Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren - REVIEWED


Susan May Warren has a unique way of blending romance and mystery, and her latest novel, Nothing But Trouble, is no exception. PJ Sugar is a woman who has had trouble dogging her every move since her days in high school. Now, some ten years later, when she finds herself desperate enough to return to her home town, it seems as if she is bound to repeat some of her mistakes.

When PJ returns after such a long absence, she is a new creature in Christ. I think of all the people who seem to want to remind her of all her past mistakes, she may prove to be her own worst enemy. Her invitation home is innocent enough – keep an eye on her four-year-old nephew while her sister is away on her honeymoon with her new husband. However, when you add a couple of Russian in-laws who speak no English, a local man murdered after a rather public confrontation at a wedding, and an old friend who PJ feels bound to help when her husband is accused of the mysterious murder…well, dear reader, you have a combination of events that can only lead to…well…trouble.

Try though she might, PJ is forever at the center of any fiasco around. I began to feel sorry for her several times simply because she just seemed to never catch a break. I was so thankful that the local pastor helped her to understand that Christ loves her – trouble and all! And the perspective seemed to catch on with others too…and that local pizza delivery guy, Jeremy? Well..let me just say that I am looking forward to getting to know him better!

There’s a lot going on in this book, and I’m so glad to know it is just our introduction to PJ Sugar and her motley crew. I have a feeling there is an abundance of adventure in this gal’s future! Oh, and I hope Susan May Warren doesn’t feel compelled to give the girl any more pets! Or guns! Or maybe she should just write her into a nice, quiet corner in a library somewhere. Nah…she’d find trouble even there. But at least now she knows Who she belongs to! That’s going to make a big difference I think!

Please visit Susan's website to learn more about Nothing But Trouble, the PJ Sugar series and to read the first chapter!


Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stop the Traffik: People Shouldn't Be Bought & Sold by Cheri Blair and Steve Chalke

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Stop the Traffik: People Shouldn't Be Bought & Sold

Lion UK (April 1, 2009)


Cherie Blair is a human rights lawyer and campaigner on women's rights and empowerment, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of Speaking for Myself. Steve Chalke is UN.GIFT special advisor on human trafficking, and founder of Stop the Traffik. He is the author of several books, including Change Agents, Intelligent Church, The Lost Message of Jesus, and Trust.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0745953603
ISBN-13: 978-0745953601


Ignorance is a deadly enemy. I knew that human trafficking took place in our world, but I did not know it was second in revenue only to the drug trade!! I was shocked! I was sick at my stomach to read story after story of women, children (boys and girls) who are either kidnapped into or deceived into the human slave trade. Enslaved to prostitution, manual labor and terrors no human being should ever endure, people are being bought and sold all over the world for no other reason than monetary gain. My heart is sickened.

Stop the Traffik is a book laid out statistically – almost scrapbook fashioned – and presents the raw facts of human trafficking in all of its gory detail. Thankfully, the writer does not leave the reader without hope. The purpose is to draw awareness to the magnitude of this horrific practice and then to point people toward organizations and ideas that will allow them to take an active role in putting a stop to this barbaric practice. I won’t pretend that this was an easy book to read. It was not. But the message it bears is very important and leaves everyone with a grim choice – get involved, or ignore the problem.

I’ve been on the front lines in the battle against drug abuse for almost two years now, so I do have an understanding about how enslaved a person can become. I can’t honestly say that I comprehend the horrors being inflicted upon more than 800,000 people – many of them children – taking place in our world today. Stop the Traffic – read it. Share a copy. Get involved.


Wihini, aged nine, and her brother Sunni, aged seven, loved on Thane train station in Mumbai, India with their parents—both alcoholics. Wihini and Sunni went to a day centre where they learned to read and write and were given the chance to play.

One day Sunni and Wihini simply didn’t turn up. Street children often tend to disappear for days, as they try to scrape a living sweeping long-distance trains, but they had been attending the center daily for three months, so when a week or so went by the project staff became worried, and went in search of their parents. The workers found the father lying drunk on the station platform. When they roused him and asked about the children, he admitted that a man had come to him one morning offering money for them. He needed money for alcohol, so he agreed. The trafficker had taken Sunni and Wihini away for the equivalent of just 20 British pounds (currently equivalent to $30 US dollars). The father was angry because he had never received his money. Their mother wouldn’t speak about it. The children were never seen again.

What happened to Sunni and Wihini? Nobody knows. In that area of Mumbai, children often disappeared. They are kidnapped or sold into prostitution, forced labor, adoption, or even child sacrifice. The workers at the Asha Seep center had seen this before. But this was once too often.

Wihini and Sunni’s story proved to be a catalyst. The story was picked up and passed on and as evidence gathered we realized this is happening on a huge scale, around the world—and even on our own doorsteps. Not 200 years ago. Not even fifty years ago. It was—and is—happening today. And so STOP THE TRAFFIK was born.

Human Tafficking—A Definition

Human trafficking is the dislocation of someone by deception or coercion for exploitation, through forced prostitution, forced labor, or other forms of slavery.

-800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year (US State Department)

-It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This amounts to an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked every year (UNICEF)

-In 2004, between 14,500 and 17,500 people were trafficked into the United States (US State Department)

-Human trafficking generates between 10 and 12 billion dollars a year (UNICEF)

-Total profit from human trafficking is second only to the trafficking of drugs (The European Police Office; Eurpol)

The numbers tell you the huge scale of this problem. But behind each number is a sea of faces. Behind the statistics are mothers and father, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, torn apart by trafficking; these are innocent lives ruined by abuse. These are human rights violations on a grotesque scale. And the problem is getting worse.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick - My Review

Wrap yourself in a fantastic journey, a remarkable commitment, and a spare and splendid story.
Master storyteller Jane Kirkpatrick extols the beautiful treasures, unknown to a wider public, rediscovered in the Old Aurora Colony of Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. The people and legacy of Aurora, a utopian community founded in the mid-1800s, will stir your imagination, hopes, and dreams; and remind you that every life matters—that our lives are the stories other people read first.

Unique and treasured quilt pattern variations
More than 100 photographs, many never-before published, from 1850 to today
Cherished stories from Aurora descendants
Rich images of fine crafts from the Aurora Colony and private collections
An introduction by renowned American artist John Houser

Aurora is about the difference every ordinary life can make—and a beautiful celebration of a time and place in which people expressed their most cherished beliefs through the work of their imagination and hands.


Last April I toured Jane Kirkpatrick’s Change and Cherish Historical series Emma Wagner Giesy. Today, I hold in my hands a beautiful book entitled Aurora that teaches me all about the unique people who inspired Jane’s story. This book uses the amazing quilts made by the women in this colony to tell their history and to share their legacy. The people that made up the Aurora Colony were truly some of the hardest working, most creative people to have ever lived.

In spite of their strict religious beliefs, the folks of the Aurora colony were not hesitant to pour their creative spirits into all that they did. Their quilts are particularly magnificent, but the homes they built and the creativity they poured into their furniture and other craft work will absolutely amaze you! And you should see the clothes the women made!! Incredible!

What really amazes me is the sheer industry that defined the people of the nineteenth century. They literally had to create everything that composed their lives – from their homes and furniture to their clothes and food. I stand in awe – and actually feel a bit ashamed that my life doesn’t reflect the same intensity and passion for survival. I’m so thankful that Jane Kirkpatrick has taken the time to showcase the lives that defined the Aurora Colony. It is a beautiful and inspiring work indeed!
You may purchase your own copy here today!

