GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

FIRST Tour: Jenny’s Choice (Apple Creek Dreams Book 3) by Patrick E. Craig #grow4christ


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: Patrick E. Craig

 

Patrick E. Craig

 

and the book:

 

Jenny’s Choice
Harvest House (2014)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in northern California and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
In the concluding novel to the Apple Creek Dreams series, Jonathan and Jenny Hershberger are settled on the farm Jenny inherited from her grandfather. But when an accident takes Jonathan’s life, Jenny and her daughter, Rachel, return to Apple Creek to live with her adoptive parents, Reuben and Jerusha Springer.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: $13.99

Publisher: Harvest House

Language: English

ISBN-13:  978-0-7369-5109-8

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The Departure
NOVEMBER 1978
Jenny Hershberger walked slowly into the room and surveyed the piles of boxes waiting to be moved out to the wagon. Her eyes turned to a heap of clothing spread across the bed. With a weary sigh she brushed back an errant curl that had escaped from her kappe. Each item she looked at seemed to have a mouth clamoring for her attention, each with a story to tell or a memory to unveil.
This will be the hard part.
She went to the pine dresser—the first big project Jonathan had undertaken after Grandfather Borntraeger began to teach him woodworking. The detailing was coarse and the lines of the piece a bit awkward, but she had loved it from the moment Jonathan moved it into their room. She remembered him standing proudly beside it as she ran her hands over the top and opened each drawer as though it were a treasure trove. She loved the smell of the linseed oil he had rubbed into the wood, and when she had spread a lace piece over the top and placed her things there, it had become a symbol of all that Jonathan had left behind from his old life and all that he had become to be with her.
Now she picked up one of the objects on the top of the dresser, a small box. A sharp, almost physical pain touched her heart as she opened the lid. Inside were several folded pieces of paper. She took one out, slowly spread it open on the dresser, and began to read.
My precious Jenny,
It’s the end of another long day here in Paradise. I’ve been in the fields since daybreak with Grandfather Borntraeger. As soon as the thaw came and the soil started to warm, we began preparing the ground for spring planting. This is the hardest work I’ve ever done, yet at the same time it is the most fulfilling. Your grandfather is a kind man, but he’s very strict and doesn’t put up with any complaining or questioning of his methods.
Since I’m so new to this, he must teach me as we work. I feel like a little boy all over again, but he’s very patient with me even when I make mistakes.
I’m beginning to comprehend so many things, especially about God and His Son, Jesus. The Bible is a wonderful book. Did you know that God made the first man out of dirt? I wonder if that’s why I feel so at home on the land. When I’m out in the fields with Grandfather Borntraeger, walking behind the plow, I feel as though my life finally means something, as if this is the most natural and real way I could ever be. As I work, I remember the words of a song I heard the Amish men singing when I first came to Apple Creek.
Let him who has laid his hand on the plow not look back! Press on to the goal! Press on to Jesus Christ! The one who gains Christ will rise with Him from the dead on the youngest day.
That’s who I want to be—the one who lays his hand to the plow and doesn’t look back!
Jenny didn’t finish reading, but folded the letter and placed it back in the box. Tears formed in her eyes as she stood alone in the room, lost in her sorrow.
“Mama?”
A quiet little voice spoke from the doorway. Jenny turned to the young girl who stood there. She was small, with dark hair and deep, sea-blue eyes.
She has his eyes—she’s so much like him.
Jenny went to the girl and stooped down as she took the little one in her arms and lifted her into a hug. The girl softly touched Jenny’s face.
“Why are you crying, Mama?” she asked.
“It’s nothing, my Rachel,” Jenny answered. “I was only reading your papa’s letters, the ones he wrote to me before we were courting, when he lived here with your great-grandfather and learned the Amish ways. He wrote to me every day of the two years we were apart. I kept the most special letters in this box so I could read them now and again and let du lieber Gott remind me how much He blessed me by sending me your papa.”
“Is Papa happy in heaven?” Rachel asked.
“Oh, yes, my dearest; Papa is very, very happy with Jesus and all the angels.”
“Why do we have to move to another house, Mama? I like our house. What if Papa decides to come back from heaven and he can’t find us? Won’t he be sad?”
Jenny sat on the bed and set Rachel down beside her. “Papa won’t come back from heaven, darling. Heaven is so wunderbar that once you’ve gone there, you don’t ever want to come back. And we wouldn’t want to call him back to this world once he’s been with Jesus. He will wait for us there, and one day we will join him and be with him again.
“In the meantime, we’re sad that he’s gone…very sad. We must move because it’s very hard for your mama to live here without Papa. There are so many things that make me remember him, and my heart breaks again each time I see them. I need to go back to my old home and be with my mama and papa so they can help me not to feel this way. And they will help you to be happy again. Your grossdaadi can’t wait for you to come, and Mama, my mama, has prepared a special room just for you. You will love being with them. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here soon, and it will be comforting to be in Apple Creek with our family and friends for the holidays.”
“Oh, yes, Mama, I love Grossmudder and Grossdaadi. It will be nice to see them. But won’t we ever come back to Paradise?”
“Only der vollkluge Gott knows the answer to that question, my darling. Now, do you have all your things packed up like I asked you?”
“Mostly, Mama. Can you help me with the rest?” Rachel asked.
“Yes, dearest. I’ll be there in a bit, when I finish here. Run ahead.”
Rachel bounced off the bed and ran from the room. Jenny smiled as she watched her go.
She has her papa’s eyes and my bounce!
Jenny sighed again as Jonathan crowded back into her thoughts. She stood up, grabbed an empty box, and quickly put the letter box and the rest of the items from the dresser top into it. Then she folded up the lace piece, placed it on top of her other belongings, and closed the box. She set it with the others, piled the clothing on a chair by the door, and then pulled the quilt and the linens from the bed. She folded them and put them into the last remaining empty box. She surveyed the stack of boxes and then went to the closet and took out her suitcase. Carefully she packed her clothing in it and snapped the latches shut. The click of the latches echoed in the room like tiny gunshots. Finished.
She took a deep breath.
There, I’m done. That wasn’t so bad. Cousin Borntraeger can carry all this out for me and take it to the storage place. Mama said to just bring our clothes for now.
She heard boots on the front porch, and her heart leapt. Then just as quickly, reality dashed her hopes. Another deep sigh. How many times had she heard Jonathan coming up the front stoop and walking across the porch to the door? It was always such a comforting sound at the end of the day. But now…
There was a knock and then a voice calling. “Jenny? Are you ready, then?”
“I’m here, Cousin, in the bedroom. Can you help me with these boxes?”
Lem Borntraeger walked down the hall and into the room. He glanced around at the emptiness and pulled his black hat from his head.
“Jenny, are you sure this is what you want? We all want you to stay. I know it won’t be the same without Jonathan, but you have family here.”
Jenny looked at her tall cousin. He had been one of the blessings God bestowed on Jenny and Jonathan when they had come to Paradise ten years before. He had taken her into his heart from the first day they met, and after she and Jonathan married, he became their good friend and helper. She reached over and patted his arm.
“I have to go home, Lem. I need to be with my mama and papa. You will run the farm, and it will prosper in your care. For me, there are too many memories. Sometimes my remembrances of Jonathan and our days here feel like cobwebs that stick to me and hold me fast. They keep me from going on with my life. And I need to go on now or I’ll die inside.”
“Will you ever come back?” Lem asked.
“Right now I would say no,” Jenny answered. “But who knows the road ahead? We may come back someday when I can be in this house without weeping every time I turn around.” Jenny managed a weak smile.“I need to go, Lem.”
“All right then,” Lem said. “I understand.”
He stood for a moment with his hat in his hands. “Jonathan was a good man, and he was my friend. I will miss him deeply.” Then Lem put his hat back on and smiled. “It’s enough. Now let me load these boxes.”
Jenny watched him as he picked up two boxes and went out. She took one last look at the room and then turned to go.
“Jenny…”
She stopped and turned, thinking she had heard Jonathan’s voice. But it was only the echoes of unspoken longings that filled her aching heart. She went one last time to the bed and touched it softly.
“Jonathan, oh, Jonathan. You are my true love. There will never be anyone like you for me. Thank you, my dearest, for loving me so deeply. Thank you for being a good man, a wonderful husband, and a loving father to Rachel. May Gott be with you on your journey.”
Jenny stood silent for a moment and then picked up her suitcase, turned, and left the room. She went into Rachel’s room, gathered up the few remaining things that were still unpacked, and laid them in her daughter’s suitcase. Then she took Rachel’s hand, and together they walked down the hall, through the empty front room, and out onto the porch. A buggy waited for them in the driveway. She boosted Rachel up as Lem put the suitcases in the back, and then she climbed in. She nodded to the driver, who clicked his tongue and set the horse in motion.
The buggy rolled slowly down the driveway. Jenny looked straight ahead. She would not look back. But then just as the horse turned onto the main road, her resolve crumbled, and she turned. The blue two-story house stood in the middle of the harvested fields. As she looked she could see Jonathan behind the plow, waving to her as the rich soil turned and broke beneath the sharp blade. She could see his smile and his blue eyes. She could feel his strong arms around her as they stood together on the porch, looking out over the land—their land—in awe of the blessings of God. She put her face into her hands and silently began to weep. The clopping hooves beat out a slow and mournful cadence—“He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone.”

 

My Opinion:

 

I apologize both to the author, Patrick E. Craig and the publisher, Harvest House, as I was supposed to post this tour on February 13 and the book got put at the bottom of my to-be-read pile and forgotten – I finally read it recently and am now making sure to publish the tour and my thoughts.  I’ve read the first two books, A Quilt for Jenna and The Road Home, in the series and if you look at those you’ll know I enjoyed them – a lot!  Oh how my heart ached to learn of the death of Jenny’s beloved husband and father of her daughter – she had had many heart aches in her life and this one only added to it, but thankfully she was surrounded by community and family to be loved and supported.  Jenny struggles even more as she realizes that God has given her a gift of writing, especially when a visiting bishop declares her writing too worldly and especially since the publisher is a man who has been placed under the bann in another district.

 

A fast read, which was great for my short time frame of reading most days – however when I was needed it was hard to put down – I read it in less than a day, quite a feat!  This isn’t a typical feel good Amish fiction book, but I enjoy that, sometimes you need a book that deals with real life – and this is it.  There is some romance involved but it doesn’t turn out at all what one would expect and I so appreciate that aspect as well.  The only draw back is that this is the 3rd book and it’s the conclusion of the series, which makes me sad as I would so love to read about Jenny’s daughter Rachel – as the book finishes she is a teenager and dealing with being Amish or being English – and I would love to see Mr. Craig delve into that a bit more and maybe create a series on Rachel’s life.  I will say that you should read this series from the beginning so you know what is going on – as there are issues from book 1 that are brought back up and to make reading it easier reading the series in order is a good way to go.

 

 

(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

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FIRST Tour: Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams 1) by Sharlene MacLaren (#grow4christ)


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:
Sharlene MacLaren
and the book:
Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams Book 1)
Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father? Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Series: Tennessee Dreams (Book 1)

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603749632

ISBN-13: 978-1603749633

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop
his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for
neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored
close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle
the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing
the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams
coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing
timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst
through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running
up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered
on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb
and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had
been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of
circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through
the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love
with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their
wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering
past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but
one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back
outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses
and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud.
“Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the
scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto
Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond
saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows
and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the
sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their
pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff
Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide
at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the
gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to
stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it
off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side,
his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s
seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the
head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her
throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made
supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout
rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure
emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the
porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and
screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till
weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had
little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the
cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff,
scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and
almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before
falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles
with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others
ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of
relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching
louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they
recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her
backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with
both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand
grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them
chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the
presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ
of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of
money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to
help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of
hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies,
yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward,
pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her
skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into
her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his
perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy
buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to
keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even
though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill
her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very
sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat
intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument.
Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to
scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of
her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her.
“I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as
the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd
to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a
reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a
yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground.
Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed.
Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to
tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc
Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors,
after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far
back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had
started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and
Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s.
There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn
burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined
the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten
so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother,
Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred
for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had
carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity
had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar
Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw
somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a
while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her
knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks
blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your
parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs
to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’
stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up
t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked
around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke
comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned
back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’
get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we
waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved
us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up
yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d
swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of
tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both
boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I
believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus
to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house
and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay
motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and
fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but
that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to
rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked
between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over
to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about
an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed
on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she
had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house
was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the
awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two
families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an
oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to
love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in
need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled
close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone
other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to
Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of
each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple
o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s
announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were
my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t
know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they
go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She
took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street,
away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze.
Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s
first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.

My Opinion:

Imagine, you’ve lost your family, you have no hopes of a husband and your family is feuding with another family in town – and then your friends are lost in a fire and their two young sons are given to you – but only if you can marry in 30 days!  Most of us would run the other way – 30 days to find, meet and marry a man you’ll be with the for the rest of your life so you can raise your friend’s boys.  In an uncanny way Mercy meets her new husband and he lays on her couch receiving her nursing care after rescuing the boys from the fire that kills their parents – little do they know what is going to happen.  I don’t want to give spoilers but Mercy has suitors knocking on her door from the toothless men who only want someone who will cook their meals and was their clothes and no real intention of being a dad to the declared bachelor who realizes he is too old to take on two rambunctious boys – until the unlikely candidate comes to her door to give her what she needs, a husband in name only.

Like another book I read recently, the married couple doesn’t know each other and almost barely tolerate one another, but for the good of others sacrifice what they want and bite the bullet.  Marriage in name only is how things are supposed to work but what really happens is only a thing of miracles and of God working through their hearts and their lives to bring peace that has long been absent.  Set in Tennessee in 1890 the book is filled with a life of time gone era, when it was respectable to marry and raise children and when morality was governed by the church and the Bible and was upheld.  The book shows what forgiveness looks like even when we think it should be with held and how reconciliation can bring healing that affects everyone.  I look forward to reading the next book and find it hard to wait until it comes out because I want to visit Paris, Tennessee again – if only in a book.

(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Heart of Mercy (Tennessee Dreams 1) by Sharlene MacLaren (#grow4christ)

FIRST Tour: Tessa; From Fear to Faith by Melissa Wiltrout


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:
Melissa Wiltrout
and the book:
Tessa
LIFE SENTENCE Publishing (September 3, 2013)
***Special thanks to Jeremiah M. Zeiset for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melissa Wiltrout lives in west-central Wisconsin with her two dogs, an energetic terrier named Daisy and a Sheltie named Chester. During the summer months she keeps busy at the family nursery and landscaping business. Writing is her favorite activity, but she also enjoys relaxing with a good book, playing guitar, breeding goldfish, and gardening.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Is there no way out?

Tessa loathes being forced to work in her father’s illegal drug business. Yet her ill-fated attempts at running away only deepen the abuse. Guilt and shame press in, pushing away her real friends and reinforcing her own criminal tendencies.

