Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: No Place for a Lady by Maggie Brendan


About the book:

Crystal Clark arrives in Colorado's Yampa Valley amid the splendor of a high country June in 1892. After the death of her father, Crystal is relieved to be leaving the troubles of her Georgia life behind to visit her aunt Kate's cattle ranch. Despite being raised as a proper Southern belle, Crystal is determined to hold her own in this wild land--even if a certain handsome foreman doubts her abilities. Just when she thinks she's getting a handle on the constant male attention from the cowhands and the catty barbs from some of the local young women, tragedy strikes the ranch. Crystal will have to tap all of her resolve to save the ranch from a greedy neighboring landowner. Can she rise to the challenge? Or will she head back to Georgia defeated?

Book one in the Heart of the West series, No Place for a Lady is full of adventure, romance, and the indomitable human spirit. Readers will fall in love with the Colorado setting and the spunky Southern belle who wants to claim it as her own.

My thoughts:

Overall, I really enjoyed Maggie Brendan's debut novel. It had a fresh quality about it that just pulled me in. I loved the descriptive language of the west, although there were a few times I wondered whether some words were even used during that time. Having nothing to go by for the time period, I just chalked it up to "I need to use my imagination." :o)

The romance in the book was dead on, so much that I got a little flutter in my chest when a kiss or the touch of a hand happened a little unexpectedly. I loved that the author told both sides of the romance story between Crystal and Luke, which is not the norm since most romances only tell the female's side of the story. Poor Luke had himself in a pretty good pickle for awhile there, and I was a little worried that he might handle things all wrong. He came through in just the right way, though, thanks a little bit to Crystal's discovery at the end of the book.

There was one thing that bothered me in the book, and I feel it's only fair to include the good with the bad in this review. This might even be considered a *SPOILER*, so you may want to stop reading here.

What bothered me was all the loss of family and friends that Crystal had to go through. In all likelihood, that probably could and has happened in real life, but I didn't enjoy reading about the deaths of several loved ones. The book starts with death--it's the reason Crystal moved from Georgia to Colorado to live with her aunt--and then about every 100 pages, another death happens. While the first one really propels the rest of the story, the other two that occur almost seemed unnecessary.

In spite of that one issue, this really was a delightful read. Western romances seem to be gaining a little bit of popularity in the Christian fiction genre, and this one is a great addition. I very much want to read Maggie's next book in the series, The Jewel of His Heart.

4 Stars

**This book was provided for me to judge for the 2010 Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest.


**Click here to purchase a copy of No Place for a Lady.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper


About the book:

Beloved author Gayle Roper begins a contemporary Amish series readers are sure to love....


Englischer Kristie Matthews’ move to an Amish family farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, starts on a bad note as the young schoolteacher is bitten by a dog. A trip to the local ER leads to an encounter with an old man who hands her a key and swears her to silence.

But when Kristie’s life is endangered, she suspects there’s a connection to the mysterious key. While solving the mystery (and staying alive), Kristie must decide whether her lawyer boyfriend, Todd Reasoner, is really right for her....or if Jon Clarke Griffin, the new local man she’s met, is all he seems to be.

Mystery, romance, and a beautiful Amish settling....just the thing readers are clamoring for.

My thoughts:

Sometimes, it just stinks when I have to be totally honest. Not that I'm not honest with all my reviews, but I really hate it when I come across a book that I just really didn't like.

Well, first of all, it appears that this book was a rewrite from an older book that Ms. Roper wrote called The Key. Now I don't mind rewritten books, and I have read several that were done successfully, but I think the approach with this one went all wrong. When it was originally published as The Key, it was marketed simply as a romance novel for the Palisades line of romances. Romance novel....great idea! But honestly, this book is so lacking with romance. This poor girl doesn't really like the guy she's with, and when she does find a guy that she likes, the scenes that they share are somewhat dull up until the very end.

So, I guess since the romance novel marketing strategy didn't pan out, someone came up with the idea to market it as an Amish novel. Um.....no. How Kristie came to live with these people was a little unrealistic, although I've read about this same practice in a few other Amish novels, but written much better. The way in which Kristie met this Amish family and boarded there was just not explained well enough, and it seemed that as a reader, I was just thrown into her experience at an Amish farm. The good thing, though, is that this book does have a lot of Amish info in it, and especially the differences between what the Amish believe compared to what Christians believe regarding the Bible. On that point, the author truly did a great job.

Honestly, I don't know that I'll even read the rest of this series in the new format. I have book two, which was originally published as The Document, that I think I'd rather read as the original instead of the rewrite. Can't believe I'm saying this, but I hope it will be a little heavier on the romance instead of the Amish culture.

3 Stars

**This book was provided to me from the publisher. It was sent to me for the FIRST Wild Card Tour, and that post, along with the first chapter of the book, is here.

**Click here to purchase a copy of A Stranger's Wish.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CFBA Tour: The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



The Anonymous Bride
 
Barbour Publishing, Inc. (April 1, 2010)



by
 
Vickie McDonough

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning author Vickie McDonough believes God is the ultimate designer of romance. She loves writing stories where the characters find their true love and grow in their faith.