Jane Kirkpatrick is a best-selling, award-winning author whose previous historical novels include All Together in One Place and Christy Award finalist A Tendering in the Storm. An international keynote speaker, she has earned regional and national recognition for her stories based on the lives of actual people, including the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Hall of Fame. Jane is a Wisconsin native who since 1974 has lived in Eastern Oregon, where she and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 rugged acres

A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick - My Review


Returning to her Midwest roots, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick draws a page from her grandmother’s photo album to capture the interplay between shadow and light, temptation and faith that marks a woman’s pursuit of her dreams. She took exquisite photographs,
but her heart was the true image exposed.

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele loves nothing more than capturing a gorgeous Minnesota landscape when the sunlight casts its most mesmerizing shadows. So when F.J. Bauer hires her in 1907 to assist in his studio and darkroom, her dreams for a career in photography appear to find root in reality.

With the infamous hazards of the explosive powder used for lighting and the toxic darkroom chemicals, photography is considered a man’s profession. Yet Jessie shows remarkable talent in both the artistry and business of running a studio. She proves less skillful, however, at managing her growing attraction to the very married Mr. Bauer.

This luminous coming-of-age tale deftly exposes the intricate shadows that play across every dream worth pursuing—and the irresistible light that beckons the dreamer on.


“The ruts tend to pull the wheels toward them whether the wheels planned to go that way or not.” (p. 306)

Jessie Gaebele is a young lady who wants to follow her dreams. She dreams of owning her own photography studio – a daunting aspiration for a woman in the early 1900’s. However, Jessie’s mind isn’t easily discouraged, because her spirit continues to reach beyond her circumstances toward her dreams. She is a confident risk-taker for someone so young and inexperienced, and when her dreams take her into dangerous emotional territory she is forced to learn how to pull away from the ruts in the road of her life and move in a different direction.

Jane Kirkpatrick has once again woven reality into fiction, and this time she tells a story close to her heart. A Flickering Light is based upon the life of her grandmother, and it is a beautiful portrait of a young woman who is brave enough to pursue her dreams. Jessie Gaebele is one of the hardest-working, most determined characters I’ve encountered in fiction, and I admit that I was inspired by her persistence to pursue her dreams. She didn’t always make wise choices, but she was eventually brave enough to face them and turn away toward something better and brighter.

The early 1900’s was a unique time in history – a time when new technology began to reshape life’s possibilities. In spite of financial hardship, the characters in this story continue to work, to save, to strive toward something better – something that feeds their soul and fulfills their dreams. It’s fascinating to me that spontaneous, casual photography was once considered so frivolous and vain! While today we are taking photos with phones held in the palms of our hands, in the early 1900’s Jessie was willing to troop long distances in the wee hours of daylight carrying a burdensome camera just to capture a photograph. Pictures define our world today, and I’m so glad there were people like Jessie to make that possible!

And while Jane Kirkpatrick’s grandmother painted pictures with her camera, Jane continues to paint powerful stories with her words. I think it is a lovely reflection of what God does in our lives as talent is passed from one generation to the next. A Flickering Light is the introduction to the Portrait of a Woman series. I will look forward to Shimmering Grasses next spring!

You may purchase your own copy here today!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews - REVIEWED

Book Description

A moving story of common wisdom from the bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift. Orange Beach, Alabama is a simple town filled with simple people. But they all have their share of problems – marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, and many of the other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.

Fortunately, when things look the darkest – a mysterious old man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. In his simple interactions, Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what they can do about it.

Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration.

The Noticer is a book that has given to me the same thing the main character – Jones – gave to everyone he met…new perspective. I feel as though my heart and mind have been refreshed with hope, yea, even purpose, and I have a deep sense of gratitude toward both the author and the publisher for making it possible to read such a book. The Lord has given Andy Andrews a message to share that many need to hear, and he has been faithful to use his unique, creative voice to pen a very powerful book.

Like the people Jones encounters in the story, I have lived my entire life very aware of the pressure to “succeed” in life. My definition of that success is mirrored in the lives of the story characters – a good education, a nice home, a healthy bank account and time to enjoy the leisure activities of my choice. By those standards, I have failed almost completely. However, if I change my perspective, I am quite probably one of the richest people I know. I do have a family of my own, and we enjoy our lives together in very meaningful ways right in our own home. Well, the home is rented, but its location is in a beautiful rural setting that provides opportunities to hunt, fish, garden and hike unlike most of the nice suburban homes owned by my friends and co-workers.

So, what is The Noticer about? It is about counting your blessings, encouraging others, not giving up when life’s difficulties arise, and noticing the things that make life truly worthwhile. In short, this story – this personal narrative from a man whose life was changed – is a gift of a book that will touch hearts and change lives. This book will give all who read it new perspective on life itself. What lies ahead? Hope. Why? Because THE NOTICER – our Lord and Savior - is busy touching lives and changing hearts, and He still makes life richer and more satisfying than any of us could ever hope or dream.

I would encourage everyone to take the time to read this book. Give it as a gift to someone who is struggling. But most importantly, I would encourage everyone to BE a noticer...encourage those around you, and point them toward the Savior. Life is rich...enjoy it! Visit Thomas Nelson's website to learn more about this great book!

A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher is a prolific writer, and while I’ve not read all of her work, I can tell you that I’ve never been disappointed by any titles I’ve chosen from her large body of work. Her latest release, A Vote of Confidence, is set in Bethlehem Springs, Idaho in the year 1915. The automobile is barely beginning to make its appearance, and nationally the women’s suffrage movement is slowly gaining ground. It is against this historical backdrop that Robin Hatcher introduces her very endearing Guinevere Arlington.

Gwen is a forward thinking woman for her time. She has lived most of her life with her mother in New Jersey – separated from her father and twin sister Cleo. She chooses to travel west and live near her father and sister and quickly establishes herself as a piano teacher and part-time writer for the local paper. When Mr. Morgan Mckinley moves to the area to build a heath spa, it seems that the town of Bethlehem Springs will soon be expanding yet again in new and exciting ways. With the rapidly approaching mayoral election at hand, both Gwen and Morgan feel led to step out of their comfort zone and run for public office.

A woman for mayor? Well, why not? But in 1915…it wasn’t such a common thing. Matter of fact, it was pretty unheard of. When you throw in a few crooked townsfolk backing one candidate and state senators backing another, the stage is set for an exciting time! And the intrigue only deepens when the two opposing candidates begin to discover that they have more than political aspirations beginning to grow between them!

A Vote of Confidence is a good read, and will usher in another new title this Fall – Fit To Be Tied. So, if you enjoy romance and a bit of intrigue with a historical setting as a background…look no further. You will be delighted with Robin Lee Hatcher’s latest novel!

Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family and her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet.

You can go to Robin's website and read the first chapter and other fascinating details of her vast work of published books!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister - REVIEWED

About the Book:

Nonna Bannister carried a secret almost to her Tennessee grave: the diaries she had kept as a young girl experiencing Nazi atrocities while learning compassion and love for her fellow human beings. Nonna's writings tell the remarkable tale of how a Russian girl, born into a family that had known wealth and privileges, was exposed to the concentration camps and learned the value of human life and the importance of forgiveness.