Tessa yearns for freedom – and something else. Then a neighbor introduces her to God and salvation through Christ. But will faith be enough? Can she overcome the forces that bind her before it’s too late?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 292 pages

Publisher: LIFE SENTENCE Publishing (September 3, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1622450876

ISBN-13: 978-1622450879

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Stop! Thief!”
Fear stabbed my chest. I dodged in
front of a loaded shopping cart and shoved through the outer set of glass doors
at Allen’s Super Foods. The plastic bag of hot dogs and bread knocked against
my leg as I took a sharp left and sprinted down the dark sidewalk.
“Stop, you punk!” Footsteps pounded
close behind me. I could hear heavy breathing. I ran faster, willing all my
energy into my legs. My breath came in ragged gasps. I kept my eyes fixed on
the lights of the busy street half a block ahead. I sure hope there’s a break
in the traffic. There’s no way I’m gonna be able to stop
if there isn’t…
I had cleared the far end of the
building and was racing across the final stretch of parking lot when the clerk
caught up with me. He grabbed my shoulders and kicked me in the legs, slamming
me to the pavement. I screamed as pain ripped through my right ankle and leg.
He threw himself on top of me, closing huge hands around my neck and shoulders.
“I got you now, you punk.”
His sudden weight on my back left
me breathless. I struggled to roll him off, but he tightened his grip. His knee
pressed into my back and his fingernails dug into my shoulder like claws. “Oh
no you don’t.”
“I . . . can’t breathe,” I gasped.
“Get . . . off of me.”
“That’s what you all say. I’ll get
off of you all right – when the police get here.” As he spoke, he shifted his
weight higher on my back. My chest began to hurt.
“No,” I pleaded. “Stop. You’re . .
. killing me.”
“Shut up,” he said. I heard a faint
beep, beep as he pressed the buttons on his cell phone. I was crying. Sharp
pains shot up my leg from my twisted ankle, and I was helpless to relieve them.
Cold pavement bit into my chin. I tasted blood where I’d cut my lip falling. I
made one more attempt to free myself, but it was no use. The guy must’ve
weighed two hundred pounds. At last a police cruiser pulled up with its lights
flashing, and an officer stepped out.
“You Bruce Sommerfeld?” he said to
the clerk.
“I am.”
“You can let go now. I’ve got her.”
Bruce surrendered his grip on me
reluctantly. “I caught this little punk red-handed. And it’s not the first time
she’s pulled this. I can prove it.”
I took a breath and started to push
myself up, but the officer stopped me, pulling my hands behind my back. Cold
metal clamped around my left wrist, then my right. What on earth was he doing?
Handcuffing me? I hoped nobody was watching.
Fresh pain shot through my ankle as
the officer pulled me to my feet. “So you were shoplifting, huh?” he said.
It wasn’t a dream this time. I was
being arrested.
“I didn’t do nothin’. I swear!”
Frantically I tried to wrench free of the steel cuffs. “He’s lying. He hates
me. You all hate me!”
“That’s enough. Settle down.” A
second officer, a woman, stepped close and took my other arm. She began
steering me toward the black and white car. “My name’s Pat. And you are . . .
?”
I didn’t answer. My wrists stung
from my fight with the cuffs. I had never felt so helpless and humiliated in my
life.
Pat opened the rear door of the
cruiser. “Okay, in you go.”
I hesitated as my eyes took in the
hard black seat, the bars over the window, the mesh divider. This was for
criminals, not for somebody like me. Did I have to get in? But the firm
pressure on my arm told me I had no choice. I dropped into the seat, my face
hot, wincing as my hurt ankle bumped the door frame.
I fit in there – sort of. There
wasn’t more than eight inches of knee room in front of that seat, and with my
hands squashed behind my back, I was miserable to say the least. They didn’t
really expect me to ride like this, did they?
Tears pricked my eyes. I bit my lip
hard to restrain them. Through the barred window, I saw Bruce enter the store
with my bag of food. As if he needed it. My stomach growled, reminding me I
hadn’t eaten since yesterday.
“How old are you, kid?” Pat twisted
around to look at me from the driver’s seat.
“Old enough.”
“Old enough to be on your own?”
In the darkness, I felt my face
flush. Is it that obvious I’m a runaway? I thought of the stains on my jeans,
the long, jagged tear in the sleeve of my purple sweatshirt, and the shiny wire
I’d used to reattach the soles of my worn tennis shoes – all things I had
convinced myself no one would notice. I must’ve been crazy.
Heat blew into the back of the car,
raising a smell of sweat and dirty clothes. I tried to flip back the tangled
locks of dark hair that kept falling across my face. My teeth chattered, but
not from cold. I was scared of being put in jail.
The ride to the Northford Police
Station was short. Pat pulled into the garage. From there, she marched me into
a long narrow room. I squinted against the glare of fluorescent lights. Pat
removed the handcuffs and directed me to one of the plastic chairs at a small
table.
I sank into the chair, glad to get
off my hurt ankle. By now it had swollen to the size of a small grapefruit. The
pain was agonizing. Had I broken it? I leaned forward and with one hand
loosened my shoelaces. Even that was a painful operation. Making it all the way
back to the garage where I was staying would be impossible.
“Did you hurt your ankle?” Pat
asked. She pulled the other chair around to sit facing me.
I stiffened. “It’ll be okay.” Did
she have to sit so close to me?
“You sure? You were limping on the
way in.”
I hesitated, torn by the sympathy
in her voice. But did I dare confide in a cop?
“It’s nothing, really. I-I got a
charley horse.”
“I see. How long has it been since
you left home?”
 “Awhile.” My eyes traced the green and white
tiles at my feet. If only I could get rid of that lump in my throat that
threatened to make me cry.
“Like a week? Ten days?”
“Yeah, maybe.” It had been longer,
but she didn’t need to know that.
“That’s a long time. Have you been
stealing food this whole time?”
“Some of it.”
“Yes?” she pressed. “How much is
‘some’?”
“Most of it, I guess.”
“You know stealing is a crime,
don’t you? You can be fined and even imprisoned for it. If you need food, there
are better ways to get it.”
“Well yeah, but—”
“No buts. Maybe no one’s ever told
you this, but stealing is wrong. It’s serious. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
I could feel the heat rising in my
cheeks. What did Pat know? She’d never gone hungry or spent the night under a
deck in the drizzling rain. It wasn’t like I’d hurt somebody. The store would
never miss what little I’d taken.
Pat shuffled a few papers on her
lap. “I understand the store is not pressing charges this time. However…” She
paused for emphasis. “If this sort of thing happens again, you will be charged
with retail theft. You’ll have to go to court and pay the consequences. Plus it
will get on your record. Do you understand?”
“Yeah.” I felt a tiny glimmer of
hope. “Does this mean you’re gonna let me go?”
“It means your parents will have to
come get you. I take it you’re not on the best terms with them just now. Am I
right?”
I exhaled slowly. My sweaty hands
clenched in my lap. I should’ve known they’d call my parents.
I felt Pat eyeing me. “It’s that
bad, huh? Want to talk about it?”
My mind raced. For a second I
considered it, but then I shook my head. Talking would only make things worse.
Much worse.
Pat was still watching me. “I’ve
got the time,” she said.
I shook my head harder. “Can’t you
just let me go? It’s not like I’m gonna do this again or something.”
“Sorry, but it’s not my call. Rules
are rules.” Pat laid her papers on the table. “You’re Tessa Miner, am I right?
And your parents are Walter and Julie Miner?”
I gulped. How did she know that?
“Is this phone number correct?”
I had to stop her somehow. “Look,
you don’t hafta call them, okay? I-I’ll just walk home.”
Pat stood up.
“Can’t I? I’ll go right home, I
promise. It’s not that far, and…”
“Ten miles with a hurt ankle isn’t
far, huh?” There was sarcasm in her voice now. She shook her head. “It doesn’t
work that way, Tessa.”
I was trapped. There was no way
out. Even supposing the doors weren’t locked, I’d never escape with this ankle.
The muscles in my chest constricted, suffocating me. I leaned my elbows on the
table and forced myself to breathe. I needed to be at my best to face Walter.
Walter. The name dredged up images
I didn’t want to remember. I could see my father standing there, his hands on
his hips as he screamed at me.
“You idiot, what’d you do that
for!”
“You’re coming if I gotta drag you
there! Now get out here!”
“Guess you didn’t listen, did you.
Well, this time I’ll make you!”
I could see the home place – the
shabby white house with its sagging porch, the huge junk heap in the back yard,
and my dad’s green, almost-brand-new pickup truck parked in the driveway. I
could smell the cigarette smoke and the coffee. I could see, too, the secret
garden by the back fence that was my dad’s special concern. He allowed Mom to
plant hibiscus and hollyhocks along the edge, but the rest was off limits. I
learned this the day I tried to capture a baby rabbit that was trapped inside
the fence. Walter caught me in there and beat me bloody, even though I hadn’t
damaged anything.
I could see the old shed near the
garden, where Walter had locked me up for two days after my last attempt at
running away. I recalled the torture of spending a night leaning up against the
lawnmower, my back aching like fire while I tried to ignore the rodents
scurrying and chewing in the walls around me. I’d be lucky if that was all I
had to face this time.
A sudden noise in the room caused
me to start in fear. Had my father come already? But it was only Pat dropping a
pen. I sank back, my heart still pounding. If only I could awaken from this
nightmare. But try as I did, I could not suppress the memories which played
like a bad movie across my mind.
I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Tessa, your father’s here.”

My Opinion:

This book starts fast and keeps the pace through out and I read it on day because I just didn’t want to put it down!  My heart breaks for Tessa as the book starts with her being arrested and then released to her dad, Walter who is abusive to her her and her mom.  After years of abuse at the hands of her husband, Tessa’s mom, Julie has little compassion and I found it hard to sympathize with her plight until the rest of her story comes out.  As I said it was a fast paced book, one with a couple twists that one doesn’t usually expect and I actually grew to be sympathetic to Walter and Julie as they strive to change their lives as well as trying to finally do right by Tessa.

I will say there were a few cuss words – BUT – when one is writing about drug and alcohol addiction, abuse, and those who live a depraved life it’s something that they do.  I think there were maybe 4 or 5, so not a lot but it did convey the type of life that Tessa and her parents are living.  I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that the conversion of Tessa’s dad seemed a bit too quick and forced, it would have been nice to have more of a development there instead of a 5 minute conversation where this hardened man realized his need for Christ – although that would have made the book a lot longer.  Even though this is a young adult book, written by a Christian, I would not feel comfortable giving the book to my almost 12 year old daughter because the abuse scenes are fairly graphic, the occasional use of language and the drug making/abuse that goes on.

I have to say that Melissa’s first book is well done and I’d like to see another book written that shows us what Tessa is doing now and after her dad’s prison stint.  It would be great to see where the Miner family is at five years later and see how Christ is continuing to work in their life, even if that life is fictional – the book does a great job in depicting the abuse that goes on in some houses and that is ignored by schools and even neighbors as well as the drug abuse and the effects of all that combined.  This is a well written book and in this day and age, one that needed to be written to bring to light an atrocity that is committed against children every day.  Melissa even gives resources to help those who are or have been abused in the back of the book.

(c) 2014, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Tessa; From Fear to Faith by Melissa Wiltrout

FIRST Tour: Katie’s Forever Promise by Jerry Eicher #grow4christ


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:
Jerry Eicher
and the book:
Katie’s Forever Promise
Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In book 3 of author Jerry Eicher’s Emma Raber’s Daughter series, Katie puts her life together after Ben Stoll’s betrayal of her love. When she is baptized into the church, she receives a surprising offer that will keep her close to her Amish community—much to her mother’s delight.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Series: Emma Raber’s Daughter (Book 3)

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736952551

ISBN-13: 978-0736952552

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Katie Raber sat on the tall, swivel chair with a smile on her face. She was now mistress and queen of this one-room Amish schoolhouse for the term. Her hiring had been reaffirmed this morning by Enos Kuntz himself, the chairman of the school board. Enos had paid her a special visit, leaving with a friendly nod and a quick comment. “I think you’ll do just fine with your new job, Katie. Let us know if you have any problems.”Katie swept the top of her teacher’s desk clean with a shaky hand, pausing to replace the small plastic pencil holder she’d knocked over. On the other side of the room, pushed up against the window, sat a table loaded with the year’s supply of schoolbooks. She was a little scared, but she told herself there was nothing to worry about. This world of learning called her, just as she was certain it would also beckon eager young students once school began next week. And then, in less than two months, she would be twenty-one, considered an adult in her Amish community. Her wages would be her own to spend how she chose instead of sharing them with her parents—Mamm and her new husband, Jesse Mast. How blessed Katie felt. It was still hard to comprehend all the changes that had occurred in the last few years.Katie stood and looked out the window. Enos was driving away in his buggy, his bearded face still visible through the open door. Calm was flooding over Katie now. There could be only one reason he would take the time to drive all the way over here this morning, the week before school officially begins. And it wasn’t because he harbored any doubts about her teaching abilities. The vote to hire her had been unanimous and given with pleased smiles on the faces of all three school board members.

No, Enos had stopped by to emphasize his approval one last time. Likely he thought she needed it—this being her first year teaching. But it was more than that. Enos knew the details of her past, as did all the Amish community. And they wished her well as she continued to put her life back together after the awful situation with Ben Stoll. Even now Ben was sitting in jail, serving out the last few days of his sentence.

Katie had survived that disastrous time because Da Hah had been with her, just as He’d been with Mamm and her after Katie’s daett died. And just as Da Hah had been with the two while Emma Raber raised Katie alone. Katie’s mamm had an awful reputation for a long time. After a love gone wrong in her teen years, a marriage to a man she learned to love, and then being widowed at an early age, Emma had chosen to remain a single mamm, raising her daughter on the land her husband had left her. She’d gone against usual Amish practice by refusing offers of marriage until, by Da Hah’s grace, she’d accepted a marriage proposal by a local farmer named Jesse Mast. That marriage had created a new atmosphere of change and acceptance, and Katie’s reputation had improved along with her mamm’s. After Katie fell in love with Ben and he’d turned out to be involved in the drug trade, part of her acceptance in the community came from how much she was admired for the way she’d handled herself since Ben Stoll’s arrest and imprisonment.

She’d loved Ben with all of her heart. And he had broken and smashed her trust beyond repair. Now he was no longer part of her life. That had all happened over a year ago, when the news of Ben’s arrest had reached Katie while she was in Europe with her Mennonite friends Margaret Kargel, Sharon Watson, and Nancy Keim. Only Da Hah’s healing touch a few days later had kept her from spending years in bitterness and sorrow. The miracle had happened the morning they’d gone up in a cable car high in the Alps to Schilthorn, where she’d seen the mighty works of Da Hah’s hands displayed in the mountain range around her. The tears had flowed freely that morning, washing the deepest pain from her heart. Afterward, she’d returned home and continued mourning her loss for a time, but without the crushing hopelessness that had first gripped her heart. Then last fall she’d made application to join the instruction class to officially join the Amish church, and this spring the wunderbah day had arrived. She’d been baptized by Bishop Jonas Miller himself! She was now a member of the church.

If anyone had entertained doubts about her, they’d been answered in how Katie had lived her life the past year. She still stayed in touch with her Mennonite friends Margaret and Sharon, but she saw them infrequently. The invitation to Margaret’s wedding had arrived in the mail yesterday, and Katie would certainly attend. Beyond that, Sharon and Margaret understood that Katie had made the best choice for her—to stay within the Amish faith. And it was, Katie told herself. Her heart was settled on the matter. The Amish were her people, and this was her home. She’d seen the land of the church fathers in Switzerland, and now she’d chosen this faith for herself. This community in Delaware was the place where her heart could rest for whatever time Da Hah had for her on this earth.

Enos’s buggy was already a black speck just before disappearing around the curve in the road. In addition to his interest in her success in the classroom, there was the suspicion on Katie’s part that Enos had hopes she would be his next daughter-in-law. She could tell by the light that sprang up in his eyes when he spoke to her of his son Norman.

Norman Kuntz, though, wasn’t like his daett at all. He was shy and withdrawn for the most part. The boy was handsome enough and came from an excellent family, so he ought to bubble with confidence, but he didn’t. So far he’d lacked the courage to take Katie home from the Sunday-night hymn singing—although he did spend considerable time stealing glances at her in the meetings. He’d mustered up enough courage lately to send a few tentative smiles her way.

There was nothing in Norman that set Katie’s heart pounding so far. Not like Ben Stoll had done. That had been another matter entirely. But Katie knew she shouldn’t be comparing Norman with Ben. Her life had changed for the better now, and she wasn’t going back to the past. Ben had been a terrible misjudgment, and she didn’t plan to repeat the error.

This time whoever the man was who drove her home, Katie wanted Mamm’s full support. And hopefully Jesse’s too, although he’d mostly care about whether the young man was a gut church member and knew how to work hard. Norman met both of those standards quite well. It helped, of course, that he would be a gut provider for his family, but that paled in comparison to the really important matter to Katie. Her main concern was that Norman would never do what Ben had done—break her heart.

