Monday, August 31, 2009

Gone to Green by Judy Christie - MY REVIEW

Gone to Green – the title initially had my mind thinking about radical environmentalism, so I was curious when I read the back of the book and found out the story centered around a lady taking charge of a small, rural newspaper. As it turns out, Gone to Green is really a story about learning to trust God’s direction in our lives and listening for His voice when we ask for His help.

Lois Barker is a single lady on the fast track to a huge editor’s position in the corporate news industry when she finds herself inheriting ownership of a small, rural newspaper. As if moving from a large city to a very small, rural community wasn’t challenge enough, Lois finds herself face to face with small-town power plays, racism and a host of other well-hidden secrets that have been draining the life from the little town of Green Louisiana. As she grows ever more involved in the lives of Green residents, Lois discovers that she is re-evaluating life and learning more about her own goals and dreams without really being aware that a transformation was underway.

All along the way, God places people of quiet faith in Lois’ path, gently nudging her back to her faith and encouraging her to discover God’s plan for her life. Gone to Green is a quick read with a straight-forward story line. If you enjoy contemporary fiction, you will appreciate Judy Christies’s style, and you will enjoy a brief adventure into rural Louisiana.

Funny thing, the descriptions of this rural town remind me very much of the rural area of Alabama that I call home! Judy certainly described the rural, Southern communication hot-lines of small towns to a tee! Her eclectic characters were fun to get to know, and the ending of the story was satisfying, and the entire experience makes me very glad that I inhabit a small, rural, Southern town.Visit Gone to Green today!

Please visit the publisher's website to learn more about this book, read sample chapters and purchase your own copy!


Judy Pace Christie
, after working as a journalist for twenty-five years, left the daily news business to open a consulting firm that works with individuals, businesses, and churches on strategies for meaningful life and work, including goal-setting, living fully, and balancing personal and professional lives. She is the author of Hurry Less, Worry Less; Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmastime; and co-author of Awesome Altars. Judy and her husband live in northwest Louisiana. website:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Knight by Steven James - MY REVIEW

“Everything Matters.” (p. 321)

Steven James’ novel, The Knight, makes every word, every grammatical mark upon the page matter a great deal. Reading his novel takes you into another time and place entirely and you read with such urgency that you often have to stop and take a deep breath. The word thriller could be defined by Steven James’ writing. He makes the thrills have chills! He is EXCELLENT!!!

I have just been introduced to Steven James’ Patrick Bowers series, and I am immensely satisfied!! The dialogue in this story was tight, intense and so brisk that the pages fairly fanned my face as I was reading. Every thought, every implied thought is taut and packed with layered meanings. Everything matters in this book. You don’t want to miss anything! There were times I literally pressed my fist to my mouth to keep from crying out! (that scene in the helicopter – oh my word!!) The action was so rapid, the bad guy so incredibly evil and the race to catch him so frantic that every muscle in my body was coiled like a spring!

I guess the thrill of being scared out of my mind is still alive and well, because I am totally hooked on Steven James! TOTALLY!! The Knight made me forget time, place and reason…I was completely immersed in story.

Now, Patrick Bowers is a tragic character. I loved his brilliant mind, the way he loves his step-daughter, his dedication to justice…but the poor man needs to take a break. Take a vacation. Get grounded. But that won’t happen. The only light in his world seemed to blink out when he lost the only person he’d ever loved enough to share his heart with. However, the glimmer of faith left behind has a difficult time taking hold in Pat Bower’s life because he is constantly trying to stay one step ahead of a psychopath. Actually, the psychopath was always ten steps ahead of everyone…and CREEPY!! Great day in the morning, he was the definition of creepy!

All I can say is…you won’t find a thriller with more thrills, a novel with more action, a crime story with more twist and turns, characters with more heart and sheer grit than those written upon the pages of The Knight. And you better bet I’m going home tonight in a frantic search to see if I can find the other Steven James novel I know I have somewhere in my mountain of books. I am totally hooked! There’s not a lot of faith to be found among the pages, but for good, clean, heart-pounding entertainment…it gets no better than Steven James!! Did I tell you, I’m hooked? Totally!!

Available August 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK: (from the publisher)

Steven James is one of the nation’s most innovative storytellers—with a Master of Arts in Storytelling degree to prove it. For the past decade, he has been crafting compelling and evocative stories that pull readers into the thick of his brilliant, mind-bending plots, and his latest creative endeavor is no different: The Knight, the third installment in his bestselling series of thrillers, is full of the chilling twists and adrenaline-laced action that readers have come to expect from James.

