I'd consider the Christian aspects to be very mild. But out of what was there, some of the points were very hard-hitting, and definitely made me think twice. Overall, while this book isn't for everyone, there are a few out there that will love it in its entirety.

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)


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


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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chunkster Challenge Completed!

Hooray!!! Another challenge completed!!! (Sarcasm coming...) If I keep this up, I might actually read some books! LOL! :o)

Here's what I managed to read for this challenge:

1. The Book of God by Walter Warengin, Jr. (633 pages)--10/06/09
2. A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (480 pages)--5/13/09
3. A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman (480 pages)--5/20/09
4. A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman (480 pages)--5/27/09
5. Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall (451 pages)--6/13/09
6. The Justice Game by Randy Singer (494 pages)--7/12/09

I had initially only set a goal of three books, and I'm really proud that I doubled my original goal. Long books are just not easy for me; 300-page books are usually my average.

Now....on to finish another challenge.... :o)

Waiting on Wednesday: Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers set to release March, 2010.

(I REALLY can't wait for this one to come out!!!!)

About the book:

The first in an epic two-book saga by beloved author Francine Rivers, this sweeping story explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters over several generations. Near the turn of the 20th century, fiery Marta leaves Switzerland determined to find life on her own terms. Her journey takes her through Europe and finally lands her with children and husband in tow in the central valley of California. Marta’s experiences convince her that only the strong survive. Hildie, Marta’s oldest daughter, has a heart to serve others, and her calling as a nurse gives her independence, if not the respect of her mother. Amid the drama of WWII, Hildie marries and begins a family of her own. She wants her daughter never to doubt her love—but the challenges of life conspire against her vow. Each woman is forced to confront her faulty but well-meaning desire to help her daughter find her God-given place in the world.

CFRB Tour: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey

This month, CFRB presents If Only You Knew by Mags Storey.

About the Book:

Jo's summer is off to a good start when she meets Kevin, an amazingly attractive guy, and Sam, her soon- to-be best friend, on the same day. Now she only needs a job, future plans, and a few goals for her life. No big deal, right?

As if that’s not enough, Jo would like to know why no talks about the horrible accident she witnessed last summer. But as much as she wants to know the truth, someone else wants to keep it a secret. Can she handle creepy stalkers, death threats, and her crazy love life without losing control?

For Jo, unravelling the mystery and piecing her life together will mean discovering if God really listens – and if he cares enough to answer.

About the Author:

Mags Storey is a writer, editor, and journalist. Born in Canada, she spent her childhood living as a missionary in the Middle East before studying journalism at Ryerson in Toronto. She has written for various publications in the UK, USA and Canada, and is currently a correspondent with ChristianWeek. She now lives in Canada with her husband Mike and their two daughters. If Only You Knew is her debut novel.

Purchase If Only You Knew at
Barnes and Noble, Christianbook and Amazon.

Visit Mags's Website.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

A-Z Wednesday

A-Z Wednesday is hosted by Vicki at Reading at the Beach. The rules are pretty simple.....

1. Visit Reading at the Beach to get this week's letter.
2. Find a book on your shelf that starts with this week's letter.
3. Post the title, picture, description and link of the book on your blog.
4. Go back to Reading at the Beach to post a comment with a link to your post.

How easy is that! :o) This week's letter is I.

I've chosen to feature If I Gained the World by Linda Nichols.

About the book:

When the pain of loss shatters two people--one from the inside out and the other from the outside in--how do they find their way to faithfulness, grace, and love? Only over time and distance will they eventually discover that it is through turning to the One who is faithful, whose love never fails. Lenore and Daniel have a cozy home and a wonderful son, a mirror image of his father. Lenore loves her life and wants nothing to change--except for one thing. As innocent as it seems, her request is the beginning of the end, and their life together unravels. Lenore takes little Scottie and begins her quest for meaning, purpose, and a new start--as far away from those bittersweet memories as she can get.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Author Spotlight and Book Giveaway: Sandra Byrd

I am over the moon that I have the privilege to feature Sandra Byrd on my blog today. Let me tell ya, if you have not read Sandra's French Twist series, you are missing out on a real treat! We're going to be talking to Sandra today about her latest book, as well as a few other interesting things. Welcome, Sandra!