Katie sighed, pushing the dark thoughts aside. Things were coming together well for her. This offer of a teaching job had been another blessing from Da Hah. One of the many she’d been given since Ben’s betrayal.

Katie sighed again, allowing her mind to wander into the past. For years she’d dreamed of capturing Ben Stoll’s attention. Mamm had warned her that such handsome boys were above her, and she shouldn’t dream that way. And that was long before Ben even knew Katie existed. But Mamm had been drawing from her own experience of rejection, and the young man she’d loved had never even asked her home. So Katie had rejected Mamm’s counsel and hadn’t drawn back when Ben finally noticed her at a Mennonite Youth Gathering. She’d ridden in Ben’s buggy and held his hand. They’d even kissed—often and with great joy. How could she have been so wrong about him? Katie pondered the question and managed a faint smile. Even in this situation she could be thankful. The pain of that question no longer stung as much. She’d given the pain and hard questions over to Da Hah. He knew the answers, and He would forgive her where she’d been wrong.

Now she was being given a wunderbah opportunity by the community. They were entrusting her with the care of their children for a whole school year. This honor had been held by Ruth Troyer for the past few years. After chasing Jesse Mast before he’d married Katie’s mamm, Ruth had finally found a man who asked to wed her—Albert Gingerich. He was an older farmer in the community whose wife had passed away last year.

Ruth had stepped down from consideration as a teacher this summer in preparation for her wedding, although she probably hadn’t imagined in her wildest dreams that Katie Raber would be offered her job. Ruth might have hung on for another year if she’d known that. After all, she’d been rebuffed by Jesse in favor of Katie’s mamm, Emma Raber, and the sting of the rejection and community talk surely still rankled in Ruth’s mind.

Katie smiled at the memory of Mamm and Jesse’s courtship. The two widows—Emma and Ruth—had faced each other down, and Mamm had won! The strange thing was that Mamm hadn’t put up much of a fight—at least not out in the open. But maybe that was the allure that drew Jesse in. Katie decided she needed to allow that Mamm had more wisdom than she let on at times. Ruth had had all of Jesse’s children on her side at first, and she put her best moves on Jesse by baking the pecan pies he loved. Mamm, on the other hand, had turned down Jesse’s advances the first few times he came calling, which seemed to make him all the more determined. And when she finally came around, Emma offered nothing but herself. In the end, all of Jesse’s children except Mabel, the eldest, had come over to Mamm’s side.

Mabel hadn’t been the easiest person to live with after the wedding, but since Katie’s return from Europe they were on decent terms. Mabel’s heart had been softened last year by seeing the great heartache Ben’s betrayal had caused Katie.

A rattle of buggy wheels in the schoolyard interrupted her thoughts. Katie walked to the window again. She gasped as Ruth Troyer climbed out of her buggy. What did she want? Had she forgotten some of her personal possessions? If so, she could have come in the evening after I’d gone home, Katie thought. But, there was no sense avoiding Ruth, so she might as well put on a brave front.

“Gut morning,” Ruth said with a forced smile when Katie opened the door.

“Gut morning,” Katie replied as she held the door and invited Ruth in.

“I thought I might catch you here this morning.”

“Yah,” Katie managed to get out, her smile gone now. “There’s much to do before school starts.”

Ruth pushed past her and bustled inside. “I thought I’d drive over in case you might want some advice, seeing this is your first term and all. And remember, I did teach here for three years so I know many of the students and the material. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to answer them.”

Katie swallowed hard. “Did the school board send you?”

Ruth laughed. “Nee, I’m here on my own. Don’t tell me you’re too high and mighty to accept help? Just because you’re a schoolteacher now doesn’t mean we don’t all remember where you came from, Katie Raber. After all, that man of yours is still sitting in jail.”

“I have no connection with Ben Stoll anymore,” Katie countered. “I haven’t seen him since before he was arrested.”

“Well, that doesn’t matter now.” Ruth breezed around the room, speaking over her shoulder. “I guess we all make our mistakes. But I, for one, would have seen that one coming. And I suspect your mamm did, but she was too busy stealing Jesse from me to warn you.”

Katie turned and watched Ruth. This was after all her schoolhouse now, and she’d better act like it was. Katie kept her voice even. “Mamm did have reservations about Ben—just to set the record straight. And she didn’t steal Jesse from you. Jesse made up his own mind.”

Ruth turned around. “Things do turn out for the best now, don’t they? Thank Da Hah Jesse didn’t decide on me. Then I never would have been available for Albert’s proposal. Did you know he farms more than 100 acres northwest of Dover? Some of the best black soil in the area. It’s worth a fortune. He’ll have a mighty gut heritage to hand down to his children.”

Katie forced a smile. “I’m glad for you, Ruth. And Mamm has fallen deeply in love with Jesse, so everything did turn out for the best.”

“It always does.” Ruth glared at Katie. “And I guess you know gut and well why you got this job. Enos is expecting quite a lot out of his investment, if you ask me.”

“I don’t expect you know what you’re speaking of,” Katie said. She tried to still her pounding heart. How this woman could get under her skin! Enos might hope she’d date his son, but he hadn’t made any requirement or suggestion for her to do so while hiring her.

Ruth laughed. “I don’t think you’re that blind, Katie. Enos is a man of high standards. And your past hasn’t gone away, believe me. He’s just overlooking it right now. But if you turn down the advances of his youngest son, I doubt if things will stay that way for long.”

Katie almost sputtered a denial, but she pressed her lips together instead. Nothing would persuade Ruth’s mind. Not once she’d made it up. And there likely was some truth to the woman’s statements.

Ruth smiled, apparently taking Katie’s silence as victory. “Let me show you the books then, and I’ll get out of here. I have a ton of things that need doing for the wedding preparations, but I told myself this morning that I owe you at least one visit since I was the former teacher. I’m aware you know nothing about teaching. I do hate to see you thrown into this situation and making a total mess out of it—to say nothing about all the decent learning from the past few years that could be lost. Let’s look at the books for this term.”

Katie walked toward the table by the window. Two of the books had fallen to the floor while she’d been going through them, but she hadn’t noticed until Ruth’s criticizing presence entered the room.

Ruth marched over and bent down to pick up the books. “This is no way to treat new books! I always told myself, if I don’t respect the school’s property, how can I expect ‘my’ children to? Because they do, after all, learn more by example than by any lecture. But how would you know such a thing? Your mamm probably never taught you much.”

Katie choked back her response. Ruth was trying to goad her into saying something she might regret. And Enos had just been here, and he’d said nothing about books lying on the floor. Everyone knew such things happened during unpacking. But Katie knew Ruth would only see more of Enos’s scheming and favor in his silence, so she might as well keep quiet about that too.

Ruth’s voice continued in lecture mode. “These are your first-grade reading books, Katie. Be sure to spend plenty of time with that age group. The children need to learn quickly because everything else is at a standstill until they learn how to read.”

Katie nodded, forcing herself to listen. Ruth was telling her some

gut things, and she did have much to learn. She even managed to keep a smile on her face as the former teacher droned on far longer than Katie had hoped. Over an hour later, Katie was more than ready to see Ruth leave. She summoned up her best manners as Ruth finally prepared to go. “Thank you for your time, Ruth. I do appreciate it.”

“It’s gut that you can listen,” Ruth remarked. “I guess your mamm taught you something after all. Now, will you come out and hold my horse for me? He gets a little skittish when I take off. Albert promised me a decent horse when I move into his house after the wedding. Now that’s a decent man, if you ask me.”

Katie held her tongue as she walked outside. She held the bridle of Ruth’s horse as the former teacher climbed inside the buggy.

“I hope you remember everything I told you,” Ruth said as she took off with a slap of the reins.

Grinding her teeth, Katie watched Ruth go. That woman was the limit and then some. But Ruth was also a creature Da Hah had made, and her elder besides. And the woman had given her some useful advice.

My Opinion:

I haven’t had the chance to begin this book – will update with review.

 

(c) 2013, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Katie’s Forever Promise by Jerry Eicher #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran #grow4christ


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:
Bonnie Doran
and the book:
Dark Biology
Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Taylor for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bonnie Doran’s debut novel, Dark Biology, released October 25th as a science fiction thriller from Harbourlight of Pelican Book Group. Prior to delving into fiction, she wrote and sold over 60 devotionals. She is represented by Steve Hutson of WordWise Media. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading (mostly science fiction), cooking, Sudoku puzzles, and hanging out with other writers, sci-fi fans, and Mad Scientists. She has a reputation of telling groan-producing puns and volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She’s been married 29 years to an electrical engineer and Mad Scientist who owns a 2,300-pound electromagnet and plays with lasers for a living.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Renowned vaccinologist “Hildi” Hildebrandt has set her sights on beating her brother to a Nobel Prize, and the opportunity to conduct experiments on the International Space Station might just provide the means to obtain that goal.

Chet Hildebrandt should have had that opportunity. But now he’ll teach a lesson to them all: his hot-shot astronaut sister, his philandering hypocritical father, and the CDC for not properly appreciating his work. One vial of a virus purloined from the CDC labs and released at his father’s marriage seminar should do the trick, without hurting anybody. After all, it’s only a mild influenza strain…Or is it?

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 342 pages

Publisher: Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1611162777

ISBN-13: 978-1611162776

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Infection Minus Ten MonthsHildi’s nose itched.She ignored it. While she waited for her lab partner to emerge from the airlock, she checked the seals of her blue biocontainment suit again. Good habits could save her life.Hildi pulled a coiled yellow air hose suspended from the ceiling and plugged it into a socket near her waist. The deflated suit expanded as air roared past her face. The familiar ballooning sensation saddened her for a moment. She’d miss her work here.

Then she grinned. She’d be wearing a pressure suit in her new job and performing similar cutting-edge work in an even stranger environment.

Her practiced eyes appraised Biosafety Level 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most dangerous lab. Everything “down and cold.” But an adjoining room held liquid-nitrogen freezers filled with hot agents, the deadliest diseases known to man. Francine stepped from the airlock. Hildi’s college friend had never worked in Level 4, but she moved with confidence. Hildi stared into Francine’s faceplate and noted her calm expression. She’d do fine.

Hildi maneuvered past the stainless-steel tables dominating the room. She pulled two-inch test tubes, a push-button micropipette, and other tools from drawers and placed them in the biosafety cabinet, a glorified box with a fume hood and clear front that rested on the work counter. She detached her hose, inhaling the reserved air in her suit.

Humming to herself, she walked into the adjoining room and attached her suit to another hose. Every time Hildi moved in the lab, she repeated the procedure, a necessary inconvenience if she wanted to continue breathing.

She punched a code into the lock of one of the stainless-steel freezers and extracted a vial of the latest X virus that may or may not have killed John Doe.

Returning to the biosafety hood, she slipped her yellow-gloved hands under the clear protective shield, a sneeze guard at a toxic salad bar. She withdrew a tiny sample of the unknown and released it into one of the tubes. After Hildi repeated the protocol many times, she keyed the information into the computer.

Hildi glanced at Francine just as she straightened from a hunched position over a microscope. Francine turned, her movements jerky like a marionette’s. Her suit’s chest zipper gaped, exposing her blue scrubs underneath. She seemed to shrink as her biosuit deflated.

Hildi froze.

“I’ve got a problem here!” Francine yelled, her voice quavering. The rush of air in their ears turned conversations in Level 4 into a shouting match. Francine fumbled for the zipper with trembling fingers.

Hildi’s heart skipped several beats then she zipped the suit shut in one smooth motion. “Zippers get worn. They can pop open.”

Francine’s white-rimmed, dark-chocolate eyes returned to normal. “How bad was that?” Her voice still quavered.

“Your suit had positive pressure the whole time. A hot agent couldn’t get in. You OK?”

Francine gave a nervous chuckle. “Sure gave me the jumpy jitters.” She turned back to the scope.

Hildi released the breath she’d been holding. Risk was part of the job. Zippers failed. Gloves failed. Usually it wasn’t life threatening.

She placed the rack of tubes in the incubator cabinet, maintainedat the ominous temperature of warm blood, and then returned the original sample of hot agent to the freezer. Her mood descended into a gray chasm. She already missed the challenge of Level 4. But she had a job offer that would take her research to a whole new level. She could smell that Nobel Prize. Her brother Chet would never catch up to her now.

Hildi exhaled a heavy sigh that fogged her faceplate. “Done,” she yelled. “Finally I can get out of here and scratch my nose.”

“Thought you’d be used to it after three years.”

“Never. Right now it’s driving me nuts.”

Francine chuckled and headed for the airlock.

Hildi followed. She inhaled the chemical smell as the decontamination shower sprayed disinfectant over her suit. The two of them scrambled out of their blue suits as soon as they reached the changing room. Hildi scratched her tingling nose with ferocity.

Francine grinned at her and walked to the regular showers which contained detergent for washing and a bath of ultraviolet light.

Hildi hung her short suit next to Francine’s long one. She reached up to caress a sleeve of the guardian that protected her against infection. “Thanks for keeping me safe. I’ll be back.”

Hildi stripped and marched naked to the shower. No modesty in this job. Afterward, she tugged on jeans and a mauve T-shirt.

Her lab partner’s perfect complexion glistened as she toweled off. Hildi’s pale skin and red curls contrasted with Francine’s coffee coloring and corn-rowed black hair. Not exactly twins separated at birth.

“When do you get in to Houston?” Francine pulled on black leggings and a flowered tunic then grabbed her tiny purse.

“Around four.” Hildi grimaced. “Rush hour. My favorite time.” She longed for the feel of the afternoon sun on her face, but she wouldn’t enjoy it today.

“I’m surprised Director Hunt gave you such a long leave of absence.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity.” Her spirits bounced like an acrobat on a trampoline. “But it’s not like I won’t be working.” She grunted as she wrenched her holds-anything-and-hides-everything handbag from her locker.

Francine smiled. “You know, I might just lock you in one of the labs until after your flight leaves.”

Hildi laughed. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t try me. I’m missing you already.” Francine hugged her. “I can’t believe you’ll be gone for a whole year.”

Hildi swallowed to keep her voice from cracking. “I will be back for visits, you know.”

“You’d better be.”

They walked through another airlock into a corridor and less-lethal safety levels. The burning, moist smell of giant autoclaves bid a pungent farewell.

“You just don’t want to work with Chet.” Hildi baited her friend.

“Don’t rub it in.” Francine lowered her voice. “Did you hear? Your brother’s in big trouble.” Francine sounded like she relished the thought.

Hildi groaned. “What did he do this time?”

“Chet worked on that new anthrax sample from England without authorization. Director Hunt turned three shades of purple.”

“Hunt’s a bit paranoid about the paperwork, that’s all.”

Francine shook her head. “Your brother has an attitude.”

“I know.” Hildi frowned. “It’s hard to work in the same building with him when he avoids me like—well—the plague.”

“He’s done a good job at alienating everyone around here, so don’t feel special.”

They drove directly to the airport in Francine’s tired green Altima. The Atlanta traffic, abysmal at any time of the day, choked Hildi with exhaust fumes. She turned up the AC. “Sure you don’t mind caring for my cat?”

“Whiskers will be just fine.”

Francine pulled up to departures, opened the trunk, and hefted the bulky suitcases. “What do you have in here, moon rocks?”

Hildi grabbed her carry-on. They chatted until a security officer ordered, “Clear the lane, please.”

Hildi fished in her purse for a tissue and gave Francine one more tight hug. “Thanks for everything.”

“Vaya con Dios.”

Hildi wheeled her suitcases to the nearest door, her stomach fluttering as if she’d just won the lottery. Maybe she had.

****

Hildi deplaned in Houston after an unremarkable flight. She heaved her suitcases onto their wheels and stepped outside. A tanned man in a polo shirt and jeans held a sign. Dr. Hildebra. Someone hadn’t quite fit her name on the cardboard. Situation normal.

“Evangeline?” He smiled.

“Please call me Hildi.”