"How this story came to be written is a big part of the drama. The only World War II survivor of her wealthy Russian, devout Christian family, Nonna Lisowskaya came to the U.S. in 1950, married Henry Bannister, and never spoke about her Holocaust experience ––until a few years before her death in 2004, when she revealed her diaries, originally written in six languages on paper scraps that she had kept in a pillow strapped to her body throughout the war. Now those diaries, in her English translation, tell her story of fleeing Stalinist Russia, not knowing what was waiting in Hitler’s Germany, where she saw her mother murdered in the camps, escaped a massacre of Jews shot into a pit, was nursed by Catholic nuns, and much more." ~Hazel Rochman, March 1, 2009 (Booklist)

"Nonna Bannister recounts her personal travails in the first person singular, in a real time account, with touching simplicity and directness - yet with brutal honesty. Bannister rejects any temptation to embroider or hype the raw brutality, tragedies and stark deprivations that were experienced and endured by her family and herself. Bannister remembers the young Nonna as a victim who refuses to be a victim. This absence of any semblance of self pity is made more ringing by her evident joy in recounting through her diaries her fond early memories of family life, and by her faithfulness, when confronted with unspeakable horrors, in practicing a philosophy for life learned at her father's knee - "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Perhaps it is the influence of these twin philosophies - joy and forgiveness - that make this such a special and unique book. Nonna and her family were subjected to many of the worst excesses of the Bolsheviks under Stalinism, were caught in the vice of war between Russia and Germany, and "escaped" into the hell of Nazism. This book gives first person account of the travails of that passage and does so in that manner that shows the reader the real face of true humility. This is a book for the ages." ~ Dr. Edward J. Coyne, Sr., Samford University

This is the first account I’ve actually read of someone surviving/experiencing the Holocaust that wasn’t Jewish. Nonna Bannister was a young Russian girl sent to a work camp when the Germans invaded the Ukraine. This is just a part of WWII that I know little about, and while Nonna’s experiences were not those of the Jews, it was no less horrific or traumatic.

This is not an easy book to read, but I think it is a real testimony of God’s sovereignty even amid the horrors of war. I loved the remembrances of her close, loving family – of their celebrations, reunions and just loving each other through daily life. I imagine those sweet memories were partly responsible for Nonna surviving mentally and emotionally as well as she did. The fact that she not only survived, but later married and enjoyed a family of her own – that’s just a greater testimony of abundant grace!

I cannot fathom the pain, the loss, the absolute horror of some of the experiences remembered by Nonna Bannister. I am, however, humbled and amazed that she took the time to write them down, translate them, and save them to later be shared with others. That speaks of a strength that only God can provide….and only when it is needed. He is faithful when man’s evil seems to be impossible to overcome. I am so thankful for the reminder of this promise, and I pray that should these dark times ever come to my door that I will face them in the same strength that Nonna Bannister displayed throughout her lifetime.

Amazing. God is so faithful! Nonna Bannister’s faith…amazing!

Read the book preface here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A View from Susy Flory's Window!

I want to share with you an interview that Susy Flory shared with those of us blogging her book, So Long Status Quo. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did!

Author of
So Long Status Quo: What I Learned From Women Who Changed the World
April 22, 2009

(Permission granted to reprint/reproduce this interview in part or in whole.)

Q. You describe your middle class suburban life as safe, boring, and predictable—like staying curled up in a comfortable couch. That sounds pretty good! Why were you so dissatisfied with your life?

A. I loved my comfy couch, and my safe life, for a long time. But at some point it became like a trap, like a safe warm cocoon that I couldn’t break out of. Do you remember when you were a kid and you longed for summer vacation? During those long hot days of school just before break you dream about summer and can’t wait for school to be over so you can sleep in, play with friends, relax, and enjoy yourself. Then summer comes, and it’s wonderful, and you get to do those things you were dreaming about, but after a while it goes on too long. You get bored, and there isn’t much of a routine or purpose to your days, and all of a sudden you can’t wait for school to start again. Do you remember that feeling? That was my safe-on-the-couch life. I yearned for something more.

Q. So what became the “something more”?

A. First, I studied a group of amazing women who changed the world, like Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mary Magdalene. I immersed myself in their lives and tried to get to know them better. Who were they? What were their lives like? Why prompted them to step out and make a difference in the world? Then, for each woman, I created a little adventure in order to follow in her footsteps and live out one of her ideals or values. So for Rosie the Riveter, I went into a metal shop and learned how to weld. For Eleanor Roosevelt, I traveled to Cuba on a secret humanitarian mission to work with children. For Mother Teresa, I went on a fast. Now that one was hard!

Q. The book’s title, So Long Status Quo, sounds familiar. Where did it come from?

A. It’s from the chorus of a Nichole Nordeman song called “Brave,” about letting go of your fear and stepping out in faith. I love this line: “I think I’m letting go…” Faith is about letting go of your plan, and trying to live out God’s plan. And His is better!

Q. So Long Status Quo highlights nine amazing women who changed the world. Of those nine, who is your favorite?

A. My absolute favorite was Harriet Tubman. She had so many obstacles to overcome. She was born into slavery. She was illiterate. She suffered a brain injury when she was young that caused her to go into a coma. She had slave catchers after her. She had no money. She worked all alone. Yet, she accomplished unbelievable things. She never quit. Even after she had been a conductor on the Underground Railroad – she led 300 slaves to safety, to freedom, without losing one – after that she became an army scout, a spy, and an army nurse during the civil war. She was unpaid, just a volunteer. When she was an army nurse she was the first line of care and would care for the soldiers lying on the battlefield. They were just lying there, suffering and in pain. She took care of them with her own money, her own supplies, and no one to really help her. She was doing it on her own. And, at night, when she would go back to her room, she would bake 50 pies; she would make homemade gingerbread and homemade root beer from actual roots she got out in the woods.

Q. She would cook and bake at night after she’d been working all day?

A. Not only that, but the next day she’d hire ex-slaves to go out and sell the food and drink in the camps. Then she would use that money to buy supplies for the soldiers. So, I was just amazed by how resourceful she was and how she didn’t give up when she didn’t have the things that she needed to take care of these guys. Even when she was an old lady, she started a retirement home for former slaves. So I just like her. I like that she didn’t quit; I like her resourcefulness. I like that she didn’t make excuses and I like that she used her own hands to help in whatever way she could, even when she wasn’t paid, even when she wasn’t welcome. I think she’s probably just about the most amazing woman I’ve ever read about in my entire life.

Q. What are some of the lasting impacts of writing the book and venturing on your journeys or adventures to change the world? How is your daily life different?

A. I think I am measuring my actions, the things I do everyday, in light of eternity. There are some things I have to do to make ends meet, pay the bills, that don’t necessarily have eternal value. But, I am measuring my life, I’m measuring my actions, I ’m measuring the choices I make in light of eternity and with a goal of lasting value.

Q. In the book you talk about the particular project where you sold jewelry for fresh water. You took an inventory of the things you owned and were surprised by all that you have. Now, have you found the clutter level climbing back up? Are you more proactive about reducing your purchases or consumption of goods?

A. After I wrote that chapter I went through my closet. And it’s not that I’m a huge shopper, but when I did count my shirts and my underwear and my shoes, it really showed me that I had way more than I thought I had, and, definitely way more than I needed. So I did give away a bunch of stuff. I think we can accumulate things sometimes for emotional reasons, almost like overeating. So my closet is on a diet!

Q. Because your book is focused on women, do you think it could be considered feminist or sexist?

A. To me “sexist” is when you elevate one sex and denigrate or put down the other, and that is not what So Long Status Quo is about. Amazing men have been written about extensively all through history, but women have not, and this book whetted my appetite for women’s history. I’m really trying to focus on a subject – women’s history – that has not been given the time and energy and passion and interest I think that it deserves.
I think a good example from So Long Status Quo is Perpetua, a Roman martyr, an educated and amazing woman who wrote her own story, who showed true heroism facing death in an arena – and no one knows about her!