Vickie has had 18 books published. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently serving as ACFW treasurer. Vickie has also been a book reviewer for nine years.

She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four sons, and grandmother to a feisty four-year-old girl. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and traveling.

ABOUT THE BOOK

How many brides does one man need?

It's been years, but Luke Davis is back--older and wiser--and still alone. Returning as Lookout's new town marshal, Luke is determined to face the past and move on. He flippantly tells his cousin he'd get married if the right woman ever came along. But then he discovers that the woman who betrayed him is now a widow, and all his plans fall at his feet.

Rachel has carried her guilty shame for eleven years. Her marriage to James Hamilton was not what Luke or the town thought it to be. Now James is dead, and her long-time love for Luke is reignited with his return to town. So when three mail-order brides appear, she panics.

Could they possible find love a second time?

Rachel begs his forgiveness, but Luke finds he has none to give.

And then the brides arrive. Three of them--ordered for Luke through newspaper ads by his incorrigible cousins. The only place in town for them to stay is Rachel's boardinghouse. And none of the ladies is willing to let Luke go. When choosing a bride becomes a contest, the chaos that ensues is almost funny.

When the mayor forces Luke to pick a bride or lose his job, will Luke listen to his heart that still longs for Rachel or choose one of the mail-order brides?

Will Rachel find the courage to tell Luke that she loves him? Or take an anonymous part in the contest for his hand?

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Anonymous Bride, go HERE.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review and Bonus Interview: Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

About the book:

From the beloved, best-selling author of Redeeming Love comes a powerful epic that spans continents and generations in an unforgettable story about family and faith, dreams and disappointments, and ultimately the resilience and tenacity of love.

Best-selling author Francine Rivers pens a sweeping and lyrical two-book saga that explores the depths of grace and forgiveness in one of life’s fiercest bonds—the love between mother and daughter.
Near the turn of the twentieth century, fiery Marta Schneider is torn between her father’s declaration that she’ll never be more than a servant and her mother’s encouragement to chase her dreams. Determined to fulfill her mother’s hope, Marta leaves home for a better life. Young and alone, she earns her way with a series of housekeeping and cooking jobs that bring her ever closer to her dream of owning an inn.

Heartbreaking news from home strengthens Marta’s resolve as she moves to England and eventually to Canada. There, she meets handsome Niclas Waltert, a man just as committed as she to forging a better life in a new place. But nothing has prepared her for the sacrifices she must make for marriage and motherhood as she travels first to the Canadian wilderness and finally to the dusty Central Valley of California to raise her family.

Marta’s hope is to give her children a better life, but experience has taught her that only the strong survive. Her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, who craves her mother’s acceptance. Amid the drama of World War II, Hildie falls in love and begins a family of her own. But unexpected and tragic events force mother and daughter to face their own shortcomings and the ever-widening chasm that threatens to separate them forever.



My thoughts:

Finally, the wait is over! Francine Rivers has a new, full-length, fabulous novel, and it has been worth every day I've had to wait for it! And no joke...I read it in 24 hours. It was that good!

Francine creates some of the most memorable characters in her books, and out of all the Christian fiction authors I read, her characters and their stories stay with me more than anyone else's. In Her Mother's Hope, it felt like I was reading about real people because they faced genuine problems, and sometimes, didn't always handle them the way that they should have. Marta, for instance, truly despised her father, and at first, didn't believe her mother when she said that she (Marta) and her father were more alike than she realized. As Marta grew older, it became more evident that she had indeed picked up a few of her father's traits, and not all of them were good. Unfortunately, some of these bad traits molded her into the type of mother that she did not want to be, especially to her second child, Hildemara.

Another thing I love about this book (as well as what's to come in book 2) is that they're going to cover entire lifetimes, and not just a few months or years, or one point in history. The book began in early 1900, and ended with the Japan bombings of World War 2. Books that cover so much history like this one does just adds so much to an overall reading experience, in my opinion. Like I said earlier...it only took me 24 hours to read this one. I don't mind reading another 24 more of the rest of this story!

As much of a fan as I am of her first book, Redeeming Love, I have to say that this one comes a very close second, if not a tie, for my favorite Francine Rivers novel. But oh, how I wish that I didn't have to wait 6 months before I can complete this saga! By far, this is my favorite book of 2010!

5 Stars!!

Bonus info straight from the author!!

Tell us about your current work.
I have just completed the second in a set of two books about mother-daughter relationship over four generations. This was intended to be one long novel dealing with the different ways generations have lived out their faith – but became so long it needed to be divided. Her Mother’s Hope will be released March 16, 2010. Her Daughter’s Dream will follow in September. There are numerous family and personal details woven into both books and I plan to share those things on my blog.