“Larry Gomez.”

Hildi stifled a gasp and flung her star-struck feelings aside as she wiped sweaty palms on her jeans. Larry’s exploits in space were the stuff of legend. She shook his hand.

He loaded her luggage into the trunk of his silver Jaguar convertible. More diesel exhaust assaulted Hildi as they headed south on I-45. She’d expected oil fields and cowboy hats when she first came here but instead found apartments, shopping centers, and malls. Same humidity as Atlanta, same traffic. He chatterednonstop.

Hildi interrupted. “So tell me about the rest of the team.”

“You’ll like them. Jasper Reingold and Frank Schotenheimer.”

Hildi nearly jolted out of her seat. “Frank?” If she’d known, would she have volunteered for this assignment?

In a heartbeat.

Larry’s face held a puzzled frown. “You know him?”

She hesitated. How had Larry missed knowing about her relationship with Frank? Would it jeopardize her chance to work in space? No way to hide it now. “We were engaged.”

“Well, things are about to get interesting.” Larry’s mouth quirked. “The director moved him up from a later mission when our pilot shattered his leg yesterday.”

She stared at the scenery. Frank? On her team? Scenes flashed in her mind. Their first kiss that had warmed her to her toes. Her growing suspicions. The night she confronted him about his gotta-work-late excuses, and he confessed his affairs. Trampled dreams.

Lord, I could use a little help here.

Larry must have sensed her mood. He didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip.

An hour later, they pulled up to the employee entrance of a sprawling facility, the salty tang of the Gulf of Mexico perceptible even this far from the ocean. Shimmers of heat rose from the pavement. After the security guard examined their badges, he beamed. “Dr. Hildebrandt? Welcome. Let me page Dan Stockton for you. He asked me to notify him when you arrived.”

Hildi’s mind whirled. First Frank and now Dan? Last time they’d talked, Dan had been training in Alabama. Probably his idea of a romantic surprise. She tried to submerge a surfacing smile. She wanted to jump into his arms when Dan arrived. Instead, she forced herself into neutral pose. He wore a periwinkle silk shirt with coordinating tie. Always a tie, as if he could never relax.Larry whispered in Hildi’s ear. “Now you know why he’s earned the nickname Dandy Dan.”

“Hildi.” Dan stepped toward her with an eager grin, glanced at Larry, and stopped in mid-stride.

“You know him, too?” Larry’s glance bounced back and forth between them like a hyperactive tennis ball.

Dan hesitated. “Uh, yes. We’ve met.” An uncomfortable silence descended. Hildi stared at the polished floor, counting the squares. She didn’t want to tell the mission commander about another relationship, especially when she couldn’t explain it herself. An on-again, off-again, long-distance relationship that was going nowhere.Larry cleared his throat and turned to Hildi. “Another fiancé? Have we ever been engaged?”

Hildi laughed, relieved he didn’t ask any more questions.

Dan smiled. “Would you rather go to your quarters first or eat?”

Her stomach rumbled in response.

“Perry’s Steakhouse?” Larry still eyed them with suspicion.

“Yes, sir.” Dan spread his arms and planted his feet on the emblem emblazoned on the floor, like a barker at the circus. “Welcome to the Johnson Space Center and phase two of astronaut training.”


My Opinion:

 

I regret that it’s taken me so long to read and update this tour with a review because this book was fantastic!  It was suspenseful and also filled with faith which can sometimes be hard to do for some writers but Bonnie pulled it off with great success!  Hildi and Chet are brother and sister, one is estranged from the family and the other finds great success in their personal life and their career – much to the chagrin of the other.  Hildi takes on a new position with NASA but Chet wanted the position so sets the stage for a sibling rivalry that will go horribly wrong – and I know a thing or two about sibling rivalries.

 

It’s hard to write a review about this type of book because I’m always afraid of giving away too much of the story and then it makes it pointless for you to read it.  I so wanted to hate Chet, like the human condition, but then I saw him through his family’s eyes as well as how Christ sees a repentant person – with grace and mercy.  Even though it’s a science fiction, it may have some truth in it with regards to a pandemic and needing a cure so that people can live through it, and that is what intrigued me.  It doesn’t get bogged down with all the science terms and such and for that I’m very grateful – but it gives enough detail that both the lay person and the scientific will more than likely enjoy this fast paced book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

(c) 2013, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins #grow4christ


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:
Jerry B. Jenkins
and the book:
I, Saul
Worthy Publishing (August 27, 2013)
***Special thanks to Leeanna Case for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jerry B. Jenkins is a New York Times best-selling novelist (Left Behind Series) and biographer (Billy Graham, Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, Nolan Ryan, Joe Gibbs and many more), with over 70 million books sold. His writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and he has been featured on the cover of Newsweek.
Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A MURDERER who would change the WORLD

From multi-million copy best-selling novelist Jerry Jenkins comes a compelling international thriller that conveys you from present-day Texas to a dank Roman dungeon in A.D. 67, then down the dusty roads of ancient Israel, Asia, and back to Rome.

A young seminary professor, Augustine Knox, is drawn into a deadly race to save priceless parchments from antiquities thieves and discovers a two- thousand-year old connection with another who faced death for the sake of the truth. I, Saul consists of two riveting adventures in one, transporting you between the stories of Augustine Knox and Saul of Tarsus.

Filled with political intrigue, romance, and rich historical detail, I, Saul is a thrilling tale of loyal friendships tested by life-or-death quests, set two millennia apart, told by a master storyteller.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.99

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Worthy Publishing (August 27, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1617950068

ISBN-13: 978-1617950063

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Tor nT E x ASW EDNESDAy, M Ay 7“call now. desper8.”The text appeared on Dr. Augie Knox’s phone at 8:55 a.m., seconds before he was to turn it off—protocol for profs entering a classroom at Arlington Theological Seminary.

Augie could have fired off a “give me a minute,” but the message was not signed and the sending number matched nothing in his contacts. The prefix 011-39-06 meant Rome. He’d traveled extensively in his thirty-eight years and enjoyed many visits to the Eternal City, but such a text could easily portend one of those I’ve-been-mugged-and-need- money scams. Whatever this was could wait until he got the Systematic Theology final exam started and could step into the hall with his phone.

Augie had long been fascinated by his students’ nervous chatter before
final exams. One announced, “I looked you up in Who’s Who, Doc, and I

know your full name.”

“Congratulations for discovering something you could have found in your student handbook four years ago.”

“No! That just says Dr. Augustine A. Knox! I found out what the A

stands for.”

“Good for you. Now, a few instructions . . .”

“Aquinas! Augustine Aquinas Knox! Man, what other career choice did you have?”

“Thank you for revealing the thorn in my flesh. If you must know, that moniker was my father’s idea.” Augie mimicked his dad’s monotone basso. “‘Names are important.They can determine a life’s course.’”

Many students chuckled, having sat under the elder Dr. Knox before he fell ill the year before.

“It also says you were adopted. Sorry, but it’s published.” “No secret,” Augie said.

Another hand shot up.“Was that a hint about the exam? Will we be speculating on Paul’s thorn in the flesh?”

“He’s only mentioned that mystery every class,” another said.

Augie held up a hand. “I trust you’re all prepared for any eventual-

ity.”
“So, what’s your dad’s name?”

“Ed!” someone called out. “Everybody knows that.” “Look it up,” Augie said. “You may find it revealing.”

With blue books distributed, Augie slipped out and turned on his

phone.The plea from Rome had already dropped to third on his message list. At the top was a voice mail from Dr. Moore, who had been filling in as acting department chair since Augie’s father had been hospitalized with a stroke.
Augie would have checked that one first, but next was a voice mail from Sofia Trikoupis, his heart. It was eight hours later in Athens, after five in the afternoon. “Call me at the end of your day,” her message said. “I’ll wait up.” It would be midnight her time by then, but she apparently needed his undivided attention. That would bug him all day. How he longed for them to be together.

His phone vibrated. Rome again. “urgent. call now, pls!” Augie pressed his lips together, thumbing in, “who’s this?” “trust me. begging.”

“not w/out knowing who u r.”

Augie waited more than a minute for a response, then snorted. As I

figured. But as he headed back into the classroom, his phone buzzed again. “zionist.”

Augie stopped, heat rising in his neck. He quickly tapped in, “90 minutes OK?”

“now! critical.”

Few people had been more important in Augie’s life than Roger Michaels, the diminutive fifty-year-old South African with a James Earl Jones voice and a gray beard that seemed to double the size of his pale, gnomish face. Augie would never lead a tour of an ancient city without Roger as the guide.

“2 mins,” Augie texted.

He rushed to his father’s old office, which still bore the senior Dr. Knox’s nameplate on the door. Augie knocked and pushed it open.“Les, I need a favor.”

Dr. Moore took his time looking up from his work. “Number one, Dr. Knox, I did not invite you in.”

“Sorry, but—”

“Number two, I have asked that you refer to me as Dr. Moore.”
“My bad again, but listen—”

“And number three,” the acting chair said, making a show of study- ing his watch, “we both know that at this very moment you are to be conducting—”

“Dr. Moore, I have an emergency call to make and I need you to stand in for me for a few minutes.”

Moore sighed and rose, reaching for his suit coat.“I know what that’s about.Take all the time you need.”

Augie followed him down the hall. “You do?” “You didn’t get my message?”

“Oh, no, sorry. I saw one was there, but I—”

“But you assumed other messages were more important. I said we needed to chat after your first exam.”

“Well, sure, I’ll be here.”

“Part of what we need to discuss is your father. Is that what your call is about?”

“What about my father?” “We’ll talk at ten.”

“But is he—”

“There have been developments, Dr. Knox. But he is still with us.” As Dr. Moore headed for the classroom, Augie ducked into a stair-

well, away from the windows and the relentless sun forecasters were saying would push the temperature at least twenty degrees above normal by 2:00 p.m., threatening the 107° record for the month.

Augie wasn’t getting enough signal strength to complete his call, so he hurried back out to the corridor. Cell coverage was still weak, so he stepped outside. It had to be near 90° already. Scalp burning, he listened as the number rang and rang.

Augie moved back inside for a minute, braced by the air condition-
ing, then ventured out to try again. He waited two minutes, tried once more, and felt he had to get back to class.

On a third attempt, as he neared the entrance, it was clear someone had picked up a receiver and hung up. Augie dialed twice more as he walked back to take over for Dr. Moore. Just before he reached the class- room, his phone came alive again with a text.

“sorry. later. trash ur phone. serious.”

Augie couldn’t make it compute. Had his phone been traced? Tapped? If he got a new one, how would Roger know how to reach him?

Dr. Moore stood just inside the classroom door and emerged imme- diately when he saw Augie. “Talk to your mother?” he said.

“No, should I?”

Moore sighed and opened his palms. “You interrupt my work and don’t check on your father?”

Augie reached for his cell again, but hesitated. If he used it, would he be exposing his mother’s phone too?

“Call her after we’ve talked, Dr. Knox. Now I really must get back to my own responsibilities.”

It was all Augie could do to sit still till the end of class. Before get- ting back to Dr. Moore, he dropped off the stack of blue books in his own office and used the landline to call his contact at Dallas Theolog- ical Seminary, just up the road. Arlington Sem sat equidistant between DTS to the east and the massive Southwestern Baptist Seminary to the west. Arlington was like the stepchild no one ever talked about, a single building for a couple of hundred students, struggling to stay alive in the shadows of those two renowned institutions.When Augie needed some- thing fast, he was more likely to get it from the competition. Such as a new phone.

Like his father before him, Augie was the travel department at
Arlington. No auxiliary staff handled logistics as they did at DTS and Southwestern. The head techie at Dallas was Biff Dyer, a string bean of a man a few years older than Augie with an Adam’s apple that could apply for statehood. He could always be counted on to program Augie’s phone, depending on what country he was traveling to.

“Calling from your office phone, I see,” Biff said. “What happened to the cell I got you?”

“It’s been compromised.”

Biff chuckled. “Like you’d know.What makes you think so?” “I need a new one.Trust me.”

“I’ll just switch out the chip.You’re not gonna find a better phone. How soon you need it?”

“Fast as possible.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I’m not deliverin’ it. Can you come by during normal hours?”

There was a knock at Augie’s door and he wrenched around to see

Les Moore’s scowl. “Gotta go, Biff.”

“Sorry, Les. On my way right now. Or do you want to just meet here?” “Here would not be any more appropriate than your insisting on our being on a first-name basis,” Dr. Moore said, scanning the tiny chamber in which the guest chair was folded in a corner and brought out only

when necessary.

“C’mon, Les. You were only a couple years ahead of me. We hung out, didn’t we?”

“Hardly. You spent most of your free time in the gym with the—

what?—six other jocks who happened to enroll here.”

It was true. And everyone knew the library had been where to find

Les Moore.

Augie looked at his watch. Another final at 11. He followed his interim
boss back to his father’s old office. It wasn’t that much bigger than his, but at least the guest chair didn’t block the door.

“Would you start with my dad?” Augie said as he sat.

“I would have thought you’d have already checked in with your mother, but all right. She called this morning, knowing you were in class. Your father has slipped into a coma.”

Augie nodded slowly. “She okay?”

“Your mother? Sure. It’s not like he’s passed. She just thought you might want to visit this afternoon.”

“Appreciate it.”

“Now then, Dr. Knox, I have some paperwork here that I’m going to need you to sign. Frankly, it’s not pleasant, but we’re all expected to be team players and I’m going to assume you’ll accede to the adminis- tration’s wishes.”

“What’s up?”

“You’re scheduled to teach summer-school Homiletics beginning four days after commencement.”

“A week from today, right.”

“And we have contracted with you for this stipend, correct?”

Why Les felt it necessary to pencil the figure on the back of a business card and dramatically slide it across the desk, Augie could not fathom.

“Yep, that’s the fortune that’s going to let me retire by forty.”

“Um-hm. Humorous. It is my sad duty to ask you to agree to under- take the class for two-thirds that amount.”

“You’re serious.” “Always.”

That was for sure.

“Les—Dr. Moore, you know we do these classes pretty much as gifts to the sem. Now they seriously want us to do them for less?”
“This is entirely up to you.” “I can refuse?”

“We’re not going to force you to teach a class when we have to renege on our agreement.”

“Good, because I just don’t think I can do it for that.”

“I’ll report your decision. We’ll be forced to prevail upon a local adjunct instruct—”

“Like that youth pastor at Arlington Bible—” “He’s a graduate, Dr. Knox.”

“I know! I taught him. And he’s a great kid, but he didn’t do all that well in Homiletics, and there’s a reason they let him preach only a couple of times a year over there.”

“He’ll be happy to do it for this figure—probably even for less.” “And the students be hanged.”

Les cocked his head. “Naturally, we would prefer you . . .”

Augie reached for his pen and signaled with his fingers for the doc- ument.

“I’m glad I can count on you, Dr. Knox. Now, while we’re on the subject, I’m afraid there’s more.You were due for a four percent increase beginning with the fall trimester.”

“Let me guess, that’s not going to happen either.” “It’s worse.”

“What, now it’s a four percent decrease?” “I wish.”

“Oh, no.”

“Dr. Knox, we have seen an alarming downturn in admissions, and the administration is predicting a fall enrollment that puts us at less than breakeven, even with massive budget cuts.We’re all being asked to accept twenty percent reductions in pay.”
Augie slumped. “I was hoping to get married this fall, Les. I can barely afford the payments on my little house as it is.”

“This is across the board, Dr. Knox. The president, the deans, the chairs, all of us. Some departments are actually losing personnel. Mainte- nance will be cut in half, and we’ll all be expected to help out.”

Arlington had been staggering along on a shoestring for decades, but this was dire. “Tell me the truth, Dr. Moore. Is this the beginning of the end? Should I entertain the offers I’ve gotten from Dallas over the years?” “Oh, no! The trustees wish us to weather this storm, redouble our efforts to market our distinctives, and then more than make up for the pay cuts as soon as we’re able. Besides, the way your father bad-mouthed Dallas and Southwestern his whole career, you wouldn’t dream of insult-

ing him by going to either, would you?”