1. How did your journey as a writer begin?

When I was a kid I wanted three careers: to be a hair stylist, to be a waitress, and to be an author. After I mohawked my Barbie I knew I wasn’t cut out for the hairstylist career. I actually was a waitress in a Jewish deli when I was a teenager, and I worked for a caterer. Writing, however, was the real passion. And it stuck!

2. If you weren’t an author, what would your dream job be and why?

Caterer. I love to cook for people and entertain. Busy for dinner?

3. How much of your own personal experiences do you write into your books?

Each character is influenced by my own experience, and many if not most of the settings, likes, and dislikes. In this series, I’m a little bit in each of them, I think. In Lexi’s exuberance but also her self doubt, in Margot’s hurt heart, in Dan’s joy of life but also insecurities, in her Mom’s final resolution of faith. In Nonna’s pestiness!

4. Tell us about the featured book.

Having earned her chef’s hat, Lexi Stuart bids au revoir to her glamorous and deliciously satisfying pastry mentorship outside of Paris and returns to her hometown of Seattle, Washington. There, she finds life unexpectedly complicated.

She’s put in charge of a high-end catering bakery called Bijoux, which should be her dream job, but there’s a catch: She has to make this lavish bakery into a successful business in just a few, short months, which will require more than her ability to make an amazing wedding cake. Stir in a complicated relationship with her French beau Philippe and his daughter, Celine, then add a dash of romance with down-to-earth lawyer Dan, and life suddenly contains more ooh la la than Lexi can handle.

5. How did you get the idea for Lexi’s story?

I started out writing for teens and tweens, and as they grew up, they stayed in touch. Their new life concerns were something they wanted to see reflected in novels with characters they identified with and enjoyed. Et voila! French Twist.

6. I believe I saw some pictures recently on Facebook about your trip to France. What was the experience like for you, and how much of your time there made it into your books?

That was actually my second visit to France, the first being when I was a teenager. A great deal of my visits, and my study of French and France, shaped the books. The people, the set, the orientation toward life. France is a beautiful place with charming people, blessed beyond all measure actually. They are just empty, for the most part, when it comes to God.

7. It’s hard not to think about gaining weight after reading about all the yummy things that are cooked up in all 3 books! Is there a recipe in one of the French Twist books that’s your favorite?

For fall/winter: Boyfriend Bait Beef Stroganoff

For spring/summer: Seattle Nicoise

And, of course, all the pastries!

8. Since writing the French Twist series, do you have any future plans for any more adult novels?

Yes. I’m currently completing a teen/tween series, London Confidential. After that I am going to be writing a series of historical fiction set during the Tudor times, for adults. I can’t wait! Off to London…

9. What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your books?

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read so much, and I still do. I wanted to provide the same kind of enjoyment and pleasure for others that I got from reading. That still inspires me. I think about the people I write for, the troubles they face, the issues they care about. I also want to give them a good, fun, respite from the day and a faith booster shot. I hope my books incorporate layers that provide all of those things.

10. Where can readers find you on the web?

Sandra, thank you so much for spending time with us today. It’s been a real treat!

Thank you!

Sandra has been so gracious to giveaway a copy of her newest book. If you would like to be eligible to win a copy, please leave a comment with your email address like--user at yahoo dot com--so I can contact you if you win. If you don't leave your email address, you will not be entered in the giveaway. Contest will be open until 11:59 CST, Saturday, October 17th, and the winner announced on Sunday, October 18th.

You also have the opportunity to win additional entries by doing one or all of the following:

+1: Subscribe by email to my blog

+2: Grab my button code to put on your blog

+3: Become a follower of my blog or you're already a follower

Please leave ALL of your extra entries in one comment--so much easier for me to keep up with! :o)

Odds of winning are based upon the number of entrants. Contest open to U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited.