Which is your favorite book of those you’ve written?
My favorite book is Redeeming Love. It was my first as a born-again Christian, my statement of faith, and the most exciting year I’ve spent writing anything. I felt God’s presence throughout the months of work, as though He were telling me His story through thousands of Scriptures as well as explaining the inner heart-ache and quest of each “my” characters.
Which book was the hardest to write and why?
The Atonement Child was the most personal and difficult to write because I had to face my own abortion experience. Added to the considerable research I did, and women who shared their experiences with me, I went through an intensive post-traumatic stress Bible study for post-abortive women at our local pregnancy counseling center. Reliving all aspects of my abortion decision and experience was excruciating – but healing. After twenty-six years of being imprisoned by guilt and shame, I was free through the power and love of God. Though the book was the most heart-wrenching to write, it also proved to be the most life changing. I’ve received countless letters from other post-abortive women and have learned my experience is not unique. Our nation is filled with wounded men and women. The character of Hannah is based on my story, Doug is based on Rick’s, and Evie is based on my mother’s.

**PLEASE NOTE: A complimentary copy of this book was provided to the me as a blog tour host by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.

**Click here to purchase a copy of Her Mother's Hope.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Have a Confession to Make....

I have a confession to make, and before you go thinking it's something really weird, be assured...you want to know what it is. :o)


First, let me say that I've gotten very backed up with book reviews. Hopefully, that will be resolved here in a few weeks when everything settles down. So, here's a big apology for the delay to authors/publishers that are waiting for the reviews to pop up...trust me, they're on the way!


Okay, now for my confession. Recently, I have discovered this thing called extreme couponing. Now, seriously, I had no idea it was such a HUGE thing!!! There are sooooo many websites devoted to this, and countless blogs that post updates and freebies/coupons 10-15 times a day. I have,.....um.....gotten a little addicted. (There, I've said it.) I truly had no idea how profitable this could be! I don't have all my recent savings tabulated yet (I'm waiting until the end of the month), but I'm at an average savings right now of 50% thanks to all the tips and tricks that I've learned just in the past week!


In the past, I've clipped a few coupons here and there, but I never really saw any kind of huge impact, and didn't look harder to find out how people were saving money with them. Now, I know! It's all about pairing your coupons with existing store sales. Oh, and a store that doubles coupons helps a lot, too!


Here are some of the sites I've been to in the past couple of weeks:


http://moneysavingmom.com/
http://www.thethriftymama.com/
http://www.commonsensewithmoney.com/
http://www.pocketyourdollars.com/
http://www.southernsavers.com/
http://www.livingrichwithcoupons.com/

Trust me, that's only a handful of what's out there!


In addition to those, there are also a few coupon sites where you can print coupons right off your computer. Here's a list of those:


http://www.redplum.com/
http://www.smartsource.com/
http://www.coupons.com/

I won't even attempt to go into the greatness that is Walgreen's, but will instead, let you discover it for yourself here.

So....a little break away from what I normally post about on here, but I just couldn't keep it to myself! No joke, it's a lot of fun, especially when you see what you can save at the store. :o) Now, I'm trying to get the rest of my family on the bandwagon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper

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:

Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to David P. Bartlett - Print & Internet Publicist - Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Gayle Roper is the award-winning author of more than forty books and has been a Christy finalist three times. Gayle enjoys speaking at women’s events across the nation and loves sharing the powerful truths of Scripture with humor and practicality. She lives with her husband in southeastern Pennsylvania where Gayle enjoys reading, gardening, and her family.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736925864
ISBN-13: 978-0736925860

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



By the time Jon Clarke What’s-his-name drove me to the hospital, my terrible inner trembling had stopped. My hands were still cold, and the towel pressed to my cheek was still sopping up blood, but I was almost in control again. If I could only stop shaking, I’d be fine.

I’d been so sure I’d lost my face. My stomach still curdled at the memory. All I’d done was bend down to pet Hawk, the sable-and-tan German shepherd sleeping contentedly in the mid-August sun. How was I to know he had a nasty cut hiding under that sleek hot fur?

I was horrified when he lashed out, startled by the pain I had inadvertently caused him. He got me in the cheek with a fang, but despite the blood, the wound was mostly superficial. The thought of what would have happened if he’d closed his mouth made me break out in a fine sweat.

How dumb to touch a sleeping dog. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I knew better. Everyone knew better.

As we entered the emergency room, I rearranged my towel to find an area not stained with blood. I went to the desk and signed in with a woman whose jet black hair stuck out in spikes to rival a hedgehog. When she had my life’s history, she patted my paperwork with a proprietary air that made me wonder if she was willing to share the information with the people I’d come to see.

“Have a seat.” She gave me a warm smile. “They’ll be with you shortly.”

Hoping shortly really meant shortly, I took my seat.

“You don’t have to wait,” I told Jon Clarke as he took the bright orange plastic chair beside me in the otherwise empty emergency room. He smiled slightly and stretched his long legs out before him, the picture of long-suffering
and quiet accommodation. His posture said it didn’t matter how long things took. He was prepared to be gallant and wait it out.

“Really,” I said. “I’ll be all right. You can go.”