“He bad-mouthed everything and everybody, Les.You know that.” “Not a pleasant man. No offense.”

Augie shrugged. “You worked for him. I lived with him.”

“Do you know, I have heard not one word from your father since the day I was asked to temporarily assume his role? No counsel, no guidelines, no encouragement, nothing. I assumed he was angry that you had not been appointed—”

That made Augie laugh.“He still sees me as a high school kid! Forget all my degrees. Anyway, I wouldn’t want his job, or yours. It’s not me.”

“How well I know. I mean, I’m just saying, you’re not the typical prof, let alone department chair.”

“I’m not arguing.”

Augie couldn’t win. Despite having been at the top of his classes in college and seminary, his having been a high school jock and continu- ing to shoot hoops, play touch football, and follow pro sports made him an outsider among real academics.Too many times he had been asked if
he was merely a seminary prof because that was what his father wanted for him.

Dr. Moore slid the new employment agreement across the desk. “Sorry, Les, but this one I’m going to have to think and pray about.” The interim chair seemed to freeze. “Don’t take too long. If they

aren’t sure they can count on you for the fall, they’ll want to consider the many out-of-work professors who would be thrilled, in the current econ- omy, to accept.”

“Yeah, that would help. Stock the faculty with young assistant pas- tors.”

“May I hear from you by the end of the day?”

“Probably not, but you’ll be the first to know what I decide.”

Back in his own office, Augie popped the chip out of his cell phone and put it in a separate pocket. He called his mother from his desk phone to assure her he would see her at the hospital late in the afternoon, then called Biff to tell him he would try to stop by DTS on his way.

“What’s the big emergency?” Biff said.

“Roger Michaels has himself in some kind of trouble.” “Tell me when you get here.”

During his 11:00 a.m. final Augie was summoned to the administra- tive offices for an emergency call. On the way he stopped by to see if Les would stand in for him again, but his office was dark.The final would just have to be unsupervised for a few minutes.

“Do you know who’s calling?” he said to the girl who had fetched him. If it was his mother . . .

“Someone from Greece.”

He finally reached the phone and discovered it was Sofia. “Thought you wanted me to call later, babe.You all right?”

“Roger is frantic to reach you.”
“I know. He—”

“He gave me a new number and needs you to call right now, but not from your cell.” She read it to him.

“Any idea what’s going on, Sof ?” Augie said as he scribbled. “This is not like him.”

“No idea, but, Augie, he sounded petrified.” “That doesn’t sound like him either.”

“You can tell me what it’s about later, but you’d better call him right away.”

Augie rushed to his office and dialed the number in Rome. It rang six times before Roger picked up. “Augie?”

“Yes! What’s—”

“Listen carefully. I’ve got just seconds. I need you in Rome as soon as you can get here.”

“Rog, what’s happening? This is the absolute worst time for me to—” “Give Sofia your new cell number and text me your ETA. I’ll give

you a new number where you can call me from Fiumicino as soon as you get in.”

“I don’t know when I could get there, Rog. I’ve got—” “Augie! You know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t life or death.”


My Opinion:

I’ve enjoyed other of Jerry B. Jenkins books before, namely the Left Behind series, and this one is no different it was a wonderful read that was quick but very much enjoyable, of course I’ve had time to do a lot of reading since I’m in the hospital with my daughter.  I enjoyed how he wove a modern time mystery together with something that happened in “Bible times” – it couldn’t have been easy, but it was so great to see the the two time periods woven together as Saul’s story comes to life and those who seek to make money off the historical and religious document.  Of course it’s a work of fiction but it is neat to think that Saul/Paul could have written his testimony out and hidden it someone that is yet to be discovered and there are those, today, who would seek to destroy it or make a quick buck off the priceless writing.

If you enjoy a modern mystery but also enjoy a great Christian historical fiction story then this book will have you in it’s grips – I enjoyed reading Saul’s story from young boyhood to the time when he began actively persecuting Christians, because even it it’s fictional, there is still maybe some non-fiction to it  and it also spoke to my heart to read in a modern way about Saul’s conversion.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, I, Paul, which comes out in 2014 and should prove to be just as an exciting read as I, Saul is.

 

(c) 2013, Sarah Bailey/Growing for Christ, All Rights Reserved, Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe by Jenny Sulpizio #grow4christ


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:
Jenny Sulpizio
and the book:
Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe
Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a self-proclaimed (and slightly crazed) Wonder Woman Wannabe herself, Jenny Lee Sulpizio is a Christian wife and mother to three amazing kiddos. After hanging up her star-spangled bloomers (and that restrictive red corset) a few years back, Jenny now spends most of her “spare” time dishing out the latest in tips, hints, and practical advice to help guide other mommies through the trenches of motherhood. And when she isn’t cooking, cleaning, starting her latest load of laundry, or attempting to raise her kids right (as in manner-possessing, respectful, God-loving little tikes), Jenny can usually be found writing about it instead. Through her children’s books, personal website, magazine articles, blog, and as a contributing writer for the online supersite, The MOB Society, there’s always plenty of information to relate to, and a whole lot of comic relief to go around.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe will provide the modern-day mommy with sanity-saving tips, advice, and hilarious real-life accounts that every Supermom can most certainly relate to, benefit from, and appreciate. After all, the reader may not have been born with super human strength, but with God on her side, Jesus in her heart, and the Holy Spirit in her corner, she’s more than equipped to handle the daily battles that rage before her. So hold on tight, girls, as we prepare to tackle this role of motherhood together: the good, the bad, (the slightly ugly), and everything in between.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 089112392X

ISBN-13: 978-0891123927

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

You’re a Mom . . . Now What?“There is no way to be a perfect mother,andRB a million ways to be a good one.”

—Jill Churchill

And there she lay. After forty-one-and-a-half weeks of pregnancy, and eighteen long, and rather painful—make that excruciating—hours of labor, my daughter had officially arrived. And it was at that point that I realized . . . I had absolutely no clue what I was supposed to do with her. Other than admiring that sweet, beautiful miracle, wrapped like a little burrito in her swaddling blanket and asleep in my arms, I was frighteningly devoid of my maternal instincts and just waiting for something (anything!), to kick in.

“Excuse me,” I said as I spoke into the hospital room intercom, attempting to grab the attention of one of the attending nurses. “I’m ready for my infant to be taken to the nursery now.”

There was silence on the other end.

“Hello?” I said again, maniacally pressing the button in an effort to get some attention. “Can anyone hear me? I’m pretty tired and need some assistance with getting my daughter settled for the night.”

It was at that point that I could have sworn I heard cackling in the background as the nurse dispatch seemingly collected herself, paused for a moment, and then stated, “Um, we don’t have a nursery, sweetie,” trying hard to hold back laughter. “That baby girl of yours is bunking with you tonight . . . and every night from here on out.”

Puzzled by her response and quite certain she had made a mistake, I looked at my husband in disbelief. With my hormones raging and tears welling up in my bloodshot eyes, I glanced down at my beautiful baby girl and pathetically yelped, “Help me!”

As a new mom, my mind was anxious with inexperience, as question after question on how I should mother my infant kept popping into my head: Why was this baby sleeping so long? What should I do with her if she wakes up? What happens when she has a dirty diaper? Should I ring the nurse to come and change her? In fact, where was the nurse most of the time and why wasn’t she taking care of this baby for me? Wait, why was my hospital gown all wet? Were my breasts leaking? Dear God, what was going on with my body?

And then the ultimate in negative thinking infiltrated my brain: Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this motherhood gig after all. I mean maybe, just maybe, if I could bribe that delivery nurse to come home with me and agree to be my live-in nanny, this might all work out. After all, she did appear to have a sense of humor and definitely seemed like she’d be good with kids.

As it turns out, this “rational” plan of attack I concocted probably wasn’t going to be the best long-term solution I needed after all, especially since bribery tends to work best when you actually have money. But hey, I was a new mommy and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the helplessness and sleep deprivation I was experiencing since that sweet blessing had arrived safely in my arms. Sure, I had been forewarned of the challenges that these first few days might present, but in all honesty, I didn’t believe they would happen to me. You see, prior to becoming a mom, I’d read book after book on how to be a great mother, how to avoid being a bad one, and everything in between. I felt prepared, confident, and ready to defy those “supposed” issues that most new mommies face: Raging hormones? Please, mine would be even-keel. Colicky baby? Pshaw! Had to be a myth. Complete and total exhaustion to the point where one’s eyelids needed to be pried open with toothpicks? Sounded like complete nonsense to me.

Yep, upon becoming a mother, it appeared that not only was I slightly delusional as to the expectations I had for myself, but it also seemed that I was suffering from a bit of naivety, a hint of denial, and was under the trance of one serious perfectionist complex already. Unbeknownst to me, my Wonder Woman Wannabe alter-ego (complete with imbalanced hormones) was taking up residence within, and the Supermom Syndrome was well underway.

“I think you just need to breathe,” my husband said.

“Breathe?” I asked quizzically, as if he were speaking a foreign language or something.

“Yeah, as in inhale, exhale, and repeat.”

“Oh, yeah . . . right,” I said. “B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Maybe I should try that.”

If only those superpowers would kick in already.

Struggling to Become “Super”

“There will be so many times you feel like you’ve failed. But RBin the eyes, heart and mind of your child you are Super Mom.”

—Stephanie Precourt

Remembering those first few months of motherhood kind of makes me cringe. Now, don’t take my words the wrong way—I was enamored of that beautiful baby I had been given, and was quite aware of how blessed I was. What I struggled with were the changes that came with being a mommy: figuring out which of my baby’s cries meant what, how the whole issue of feeding was supposed to take place, and understanding how to operate (and fully function) on three hours of sleep. In fact, I think I’m still struggling with that one.

Adjustments such as these, well, they’re all part of being a new mom. Unfortunately for me, though, I didn’t get the memo. Instead, my induction into this “maternal sorority” wasn’t the smooth transition I had originally hoped for, and those early days spent in “the motherhood” transpired a bit differently than the visions I had spent years conjuring up in my head. You see, initially, I had expectations of a well-orchestrated daily schedule comprised of pure baby bliss: maybe routine trips to the gym, long showers, and a much-needed nap or two (or three) each day. Throw in the gourmet meals I was going to whip up for my husband each night, and the spotless house I was going to regularly maintain, and I was convinced of my destiny to redefine the “super” in supermom . . . and channel my inner Wonder Woman in the process, I might add.

I’m sure you can guess what happened instead.

The truth of the matter was this: after becoming a mom, my world consisted of a constant struggle to maintain balance in my life. It was evident that all of those ambitious ideas I once possessed were totally ridiculous on my part, and the reality of my situation was that I hardly ever worked out, cooked macaroni and cheese out of the box, a lot, and detested the mere thought of cleaning my own home. I was run-down, tired, and in need of assistance. My clothes didn’t fit, my hair was a mess, and that unblemished, outward facade I once possessed was long gone. I was forced into accepting the fact that my life on this roller coaster ride of motherhood was going to require every ounce of energy I could muster, a whole lot of help from up above, . . . and maybe a serious caffeine addiction, as well.

But wait. Wasn’t this “ride” supposed to be amazing?

Amazing? Yes! Perfect? No.

Were doubts, questions, and moments of pure pandemonium going to surface?

Absolutely.

Would I become the type of mother who prayed incessantly, all the while enduring bouts of temporary insanity, a jolted confidence, and the severe testing of my patience along the way?

Odds were, likely.

Was I going to mess up from time to time, struggle with imperfection a lot, and question my parenting abilities just as often?

All signs would point to “yes.”

But who told me I needed to be perfect? And who said that my best wasn’t going to be good enough? It certainly wasn’t God. Nope, that person was me. I was a new mom struggling to become “super” . . . and I was losing the battle, big time.

So, Now What?

“Enjoy every single moment. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the inspiring, the not-so-glamorous moments. And thank God through it all.”

—Meghan Matt

Throughout this journey, I’ve learned a thing or two, or five hundred, about parenting my clanRB. At this point in my tenure, I’m finally understanding what works, what doesn’t, and what will single-handedly drive me to the brink of insanity without hopes of ever returning. Hey, there’s no denying that motherhood is a blessing and those children of ours are without question miracles, but that doesn’t mean raising them is easy, now does it?

In fact, ever since birthing my beautiful brood, I’ve morphed into a woman that, at times, I hardly recognize. I don’t say this to scare you of course, but my mind has become pretty scattered (okay—make that seriously spacey instead). “It can’t be that bad, could it?” Well, that useless ’80s music trivia I once prided myself on knowing is now a thing of the past. Dates, names, faces, and childhood memories have seemingly retreated to somewhere in the recesses of my brain, and I’m lucky if I leave the house each morning without sporting my ensemble inside out, upside down, or displaying unsightly deodorant stains. This mom (yep, me) has been found in public on more than one occasion donning two different shoes, a bra gone AWOL, and hair that would never be categorized as cute. Those days of carrying on an adult conversation (you know—using words other than “cacaRB” and “binky”) are long gone, and instead of putting my college degrees to use, I simply have them hanging on the wall to help remind me that I even went to college at all.RB

So, now what?

Girls, I think most of us can agree that we possess the desire to become more prepared, better organized, less frazzled mothers. I myself spend a sizeable amount of time praying for more patience, less frustration, and for God to mold me into the type of mom I so desperately want to become—perhaps one whose even a little less absent-minded at times. Hey, I don’t deny that, on occasion, I’ve even prayed for God to grant me some sort of superpowers, as well. Maybe not bionic strength or x-ray vision, but perhaps an extra arm or two for multi-tasking purposes, the ability to turn back time after a not-so-great mommy meltdown, the option to clone myself so I can be in ten different places at once, or simply the power to be everything to everyone during every moment of everyday (without collapsing in utter exhaustion).

Ahh, the life of a Wannabe is never boring, is it?

You, too, might be in search of easier ways to accomplish specific tasks and complete those unending errands. And you might also be a mom who finds herself stuck in a routine that she just can’t work her way out of. Like you, I wanted to be more structured. I wanted to be more prepared. I wanted less stress in my life and more time for those memorable mommy moments I was craving with my youngins’.

I wanted all of these things and more, but didn’t know where to start or how to begin decoding the mystery of motherhood.

After all, there are no cheat sheet or crib notes we can reference. The manual I was in desperate need of to help me figure out how to do this role of mine—broken down by age and gender, and inclusive of all those unexpected surprises that would most certainly pop up on this journeyRB—just didn’t exist. But through my experience, and inexperience, I began to glean some valuable insight into this role. I found that the unexpected should be expected. I finally began to understand and appreciate what the concept of true patience really meant, and that being present day in and day out in the lives of my children, and loving them with my whole heart, was the most important thing I could do for them. I learned all of these things and more through ups and downs, highs and lows (a nervous breakdown or two…kidding, of course), and ultimately, through divine intervention.

But enough chit-chat already, right? Let’s get started by providing you with the information you’re looking for. After all, this guide is in your hands in order to give you tips you’ll need to make your life easier. And it’s been written to give you the practical advice you’re searching for, with the Christian foundation that’s necessary.

The Three Basic Rules of Motherhood

So, what are the three basic rules of motherhood that every Wonder Woman Wannabe should know?

I’m so glad you asked.

1. Expect the unexpected.

I’ll be honest in stating that I haven’t always been a prepared mom. In fact, there have been plenty of times where I have jumped in the car, kids in tow, only to forget some pretty important necessities. You know—items that no mother should be without? We’re talking diapers, wipes, jackets (in the dead of winter), my cell phone, shoes—of all things, how does one forget shoes—and the list goes on and on. You name it and I have forgotten it, because I have failed to take the necessary steps in preparing myself in advance.

It’s in those times that I seriously think my mommy card should be revoked.

But in order to stave off stress and avoid embarrassment, we need to be uber-organized, prepared mommies. If you haven’t heard this before, I’m telling you now: preparation is key when it comes to being a mom. Whether it be packing your kiddos diaper bag the night before in order to avoid the last-minute, early-morning scuffle or simply making a list to remind yourself of your child’s necessities, being prepared is vital to your sanity and overall well-being. Want to make sure you’re prepared for when the unexpected happens to you? How about trying these tips on for size.