Q. If you had to choose some powerful women currently impacting our world in a positive way, who might they be?

A. Catherine Rohr was a very successful stockbroker in NYC. Something happened; she felt a call on her life. She sold everything she had, and along with her husband, rented a U-Haul truck and moved to Texas. She started a business-training program in the Texas prisons called The Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and it’s been going for about ten years. She went behind bars and taught business classes to these guys who were the lowest of the low in society. She’s had tremendous success and has given these guys a chance for a new life.

Another one is Wendy Kopp. She came right out of college, an Ivy League school, and founded a non-profit called “Teach for America”. She recruits the best and the brightest students across the country to go into inner city schools and teach for a year or two, before they start their careers. A lot of them end of staying in those inner city schools because they love the kids, they love the challenge and find it very rewarding. Wendy is brilliant; she could’ve made a million dollars, but instead she started a non-profit and built it from the ground up. Wendy Kopp is a woman changing the world.

Q. What would you say to someone who is reluctant to climb out of their comfortable couch to try to make a difference in the world? Sometimes people feel like they already serve at their church, or give donations. Isn’t that enough?

A. That’s exactly where I was, before I started this journey. I don’t want to be judgmental, at all, but since I was part of that mindset, I think it’s quite widespread in the American church. We have this inner feeling that if we can give money, then that should be enough. But, there’s something very special, something you cannot reproduce by watching about in movies or reading about in book, about going and interacting with people, and serving them however you can. It’s life changing. It just doesn’t happen when you write a check or put something in the offering plate. It’s happens when you go get your hands dirty and you love people – and they love you back.

Q. So you experience their humanity, or their struggle?

A. Absolutely. You go to serve others, and to bless them, and, of course, you’re the one who is blessed a thousand times more than you ever gave. It’s from the connection with others and the joy that comes from the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. There’s just no substitute for it.

Q. To really be there…

A. Yeah, and that’s what I see with Jesus’ life. He was in the market place, he was down at the well, in the fields with people … He was down in the dust and grime of everyday life talking to people, helping people, healing people. And I think Jesus is our example. We should do the same.

Q. In your book, each chapter ends with suggestions for readers to try a little adventure on their own. Where should a beginning volunteer start?

A. I think a lot of times when you’re doing volunteer work or you’re trying to make a difference you look at what other people have done. But, I think that’s the wrong place to start. I think that you have to start in your own community, with the needs that are in front of you. Use whatever resources or gifts or talents you personally have. So if you love to knit, knit for others. If you love to create scrapbooks, if you love to cook, if you love to spend time with people, if you love to take care of children, serve others. Start with yourself and what you like to do, and then find someone who needs what you like to do.

Q. Would So Long Status Quo work for book clubs or women’s groups?

We just created a Reader’s Guide for small groups or book clubs—any kind of group that wants to work through the book together. It’s free and you can download it at I’ve also started a blog that highlights women changing the world, both past and present.

Q. How can we become women who change the world?

A. By starting in our own backyards. And if God wants it to turn into something larger, that’s up to Him. I think if we do what we can, with the tools God has given us and the resources that we have, then who knows what can happen? Mother Teresa put it this way: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Don’t be the missing drop.

So Long Status Quo by Susy Flory - REVIEWED

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

So Long, Status Quo: What I Learned From Women Who Changed the World

Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)


SUSY FLORY grew up on the back of a quarter horse in an outdoorsy family in Northern California and she's not afraid to dive into the trenches to experience firsthand whatever she's writing about. If that means smuggling medical supplies into Cuba on a humanitarian trip or sitting down to coffee to talk about faith with a practicing witch, she's there with a listening ear and notebook in hand.

Susy's creative nonfiction features a first person journalistic style with a backbone of strong research and a dash of dry wit. She attended Biola University and UCLA, where she received degrees in English and psychology. She has a background in journalism, education, and communications. Her first book, Fear Not Da Vinci, released in 2006.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0834124386
ISBN-13: 978-0834124387

“…each of these amazing women profiled in this book was honest, transparent, vulnerable and afraid. At the same time, these women who changed the world were bold, passionate, empathetic, and fearless. They were paradoxical these women, because they were real.”(p. 139)

So Long Status Quo is a book unassuming in appearance but powerful in content!! I almost rushed past this jewel in my to be read pile, and I’m so thankful I didn’t miss it!! Susy Flory uses the life achievements of some very well-known women and makes a practical application of their inspiring actions in her own life. Talk about amazing results!
Harriet Tubman, Perpetua, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary Magdelene are only a few women who saw a need and met that need the best way they were able. Their selflessness changed many lives and set an example that we can still follow today.

Susy Flory begins each chapter with insight from her own personal experience then goes on to briefly outline the powerful lifework of a woman in history. She then puts hands and feet to their inspiration and actually goes out and follows in their footsteps – helping the poor, witnessing to the pagan, reaching out to children and practicing self-denial to name a few. What she learns changes her worldview dramatically and in very surprising and powerful ways. She then ends each chapter with suggestions for others use so they can experience some of these same life-changing activities.

I learned a lot that I either didn’t know or had intellectually misplaced about a lot of women in history as well as God’s power to use every one of us to reach out and make a powerful difference in the lives of others. For me, volunteering at our local women’s rehab facility has been life-altering. Loving the unlovable, sharing Christ with the lost…those are the things that make life worth living!! Way to go, Susy for encouraging every woman to become a useful vessel in God’s kingdom!


Addicted to comfort

“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside

and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive …

One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt, on her 77th birthday

I love my couch. It’s covered in a squishy soft velvety material the color of oatmeal laced with honey and the cushions are fat. Three big loose pillows rest against the back, the material woven into an exotic, vaguely Eastern pattern of impressionistic flowers and trees in tawny gold and lapis blue. My favorite spot in the entire house is the far end of this couch, with two smaller pillows behind my back and my legs stretched out long ways. I do this every day.

For a while we had an uptight couch. Bright Colonial red with little blue and yellow flowers, it reminded me of the calico dresses Melissa Gilbert used to wear on Little House on the Prairie. The fabric was quilted in the shape of puzzle pieces and the back rose straight up, pierced by a row of buttons. A boxy pleated strip of fabric ran along the bottom. It was really uncomfortable and almost impossible to take a nap in. That couch didn’t want you sitting there very long; it was a little Puritanical, wanting you up and around, taking care of business. We sold it at a garage sale for $20. Good riddance.

But the comfy oatmeal couch—it loves you. It calls you to sink down into comfort, and to stay awhile. A long while.

From the couch I can see the kitchen where my kids are grating cheese for quesadillas or searching the fridge for leftover pizza. I can look out the back window, at the drooping branches of the monstrous eucalyptus tree overhanging the back yard. Or, I can stare at the ceiling fan, slowly circling overhead. But, really, I hardly ever look at anything but words. Books, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, letters from friends—those are the things I look at when I’m stretched out on the couch.

Sundays are my absolutely favorite. After church, we eat lunch at the taqueria, then head home. The newspapers await; I don’t want to waste time changing my clothes so I head straight for the couch. News comes first, then business, travel, entertainment, and the Sunday magazine. Last are the sale papers: Target, Best Buy, Macy’s.

By this time I’m sleepy, melting a bit around the edges. My head grows heavy and I turn, curl up, and snuggle into the cushions. I fall asleep, papers crinkly around me.

A while ago my teenage son, just to aggravate me, staked a claim on the oatmeal couch. He’d race home after church in his little pick-up truck and head in the door, kicking off his shoes and diving into my favorite comfy spot in one gangly flop. He made it his goal to be asleep, limbs a sprawl, before I even made it inside the house. A few times I tried to extricate him but it was useless, like trying to wrestle a wire hanger out of a tangled pile.