I was embarrassed to have inflicted myself upon this man I didn’t know, this man whose last name I couldn’t even remember. He’d pulled into the drive at the Zooks’ Amish farm just as I bent over Hawk. While Mary Zook plied me with towels and bemoaned my possible disfigurement when she wasn’t yelling at the innocent Hawk, John Clarke Whoever climbed out of his car, took me by the elbow, put me in his passenger seat, and drove me here.

What would I have done if he hadn’t come along at just the right moment? Gone to the hospital in a buggy? Certainly that wouldn’t have worked if I’d had a life-threatening injury. I guess if that were the case, someone would run to the phone down on the road and dial 911 or run to a neighbor with a car. Hmm. Peace and serenity of the Amish variety had a definite downside.

Jon Clarke smiled at me now, looking comfortable in his very uncomfortable chair. “Of course I’ll wait for you. I’d never run out on a lady in distress. Besides, you need a way home.”

“I could call a cab.”

“Bird-in-Hand is too far from Lancaster for that. It would cost a fortune.” He smiled at me again, politely patient.

“It’s only fifteen minutes max.”

“That’s a lot when the fare indicator goes ca-ching, ca-ching. It’s better if I just wait.”

I gritted my teeth. Just what I needed, a shining knight when I was in no condition to play the lady. I smiled ungraciously and winced.

“Hurt much?”

Of course it hurt. What did he think? “The strange thing is that my tongue can push into the wound from the inside of my mouth. Only a thin piece of skin on my inner cheek keeps the puncture from going all the way through.” I pushed against my cheek with my tongue. It was a creepy sensation to feel the hole, but I couldn’t resist the need to fiddle.

He looked suitably impressed and apparently decided to keep talking to distract me from my pain and injury. I must say he shouldered the burden with stoic determination and great charm.

“Have you lived in the Lancaster area long?” he asked, and I could have sworn he actually cared.

“Three years. I love it here.”

“Were you at the Zooks’ to visit Jake too?”

Too. So he had come to see Jake. I shook my head. “I live there.”

That stopped him. “Really? On the farm?” He raised an eyebrow at me, an improbably dark eyebrow considering the light brown of his hair. “Have you been living there long?”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. “About four hours.”

The eyebrow rose once again. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Great beginning, isn’t it? Todd spent the morning and early afternoon helping me move, and he’d just left. I was on my way into the house when I stopped to pet Hawk.” I sighed. “They’ll probably decide I’m too much trouble to have around.”

I pulled the towel from my cheek and studied the bloody patterns on the white terry cloth. They looked like abstract art. I was an artist myself, but I never painted compositions like these. I liked more realism—which meant my work would probably never hang in important galleries.

Uptight and unimaginative, according to certain professors and fellow students from my college days. “Flex,” they said. “Soar! Paint where your spirit leads.”

I flexed and soared with the best of them, but the finished work still looked like what it was.

I refolded the towel, burying the modern art, reapplied a clean area, and pressed.

“Who’s Todd?” Jon Clarke asked.

I shrugged. Good question. “Todd Reasoner. A friend.”

“Ah.”

Would that Todd were as easily explained as the conclusion Jon Clarke had apparently leaped to.

“Don’t do that,” Jon Clarke said.

I blinked. “Do what?”

“Don’t push against your cheek like that.”

I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.

“What if that thin piece of skin ruptures? Scarring. Infection. MRSA. Who knows?”

I frowned. Talk about Worst Case Scenario Man. I wanted to tell him I’d play with the inside of my cheek if I felt like it, but he was probably right about all the dire possibilities. I didn’t want to rupture that thin membrane so delicately protecting the inside of my mouth. And I certainly didn’t want to do anything to encourage the possibility of scarring. I looked in the mirror enough to know my face didn’t need that kind of help.

“Not many people get to stay on an Amish farm.” He paused. “Because of their closed society,” he added as if I wouldn’t understand his point. “You’re very fortunate to get the opportunity.”

“I know. I consider this chance a gift straight from God. One day my principal mentioned that he had Amish friends who were willing to take in a boarder. I got the Zooks’ name and contacted them immediately.”

I didn’t tell him that when I first went to the farm, I wore one of my conservative suits, a gift from my parents when they were still hoping to quell my tendency toward bright colors and what they considered the instability of the art community, not that they actually knew any artists but me.

“If you’re too artsy, Kristina,” they said almost daily, as if being “artsy” was the equivalent of having a single digit IQ, “people won’t take you seriously.”

What they meant was that their people, all high-powered corporate lawyers who earned high six figures or even seven annually, wouldn’t take me seriously. They were a group that had no time for business casual, let alone colorful artsy.

On that first visit to the Zooks, I hadn’t been certain what cultural landmines I’d have to navigate, so I determined to at least defuse the clothing issue, the one I knew about and could somewhat mitigate. I’d straightened my navy lapels and smoothed my cream silk blouse before I got out of the car, another cultural difference that I wasn’t willing to yield on, not if I wanted to get to work.

To my delight, I found Mary and John Zook gracious, respectful, and kind. Mary sat there in her pinned-together dress and dark stockings, her organdy kapp crisp in spite of the humidity. John wore a white shirt and black broadfall trousers. His beard was full with only a hint of gray, and his straw hat hung on a peg by the door. They might demand the simple life of themselves and their family, but it was immediately obvious they would not demand the same of me.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I had more freedom to be myself here in the midst of this highly structured society than in my own parents’ home?