Make a list: Now, I’m a Capricorn by birth, which means that I am a maker of all things list-like. Is that even a word? No, seriously, if there’s a list to be made for any reason at all, I’m the gal making one. And my advice to you would be to do the same. Keep a journal, a daily planner, or whatever else will help you stay on task and be more organized. Go ahead, make a list (and check it twice if need be), in order to keep on top of your chores, errands, or any other type of thought in need of jotting down. Believe me—you’ll be glad you did!

Maintain a schedule: I absolutely must keep track of my appointments, and any other event I’m scheduled to make some sort of appearance at, or they become completely lost in the recesses of my brain. I’m a mom, I’ve had kids, and that means my memory is shot (we’ve been over this before). It’s a given. But part of being prepared for day-to-day endeavors is knowing where you have to be, at what time, and for how long. This requires a bit of planning and some organization. Use your cell phone calendar to keep on task, or establish a wall calendar at home so your spouse, kids, and anybody else interested in your monthly activities can be “in the know.” Keeping an up-to-date schedule is a huge sanity saver, girls!

Get help: I am a mom of three. I’ll let you do the math here, but since there is only one of me and three of them, this would indicate that I am severely outnumbered when it comes to my mothering duties. I need help. In fact, I need a lot of help. Confessing this doesn’t make me weak, nor does it make me less of a mom . . . it simply makes me aware of the fact that I need assistance (and that I should never RBbe too proud to ask for it). Do yourselves a favor, moms and employ neighbors, friends, in-laws, parents, or whoever else can help you as often as possible. Help is often times needed . . . and usually just a phone call away.

2. A little patience, please.

Who else out there finds themselves quick-tempered and easily frustrated? I’ve got both of my hands held high on this question and will be the first to admit that part of the problem with me resides in the fact that I no longer think like a kid. I think like an adult instead, and expect my kids to think (and act) the same way that I do.

But as Mark Merrill once stated, “Patience is choosing to control your emotions rather than letting your emotions control you.”

Hey, our kids are going to make mistakes. They’re human. At times, they’re going to do things that make absolutely no sense at all, in this lifetime or any other. They’re going to act out, behave poorly, throw tantrums, and embarrass the heck out of us, because guess what? They’re kids, and the whole concept of good behavior just so happens to be a learned one. It’s how we respond to those crazy situations that make all the difference. Yelling and screaming won’t get you anywhere (believe me, I’ve tried), but controlling your tongue, using reason instead, and implementing the use of prayer most definitely will. When your patience is all but gone, try a few of these tips to help you keep your cool.

Count to ten . . . or eighty: For me, ten seconds won’t cut it. In order to calm my temper and reach that happy place within once again, I shoot for eighty seconds instead. Take some deep, calming breaths and try to breathe your way through the frustration. Remember those Lamaze breathing methods you once used to deliver you’re now tantrum-throwing toddler? Time to brush off those birthing manuals and bust out those techniques all over again. Breathe away that frustration and keep your cool when tempers threaten to rage. It’s worth a try, right?

Pray: In fact, pray like you’ve never prayed before. I find it helpful to sound off in the middle of my frustration: “Lord, help me now, because (enter child’s name here) is trying my patience. I need you to let him know that I can’t take it anymore. Will you please help (speak child’s name here, once again) to become a sweet, loving, and respectful child? You know, the kind of gentleman (or young lady) you call him to be? Lord, hear my prayer. Amen.”

Hey, God knows when you’re about to flip your lid, and He’s aware of how trying His little creations can be. So, seek Him out for help anytime you’re being tested and your sanity is in question. Better yet, ask God for help first and go to Him always . . . and often.

Keep calm and carry on: I feel like this phrase was written especially for me. Keep this saying close to your heart, fresh on your mind, and maybe plaster it somewhere in your home as a reminder when times get tough—because frustration is inevitable when you’re a mommy, which means we had better find ways to deal with it appropriately, amen? Keep calm girls . . . breathe, pray, relax, repeat.

3. Be there or be square

Life can get pretty crazy at times—as in the out-of-control, coo-coo type of crazy. Time speeds by much too quickly. I often find myself anxiously wondering how in the heck my children grew to their current ages and how soon their sweet childhoods will be but memories (ones I hope I’ll be able to remember, that is). It’s downright scary. All those efforts to freeze time have failed miserably. But even if we mamas can’t stop the clock, we do possess the power to make the most of the time we have by enjoying our children purposely, willfully, with our whole hearts, and with 100 percent of our attention. Being present means being deliberate in everything we do with our kiddos. It means refusing to allow the mindless, monotonous jobs of motherhood—cooking, cleaning, laundering, and so on—to consume us. Instead, we focus on the larger picture ahead by not getting wrapped up in the small, meaningless stuff. Confused? Let me clarify:

Together time: Set aside a period each day to spend intentional time with your kids. Read together before bed, watch a favorite family television show, talk about the day’s events, play a board game, or better yet, spend some much-needed time in Scripture. No matter what you do, make these designated moments of the day routine for your child. You know, a portion of the day they can count on and look forward to spending with you.

Listen up: As a mom, my mind just happens to always be in motion. Whether it’s trying to remember if I turned the Crock-Pot on this morning or whether I failed to turn the curling iron off, my brain is never at rest. Come to find out, my children are the same way. But rather than keeping their thoughts to themselves, they’d much rather express them . . . every single one of them, out loud and all of the time. As moms, we need to listen to our kiddos. We need to turn off our minds and turn on our ears. It doesn’t matter if our kids don’t make sense or if the vocabulary they’re using doesn’t exactly equate to English. They feel happy, secure, and safe enough to share with us all that’s going on in that brain of theirs, and their begging for a captive audience. So, let’s make a concerted effort to place our thoughts on hold as we intentionally listen to what their young minds have to say. Because chances are, if we don’t pay attention now, they won’t give us the time of day later.

Limit technology: Cell phones, computers, tablets, and other technological devices that have made their way into our lives are also the instruments currently stripping us from valuable time with our families and loved ones. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of letting these electronic contraptions invade my life. Try curbing your use of these devices, especially when at home, and tend to your social media needs well after they’ve gone to bed.

If only motherhood were this easy though, right? If only these simple practices mentioned above could be the answers to all of our questions and the solutions to all of those mommy dilemmas. But keep in mind: this is only Chapter One, girls. Hang on tight, have no fears, and keep on reading.

A number of sites had this quote with “and”

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/jill%20churchill

http://www.searchquotes.com/quotation/There_is_no_way_to_be_a_perfect_mother,_and_a_million_ways_to_be_a_good_one/232988/

Punctuation found at this site and others.

There will be so many times you feel like you've failed. But in the eyes, heart and mind of your child you are Super Mom - Stephanie Precourt

Might consider saying “can of #.” Since the first story started off with the experience of your firstborn, readers might be interested to see the “then and now” big picture.

Consider changing to “poopy” or some other version of caca. Funny enough, in my house, that would was a no-no to use growing up. 🙂

I would suggest “stinky” as well, but then you’d have rhyming words.

Mine never even made it to “wall status.” They’re tucked in my closet next to a heating pad. Very sad.

This one word seems to convey what you’re getting at, and avoids the awkward phrasing. Okay change?

Some of us (me!) still struggle with this on a daily basis. Using “should” may help remind us stubborn moms that we need to find humility in this area. That includes being willing to call our mother-in-laws for kid-pickup when we’re down to one car. RGG!


My Opinion:

 

I’m writing this as I’m sitting at my daughter’s bedside in the PICU and I guess I do appear as if I’m the Wonder Woman Wannabe described in this book – I’ve been here since Friday and haven’t left the hospital grounds – although I’m still taking care of myself too.  This book was a surprisingly wonderful way to look at the way us moms try to do everything on our own – even the disgusting areas like poop, pee, vomit and those boogers – Jenny Lee Sulpizio has a refreshing take on being a mom and like me she also has 3 children and her stories sound much like mine.  However, unlike Jenny, I couldn’t wait to get my mini-van, although now I drive an SUV but I sitll have dreams of filling a passenger van with my children and $20 sunglasses aren’t cheap, those would be top of the line in my house.

 

I read through this in about a day, give or take the interruptions from doctors, nurses and the insertion of a chest tube – it was a relatively easy and fun read that, had I not been where I am I would have more than likely busted out laughing – but that’s not something one usually hears in the PICU.  So while I’m not going to surrender my Wonder Woman Wannabe title (I don’t like the whole corset and tight look) I’m going to use some of Jenny’s tips and hints, especially like the ones she gives on working out (since I’ve sort of fallen off the wagon with that) and about hormones and our wonderful visitor.  This isn’t your usual parenting/motherhood book but one that offers actually tips that can be implemented by any mom and that can actually work – unlike some of the more far fetched books out there.

 

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe by Jenny Sulpizio #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: The Road Home (Apple Creek Dreams Book 2) by Patrick E. Craig #grow4christ


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:
Patrick E. Craig
and the book:
The Road Home
Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in northern California and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Author Patrick Craig continues the story of Jenny Springer, the child rescued in A Quilt for Jenna. Now an adult, Jenny begins a search for her long-last parents. As she opens doors to her past, she finds the truly surprising answer to her deepest questions.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Series: Apple Creek Dreams Series

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736951075

ISBN-13: 978-0736951074

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Du Schlecht’r!”“Jenny Springer! You should not say such bad words! You should be ashamed.”

Jenny’s face burned as she reached behind the quilting frame with her left hand and pushed the errant needle through the quilt to complete her stitch. The finger of her other hand, showing a tiny red drop where she had pricked herself, went into her mouth. She stared angrily at the quilt she was working on. The design was awkward, and the edges of the pattern pieces were puckered where she had attempted to sew them together.

“Oh, Mama, I will never, ever be a quilter like you. I just can’t do it.”

Her mother’s shocked expression softened somewhat, and she put her arm around the girl’s shoulder. “Quilting is a gift from God, and it’s true that you don’t yet seem to have the eye for it. But you’re gifted in so many other ways. Don’t be disheartened. Sometimes you’re a little eigensinnig und ungeduldig, and these qualities do not fit well with quilting. You must learn to still your heart and calm the stream of thoughts rushing through your head.”

Jenny reached behind her head and rubbed her neck. She took a deep breath and stuck the needle back into the pincushion with finality.

“I need to stop for a bit, Mama. This quilt is making me vereitelt!”

Even in her present state, Jenny was a lovely girl of nearly twenty. Her reddish gold hair framed a strong brow and deep violet eyes that could flash with annoyance in an instant or radiate the most loving kindness a moment later.

Jerusha Springer reached down and enfolded Jenny in her arms. “Sie sind meine geliebte dochter,” Jerusha whispered softly into the curls that refused to be controlled by the heavy hairpins and happily tumbled out from under the slightly askew black kappe on Jenny’s head. Jenny turned on her stool, and her arms crept around her mother’s waist. She held on as though she would never let go.

“Are you ever sorry that you got me instead of Jenna, Mama?” Jenny whispered.

Jerusha paused before replying. “I was given Jenna, and then I was given you, my dearest. Jenna was a wonderful little girl, and your papa and I were blessed beyond measure by having her. When she died, we didn’t know how we would ever go on with our lives. But God in His mercy sent us a wonderful child to fill the emptiness in our hearts. That child was you. Sorry? No, my darling, I will never be sorry that you came to us. There will always be a place in my heart for Jenna, but now I have you to love and hold. I couldn’t hope for a better dochter.”

Jenny clung even tighter to her mother. Her mother’s arms had always been a safe haven for her since the day Jerusha rescued her from the great snowstorm so many years ago. Jerusha had kept Jenny alive by holding the child next to her heart all through the long nights until Papa and Uncle Bobby had rescued them. That was the earliest memory Jenny had of her mother. The calm, steady beat of her mother’s heart comforted her, and it was always in this place of refuge and life that she felt the most secure. But today, even in her mother’s arms, she couldn’t still the turmoil in her heart. She pulled away from Jerusha and began to talk in a rush.

“Mama, don’t you ever wonder where I came from and who my birth mother was? Maybe I’m the daughter of criminals or murderers. Maybe there’s a bad seed in me that will come out someday. It makes me afraid sometimes.”

Jerusha stroked her daughter’s hair. “There are some things we can never know, and you must not worry or fret about them. ‘Be careful for nothing—’ ”

“I know, I know, Mama, but sometimes I do worry. I would never want to do anything that would bring shame on you or Papa. But sometimes I think that I’ll never find real peace until I know…and yet that’s impossible.”

Jenny released her grip on her mother and grabbed up a scrap of material. She wiped another drop of blood from her finger, crumpled the cloth, and threw it down.

Jerusha took a breath and then answered. “You are so standhaft in all your ways. Many times your papa and I have had to pick you up and dust you off when you went too far. But that same quality has helped you to overcome difficulties. The accomplishments in your life are proof of that.”

Jerusha reached over and softly stroked Jenny’s cheek. “You’re a gut student. No one in our community has such a grasp of the history of our people as you do. Someday you will be a teacher who can pass down to your children the things that keep the Amish separate and distinct from the world.”

Jenny looked away and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t think I will ever have children, Mama.”

Jerusha stiffened, and a fleeting frown passed over her face. “Why not, my darling?” she asked quietly.

“I don’t think any man could put up with me, for one thing, and for another, I think I’m just too independent. I’m not sure I could ever submit to a husband ruling over me.”

Jerusha’s mouth tightened slightly. “If I were true to our ordnung, I would tell you what my grandmother told me when I was a girl, and insist that you follow it,” Jerusha said. “She used to say that marriage is not built first on love but on the needs of our community and our faith.”

“But, Mama…” Jenny said.

“Let me finish, dochter,” Jerusha said quietly. “I loved your father very much before we were married, and someday that may happen for you. You’ll meet a man whom you will love so deeply that you will gladly surrender everything of yourself into his care and protection. I used to be so bound up in my quilting that I thought there was no room in my life for love or marriage. But the first time I looked into your father’s eyes, I was lost forever.” Jerusha’s face softened, and she smiled at a secret memory.

“Why, Mama! You’re blushing,” Jenny laughed. “I can understand why you lost your heart to Papa. He’s a handsome man.”

“Did I hear someone talking about me?” Reuben Springer came into the room. His face was stern, but there was a smile behind his eyes.

“Papa!” Jenny broke free from her mother and ran to her daed.

Reuben took the girl into his arms. “This is always the best part of my day, when I come home to my girls,” he said as he kissed his daughter on the forehead. “I used to have to bend down so far to reach you. Now you’re all grown up.”

Jerusha smiled at him, a tinge of pink in her cheeks.

“I can still make you blush, eh, Mrs. Springer?” he asked.

Jerusha turned away with a reluctant smile.

A frown passed over Jenny’s face like a small dark cloud, and her father noticed it.

“What is it, dochter?”

“Jenny was asking me about her birth parents,” Jerusha said. “Not knowing about her past troubles her.”

“Jenny, you mustn’t concern yourself with things that can’t be known,” Reuben said. “When your mother found you, there was no identification or any means to discover who you were. The police found a man’s body in Jepson’s pond the next spring, but he had been in the water far too long to make a clear identification. The car was stolen in New York, so there was no way to trace the man. You must be content with the wisdom of God. He sent you to us because He knew you needed us and we needed you. That’s all we need to know.”

“But, Papa, sometimes I feel like a stranger, as if I don’t really belong here.” Jenny saw the pain in her father’s eyes and stopped. “I’m sorry, Papa. I didn’t mean it exactly that way. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to find out these things, but it is. Sometimes I think I’ll never be who I’m supposed to be until I find out who I really am. It doesn’t help that I’m so stubborn.”

“Your Mama was just as stubborn when I first met her,” Reuben said. “Even twenty-four years later, I feel the sting on my face where she slapped me the first time I kissed her.”