I decided to wait him out and so after he slept on the couch a few Sundays, he gave it up. He had better things to do, usually involving his computer.

Things returned to normal, the oatmeal couch remembered the shape of my behind, and I took to snuggling into the tawny-lapis pillows once again.

It was safe, my velvety couch cave.

Just like my life.

In one of my favorite books, A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel writes about her mother, always on the couch with a cardboard box of books by her side. There she was, forever reading a book and waving at her children as they went back and forth, in and out of the house, busily doing whatever kids in a small Indiana town did. She stayed there, curled up on the couch, peacefully reading her books as her husband ran around who-knows-where, maybe coon hunting, gambling away his paycheck, or sleeping with the divorced woman across town. She was comfortable there. Zippy unexpectedly became a bestseller and Kimmel traveled around giving talks and signing books. The one question everyone asked her was, “Did your mother ever get up off the couch?”

I don’t live in Indiana; I live in a suburb of San Francisco. My kids don’t run in and out of the house; they pretty much stay put. My husband is a hard working, non-gambling, faithful guy who pays the bills. And my life is pretty good. But I have lived most of it lodged safely in the corner of my couch.

My secure couch cocoon was really a picture of what I had let my life become. Lethargic, sleepy, with a love for security and for comfort, I lived for self. I avoided suffering at all costs. I didn’t want to ever do anything uncomfortable. I think I was addicted to comfort.

My journey out of my couch-life started years ago when I was a college student on vacation, idly looking around a gift shop. Flicking through a box full of enameled metal signs, I came across one that read “We Can Do It!” Underneath was a portrait of a woman, looking sort of like Lucille Ball in her cleaning garb, hair up in a red bandanna. Glossy lips, a little pouty, with arched eyebrows and thick eyelashes. She wore a blue collared shirt, sleeve rolled up over a flexed bicep, toned and powerful. Her eyes were wide open, focused, determined. Who was she? I hadn’t a clue, but I bought the sign and installed it in a place of honor by my desk.

Later, when I was married, the mother of two small children and too busy changing diapers to sit much on the couch yet, I learned she was called Rosie the Riveter. She, and six million other women who toiled in factories while their men were off fighting in World War II, changed the world. Even now, as I look at the old enamel sign next to my desk, I’m haunted by the determination in the line of her jaw and the resolve in the curl of her fist. I wanted to be like her.

But the couch called. I forgot the sign; it migrated to the back of my bookcase and I took a part time job teaching English at a private high school. My kids were in school, my husband was fighting up the corporate ladder, and with the days sometimes a blur of homework, basketball practice, and ballet class, I hoarded my couch time.

Funny, though. It wasn’t satisfying. I just couldn’t ever seem to get enough.

And then, one day, stretched out reading the Sunday paper, I saw Rosie again. It was a full-page department store ad. Across the top ran a banner: “Help end hunger.” Something had changed. Rosie looked a little more glamorous than I remembered. The “can” in the “We CAN Do It!” was underlined and capitalized to emphasize the can of food in her fist. I unfolded the page and examined it; it was an advertisement for National Hunger Awareness day. If you made a $5 donation to the department store, they would in return give you a 15% coupon for regular, sale and clearance-priced merchandise. It’s our thanks to you for helping to relieve hunger in our communities.

I pondered the page; something didn’t quite make sense. Somehow, by partnering with Rosie to spend money at the department store, you would help to relieve hunger. Rosie and her factory worker sisters had changed the world by serving for low pay and little recognition on factory lines during a war. They had sacrificed personal comfort and convenience for a cause greater than themselves, a cause they believed in and sweated and grew calluses for. Now the department store was asking me to be like Rosie, tie up my hair, bare my biceps and leave my couch, so I could … shop? You’ve got to be kidding.

But my irritation that day over the hijacking of the Rosie the Riveter image piqued my curiosity. Who was Rosie? Was she a real person? Was she still alive? What would she think about the ways her image, once meant to encourage and inspire the Nazi-fighting women of World War II, had been used for merchandising? I was intrigued by her determination and I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to the bottom of her story. So I did. And after Rosie I found eight other women, amazing women, who changed the world. I found women who, with grit and guts, made their lives add up to something much more than just a satisfying Sunday nap. And somehow, in the finding, the oatmeal couch lost its allure.

I wanted to feel alive, to experience something more deep and dangerous than my middle class life. I wanted more than a Ford Expedition SUV with leather seats or a 401K groaning with employer contributions. I craved something beyond Ralph Lauren Suede paint or a giant glossy red Kitchen Aid mixer. I was ready to wake up from a very long nap and do something meaningful.

So this is the story of how, slowly, I began to get up off the couch of my boring, safe, sheltered, vanilla existence to something more real, sharper, in focus. Rosie led the way. Along came Eleanor, and Jane. Then Harriet, Elizabeth, and more. These women became mentors calling me to a different kind of life. Passionate for change, each woman sacrificed money, love, comfort, time, and, ultimately, self, to make a difference to thousands, maybe millions of people.

Living like the women who changed the world is not easy, but it’s good. It feels right. It is satisfying.

This is how I got up off the couch and tried, with much fear and trembling, to make a difference in my world. And I’ll never go back.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

God Only Knows by Xavier Knight - REVIEWED

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

God Only Knows

Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)


Xavier Knight is the Christian fiction pen name for C. Kelly Robinson. He is a native of Dayton, Ohio and magna cum laude graduate of Howard University and Washington University in St. Louis. Robinson is a marketing communications manager by day and has a long record of volunteer experience across organizations including United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mentor St. Louis, and Student Venture Ministries. Author of five previous novels including the best-selling No More Mr. Nice Guy and the critically acclaimed Between Brothers (Random House), he lives outside Dayton with his wife and daughter. He is hard at work on his next novel and on a nonfiction project.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446582395
ISBN-13: 978-0446582391

I read most of this book. I say “most” because about half-way through I stopped the word for word account – I just got tired of it. I live in the South. Specifically, I live in a small Alabama town that doesn’t realize it’s the twenty-first century and that skin color is no way to define a human being. I understand racism.

I also understand that the only difference between my white skin and my darker counterparts on earth is the amount of melanin, and we are all sinners in need of a Savior. I believe we all came from the same eight people God saved alive on the Ark, and that we are all one race. Therefore, I really stumbled over the tone of this book. It was all written from race perspective. I’m not negating the fact that there are those who treat others differently because of race. I’m not negating the fact that people do live lives looking through race-colored glasses. But I don’t want to read an entire story couched in “sister”, “hoochie” and all kinds of other “Afro-American” language – and try to be convinced that racism only works one way. Not.

I don’t want to read about how much sex a married couple had on every piece of furniture in their house. I don’t want to read about a Christian doctor mentally comparing his number of sexual partners to that of his STD patient. I don’t want to read about a man trying to figure out whether he should date his “black sisters” or a woman whose skin is lighter than his own.

There was a racially motivated crime committed in this story. It was resolved many years later to some extent. But the racial hoops theses characters operate within are suffocating. Just be who God created you to be and quit defining everyone – white, black or purple polka-dotted – by the color of their skin. Tell a good story without all of the stereotypical race definitions. It only serves to exacerbate a problem that should not exist to begin with. If you belong to Christ, you are my brother or sister no matter what color you are.


Two Decades Later

Chapter One

For the first time she could remember in years, Cassandra Gillette felt like a woman fulfilled. Freshly showered, she sat before the laptop PC in her spacious dressing room, checking email. She had another hour at least before her newly-built luxury home would be overrun by her family; her husband Marcus had gone to pick up their twelve-year-old twins, Heather and Hillary, from a friend’s birthday party out in Middletown. In addition, her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus Jr., was still seven hours away from his midnight curfew.