“Your principal?” Jon Clarke asked from his seat beside me. “You teach?”

I nodded. “Elementary art.”

“When I first pulled into the drive, I thought you must be Jake’s visiting nurse.”

“Not me. I’d be a terrible nurse.”

“But a good teacher.”

“Adequate, anyway. And I get the summers off to study and paint. How do you know the Zooks?”

“I’ve known them forever. My aunt and uncle live down the road from them. But I haven’t seen them in several years. In fact, I haven’t been in Lancaster for a long time.”

So I’d bled all over his first visit in years. Great. “Was it a job that kept you away?”

“Yes and no. Yes, when I was a youth pastor at a church in Michigan. No, when I went to seminary and graduate school. I just finished my doctorate in counseling.”

“Really?” I was impressed.

“No. I confess. I’m lying. I just thought it sounded like a wonderful way to astonish and amaze a pretty girl.”

I blinked at him, and he smiled impudently back. “Really?” he said in a dead-on imitation of me.

Flustered, I looked away from his laughing eyes. “I was just trying to make decent conversation.”

His smile deepened. It was, I couldn’t help noticing, a most wonderful smile, crinkling his eyes almost shut and inviting me to smile along, which I was careful not to do because of my cheek.

“Kristina Matthews?” called the woman at the desk. Her nameplate said she was Harriet. She scanned the empty room as though there might be several Kristinas lurking about, and I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder to see who might have sneaked in while I wasn’t looking.

When I stood, Harriet smiled brightly. “There you are. Right through here, please.”

As I entered the treatment area, I passed a teenage boy staggering out on crutches and a lady in a bathing suit with her arm in a bright pink cast. The walking wounded. I wondered what my battle scars would be.

Ten minutes later I looked away as a nurse stabbed me efficiently with a needle.

“This tetanus shot may cause your arm to swell or stiffen,” she said, her voice filled with sorrow over my possible plight. I couldn’t decide whether she was sorry I might swell or sorry I mightn’t. “If it swells or stiffens, don’t worry. Take aspirin or Tylenol and call your personal physician if the pain persists.” She turned away with a great sigh and began cleaning up the treatment area.

I slid off the examination table and looked at my wobbly reflection in the glass doors of the supply cabinet. The flesh-colored butterfly bandage stuck in the middle of my left cheek distorted my face slightly, but I didn’t mind. There had been no need for stitches.

“Any scarring will be minimal,” the doctor said absentmindedly as he wrote something on the forms Harriet had passed to him. He was a good match for the nurse. I doubted he even noticed her melancholia. “Just keep the wound dry and check with your regular doctor next week to have it redressed.” He ripped off the top copy of the paperwork and handed it to me. “It tells you here. And you’re certain the dog had his shots?”

I nodded, took the paper, and hurried to the waiting room. At least Jon Clarke hadn’t had to wait long once I was seen.

But the waiting room was empty. My angel of mercy had flown the coop. I was standing there wondering what to do next when Harriet at the desk called to me.

“Don’t worry, honey. He’ll be right back. He said he had to run a quick errand.”

I nodded with disproportionate relief.

“Men,” she said sympathetically. “You never know what they’re going to do, do you? Sometimes they take off, and you never see them again.” The edge that had crept into her voice made me think she was speaking from experience. She gave herself a little shake. “But yours looked nice enough to me. I think you can trust him, don’t you?”

Her guess was as good as mine. We’d both known him for about the same length of time.

She got up from her desk. “Listen. I’ve got to go to the ladies’ room. I’m talking emergency here, believe me. Stay by the desk and watch things for me, will you?”

Yikes. “What if someone comes in?”

“Tell them I’ll be back in a minute. But don’t worry,” she called over her shoulder as she disappeared through a door. “Nothing big ever happens on Saturday afternoon.”

Taking no comfort from those words, I looked at the quiet waiting room.

No one, Lord, okay? Not till she gets back, okay?

The prayer was barely formed when the waiting room door slid open and an older man in khaki work clothes entered. His face, damp with perspiration, matched the color of the white envelopes sticking out of his shirt pocket, and he was rubbing his left arm. He stopped beside me at the desk.

“I think I’m having a heart attack,” he said as he might say he was going to sneeze.

I felt my own heart stop beating and my mouth go dry.

He staggered, and I reached out instinctively, taking his arm and lowering him into Harriet’s chair.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“Don’t apologize!” Now my heart was beating so loudly I could scarcely
hear myself talk. “Don’t worry. Someone will be here to help you in a moment.”

Suddenly he stopped kneading his arm and pressed his hand against his chest. His face contorted and I froze. He was going to die right here while Harriet was in the ladies’ room!

After a minute he relaxed, and I began to breathe again. I ran to the door of the treatment area. “Help, somebody! Help!”

The sad-faced nurse leaned out of a cubicle. “Is anyone bleeding?” She was so intent on what was going on behind that curtain that she didn’t even look at me.