The Knight picks up in The Bowers Files series, starring FBI criminologist Patrick Bowers, who is assigned to tracking the country’s most dangerous killers. But when he is called to his most disturbing crime scene yet, Bowers begins to realize that this criminal mastermind has actually been tracking him.

To get to the bottom of this cold-blooded case, Bowers uses his cutting-edge investigative techniques to decipher the evidence and discovers that the murderer has been using an ancient manuscript as a blueprint for his crimes. This sends Bowers on a race against time to stop the killer before he takes his next victim in another grisly crime.

But even as he is working to crack the clues of this bloody trail, Bowers finds himself stumped by another matter: An old murder case haunts him, causing him to question himself and wonder which is more important—truth or justice. The answer might set a killer free or change Bowers into a criminal himself.

Keeping readers guessing until the very end, James has earned rave reviews from the likes of Publishers Weekly, which called his thrillers “a wild ride with a shocking conclusion.” The Knight offers readers more of the same, as the satisfying follow-up to his previous bestselling psychological thrillers in The Bowers Files series, The Pawn and The Rook.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love by Beth Pattillo

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:

Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)


RITA Award–winning Beth Pattillo combines her love of knitting and books in her engaging Sweetgum series. An ordained minister in the Christian Church, Pattillo served churches in Missouri and Tennessee before founding Faith Leader, a spiritual leadership development program. Pattillo is the married mother of two children. She lives and laughs in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073952
ISBN-13: 978-1400073955




Every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah’s Café on the town square. In the past, she would have eaten the diet plate—cottage cheese and a peach half—in solitary splendor. Then she would have returned to her job running the library, just as she’d done for the last forty years.

On this humid September morning, though, Eugenie was meeting someone for lunch—her new husband, Rev. Paul Carson, pastor of the Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie smiled at the thought of Paul waiting for her at the café. They might both be gray haired and near retirement, but happiness was happiness, no matter what age you found it.

Eugenie entered the square from the southeast corner. The Antebellum courthouse anchored the middle, while Kendall’s Department Store occupied the east side to her right. She walked along the south side of the square, past Callahan’s Hardware, the drugstore, and the movie theater, and crossed the street to the café. The good citizens of Sweetgum were already arriving at Tallulah’s for lunch. But Eugenie passed the café, heading up the western side of the square. She had a brief errand to do before she met her husband. Two doors down, she could see the sign for Munden’s Five-and-Dime. Her business there shouldn’t take long.

Before she reached Munden’s, a familiar figure emerged from one of the shops and blocked the sidewalk.

Hazel Emerson. President of the women’s auxiliary at the Sweetgum Christian Church and self-appointed judge and jury of her fellow parishioners.

“Eugenie.” Hazel smiled, but the expression, coupled with her rather prominent eyeteeth, gave her a wolfish look. Hazel was on the heavy side, a bit younger than Eugenie’s own sixty five years, and her hair was dyed an unbecoming shade of mink. Hazel smiled, but there was no pleasantness in it. “Just the person

I wanted to see.”

Eugenie knew better than to let her distaste for the woman show. “Good morning, Hazel,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Distressed, Eugenie. Thoroughly distressed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Eugenie truly was dismayed, but not from worry over Hazel’s discomfort.

“Yes, well, you have the power to calm the waters, ”Hazel said with the same false smile. “In a manner of speaking, at least.”

Since Eugenie’s marriage to Paul only a few weeks before, she’d learned how demanding Hazel could be. The other woman called the parsonage at all hours and appeared in Paul’s office at least once a day. Although Eugenie had known Hazel casually for years, she’d never had to bother with her much. Eugenie couldn’t remember Hazel ever having entered the library.

“How can I help you?” Eugenie said in her best librarian’s voice. She had uttered the phrase countless times over the last forty years and had it down to an art form. Interested but not enmeshed. Solicitous but not overly involved.

“Well, Eugenie, you must know that many people in the church are distressed by your marriage to Paul.”

“Really?” Eugenie kept the pleasant smile on her face and continued to breathe evenly. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh, not me, of course,” Hazel said and pressed a hand to her ample chest. “I’m perfectly delighted. But some people… Well, they have concerns.”

“What concerns would those be?” Eugenie asked with measured calm.