“There is so much to be thankful for,” Cassie whispered to God, letting her words ring through the quiet of her master suite. This was not the average lazy Saturday afternoon; for the first time in nearly four months, Cassie had made love to her husband.

Their separation had gotten off to a fiery start, but as tempers cooled and nights passed, God had brought Cassie and Marcus back together. Marcus had quickly tired of Veronica, the twenty-something news anchor who had welcomed him into her condo, and Cassie’s eyes had been opened. When her best girlfriend Julia confronted her, she had finally realized how her actions in recent years had starved Marcus of the respect and affirmation that even the strongest man needed.

So it was that after several late-night telephone calls and a Starbucks “date” hidden from their children, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Gillette had decided to get up off the mat and keep the promises they made before God seventeen years earlier, a few months after M.J.’s arrival. They had agreed to surprise the children with news of their reconciliation tonight, but with the house empty this afternoon, the couple had started a private celebration. The house was new enough that aside from the master bedroom, their frisky activity had “christened” the kitchen’s marble-topped island, the leather couch in the finished basement, and the washing machine in the laundry room.

As she dashed off an email to the staff at her real estate agency, sharing news of the latest deal she had closed – a four hundred twenty thousand dollar sale, their thirtieth property sold for the quarter – Cassie nearly shuddered with delight as she recalled Marcus’ smooth touch. Although she had lost thirty pounds over the past year, she was still nearly twenty pounds heavier than she’d been on their wedding day, and she had been pregnant then. Nevertheless, Cassie’s Marcus knew and loved her body, in exactly the way that frank scriptures like those in Song of Solomon encouraged. Like most everything else in marriage, the Gillettes’ sexual relationship had experienced ups and downs, but Cassie licked her lips unintentionally as she mentally applauded her man: when he’s good, he’s GOOD.

An instant message popped up on her screen: Julia, her best friend. “I heard a rumor,” she IM’d.

Cassie smiled as she typed back, “No idea what you mean.”

Julia’s IM response popped up. “They say a handsome, bulky brother tipped into your crib this afternoon.”

Cassie smiled as she typed, “Girl, I am too old to be kissin’ and tellin’.”

“And I’m too old to be listening to such filth,” Julia typed. As a PhD and superintendent of schools at their shared alma mater, Christian Light Schools, Julia let her words communicate their humor; Cassie’s friend was above the use of those corny emoticons. Julia sent another missive: “You are coming to my Board of Advisors meeting Monday, right? I need help saving this school system, child.”

Cassie stuck her tongue out playfully as she entered her response. “Still not sure how I fit in with this crew. You said you’re pulling together the ‘best and brightest’ Christian Light alumni? Don’t see how I count, given that the school expelled me when they realized why my belly was swollen.”

“Stop it,” came Julia’s response. “Besides, you have what matters most to a struggling school system: Deep pockets!”

Cassie shook her head, her laughter easing any guilt she might have felt about throwing the painful memory of her expulsion – accompanied by the school principal’s labeling her a “girl of loose morals” – in her friend’s face. Julia alone had led a student protest in Cassie’s defense at the time, marching on the school’s front lawn and even calling local media in a vain attempt to embarrass the school into reversing its decision.

Cassie was typing a light-hearted response when her front doorbell rang, the chime filling the house. Changing up, she shot her friend a quick, “Doorbell – call you later,” before taking a second to tuck her blouse into her jeans. Padding downstairs to the foyer, she chuckled to herself. She would have to help Julia save the world later.

When she peered into her front door’s peephole, Cassie’s heart caught for a second at the sight of a tall, blonde-haired gentleman flashing a police badge.

M.J.’s fine, said the voice in Cassie’s head as the badge stirred anxiety over her teen son’s safety. She wasn’t sure whether it was the Lord or simply her own positive coaching. For years now Cassie had combined her faith in God with affirmative self-talk meant to power her through life’s stresses and adversities. In her youth, she had crumpled one time too many in the face of indifference, prejudice, sexism and just plain evil; by the time she and Marcus walked the aisle of Tabernacle Baptist Church, where each had first truly dedicated their respective lives to Christ, Cassie had vowed to never be caught unaware again. That same spirit of resolve propped her up as she confidently unlocked and swung back her wide oak door.

As strong as she felt, Cassie’s knees still flexed involuntarily when she saw M.J. standing beside the plainclothes policeman. At six foot one, her son was every inch as tall as the policeman and stood with his arms crossed, a sneer teasing the corners of his mouth. Though relieved to see he was fine, Cassie sensed an unusually defiant spirit in her boy, so she locked her gaze onto the officer instead. If her man-child had done something worthy of punishment, she wouldn’t give this stranger the pleasure of witnessing the beat-down. She unlocked her screen door and, opening it, let the officer make the first move.

“Mrs. Gillette?” The man held out his right hand and respectfully shook Cassie’s as he spoke in a deep, hoarse voice. “I’m Detective Whitlock with the Dayton PD. I’m really sorry to bother you, but I was hoping we could help each other this evening, ma’am.”

Cassie opened her screen door all the way, one hand raised against the fading sunlight in her eyes. “Please, come in,” she said, focused on editing the airy lilt out of her tone. She didn’t mind letting her naturally fluttery voice out when among family and friends, but now was no time for it. “Why don’t we have a seat in the living room.”

“Again, I apologize for showing up unannounced. A neighborhood this nice, one of those draws a lot of eyebrows probably,” Whitlock said, nodding toward the sleek police car parked out front. “Marcus Jr. and I had an unfortunate confrontation this afternoon. The more I talk to him, I’m convinced we can handle this without a trip downtown.”

Cassie nodded respectfully. Who can argue with that? She thought as she motioned toward the expansive living room. “May I take your suit jacket?”

“Oh, no thank you,” Whitlock replied. He slowed his gait and allowed M.J. to first follow Cassie into the room. The detective stood just inside the doorway, peering at Cassie’s expensive sculptures and paintings as M.J. reluctantly took a seat beside his mother. Once they were settled, Whitlock strode to the middle of the living room, his hands in the pockets of his dress slacks. “Marcus, why don’t you tell your mother how we crossed paths?”

M.J. stared straight ahead, his line of sight veering nowhere near Cassie and shooting over the top of Whitlock’s head of wavy blond hair. “I was minding my business, Mom. Officer Whitlock here–”

“Detective Whitlock, son,” the policeman replied, a testy edge betraying the professional, placid smile on his tanned, leathery face. Cassie found herself admitting he was a relatively handsome man, one who even reminded her of the male cousins on the white side of her family. The policeman was probably her own age, she figured, somewhere between thirty-five and forty.

Grimacing, M.J. continued. “The good detective here pulled me over on 75. Said he clocked me at seventy-eight in a fifty-five.”

“Oh I see,” Cassie said, a wave of relief cleansing her tensed insides. She placed a hand on her son’s shoulder but kept her eyes on the detective. “If that’s all that’s involved, my son should certainly pay whatever fine is required by the law. You’re not doing him any favors giving him a simple talking-to.” She nearly chastised herself for fearing the worst. This was probably just a case of her super-jock son–a varsity star in Chaminade-Julienne football, basketball and track–getting special treatment for his local celebrity, a celebrity nearly as big as the fame that had first attracted her to Marcus Sr. back in the day.

Holding Cassie’s smile with calm blue eyes, Whitlock reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a manila envelope. “Asked and answered. The state trooper wrote this ticket up for your son during the traffic stop.” He walked over to the loveseat and slowly extended the envelope to M.J. “I agree that Marcus needs to pay his speeding ticket, Mrs. Gillette. If that’s all that was involved, I would have never been called to the scene.”