“No, but—”

“Then we’ll be there as soon as we can.” And she disappeared.

I could see several pairs of feet below the curtain and hear several voices,
including that of my doctor, who was barking orders with impressive authority. Through a door down the hall I could see an ambulance with its back doors still open.

“But he needs you now,” I called desperately. “He really does! It’s his—”

“We’ll be there in a minute,” she yelled as a great cascade of blood flowed onto the floor.

Pushing down panic and not knowing what else to do, I went back to the man.

“They’ll be here in a minute,” I told him with all the confidence I could muster.

“Had one before,” he whispered to me. “Don’t worry. It’ll be all right. I’m not ready to die yet. I’ve got stuff to do.”

I tried to smile to encourage him, but between my punctured cheek and my fear, I think it was more of a grimace. The man seemed to appreciate my effort anyway.

Dear God, I screamed in silent prayer, where’s Harriet? Send her out here fast, Lord! Please!

The man rested his head against the wall. “What’s your name? Are you Harriet?”

“I’m Kristie Matthews. Should you be talking?”

“I drove myself here. You don’t think talking’s any worse than that, do you?”

“You drove yourself here? With a heart attack?”

He smiled faintly. “I had to get here somehow. And I didn’t think you were Harriet. You don’t look like a Harriet.”

I didn’t look like this Harriet. Plain old straight brown hair cut to bend at my chin instead of too-black spikes and the electrified look. Five seven and slim instead of short and a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, if Harriet’s figure and the box in the trash receptacle were any indication. A hole in my cheek instead of an abundance of blusher.

Suddenly he raised his head and looked at me with an intensity that made me blink. “Will you do me a favor, Kristie Matthews?”

I leaned close to hear his weak voice. “Of course.”

“Keep this for me.” He fumbled in his shirt pocket, reaching behind the envelopes. “But tell no one—no one—that you have it.” He slipped a key into my cold hand and folded my fingers over it.

I heard a gasp from behind me. Harriet was finally back.

“Heart attack,” I said, but Harriet was three steps ahead of me.

Her voice boomed over the PA. “Dr. Michaels, Dr, Michaels, stat. Dr. Michaels, code!” Harriet disappeared back into the treatment area yelling, “Marie! Charles! Where are you? Get yourselves out here fast!”

An arthritic finger tapped my closed fist. “Remember, tell no one,” the old man managed to whisper. “Promise?”

“I promise.” What else could I say?

He stared at my face as if searching my soul. He must have been satisfied with what he saw because his hand relaxed on mine and his eyes closed. “Don’t forget. I’m counting on you.” He gave a deep sigh, and I froze. Was that his last breath? “I’m counting on you.”

The room came alive with people. Medical personnel converged on the sick man, and I stepped back with relief.

“Don’t you ever go to the bathroom again,” I hissed at Harriet, who probably never would if she valued her job.

When the doors to the treatment area slid shut and I could no longer see the man, I collapsed in one of the orange chairs, struggling with tears.

This is ridiculous. Why am I crying? I don’t even know the man.

I gave myself a shake and stared at the small piece of metal in my hand. Why had he given his precious key to me, a total stranger? Why hadn’t he let the hospital personnel keep it for him? Or asked them to hold it for a family member?

What could it possibly open that no one—no one—must know of it?

And what in the world should I do with it?

It was a relief when Jon Clarke finally returned.

“I’m sorry,” he said with that winning smile. “I got held up in traffic. I hope you didn’t think I’d deserted you.”

“Of course not,” I said as I slipped the key into my pocket. I hastened to correct my lie. “At least, not after Harriet told me you’d be back.”

He cocked that dark, heavy brow at me again, saying as clearly as if I’d spoken aloud that he knew all too well what I’d thought.

I flushed and began talking to cover my embarrassment. “This old man came in and had a heart attack. He scared me to death! I was the only one in the room—Harriet had gone to the ladies’ room. I had to be with him until help came. He gave me—”

I stopped abruptly. “No one,” he’d said, he’d insisted. “Promise.” And I had.

Did I owe him my silence? I didn’t even know him.

But I didn’t know this sandy-haired, dark-browed man standing beside me, either. I only met him an hour or so ago. I couldn’t bleed all over him anymore.

“He gave me quite a scare,” I said, decision made. I gave a short laugh. “I’m not used to anything more serious than the common cold or one of my students throwing up.”

But what would I do if he died?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Review: The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake

About the book:


Come on down for a real family feud in this witty romance, the second novel in Kelly Eileen Hake's Prairie Promises series. In the Nebraskan Territory of 1857, the longstanding feud between their two families makes Opal Speck desperate to save the life of the Grogan who once pulled her from a burning building. Will her big white lie -- that Adam is the father of her unborn child -- land in enemy territory for the rest of her life? Find out how Adam and Opal deal with the repercussions of their shotgun wedding in The Bride Backfire!