“Husband!” Jerusha exclaimed as her cheeks once again turned rosy pink.

Reuben smiled at his wife and then looked at Jenny. His voice took a sterner tone. “Your mama has changed over the years, and you will change too. For the good of our family, you must put these things out of your mind.”

Jenny felt a small flash of anger at her father’s words. She wanted to speak but wisely stayed silent. Then she decided to take a different approach.

“Papa, maybe if I did know, I could be more peaceful inside and not be so much trouble for you and Mama. Maybe if you helped me to find my birth parents I could be a better dochter to you and—”

Jenny’s papa stiffened at her words. “Jenny, I love you very much, but I am still the head of our home, and until you’re married and under the care of your husband, I will decide what’s best for you. There’s much in the world that you’re too young to understand. God has entrusted me with your care and safety for a good reason. The man you were with may have been your father, or he may not, but judging by what the police found in the car, he was not a good man. There were drugs and alcohol—”

“But what if he wasn’t my father and he just kidnapped me or—”

“Dochter! That’s enough! I know what’s best for you. Asking questions that can’t be answered will only cause you heartache and sorrow. I want you to put these wild ideas behind you. We will not discuss this further!”

Jenny stared at her father, and he stared back at her. She started to speak, but her mother placed her hand on Jenny’s arm and squeezed a warning. “Your father is right, Jenny. You must listen to him and obey. Now, is anyone hungry, or should we go on working on this quilt?”

Jenny took a deep breath, looked at her masterpiece, and smiled ruefully. The star design she had labored over for so many hours was crooked and wrinkled, and the colors she had chosen clashed.

“I think we’d better have dinner, Mama. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to fix this mess.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Reuben said. “I need kindling for the stove, and Jenny can go out and close in the chickens.”

“All right, Papa,” Jenny said, still stinging from Reuben’s rebuke. “Do I need to bring in any milch, Mama?”

“Yes, dear,” Jerusha said, “there’s some fresh in the cooling house.”

When Jenny had banged out the back door, Jerusha turned to Reuben. “She’s so impetuous. I worry there’ll come a time when she crashes into a predicament we can’t get her out of. But you must not be so hard on her. She’s still young.”

“I know. But young or not, her curiosity worries me,” Reuben said. “She’s headed for disappointment if she keeps searching for answers that don’t exist. I want to keep her from that as long as I can.”

Jerusha nodded. “I want her to be happy, but in my heart I’m afraid that if she does somehow find her birth parents, she’ll want to be with them more than with us. And their way would be so different from ours. The world out there is filled with danger, and I don’t know if she would be able to understand it. I’m afraid for her, Reuben.”

“I’m afraid for her too, Jerusha,” he said quietly, taking his wife in his arms. “And that’s why I want her to forget about her past. I’m trying hard not to crush her spirit, but the girl doesn’t think things through. She thinks she’s all grown up, but she still has many kindisch ways about her. There may soon come a day when she goes her own way, and the thought of what she might choose…”

Jerusha felt a momentary chill grip her heart, and she pulled herself deeper into the circle of Reuben’s arms.

 

My Opinion:

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first book in the Apple Creek Dreams series titled, A Quilt for Jenna by Patrick E. Craig and this one was right up there with it – a second great book from a newer Amish fiction author.  This one picks up several years after Jerusha Springer finds and rescues Jenna from a car during a blizzard, and Jenna is an adult who wonders who she was and who she is.  Not having known who her real parents is something that nags at Jenna every day,no matter how much she loves her parents and her life – she wants to find out why she was in car during the blizzard and who was that strange man?  Of course, her parents don’t agree and Jenna’s job as a local Amish historian doesn’t help her squash her emotions and feelings.

When a young man Johnny enters the small town and almost runs down Jenna in his hippie truck, things begin to twist and weave – some good and some not so good.  Follow Jenna and Johnny as they both long to find out who they are in the world and where their place is supposed to be, including some hard spots when they stop listening to God and follow their hearts.  Whether or not you’ve read book 1 you can leap into this one as Mr. Craig does a great job in weaving in what previously happened so the read remembers what is going on or better yet just read them both and follow the story the beginning – it’s a great one and it’s a quick read.

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FIRST Tour: Unlimited by Davis Bunn #grow4christ


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:
Davis Bunn
and the book:
Unlimited
B&H Books (September 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Davis Bunn is a three-time Christy Award-winning, best-selling author now serving as writer-in-residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Defined by readers and reviewers as a “wise teacher,” “gentleman adventurer,” “consummate writer,” and “Renaissance man,” his work in business took him to over forty countries around the world, and his books have sold more than seven million copies in sixteen languages. Among those titles are The Presence, Winner Take All, and Lion of Babylon.
Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Simon Orwell is a brilliant student whose life has taken a series of wrong

turns. At the point of giving up on his dreams, he gets a call from an old

professor who has discovered a breakthrough in a device that would create

unlimited energy, and he needs Simon’s help.

But once he crosses the border, nothing goes as the young man planned.

The professor has been killed and Simon is assaulted and nearly killed by

members of a powerful drug cartel.

Now he must take refuge in the only place that will help him, a local

orphanage. There, Simon meets Harold Finch, the orphanage proprietor

who walked away from a lucrative career with NASA and consulting

Fortune 500 companies to serve a higher cause.

With Harold’s help, Simon sets out on a quest to uncover who killed the

professor and why. In due time, he will discover secrets to both the world changing device and his own unlimited potential.

Product Details:

List Price: $8.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: B&H Books (September 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 143367940X

ISBN-13: 978-1433679407

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

A hot, dusty wind buffeted Simon through the Mustang’s open top. He started to pull over and close up the car. But the convertible’s electric motor did not work, and he would have to fight the top by hand. When he had started off that morning, the predawn air had carried a frigid bite. Now his sweatshirt lay in the empty passenger seat, covering the remaining water bottle and his iPod.The car’s radio worked, but one of the speakers was blown. The iPod’s headphones were hidden beneath the sweatshirt as well. Simon doubted the border authorities cared whether he listened to music on an in-ear system. But he didn’t want to give them any reason to make trouble.

He didn’t know what he had been expecting for a small-town border crossing, but it definitely was not this. An American flag flew over a fortified concrete building. The flag snapped and rippled as Simon pulled forward. In front of him were three trucks and a few vans. One car had Texas plates, one produce truck was from Oklahoma, and the other half-dozen vehicles were Mexican. That was it. The crossing was four lanes in each direction, and all but two were blocked off with yellow traffic cones. The border crossing looked ready to handle an armada. The empty lanes heightened the sense of desolation.

As he waited his turn, a harvest truck rumbled past, bringing sacks of vegetables to the United States. The driver shot Simon a gold-toothed grin through his open window. As though the two of them shared a secret. They were passing through the only hassle-free crossing between Mexico and the USA.

Or so Simon hoped.

To either side of the crossing grew the fence. Simon had heard about the border fence for years. But it was still a jarring sight. Narrow steel girders marched in brutal regularity out of sight in both directions. The pillars were thirty feet high, maybe more, and spaced so the wind whistled between them in a constant piercing whine, like a siren, urging Simon to turn back while he still could. Only he didn’t have a choice. Or he would not have made this journey in the first place.

Simon passed the U.S. checkpoint and drove across the bridge. Below flowed the silted gray waters of the Rio Grande.The Mexican border officer took in the dusty car and Simon’s disheveled appearance and directed him to pull over. Simon heaved a silent sigh and did as he was ordered.

The Mexican customs official was dressed in blue—navy trousers, shirt, hat. He circled Simon’s car slowly before saying,

“Your passport.” He examined it carefully. “What is the purpose of your visit to Mexico, señor?”

“I’m making a presentation to the Ojinaga city council.”

The officer glanced at Simon, then the car, and finally the black duffel bag that filled the rear seat.

“What kind of presentation?”

“My advisor at MIT retired down here last year. We’ve been working on a project together.” He plucked the letter from his shirt pocket and unfolded it along the well-creased lines.

The officer studied it. “Do you read Spanish, Dr . . . . ?”

He started to correct the man, then decided it didn’t matter. The officer had no need to know Simon had dropped out. “Dr. Vasquez, my professor, he translated it.”

“You have cut this very close, señor.” The officer checked his watch. “It says your appointment is in less than two hours.”

“I expected the trip from Boston to take two days. It’s taken four. My car broke down. Twice.”

The officer pointed to the duffel. “What is in the bag?” “Scientific instrumentation.” Simon reached back and unzipped the top.

The Mexican officer frowned over the complicated apparatus. “It looks like a bomb.”

“I know. Or a vacuum cleaner.” He swallowed against a dry throat. “I get that a lot.”

The officer handed back Simon’s passport and letter. “Welcome to Mexico, señor.”

Simon restarted the motor and drove away. He kept his hands tight on the wheel and his eyes on the empty road ahead. There was no need to be afraid. He was not carrying drugs. He was not breaking any law. This time. But the memory of other border crossings kept his heart rate amped to redline as he drove slowly past the snapping flags and the dark federales’ cars.

His attention was caught by a man leaning against a dusty SUV. The Mexican looked odd from every angle. He was not so much round as bulky, like an aging middleweight boxer. Despite the heat, he was dressed in a beige leather jacket that hung on him like a sweaty robe. The man had a fringe of unkempt dark hair and a scraggly beard. He leaned against the black Tahoe with the ease of someone out for a morning stroll. He caught Simon’s eye and grinned, then made a gun of his hand and shot Simon.

Welcome to Mexico.

A hundred meters beyond the border, the screen to his iPod map went blank, then a single word appeared: searching. Simon did not care. He could see his destination up ahead. The city of Ojinaga hovered in the yellow dust. He crossed Highway 10, the east-west artery that ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He drove past an industrial zone carved from the surrounding desert, then joined the city traffic.

Ojinaga grew up around him, a distinctly Mexican blend of poverty and high concrete walls. The city was pretty much as Vasquez had described. Simon’s former professor had dearly loved his hometown. Vasquez had spent his final two years at MIT yearning to return. The mountains he had hiked as a boy rose to Simon’s right, razor peaks that had never been softened by rain. Vasquez had bought a home where he could sit in his backyard and watch the sunset turn them into molten gold. But they looked very ominous to Simon. Like they barred his way forward. Hemming him in with careless brutality.

Between the border and downtown, Simon checked his phone six times. Just as Vasquez had often complained, there was no connection. Landline phone service wasn’t much bet- ter. Skype was impossible. Vasquez had maintained contact by e-mailing in the predawn hours. He had claimed to enjoy the isolation. Simon would have gone nuts.

The last time they had spoken had been almost two weeks earlier, when Vasquez declared he was on the verge of a break- through. After months of frustrating dead ends, Vasquez had finally managed to make their apparatus work. Since then, Simon had received a series of increasingly frantic e-mails, imploring him to come to Mexico to present the device to the city council.

What neither of them ever mentioned was the real reason why Vasquez had taken early retirement and returned to his hometown in the first place. Which was also the reason why Simon had made this trip at all. To apologize for the role he had played in the demise of Vasquez’s career. That was something that had to be done face-to-face.

Simon found a parking spot on the main plaza. Downtown Ojinaga was dominated by a massive central square, big as three football fields. Simon imagined it must have really been some- thing when it was first built. Now it held the same run-down air as the rest of the town. A huge Catholic church anchored the opposite side of the plaza. The trees and grass strips lining the square were parched and brown. Skinny dogs flitted about, snarling at one another. Drunks occupied the concrete benches. Old cars creaked and complained as they drove over topes, the speed bumps lining the roads. In a nearby shop-front window, two women made dough and fed it into a tortilla machine.

The city office building looked ready for demolition. Several windows were cracked. Blinds hung at haphazard angles, giving the facade a sleepy expression. A bored policeman slumped in the shaded entrance. Simon entered just as the church bells tolled the hour.

The guard ran his duffel back through the metal detector three times, while another officer pored over the letter from the city council. Finally they gestured him inside and pointed him down a long corridor.

The door to the council meeting hall was closed. Simon heard voices inside. He debated knocking, but Vasquez had still not arrived. Simon visited the restroom and changed into a clean shirt. He stuffed his dirty one down under the apparatus. He shaved and combed his hair. His eyes looked like they had become imprinted with GPS road maps, so he dug out his eye- drops. Then he took a moment and inspected his reflection.

Simon was tall enough that he had to stoop to fit his face in the mirror. His hair was brownish-blond and worn rakishly long, which went with his strong features and green eyes and pirate’s grin. Only he wasn’t smiling now. There was nothing he could do to repay Vasquez for what happened, except help him get the city’s funding so they could complete the project. Then Simon would flee this poverty-stricken town and try to rebuild his own shattered life.

He returned to the hall, settled onto a hard wooden bench, and pulled out his phone. For once, the phone registered a two- bar signal.

Simon dialed Vasquez and listened to the phone ring. The linoleum floor by his feet was pitted with age. The hallway smelled slightly of cheap disinfectant and a woman’s perfume. Sunlight spilled through tall windows at the end of the corridor, forming a backdrop of brilliance and impenetrable shadows.

When the professor’s voice mail answered, he said, “It’s Simon again. I’m here in the council building. Growing more desperate by the moment.” The door beside him opened, and Simon turned away from the voices that spilled out. “Professor Vasquez, I really hope you’re on your way, because—”

“Excuse me, señor. You are Simon Orwell, the professor’s great friend?”

Simon shut his phone and rose to his feet. “Is he here?”

The two men facing him could not have been more different. One was tall, not as tall as Simon, but he towered over most Mexicans. And handsome. And extremely well groomed. The other was the product of a hard life, stubby and tough as nails. The only thing they shared was a somber expression.

Even before the elegant man said the words, Simon knew. “I am very sorry to have to tell you, Señor Simon. But Professor Vasquez is dead.” “No, that’s . . . What?”

“Allow me to introduce myself. Enrique Morales, I am the mayor of Ojinaga. And this is Pedro Marin, the assistant town manager and my trusted ally.”

“Vasquez is dead?”

“A heart attack. Very sudden.”

“He thought the world of you, Señor Simon.” Pedro spoke remarkably clear English.

The mayor was graceful even when expressing condolences. “Nos lamentanos mucho. We lament with you, Señor Simon, in this dark hour.”

For some reason, Simon found it easier to focus upon the smaller man. “You knew the professor?”

“He was a dear friend. My sister and I and Dr. Harold, per- haps you have heard of him? The professor was very close to us all.”

“You’re sure about Vasquez?”

“Such a tragedy.” The mayor was around his midthirties and had a politician’s desire to remain the center of attention. “You came all the way from Boston, is that not so? We are glad you made it safely. And we regret this news is here to greet you.”

“I . . . we’re scheduled to meet the city council.”

A look flashed between the two men. “I believe they have completed their other business, yes? Pedro will escort you. I must hurry to the city’s outskirts. We are dedicating a new water treatment facility. Long in coming. But so very needed. It is our attempt to aid the poorest citizens of our community. Like the professor’s bold project, no? So very noble.”

Enrique was clearly adept at filling uncomfortable vacuums. “Please join me for dinner tonight. Yes? Splendid. We will meet and we will talk and I will see what I can do to assist you through this dark hour. The restaurant by the church. Nine o’clock.”

Enrique turned and spoke a lightning-swift sentence to Pedro, whose nod of acceptance shaped a half bow. The mayor’s footsteps clipped rapidly down the hall. He tossed quick greetings to several people as he departed, clapped the senior guard on the shoulder, thanked the second guard who opened the door for him, and was gone.

Simon stared into the empty sunlight at the corridor’s end, wishing the floor would just open up and swallow him whole.

Then he realized Pedro was waiting for him. “This way, señor. The council will see you now.”

 

 

My Opinion:

I’ve not read any of Davis Bunn’s books before but after having read Unlimited, in one day, I will be rectifying that situation when I can.  The book pulled me in from the first page and kept me turning the pages long into the day – thankfully it was a Sunday and hubby was home to help with the children.  Unlimited takes the reader in the world of the poverty and orphans that afflict Mexico and goes behind the scenes into the orphanages who seek to help these children find a way up and out of the poverty, drugs and crime that permeate their culture.  It is a fictional book based on a real life person by the name of Harold Finch, but the whole book seems real and in the grand scheme of things some of the events could actually happen.