Everything is fine. My son has done nothing illegal. Cassie fingered the gold locket around her neck but prayed she was otherwise masking the dread pulsing back into her. “Then get to the point please, Detective.”

Whitlock paced quickly to the corner of the adjacent couch. When he plopped down, he was less than a foot away from Cassie. “You see,” he said, his elbows on his knees and his faintly yellowed teeth glinting as he seemed to smile despite himself, “I was called in because Marcus had a convicted criminal riding with him, the sort of character who can make even this fine young man look guilty by association.”

“Please tell me,” Cassie said, pivoting rapidly toward M.J., “that you weren’t riding around with him again.” When M.J. bunched his lips tight and shrugged, Cassie couldn’t stop herself from popping him in the shoulder. “Boy! You promised me! You promised me, M.J.!”

Whitlock had removed his cell phone from his suit jacket. His eyes focused on the phone as he punched its buttons, he asked, “By ‘him,’ are you referring to Dante Wayne?”

“Yes,” Cassie said, her forehead so hot with rage it scared her. She wasn’t sure whether to be more upset at this white stranger lounging on her couch, or her increasingly disobedient son.

Whitlock stared straight into Cassie’s eyes. “And you’re familiar with Mr. Wayne how?”

Cassie sucked her teeth angrily. “He’s my cousin’s oldest son.” Donald, Dante’s father, ran a small taxi service and was the first relative on her father’s side of the family – the Black side – who had reached out to Cassie when they were both struggling teen parents trying to figure life out. Though they didn’t talk often these days, Cassie still counted Donald a personal friend, and her loyalty to him through the years had led her to foster M.J. and Dante’s friendship from the time they were toddlers. That was before she realized that Dante would adopt the morals of his mother’s family, nearly all of whom had died in their twenties or spent significant stretches in prison.

“So M.J. was straight with me, they are cousins.” Whitlock stroked his chin playfully as he observed mother and son. “Marcus insisted that was the only reason he was riding around with Dante in tow. Dante took up for him too, insisted there was no way Marcus was hip to the drugs we found in the car.” He nodded toward M.J. “Why don’t we discuss this one adult to another, ma’am. Marcus, based on your exemplary reputation in the community – as well as your parents’ – I’m willing to assume you had no knowledge of your cousin’s activities. If you’ll just excuse us.”

M.J. looked between his mother and the detective, the first signs of a growing son’s protective emotions on his face as he tapped Cassie’s knee. “You okay with him, Mom?”

“Go down to your room,” Cassie said through clenched tooth, “and shut the basement door after you.” As her son rose, she punctuated her words. “Don’t even think about coming up until your father and I come down for you.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Elisha's Bones by Don Hoesel - reviewed

"I don't belong here. But I open the door anyway." (p. 315)

I never fully decided whether it was curiosity or anger at God that served as the driving force in Dr. Jack Hawthorne's life. See, Dr. Hawthorne - Jack - is the main character in Don Hoesel's debut novel, Elisha's Bones, and his struggle against the reality of a sovereign God is still resounding within my heart. For you see, it is a battle we all must fight - just before we surrender to the irresistible grace of our loving Savior.

Elisha's Bones is a unique and powerful debut novel. Jack Hawthorne's character has emblazoned itself in my mind as a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond. When he is ripped from his safe academic environment by an irresistible archeological mystery and a limitless supply of money with which to pursue it, things become both exhilarating and deadly. A dying man is seeking new life at any cost, and he plans to use Jack Hawthorne only until he proves himself no longer useful.

What Jack nor his billionaire employer planned to encounter s the malevolent evil that has warred against God for all eternity. Jack's associates - nay his very brother - become little more than a trail of death in the wake of a holy relic that is supposed to contain the power to bring the dead back to life. Jack Hawthorne must determine whether or not he will believe in an all-powerful God, or whether he will shun Him for what he perceives to be limitless evil. Will he fall on those who defend the holy relic or those who are determined to misuse the power it is supposed to contain?

The answer is both amazing and heart-wrenching in its reality. Through non-stop action, multiple face-offs with death itself, heartbreaking loss and physical pain Jack Hawthorne battles his way to the brink of his own eternal destiny. There he discovers that there are some things worth dying for. There is something so powerful that it reaches the most avowed skeptic - and Jack must face it head-on.

You will not BELIEVE how much can take place in the short span of 330 pages! Your mouth will hang slack-jawed at the surprising twists and turns along the way! More than once I'd hear myself say, "Oh no!" only to shake my head in wonder at the turn of the page. The last fifty pages will practically give you heart failure! The ending...not what I expected, but extremely satisfying!

If Elisha's Bones is Don Hoesel's debut, well... I hope to read his stories the rest of my days! Incredible, intelligent, action-packed writing take you all over the world only to end up in the deepest parts of man's heart and his need for a touch from One who designed it all in the first place. Pick up your copy today!!

Read the first chapter here!


Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home.
He works as a Communications Department supervisor for a Medicare carrier and hopes to one day sell enough books to just say that he's a writer. You can help with that by buying whatever his newest novel happens to be.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gardening eden by Michael Abbate - GIVE AWAY!

Before the snake, the apple, and the Ten Commandments, God created a garden, placed humans in it, and told them to take care of it.

“Spiritual environmentalism” did not start out as an oxymoron—it was an invitation. Yet today, many believe God’s original job description for humankind has been replaced by other worthier pursuits. So when did this simple instruction become so controversial? How does one sort through all the mixed messages? Is making the world a healthier place for the next generation really a responsibility—or even possible?

Gardening Eden is a new understanding of how the spiritual dimensions of life can find expression and renewal through caring for our incredible planet. Empowering, simple, and never polemical, Michael Abbaté outlines the Bible’s clear spiritual benefits of caring for creation, exploring new motivations and inspired ideas, and revealing the power of our basic connection to all people and living things through the growing interest in spiritual environmentalism.

Green living is no longer a fad—simple lifestyle solutions are now available to everyone. Gardening Eden shows readers how this shift transforms not only our world, but their very souls as they’re drawn into deeper harmony with the Creator. This book invites them to discover the powerful spiritual satisfaction of heeding the call to save our world.

If you could see my face right now, you’d see a rather sheepish expression. I’ll admit to you that any time someone mentions environmentalism or “going green” I sort of cringe. Then, I think to myself, “another fanatic” and dismiss the entire subject matter. I even hesitated to blog a book related to the subject! I owe Michael Abbate a heartfelt apology and will tell you right now that his book, Gardening Eden, has made me reconsider several things in an entirely new way!

Gardening Eden shares Michael Abbate’s own spiritual journey as he matures as a Christian and begins to consider what the future holds for his children and their children. He doesn’t approach caring for our environment from a hysterical point of view, but from a biblical standpoint that begins with God’s instruction to His first two created beings in the Garden of Eden. He actually asks the reader to consider living responsibly on our ever-more-crowded planet as a form of worship. Practical choices like car-pooling, recycling, growing your own garden and cooking meals at home are simple things that can be incorporated into every day living, and over time will make a positive impact on the environment. With each idea Abbate shares, he gives examples and illustrations from his own spiritual journey and shares some rather eye-opening statistics from his years of research on the subject.

Bottom line – when it comes to taking care of the environment, it isn’t a blame-game. It is, instead, a matter of seeking God’s will and direction in every part of our life and then living responsibly within our own homes and families. We are to honor God by caring for our planet and not making selfish choices that cause harm to ourselves and those around us. As much wisdom and as many facts as Michael Abbate shares in his book, Gardening Eden, he goes one step further and makes it personal. He shares his heart, his continuous desire to learn more and make changes along the way, and most importantly – he encourages others to live lives focused on Christ and worshiping Him in every area of daily living.