Monday, October 5, 2009

FIRST Wild Card Tour and Book Review: Pièce de Résistance by Sandra Byrd

My thoughts:

I loved this final book in the French Twist series, and am so sad that the series is over! Lexi Stuart is a person that you want to see succeed, not only with her job, but also with the right mate. I found myself going back and forth through this book, as well as book 2 (Bon Appetit), on who I wanted her to end up with. I won't spoil it for you, but I can definitely say that Lexi made the right choice!

On top of the dating issues, Lexi also has the responsibility of opening a new bakery back in her home town of Seattle. And bless her heart, that is not an easy task! Through it all, her intentions are right in line, but roadblocks are right there with her, too. So, she goes right to the source to get the strength she needs....the Word of God. The book of Philippians was the perfect parallel to Lexi's story, and provided the perfect guidance that she needed for this chapter in her life.

If you have never heard of Sandra Byrd, then, you are missing out on a real treat! She's mostly known as a YA author, but branched out with adult books with the French Twist Series, with Pièce de Résistance as the 3rd and final book. Her books have just the right mix of fun, romance, and faith. Oh, and just reading about the pastries in all three books will make your mouth water!

Be on the lookout for an interview and giveaway that I'll be having with Sandra tomorrow!

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:

WaterBrook Press (September 15, 2009)


Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author of books for adults, teens, and children. Her notable series include the Friends for a Season series, the Secret Sisters series and the French Twist series, which includes the first two Lexi Stuart novels, the Christy Finalist Let them Eat Cake and its sequel, Bon Appetit. A regular contributor to newspapers and magazines, Sandra lives in Washington state with her husband and two children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073294
ISBN-13: 978-1400073290


Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask.

Everything you want also wants you.

But you have to take action to get it.

Jules Renard

If I had known exactly where and in what kind of trouble I was about to land, I’d have stayed in Paris.

“Come on, dear.” A wizened woman dragged a shuffling friend past me and down the long carpeted hallway. “We don’t want to get in the way of Rosa’s granddaughter, even if she’s sitting on our couch.” She threw a dirty look over her shoulder.

I started to stand up and get out of her way, but she disdainfully waved me back into my seat.

“WHO?” her friend shouted as I sank back down.

“ROSA’S GRANDDAUGHTER. She’s sprawling on our couch.” I flinched at the vocal hurricane, but no one else seemed to notice. Or maybe they just couldn’t hear it.

For the time being, I was crashing at the guest apartment at my nonna’s retirement community. Where else could I get in on such short notice? It was twenty dollars a night, and only for a week or so…I hoped. “Well, they do have a lot of singles,” I’d told my best friend, Tanya, as she laughed at the news. “And they do love what’s left of life.”

“I think it’s cute,” she’d said. “You can get a personalized pill container and swap horrible doctor stories.”

“Ha ha,” I’d answered. “Be careful, or I’ll hold your bridal shower there on bingo night.”

I’d stayed with my parents on Whidbey Island for the two weeks since I’d been home from France. Yesterday they’d dropped me and my gear off at the retirement community, though most of my stuff was still in storage awaiting my “real” apartment. And now I sat in the common room, not realizing I’d poached what someone considered her personal couch, waiting for the afternoon bus to take me to my new job.

I checked my watch again. To pass the time, I thumbed through the Gideon’s Bible sitting on the side table, flipping by chance to the first chapter of Philippians and scanning the extra large print until my eye caught something that hooked into my heart.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and

more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be

able to discern what is best.

Oh yeah, I thought. Bring on the discernment. I was starting a new job—the job I’d been hoping for all my life and at which I desperately wanted to succeed. And I found myself embroiled in a romantic crisis where I not only didn’t hold all the cards, but the men involved had turned surprisingly poker-faced about their intentions.

Lost in thought, it took me a minute to realize that a kindly looking man had sat down next to me. He tried valiantly, but unsuccessfully, to clear the phlegm from his throat. I scooted over to both accommodate him and to offer us some personal space. He kept looking at me, but as soon as I looked back at him, he glanced away.

Finally he spoke. “Who are you?” he asked quietly. “And what are you doing here?”