This book will also be released as a movie and I hope that it will be coming to a theater near me because, honestly it’s one that I could take my 11 1/2 year old to and enjoy with her.  This book is safe as well so I may even let her read it if she’d like, while there is some budding romance between Simon and Sofia there is nothing that would make one blush.  I enjoy a book that shows characters who struggle with who they are, struggle with knowing that God loves them and of course a book that takes the reader on a thrill ride of suspense, faith and love – this book has it all, including some scientific concepts that a person with a scientific mind can appreciate (although I did too).

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Unlimited by Davis Bunn #grow4christ

FIRST Tour: Awakened Love (Amish of Webster County #3) by Laura V. Hilton #grow4christ


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:
Laura V. Hilton
and the book:
Awakened Love
(Amish of Webster County #3)
Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura V. Hilton, of Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, is a pastor’s wife, mother of five, author and book lover. Her Amish fiction series books have sold thousands of copies and garnered praise from readers and critics for originality and authenticity. This is thanks, in part, to Laura’s Amish grandmother from whom she learned Amish ways, and her husband Steve’s family ties in Webster County, Missouri, who served as invaluable resources in her research. Laura’s previous Whitaker House books include The Amish of Seymour series: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts, and Promised to Another; and The Amish of Webster County: Healing Love and Surrendered Love. Awakened Love is the final book in the series. Laura is also a homeschooling mother, breast cancer survivor and avid blogger who posts reviews at: www.lighthouse-academy.blogspot.com.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Katie Detweiler is excited when she’s hired to bake for a local bed-and-breakfast, especially because the shy young Amish woman will be able to work alone in the kitchen doing a job she loves. Circumstances change, however, and the job requires she also wait on customers, including a private investigator who tells her she is adopted and has a biological sister in need of a bone marrow transplant. She also meets 22-year-old Abram Hilty, an Amish man who has fled the drama of his community in Shipshewana, Indiana, for Seymour, Missouri, where he’s staying with his cousin Micah Graber. Abram is immediately attracted to Katie, but pursuing a relationship with her would be complicated because he’s come to the Amish of Webster County to hide from a girl he no longer cares about—and also from a cold-blooded killer.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Series: Amish of Webster County (Book 3)

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603745084

ISBN-13: 978-1603745086

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Today I met the bu I’m gonna marry….” Patsy Swartz’s singsongy voice was too chipper. Bracing herself for an afternoon with the bubbly girl, Katie Detweiler climbed out of her daed’s buggy and turned to lift the cooler from the back. Her not-exactly-a-friend bounced up beside her, still singing away.Katie’s heart ached with a stab of envy.

Would she ever marry?

Daed snorted, in apparent disbelief. “Bye, Katie-girl. Have fun at the frolic.” He clicked at the horse and then pulled the buggy around the circle drive.

“The new bu in town!” Patsy squealed, as if Katie had asked. “He is sooooo cute! I’m going to marry him. I’m thinking Valentine’s Day. Will you stand up with me? I’m asking Mandy, too.”

Marriage? The new bu in town? Why was she the last to know these things? Katie hadn’t even known that Patsy had a beau. Wait—she didn’t. Just yesterday, she was bemoaning the lack of interesting men in her life.

Katie shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “Stand up with you? On Valentine’s Day? Jah, I can do that. What new bu in town?”

Patsy huffed. “Where have you been, Katie? There is a world outside that bed-and-breakfast, ain’t so?”

“When did you two meet? You didn’t mention him yesterday.” She adjusted her grip on the cooler handles and started toward the haus.

“He’s visiting the Grabers…a cousin or something. He’s here, right over—ach, I see Mandy! I’ll tell you about him later.” She turned away and glanced over her shoulder. “You’re still standing up with me. Valentine’s Day. Write that down, Katie.”

Patsy ran across the driveway to where Mandy Hershberger stood by the open barn doors.

Valentine’s Day? Was Patsy serious? Most weddings happened between November and January—never February, when the fields need to be prepared for planting. And wouldn’t the bishop have some reservations about Patsy’s marrying a man she’d known for, what, half an hour?

Valentine’s Day was still a long ways off. It was only August. And Patsy probably would’ve moved on three times by then.

But he was here, this mystery man Patsy planned to wed? Katie turned around and scanned the buwe playing volleyball, looking for a face she didn’t recognize. She didn’t see anyone new. Or maybe he just didn’t stand out. Patsy? Getting married? If Katie knew her at all, she’d be promised to this new bu in a short time. What Patsy wanted, she usually got. Even if they ended up calling it quits several weeks into the relationship.

Katie sighed. It’d be nice if someone noticed her. And wanted her as a permanent part of his future.

She headed for the haus to deliver the food. A long row of tables was set up inside the kitchen, already piled full. Katie set the cooler down next to the door, opened the lid, and took out a plate of chocolate chip cookies. She carried them to the table and set them down among the other desserts, then stepped back and surveyed the array of cookies and fried pies. Maybe she should’ve made something else besides cookies. But Daed wouldn’t mind if she brought the entire plateful back home again.

“Hi, Katie.” Micah Graber’s mamm, Lizzie, came into the room. “Glad you made it. Micah’s playing volleyball, if you want to join in. His cousin Abram is visiting from Indiana.” She smiled. “I’m sure you’ll want an introduction.”

Katie wasn’t so sure, except maybe to see what Patsy found so special about this mystery man. It was probably nothing more than that she hadn’t yet been courted by him, since she had gone with almost every other bu in the district.

Oops. That was unkind. Katie found a smile. “Danki. I’ll find Micah.” Later. Their paths would probably cross sometime that afternoon. He usually made a point to say hi to her.

Katie went to get the rest of the food out of her cooler when the door burst open. She gazed into knock-’em-dead blue eyes belonging to the most handsome someone she’d never seen. She stared at the stranger, her mouth open.

He raked his fingers through his brown hair, dislodging his straw hat, and backed up. “Micah sent me to get the coolers and the big picnic jugs.”

Lizzie Graber laughed. “Ach, you walked right past them. They’re out on the porch.”

His eyes met Katie’s again, and he nodded in greeting. Her heart pounded so loud, she worried he’d hear it. “Sorry, Aenti Lizzie. Don’t know what I was thinking.” He shook his head and backed out of the room, his gaze still locked on Katie, then turned and shut the door.

Lizzie laughed again. “Those buwe are all the same. They see a pretty girl and have to kum check her out.”

Pretty? Lizzie believed he’d kum inside because he thought she was pretty? But he hadn’t stayed long enough to say hi. Or to ask her name. Not that it mattered. She probably would’ve been tongue-tied, anyway. Katie straightened, willing her heart rate to return to normal. A gut-looking bu she didn’t know. Micah’s cousin. He must be Patsy’s…whatever she’d call him. Maybe “her intended,” since she’d said she wanted to marry him. So, why did it matter what he thought?

It didn’t.

Her insides deflated like a popped balloon.

Katie studied the dessert selection again. Disappointingly, other than the chips in her cookies, there wasn’t any chocolate in sight—unless some of the fried pies were filled with the delicious comfort.

***

Abram Hilty shut the door behind him and took a deep breath to calm his pulse. He hadn’t even talked to the girl in the kitchen, didn’t know the sound of her voice, but there was something about her that his heart had recognized.

“She’s pretty, jah?” Micah hoisted a cooler in his arms and started down the steps.

“Very.” Abram lifted one of the big yellow picnic jugs and fell into step beside him. “And you can’t get her to pay attention to you?”

Micah shook his head. “Nein. Not at all. But her best friend, Janna Kauffman, told me Katie’s really shy. Maybe I’ll offer to drive her home tonight. Her daed dropped her off.”

Abram chuckled. “You do that. I’ll ask her out, too, and tell her how wunderbaar you are. Between the two of us, we’ll get her talking.” That would at least give him an opportunity to spend time with her.

Micah raised his eyebrows. “You’d do that for me?”

“That, and I’m currently between girls.” Abram winked. “I told Marianna I want a break.” Sort of. He did owe her some sort of explanation for his silence. After all, they’d been practically engaged—and he’d essentially stood her up.

Of course, he hadn’t revealed where he’d gone. Instead, he’d left a vague note: “Need some time off. Sorry.”

In hindsight, Ouch. But she’d been hounding him to make a commitment, dropping hints he couldn’t help but get. He could do worse, he’d supposed. And yet he’d fled. He needed to think. And that was impossible with her bringing him lunch every day, staying to eat with him, and getting into his buggy after every singing and frolic—without his even asking.

He shook his head. What else could he have done?

“What if she falls in love with you, not me?” Micah’s forehead creased as his eyebrows drew together. “I mean, talking me up is kind of cliché.” He snickered. “And it usually works in reverse.”

Abram shrugged. He wouldn’t complain if it did. “How could she not fall in love with you, with me singing your praises?” Of course, he’d try hard not to sing his own. Not that he had much to sing about. He frowned. How long before he was found out?

Micah set the cooler on the ground next to a table with some stacks of paper cups, then straightened. “I’ll go say hi to her, then, while you get the other picnic jug.”

“Works for me.” Abram set the picnic jug down on the table, then reached for a cup, held it under the spigot, and pressed the handle for a splash of iced tea.

“Hi, Abram,” cooed a feminine voice.

Abram cringed. Not another pushy female. He looked up at not one but two girls—a redhead he’d seen earlier that day, who beamed at him, and another with reddish-brown hair. He preferred Katie and her dark blonde hair.

“Welkum to Missouri!” said the redhead. “I’m Patsy Swartz, and this is Mandy Hershberger.”

He found a smile. “Nice to meet you. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get the other—”

Micah punched his arm. “I’ll get it, after I greet Katie. You stay here and talk.”

“Danki, cousin”—Abram hoped the girls wouldn’t pick up on his sarcastic tone—“but I’ll get the jug myself.”

***

“May I borrow a pair of tongs?” Katie asked Lizzie Graber. “I need to mix up the taco salad I brought.”

“Of course.” Lizzie slid a pan of brownies into the oven and then retrieved the utensil from a drawer.

“Danki.”

Lizzie opened the refrigerator, took out a can of 7-Up, and popped the top. “I need to go check on Emily. She isn’t feeling well.” She poured the fizzy liquid into a glass.

“Sorry to hear that.” She liked Micah’s little sister.

“When the brownies are done, would you take them out, please?”

“Jah.”

“Danki.” Lizzie left the room.

Katie looked around. Maybe she could find some other way to assist. Helping would give her an excuse not to socialize. An alternative to standing beside the barn, ignored.

At this point of her life, she was part of the scenery, the part no one looked at. Patsy said it was because she was too quiet. Because she wouldn’t cross the room to talk to any of the buwe; she waited for them to kum talk to her. And they wouldn’t. They had enough girls willing to chase them that they didn’t need to pursue the quiet ones.

If that was the case, she’d be alone forever. A painful thought.

But her best friend, Janna, had said that if a bu really liked her, it would be obvious, because he’d be hanging around. Janna should know. Her beau, Troy Troyer, hung around her plenty, and he’d even started baptism classes, so he could join the church—for her.

Abram’s handsome face flashed in her mind. His heart-stopping grin. His easy confidence.

Nein. She wouldn’t think of this—of him. It meant nothing. He was in Patsy’s sights.

Katie opened her cooler and lifted out the salad bowl and a big bag of Fritos. She always waited to add the chips so that they wouldn’t get soggy before the salad was served.

Katie set the bowl down on the table and tugged on the top of the Frito bag to open it. A warm breath tickled her ear. Abram? Her heart jumped, and her hands jerked in opposite directions, ripping the bag and sending Fritos high in the air. A few of the chips landed where they were supposed to, in the taco salad, but most of them now decorated the floor and the savory dishes nearby, including the egg salad sandwiches Patsy always brought.

Katie’s face burned. She spun around, the almost-empty bag clasped in her hands.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Micah said. He stood too close. Why couldn’t it have been Abram breathing in her ear? Admittedly, the end result would’ve been the same.

A chatter of voices neared outside, and feet tromped on the porch. The latch clicked on the door, and the hinges squeaked. Katie resisted the urge to run from the room. It seemed everyone was coming inside to witness her humiliation. Abram entered, followed by Patsy and Mandy and a dozen or so others. Everyone looked at her.

“I was hoping you’d be here,” Micah continued.

There was someone who’d wanted to see her? Some member of the male species? Katie stared at him in shock.

Patsy came over to the table and started picking Fritos off of her sandwiches. The hard kick to the shin she gave Katie was all it took to find her voice.

“Ach, I scare easy. It’s okay, really.”

She had spoken to a bu. Using multisyllabic words. Would miracles never cease?

Patsy shook her head, evidently disappointed in her attempt at conversation. If only she would step in and speak on her behalf. But nein luck. With another shake of her head, Patsy dumped the Fritos in the trash and joined the group of females huddled around Abram. His harem.

Katie frowned. She didn’t want to compete with so many for the minute possibility of a relationship with a man. Maybe it’d be better to find someone steady who paid attention to her alone. She glanced at Micah. He stared at her as if she’d sprouted antlers. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the kind of attention she wanted.

“Janna told me you’re shy. She told me not to give up on you. I’d like to get to know you better. Are you seeing someone?” He lowered his voice. “Maybe I could give you a ride home today. We could stop for a milkshake.”

A milkshake? Was he kidding? Katie glanced at the table, laden with the usual assortment of cookies and fried pies. Brownies still baked in the oven. With all these treats, who in his right mind would offer that incentive?

He hadn’t given her a chance to answer the courting question before asking her out. Maybe he figured that someone as tongue-tied as she couldn’t possibly have a beau.

Still, Katie didn’t know how to answer his questions. Would it be easier to talk just one-on-one? Daed would encourage her to accept a ride from him. If that meant downing a milkshake, too, then so be it. She swallowed. “A milkshake sounds gut.”

He grinned. “I’ll look for you afterward. Sorry about your chips. I hope I didn’t ruin your”—he glanced at the bowl—“salad.” He turned away and started talking to Natalie Wagler. At least she could carry on her side of the conversation.

Katie frowned. Were there books available for this disorder? She needed to check at the library. See if they had a section called “Basic Communication with the Opposite Sex.”

A buggy ride with a man who wasn’t Daed…. Sighing, she glanced at Abram. His attention seemed to be focused on Patsy, whose hand rested on his upper arm. Katie swallowed and turned away. Micah wasn’t the Mr. Right of her imagination. But maybe he was the Mr. Right of her reality.

Her very first date. Excitement washed over her.

Maybe her life was about to change.


My Opinion:

 

What can I say?  I enjoy Laura’s writing, I’ve read the first two books in this series, Healing Love and Surrendered Love and have enjoyed both of those – I’m so happy to have read the whole series.  I have to admit I couldn’t believe that Katie would allow Patsy to walk over her and if I’ve ever disliked a character more I can’t remember it because Patsy grated on my last nerve.  Of course Patsy is a bully and she picked up on Katie’s low self worth and fed on that, fortunately, she discovers how to get rid of her but not until the very end of the book.  I could in many ways commiserate with Katie and her low self worth and thankfully she didn’t take to doing immoral things to get her through that, instead she relies on the Lord and is comfortable with either being a maiden for the rest of her life unless the Lord sends the right man.

 

I enjoy an Amish fiction book that isn’t all romance, however I must say there were a couple heavy scenes that depict Katie and and her beau, Abram getting into some risky situations but they always stop before crossing those lines.  I was a tad bit, okay more than a tad, uncomfortable reading those and I did skip the second one.  Finding out what Abram was trying to escape from and then him going back to face the consequences, even if they weren’t by all of his doing, made me like him and made him a good man for Katie.  Overall, I enjoyed this book and read it in one day – I could have done without some of the kissy/touchy stuff but otherwise I really got into it.

 

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

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