Hazel glanced to the right and to the left, then leaned forward to whisper in a conspiratorial fashion. “Some of them aren’t sure you’re a Christian,” she said. Then she straightened and resumed her normal tone of voice. “As I said, I’m not one of them, but I thought I should tell you. For your own good, but also for Rev. Carson’s.”

“I see.” And Eugenie certainly did, far more than Hazel would guess. Eugenie wasn’t new to small-town gossip. Heaven knew she’d heard her share, and even been the target of some, over the last forty years. She’d known that her marriage to Paul would cause some comments, but she hadn’t expected this blatant response.

“I’m mentioning it because I don’t think it would be difficult to put people’s fears to rest,” Hazel said. Her smug expression needled Eugenie. “I know you’ve been attending worship, and that’s a wonderful start.” Hazel quickly moved from interfering to patronizing. “The women’s auxiliary meets on Tuesday mornings. If you joined us—”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Eugenie answered. She was determined to keep a civil tongue in her head if it killed her. “I have to work.”

“For something this important, I’m sure you could find someone to cover for you.”

Eugenie tightened her grip on her handbag. In an emergency, no doubt she could arrange something. But this wasn’t an emergency. It was manipulation.


“Particularly at this time,” Hazel said, barely stopping for breath. “With all the losses we’ve had in these last few months… Well, our community needs leadership. Our church needs leadership.” She gave Eugenie a meaningful look.

Eugenie paused to consider her words carefully. “It has been a difficult summer,” she began. “Tom Munden’s death was so unexpected, and then to lose Frank Jackson like that. And now, with Nancy St. Clair…”

“So you see why it’s more important than ever that you prove to church members that their pastor hasn’t made a grave mistake.”

“I hardly think that my attending a meeting of the women’s auxiliary will offer much comfort to the grieving.” Nor would it convince anyone of her status as a believer. Those sorts of people weren’t looking for proof. They were looking for Eugenie to grovel for acceptance.

Hazel sniffed. “Don’t be difficult, Eugenie. You’re being unrealistic if you expect people to accept you as a Christian after forty years of never darkening the door of any sanctuary in this town.”

“I’ve always felt that faith is a private matter.” That was the sum of any personal information Eugenie was willing to concede to Hazel. “I prefer to let my actions speak for me.”

“There are rumblings,” Hazel said darkly. “Budget rumblings.”

“What do you mean?”

“People need to have full confidence in their pastor, Eugenie. Otherwise they’re less motivated to support the church financially.”

Eugenie bit her tongue. She couldn’t believe Hazel Emerson was standing here, in the middle of the town square, practicing her own brand of extortion.

“Are you threatening me?” Eugenie asked, incredulous.

Hazel sniffed. “Of course not. Don’t be silly. I’m merely cautioning you. As a Christian and as a friend.”

Eugenie wanted to reply that Hazel didn’t appear to be filling either role very well, but she refrained.

“I’ll take your concerns under advisement,” she said to Hazel with forced pleasantness. “I’m sure you mean them in the kindest possible way.”

“Of course I do. How else would I mean them?”

“How else, indeed?” Eugenie muttered under her breath.

“Well, I won’t keep you.” Hazel nodded. “Have a nice day, Eugenie.”

“You too, Hazel.” The response was automatic and helped Eugenie to cover her true sentiments. She stood in place for a long moment as Hazel moved past her, on her way to stir up trouble in some other quarter, no doubt. Then, with a deep breath, Eugenie forced herself to start moving toward Munden’s Five-and-Dime.

She had known it would be difficult, stepping into this unfamiliar role as a pastor’s wife. Paul had assured her that he had no expectations, that she should do what she felt was right. But Eugenie wondered if he had any idea of the trouble Hazel Emerson was stirring up right under his nose.

True, she hadn’t attended church for forty years. After she and Paul had ended their young romance, she’d blamed God for separating them. If Paul hadn’t felt called to the ministry, if he hadn’t refused to take her with him when he went to seminary, if she hadn’t stubbornly insisted on going with him or ending their relationship…

Last year she and Paul had found each other again, all these decades later, and she’d thought the past behind them. But here it was once more in the person of Hazel Emerson, raising troubling questions. Threatening Paul. Forcing Eugenie to examine issues she’d rather leave unanswered.