My thoughts:

Just like Kelly's first book in the Prairie Promises series, her second book, The Bride Backfire, did not dissapoint at all! How these two families can manage to stay sane while keeping up a hundred-year-old feud just boggles my mind! And bless their hearts...it wouldn't be so bad if they could just sit down and air out all their differences.

Since that didn't happen in the book, a couple of characters from each family decided to do the next best thing--get hitched. Opal Speck and Adam Grogan have secretly had eyes for each other for awhile now, although no one knows about it...shoot, they don't even know it themselves. When Adam takes an unplanned trip over onto Speck land to retrieve a wandering cow, Opal's brothers catch him and are ready to string him up for trespassing. Thankfully, Opal steps in and says that they'll do no such thing because she's expecting a child and Adam's agreed to be the father. However, only Opal knows that this little story is no where close to being true. So, they bring in an unknowing Parson Carter, and now, we have ourselves an old-fashioned shotgun wedding. Poor Opal has her work cut out for her after the wedding because her father proceeds to disown her, and unfortunately, she's managed to inherit the worst mother-in-law in the world. Add to that a wretched new brother-in-law that makes her skin crawl, and Opal is now in a real pickle!

Just like book one, Kelly Hake has such a great imagination with her stories. I loved that she included the thoughts of the characters in some places, and not just what they said in conversation. While all the characters from book one are featured in this book (especially Midge, who I loved in book one), this book easily stands on it's own and can be read separately. But now, I'm off to read the conclusion to this wonderful series...The Bride Blunder!

4 Stars

**Many thanks to Barbour Books through NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

**Click here to purchase a copy of The Bride Backfire.

CFBA Tour: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell



This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing







Bethany House (April 2010)



by



Siri Mitchell


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Siri Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree and worked in various levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. Siri enjoys observing and learning from different cultures. She is fluent in French and loves sushi.

But she is also a member of a strange breed of people called novelists. When they’re listening to a sermon and taking notes, chances are, they’ve just had a great idea for a plot or a dialogue. If they nod in response to a really profound statement, they’re probably thinking, “Yes. Right. That’s exactly what my character needs to hear.” When they edit their manuscripts, they laugh at the funny parts. And cry at the sad parts. Sometimes they even talk to their characters.

Siri wrote 4 books and accumulated 153 rejections before signing with a publisher. In the process, she saw the bottoms of more pints of Ben & Jerry’s than she cares to admit. At various times she has vowed never to write another word again. Ever. She has gone on writing strikes and even stooped to threatening her manuscripts with the shredder.

ABOUT THE BOOK:


For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor.

Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries.

When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

If you would like to read the first chapter of She Walks in Beauty, go HERE.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour and Book Review: Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd


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:



Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Best-selling author Sandra Byrd has published nearly three dozen books in the Christian market, including her latest series, French Twist, which includes the Christy Award finalist Let Them Eat Cake (WaterBrook Press, 2007) and its sequel, Bon App├ętit (WaterBrook Press, 2008). Many of her acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books target the tween and young adult markets. She has also published a book for new moms entitled Heartbeats. Several of Sandra’s shorter works have appeared in periodicals such as Relevant, Clubhouse, Pockets, Decision, and Guideposts. For the past seven years, she has shared her secrets with the many students she mentors through the Christian Writers Guild. Before turning to full-time writing, Sandra was an acquisitions editor in the ABA market. She lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and two children.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414325975
ISBN-13: 978-1414325972


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




I hung back at the doorway to the cafeteria of my new supercool British school, Wexburg Academy. Most of the lunch tables were already packed, and the room was buzzing with chatter. The populars, whom I'd secretly nicknamed the Aristocats, commanded an entire table right in the center of the room. Their good looks and posh accents made up the sun around which all other tables orbited. The normal kids were in the second circle, arranged by friends or clubs or activities. The drama table was on the outer edge of the room, and so were the geeks, the nerds, and the punk wannabes--way out there like Neptune, but still planets. Most everyone had a group. I didn't.

Okay, so there was one table with lots of room. The leftovers table. It might as well have been the dark side of the moon.

No way.

I skipped lunch--again--and headed to the library. One of the computers was available and I logged on, desperately hoping for an e-mail from Seattle.

There was an e-mail from my grandmother reminding me to floss because British dentists only cleaned adult teeth.

Spam from Teen Vogue.

An invitation to join the Prince Harry fan club--​I opened it and gave it a quick scan. I'd consider it more later.

And . . . one from Jen!

I clicked open the e-mail from my best friend at home--well, it had been my home till a couple of months ago--hoping for a lunch full of juicy news served alongside tasty comments about how she missed me and was planning stuff for my next visit home. I craved something that would take me the whole lunch period to read and respond to and remind me that I did have a place somewhere in this universe.

From: Jen
To: Savannah


Hey, Fortune Cookie, so how's it going? Met the Queen yet? LOL. Sorry I haven't written too much. It's been so busy. Samantha took the position you'd been promised on the newspaper staff. She's brand new, but then again you would have been too. It seemed strange without you at first, but I think she'll do okay--maybe even better than okay. And hey, life has changed for everyone, right? Things are crazy busy at school, home, and church. We hang out a lot more now that a bunch of us are driving. Will write again in a few weeks.