That was indeed the question, and not only for my current living situation. I wished I had an answer.

Nonna breezed in through the lobby, snapping her mauve umbrella shut with a force that belied her age. She kissed the cheek of her companion, Stanley Jones, who tottered off to his own apartment, then came to get me.

“Lexi, love,” she said. “I’m glad I got here in time to see you off. Let’s wait by the door. The bus will be here soon.” On the way through the foyer, she whispered, “I thought I’d mentioned, dear—don’t sit on any upholstered furniture in the common areas. When you get to be my age, many of us have incontinence problems.”

Shocked, I reached around and felt my backside, not caring who saw me. Whew. Dry.

Nonna giggled at my distress, taking everything about aging in stride, as she always did, and looped her arm through mine. “I’m glad you’re home.”

I grinned back at her. “Me too, Nonna.”

“Why can’t one of those nice young men drive you to work today?” she asked.

“I don’t want to ask them. It’s…awkward. I’m not sure where I’m going with either of them right now, and they both have their own jobs.”

“Seems to me a man who likes a woman would offer her a ride,” Nonna sniffed.

“I’m sure plenty of men hitched up their buggies and took you to work back in the day,” I teased.

She grinned wickedly and leaned over to kiss my cheek. “So tell me about the Frenchman.”

“His name is Philippe. He’s really nice, a great baker, and has the most adorable daughter named Céline. He’s taking Luc’s place, the one who moved back to France.”

“He’s one of the owners of the bakery?” she asked, checking creds, as always.

“Yes, Nonna,” I said. “He’s an owner. He’s Luc’s cousin, and the whole family owns all the bakeries.”

“What about that lawyer you were seeing before you went to Paris?”

“Dan?” I kept my voice even.


“He’s…here still. Of course. I just talked with him a few days ago. It was his suggestion, actually, for the Delacroix Company to lease the space I’ll be working in. The new bakery.”

“That was nice of him. Who’s the better looking of the two?”

“I’m glad to see your values haven’t changed!” I said, but com- pared them in my mind anyway. Philippe was definitely good looking in a continental way, dark blond hair that just touched his shoulders, a bit taller than me. Dan was built bigger, taller, with broad shoulders I loved to see set off by suspenders. His strawberry blond hair perfectly matched his lightly tanned complexion.

“You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?” Nonna poked me out of my daydream. “Gotcha!”

She laughed, and I laughed with her as the rain slid down the outside of the window, my hometown Seattle lights blinking away in the drops. “Thanks for seeing me off today. I won’t be long. Just meeting Margot and getting a quick run-through.”

“Of course I’m seeing you off ! Everyone is jealous that my granddaughter is here. I need to brag.”

I saw the bus rounding the corner about a half mile down the road. Nonna saw it too.

“Go get ’em,” she said. “And bring something home from the bakery. Anything with fruits and nuts will be right at home in this place.” She grinned, but I knew she loved her home and her friends.

I walked out the door and started toward the covered bus stop. Not a moment later, though, a motorcycle pulled up and parked in front of the retirement center door a few feet away. Even with the helmet on, I recognized him immediately.


What is he doing here? Quickly followed by, He looks good!

“Good afternoon, mademoiselle.” He hopped off the bike and walked toward me, holding out a helmet. “As your employer, it’s my responsibility to get you to work on your first day at the new job, n’est-ce pas? And I was eager to see you again. Sophie told me where to find you and what bus you were likely to take.”

“Oh, thank you,” I said. I introduced him to Nonna, who’d come running out as soon as she’d seen me talking with a guy. “This is my grandmother, Rosa. Nonna, this is my…friend, Philippe.”

“Enchanté.” Philippe kissed her hand.

“Enchantée,” Nonna responded, pulling back her shoulders and making sure the gathering crowd, their noses pressed against the retirement center’s front windows, witnessed the exchange.

As I got on the back of the bike, I said, “I had no idea you had a motorcycle here. Do you also have a car?”

“Oui,” he said, “I do. Luc left his car for me, and I gave him mine in France. But I thought a motorcycle would be fun too.”