You can learn more and purchase your own copy here.

I have an extra copy to give away, so if you leave your comment and contact information, you can be entered to win!

Author Bio:
A nationally recognized expert in “green” development strategies, Mike Abbaté is a founder of GreenWorks, an award-winning landscape architecture design firm. He frequently speaks to students and leaders about practical ways to minimize the impact of building and landscape design on natural resources. Abbaté’s work has been featured in national magazines such as Metropolis and Landscape Architecture and in many local newspapers and trade publications. He and his wife, Vicki, have two adult daughters and live near Portland, Oregon.

So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones - REVIEWED

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

So Not Happening (The Charmed Life)

Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)


Jenny B. Jones writes adult and YA Christian Fiction with equal parts wit, sass, and untamed hilarity. When she's not writing, she's living it up as a high school speech teacher in Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595545417
ISBN-13: 978-1595545411

“And life is all about right moments, isn’t it?” (p. 326)

I grew up on a farm chasing cows and picking up eggs in a commercial chicken house with 25,000 feathered workers. When I began reading about Bella Kirkwood’s move from Manhattan, New York to Truman, Oklahoma, I couldn’t stop laughing! She is as out of place on the farm as I would be shopping in down town New York! Jenny B. Jones really can’t be beat when it comes to capturing the awkward, personal space of teens trying to grow up, and her latest novel, So Not Happening, is a real gem!

I enjoy the way that Jenny Jones starts out making the reader think the story is going to be all about this spoiled rich girl trying to adjust to her new family. Then, before you know it, you realize that Bella is learning about herself, about what really gives meaning to life, and that sometimes your curiosity can land you in a mess that is worse than the cow pies in the front yard! I never dreamed that she’d ever get past Luke’s maniac editor personality, much less help Lindy with a make-over!

In short, So Not Happening is a story with many unexpected twists and turns. There is a lot of growing up to be done among the pages, but it is accomplished with wit, realistic sarcastic teen scenes, and the fledgling faith of young adults who are forced to deal with some sobering and dangerous situations. Folks, this is prime teen fiction, and I am very pleased to recommend it to you! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, I’m So Sure, that will be released this Fall! Bella Kirkwood is a neat kid, and I can’t wait to find out what new direction her life will take as this series continues!


One year ago my mom got traded in for a newer model.

And that’s when my life fell apart.

“Do you, Jillian Leigh Kirkwood . . .”

Standing by my mother’s side as she marries the man who is so not my dad, I suppress a sigh and try to wiggle my toes in these hideous shoes. The hideous shoes that match my hideous maid-of honor dress. I like to look at things on the bright side, but the only

positive thing about this frock is that I’ll never have to wear it again.

“. . . take Jacob Ralph Finley . . .”

Ralph? My new stepdad’s middle name is Ralph? Okay, do we need one more red flag here? My mom is marrying this guy, and I didn’t even know his middle name. Did she? I check her face for signs of revulsion, signs of doubt. Signs of “Hey, what am I thinking? I don’t want Jacob Ralph Finley to be my daughter’s new stepdad.”

I see none of these things twinkling in my mom’s crystal blue eyes. Only joy. Disgusting, unstoppable joy.

“Does anyone have an objection?” The pastor smiles and scans the small crowd in the Tulsa Fellowship Church. “Let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

Oh my gosh. I totally object! I look to my right and lock eyes with Logan, the older of my two soon-to-be stepbrothers. In the six hours that I have been in Oklahoma preparing for this “blessed” event, Logan and I have not said five words to one another. Like we’ve mutually agreed to be enemies.

I stare him down.

His eyes laser into mine.

Do we dare?

He gives a slight nod, and my heart triples in beat.

“Then by the powers vested in me before God and the family and friends of—”


The church gasps.

I throw my hands over my mouth, wishing the floor would swallow me.

I, Bella Kirkwood, just stopped my own mother’s wedding.

And I have no idea where to go from here. It’s not like I do this every day, okay? Can’t say I’ve stopped a lot of weddings in my sixteen years.

My mom swivels around, her big white dress making crunchy noises. She takes a step closer to me, still flashing her pearly veneers at the small crowd.

“What,” she hisses near my ear, “are you doing?”

I glance at Logan, whose red locks hang like a shade over his eyes. He nods again.

“Um . . . um . . . Mom, I haven’t had a chance to talk to you at all this week . . .” My voice is a tiny whisper. Sweat beads on my forehead.

“Honey, now is not exactly the best time to share our feelings and catch up.”

My eyes dart across the sanctuary, where one hundred and fifty people are perched on the edge of their seats. And it’s not because they’re anxious for the chicken platters coming their way after the ceremony.

“Mom, the dude’s middle name is Ralph.”

She leans in, and we’re nose to nose. “You just stopped my wedding and that’s what you wanted to tell me?”

Faint—that’s what I’ll do next time I need to halt a wedding.

“How well do you know Jake? You only met six months ago.”

Some of the heat leaves her expression. “I’ve known him long enough to know that I love him, Bella. I knew it immediately.”

“But what if you’re wrong?” I rush on, “I mean, I’ve only been around him a few times, and I’m not so sure. He could be a serial killer for all we know.” I can count on one hand the times I’ve been around Jake. My mom usually visited him when I was at my dad’s.

Her voice is low and hurried. “I understand this isn’t easy for you. But our lives have changed. It’s going to be an adventure, Bel.”

Adventure? You call meeting a man on the Internet and forcing me to move across the country to live with his family an adventure? An adventure is swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean. An adventure is touring the pyramids in Egypt. Or shopping at the Saks after-Thanksgiving sale with Dad’s credit card. This, I do believe, qualifies as a nightmare!

“You know I’ve prayed about this. Jake and I both have. We know this is God’s will for us. I need you to trust me, because I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”

A single tear glides down Mom’s cheek, and I feel my heart constrict. This time last year my life was so normal. So happy. Can I just hit the reverse button and go back?

Slowly I nod. “Okay, Mom.” It’s kind of hard to argue with “God says this is right.” (Though I happen to think He’s wrong.)

The preacher clears his throat and lifts a bushy black brow.

“You can continue,” I say, knowing I’ve lost the battle. “She had something in her teeth.” Yes, that’s the best I've got.

I. Am. An. Idiot.

“And now, by the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Finley. You may kiss your bride.”

Nope. Can’t watch.

I turn my head as the “Wedding March” starts. Logan walks to my side, and I link my arm in his. Though we’re both going to be juniors, he’s a head taller than me. It’s like we’re steptwins. He grabs his six-year-old brother, Robbie, with his other hand, and off we go

in time to the music. Robbie throws rose petals all around us, giggling with glee, oblivious to the fact that we just witnessed a ceremony marking the end of life as we know it.

“Good job stopping the wedding.” Logan smirks. “Very successful.”

I jab my elbow into his side. “At least I tried! You did nothing!”

“I just wanted to see if you had it in you. And you don’t.”

I snarl in his direction as the camera flashes, capturing this day for all eternity.

Last week I was living in Manhattan in a two-story apartment between Sarah Jessica Parker and Katie Couric. I could hop a train to Macy’s and Bloomie’s. My friends and I could eat dinner at Tao and see who could count the most celebs. I had Broadway in my backyard

and Daddy’s MasterCard in my wallet.

Then my mom got married.

And I got a new life.

I should’ve paid that six-year-old to pull the fire alarm.