Miss you!
Jen



A few weeks! My lungs filled with air, and I let it out slowly, deflating like a balloon with a slow leak. I poised my hands over the keyboard to write a response but just . . . couldn't. What would I say? It had already been weeks since we'd last e-mailed. Most of my friends texted instead of e-mailing anyway, but texting across the Atlantic Ocean cost way too much. And the truth was . . .

I'd moved, and they'd moved on.

I logged off the computer and sat there for a minute, blinking back tears. Jen hadn't meant to forget me. I was simply out of her orbit now.

I pretended to read Sugar magazine online, but mostly I was staring at the clock, passing the time till I could respectably head to my next class.

Five minutes before class I swung my book bag onto my shoulder and headed down the hall. Someone was stapling flyers to the wall. “Hi, Hazelle.”

“Hullo, Savannah.” She breezed by me, stapling another pink flyer farther down the wall. We had math class together--oh yeah, maths, as the Brits called it--first period. I'd tried to make friends with her; I'd even asked her if she'd like to sit together in lunch, but she'd crisply informed me that she sat at the table with the other members of the newspaper staff.

She didn't bother with small talk now either, but went on stapling down the hall. I glanced at one of the flyers, and one sentence caught my eye right away: Looking for one experienced journalist to join the newspaper staff.

I yanked the flyer off the wall and jammed it into my bag. I was experienced. Wasn't I?

A nub of doubt rose inside me--the kind that popped up, unwelcome, anytime I tried to rationalize something that wasn't exactly true or right.

This time I swallowed it back. I thought back to Jen's e-mail that kind of felt like a polite dismissal. I lived in London now.

It was time to take matters into my own hands.


My thoughts:

This was such a fun and enjoyable read! Of course, anything by Sandra Byrd is just fabulous anyway...whether it's adult or YA fiction.

This book had me wanting to go to London just like Sandra's French Twist series had me wanting to go to Paris. This book is full of British lingo, which I think is something a lot of Americans find rather interesting simply because it's different...I know I do. :) I loved learning a bit more about the food, and that there are ways that you don't address the Queen. The theatre scene with Savvy and her mom and sister was informative, too, and apparently, not much has changed since Shakespeare's lifetime in regard to theatre houses and their patrons...very interesting little tidbit since my hubby is a theatre buff.

Asking for Trouble had a lot of life lessons for anyone regardless of age--the biggest ones being friendliness and honesty. Savvy had a lot thrown at her all at once, especially a whole new culture change from America to London. Add to that the often impossible task of making new friends as a teenager, and you've got a book that shows we all have things in common as we try to navigate our own social circles. But she persevered through it all, including the uphill battle of trying to make it onto the newspaper staff at her school.

I'm so glad that book 2 in this series, Through Thick and Thin, was released right along with Asking for Trouble. I've got to get on the ball to get my next British book fix from Sandra Byrd! Cheerio!

5 Stars

**Many thanks to Christy Wong of Tyndale House Publishers for providing a copy for review.

**Click here to purchase a copy of Asking for Trouble.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

CFBA Tour and Book Review: Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Sixteen Brides



Bethany House (April 2010)



by



Stephanie Grace Whitson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A native of southern Illinois, Stephanie Grace Whitson has lived in Nebraska since 1975. She began what she calls "playing with imaginary friends" (writing fiction) when, as a result of teaching her four home schooled children Nebraska history.

She was personally encouraged and challenged by the lives of pioneer women in the West. Since her first book, Walks the Fire, was published in 1995, Stephanie's fiction titles have appeared on the ECPA bestseller list numerous times and been finalists for the Christy Award, the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year.

Her first nonfiction work, How to Help a Grieving Friend, was released in 2005. In addition to serving in her local church and keeping up with two married children, two college students, and a high school senior, Stephanie enjoys motorcycle trips with her family and church friends.

Her passionate interests in pioneer women's history, antique quilts, and French, Italian, and Hawaiian language and culture provide endless story-telling possibilities.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

In 1872, sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising "prime homesteads" in a "booming community."

Unbeknownst to them, the speculator's true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledgling community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival! Sparks fly when these unsuspecting widows meet the men who are waiting for them.

These women are going to need all the courage and faith they can muster to survive these unwanted circumstances--especially when they begin to discover that none of them is exactly who she appears to be.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sixteen Brides, go HERE.

To purchase a copy of Sixteen Brides, click here.

My thoughts:

Honestly, this book was not all that impressive to me. I really wanted to like it because I've heard a lot of good things about Ms. Whitson's books. The beginning of the book was almost enough to make me put it down and not finish it, mostly because there were way too many characters to keep up with. Fortunately, only the beginning of the book centers around half or so of the sixteen brides, and then, dwindles to five main brides for the rest of the story. It took about 100 or so pages before the bulk of the story started to take shape, and it wasn't a fast-moving story because again, there were too many characters. If this had been a book that centered around 2 or 3 brides, I think I would've enjoyed it much more.

3 Stars