He sped up a little, and as he turned the corner out of the retirement center’s curved driveway, I recognized the truck pulling in.


I’d told him I’d be staying with Nonna and had planned to take the bus.

I caught his eye, and he caught mine, and I saw the bouquet of flowers carefully propped in the passenger seat. I had no time to wave before Philippe accelerated and we sped off.

I turned my head and squeezed my eyes shut to avoid seeing Dan’s reaction. Nonna would explain it to him.

Nonna was liable to say anything.

A few minutes later, Philippe pulled the bike up in front of a long, black marble-fronted building in the Fremont district.

“Eh voilà!” he said, parking and then holding a hand out to me. “This is it. Do you like it?”

I took his hand, got off the back of the bike, and looked at the building. There were already two gold fleurs-de-lis over the front door, with the gold-lettered word Bijoux—meaning “jewels,” the name of the bakery—centered over the door. Otherwise, it was a blank slate.

“It’s beautiful!” I walked to the huge picture windows and looked in. The room was mostly empty, holding only a jumble of boxes and supplies, and some tarps left over from a recent paint job. But what lines, what bones. What this place could be!

“I can’t believe I never noticed this building before,” I said. “It’s perfectly perfect.”

Philippe laughed. “It’s been recently restored. That’s one of the reasons Luc was drawn to it…until he found out it couldn’t be used for a restaurant. But, ooh la la, what a bakery, n’est-ce pas? Après toi, mademoiselle,” he said, holding the front door open for me.

I expected to be greeted by the chic calm the exterior promised. Instead, I was blasted by a streak of blue French from the kitchen.

“Margot?” I asked in a small voice.

Philippe grimaced. “Oui. La Margot.”

Philippe’s sister Margot was the one downside to this dream job. Since she was a great baker and a member of the family, she didn’t worry that her attitude might lose her a job. She didn’t bother to sweeten it either.

“Bonjour,” Philippe called in what I recognized as his fake singsong voice. I felt torn between my desire to see my new kitchen and my desire to flee at once. Philippe decided for me, pushing me forward.

“C’est Lexi,” he introduced me to Margot.

“Nice to see you again,” I said in English. It was the polite thing to say, even if I didn’t mean it. She ignored me.

“I’m glad we’ll be working together,” I tried in French, an even graver lie. She didn’t return the favor or grasp my hand, but she grunted. French it was, then.

“Alors.” Philippe led the way toward the back of the kitchen. “This part,” he indicated with his hand, “will be mostly for pastries, which Margot will do. She’ll be here part time and at the other bakeries part time too.” He smiled widely and indicated the largest part of the kitchen. “And this will be for the cakes and catering. That’s you!”

I looked at my part of the kitchen. Marble and stainless counters, and lots of tall glass-fronted cabinets for ingredients. A pair of gleaming industrial mixers. Drawers full of equipment, but not in the easiest-to-reach places. I didn’t know who placed some of the utensils and tools. Maybe the guys who’d brought equipment over from the other bakeries.

“It’s everything I could want,” I said. And it was. My own kitchen. Tiny though it was, it was mine.

Philippe opened an armoire. “Here’s where you’ll store the paperwork and computer, and the phone even fits in there. Will this be enough space for the accounting books?”

I blinked and answered, “I guess so.” He’d be a better judge of that than I would.

Margot slammed a drawer, and when I turned around, I saw her grab her cigarettes and a lighter from the countertop. I wrinkled my nose. They should at least be hidden. As she headed out back, Philippe followed her. “Un moment,” he said, winking.

While they were gone, I turned the radio to a warm, low-key favorites station and began rearranging my work drawers. After ten minutes, I had them just so. I also rearranged my countertops and cake decorating materials so it made sense to me.

When Margot and Philippe came back in, I asked him, “How will the front be decorated? Will there be furniture arriving?”

He took my arm, and we headed to the big front room. I could already envision engaged couples choosing their cakes in a chic, refined, leather-furnished room.

“Hmm,” Philippe said. “I hadn’t thought too much on that topic. I am so busy at L’Esperance…” He shrugged, and I knew the burden of taking over their biggest US bakery. “Would you like to do it?”

“Would I?” I grinned. “I would!” I pictured deep blue drapes framing the windows and subtle gold cording. I’d make an appointment for a window etcher to etch the company name in gold on the glass, just like the Delacroix bakery in Versailles.

It was going to look fantastique.

When we got back to the kitchen, my countertops had been completely rearranged back to the previous nonsensical order. Margot’s back was turned toward me, and she quietly hummed along with the radio—not the station I’d turned on. I looked through my utensil drawers. All returned to the way they’d been before I’d fixed them moments ago. I looked at Philippe. He shrugged. I determined not to escalate things and left everything where it stood—for the moment.

“Lexi?” His voice softened. “I have a few questions about some things for Céline…”

“Oh, yes, when is she coming?” I asked, delighted at the prospect of hugging that sweet little bonbon again.

“She’s at her grandparents’ in London but will be here in a few days,” he said. “I’ve signed her up for the French-American school, but there are some other things…” He opened his briefcase and held out a folder. “Do you know a good doctor? a good dentist? And many other questions I need your help with.”

I found it endearing to see him a little vulnerable for once; he was always so in charge. It made him even more appealing.

“Of course I can help you.”

He smiled. “Perhaps we can talk about it at dinner tonight? Incredibly, I have found a quiet little bistro…”

He must have caught the look on my face, because he stopped mid sentence.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve got dinner plans tonight.”

“Ah well.” He shrugged, but looked a little forlorn. “Perhaps another time.”

“Certainly,” I said. “Anytime this week. Stop by for lunch or let me know when it’s convenient.”

With that, he handed me a key and took his leave, and Margot left too. I locked the doors behind them and then sat on one of the bar stools next to the counter. I looked around.

It was all mine, my kitchen. Well, and Margot’s too. But I was no one’s assistant anymore. I was a chef.

I checked my watch, saw I had fifteen minutes to get to the restaurant where I’d agreed to meet Dan for dinner, and went to brush my hair. On the way out of Bijoux, before turning the lights out in the kitchen, I did two things.

I put Margot’s cigarettes and lighters into a drawer near her work station, and I turned the radio station back to the one I liked.

As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I saw him at a corner table. My eye caught his, and then my breath caught too. Dan was a good looking man in any pose, but when he smiled, he was downright divine. Though he’d picked me up at the airport and taken me to my parents’ house when I first got home from France, I hadn’t seen him since.

“The world traveler has returned,” he said, standing to pull my chair out and then scoot me back to the table.

“Do you mean from my travels in Paris or the urban oasis of Whidbey Island?” I grinned.

“Both.” He held out a bottle and a glass. “Wine?”

I nodded, and as the waiter came to take our order, we shared the last few weeks’ happenings, culminating in my announcement that I had been to Bijoux that day.

He nodded. “I left work early to come pick you up, but I arrived just a little too late.”

I knew he would bring that up. I knew it. And yet, we weren’t at the exclusive dating level yet, as far as I understood, so I didn’t have to explain myself to him, right? “Philippe thought it would be good to take me to work on my first day,” I said as casually as I could. “And he had the keys.”

Dan nodded and showed absolutely no emotion. Lawyer’s training, I supposed. A minute later, he loosened up again and asked about the kitchen and the countertops and what kind of oven it had—things nearly no non-baker would think to ask.

“Why are you interested in the ovens?” I teased.

“Because you are,” he said simply and without guile. And that was even more appealing than the dreamy smile.

I asked about his job too, and he regaled me with his latest case, somehow making the law funny, something my brother was never able to do. Then his phone rang.

He looked mortified. “I’m so sorry. I thought I turned it off. It’s new.” He took it from his pocket and fumbled for a minute to locate the Ignore button. Before the backlight went off, I saw the caller ID.


I met his eye and he looked away, and then the waiter brought our salads. While he ground some pepper for Dan, I reminded myself, You’re not at the exclusive dating level yet, as far as he understands, so he doesn’t have to explain himself to you, right?