As the head of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, Eugenie had taken on responsibility for the well-being of the little group several years before. Since Ruthie Allen, the church secretary, had left for Africa last spring to do volunteer work, the group had experienced a definite void. It was time for an infusion of new blood, and after careful consideration, Eugenie had determined that Maria Munden was just the person the Knit Lit Society needed. What’s more, Maria needed the group too. The recent loss of her father must be quite difficult for her, Eugenie was sure. And so despite having had her feathers ruffled by Hazel Emerson, Eugenie walked into Munden’s Five-and-Dime with a firm purpose.

“Good morning, Maria,” Eugenie called above the whine of the door. For years she’d been after Tom Munden to use a little WD-40 on the hinges, but he had insisted that the noise bothered him less than the idea of a customer entering without him knowing it.

“Eugenie! Hello.” Maria straightened from where she stood slumped over the counter. She had red marks on her forehead from resting her head in her hands, and her nondescript shoulder length brown hair hung on each side of her face in a clump. Eugenie had come at the right time. Maria was in her early thirties, but her father’s death seemed to have aged her ten years.

Maria came around the counter. “What can I help you with today?”

“Oh, I’m not here to buy anything,” Eugenie said, and then she was dismayed when disappointment showed in Maria’s eyes. With the superstores of the world creeping closer and closer to Sweetgum, mom-and-pop shops like Munden’s were living on borrowed time. Even if Tom Munden had lived, the inevitable day when the store closed couldn’t have been avoided.

“What did you need then?” Maria’s tone was polite but strained.

“I have an invitation for you.”

“An invitation?”

Eugenie stood a little straighter. “On behalf of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, I’d like to extend an invitation to you to become a part of the group.”

Maria’s brown eyes were blank for a moment, and then they darkened. “The Knit Lit Society?”

“I can’t think of anyone who would be a better fit.” Eugenie paused. “If you don’t know how to knit, one of us can teach you. And I know you enjoy reading.” Maria was one of the most faithful and frequent patrons of the library. “I think you’d appreciate the discussion.”

Maria said nothing.

“If you’d like some time to think—”

“I’ll do it,” Maria said quickly, as if she didn’t want to give herself time to reconsider. “I know how to knit. You won’t have to teach me.”

“Excellent,” Eugenie said, relieved. “Our meeting is this Friday.”

“Do I have to read something by then?” Lines of doubt wrinkled Maria’s forehead beneath the strands of gray that streaked her hair.

Eugenie shook her head. “I haven’t passed out the reading list for this year. This first meeting will be to get us organized.”

Relief eased the tight lines on her face.

“We meet at the church, of course,” Eugenie continued. “Upstairs, in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room. If you’d like, I can drop by here Friday evening and we can walk over together.”

Maria shook her head. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.” She paused, as if collecting her thoughts, then spoke. “I’m not sure why you asked me to join, Eugenie, but I appreciate it.”

“I’m delighted to have you. The others will be as well. ”Mission accomplished, Eugenie shifted her pocketbook to the other arm. “I’d better be going. I’m meeting Paul for lunch at the café.”

Like most of Sweetgum, with the possible exception of Hazel Emerson, Maria smiled at Eugenie’s mention of her new husband. “Tell the preacher I said hello.” Maria moved to open the door for Eugenie. “I’ll see you at the meeting.”

Eugenie lifted her shoulders and nodded with as much equanimity as she could. After years of being the town spinster, playing the newlywed was a novel experience. She hoped she’d become accustomed to it with time—if she didn’t drive away all of Paul’s parishioners first with her heathen ways.

“Have a nice afternoon,” Eugenie said and slipped out the door, glad that at least one thing that morning had gone as planned.

After Eugenie left, Maria Munden halfheartedly swiped her feather duster at the back-to-school display in the front window. Hot sunshine, amplified by the plate glass, made sweat bead on her forehead. What was the point of dusting the same old collection of binders, backpacks, and two-pocket folders? She’d barely seen a customer all day. She turned from the window and looked around at the neat rows of shelving. The five symmetrical aisles had stood in the same place as long as she could remember.

Aisle one, to the far left, held greeting cards, gift-wrap, stationery, office and school supplies. Aisle two, housewares and paper goods. Aisle three, decorative items. Aisle four, cleaning supplies and detergent. Aisle five had always been her favorite, with its games, puzzles, and coloring books. Across the back wall stretched the sewing notions, yarn, and craft supplies. Everything to outfit a household and its members in one small space. The only problem was, no one wanted small anymore. They wanted variety, bulk, and large economy size with a McDonald’s and a credit union. Not quaint and limited, like the old five-and- dime.

From the counter a few feet away, Maria’s cell phone buzzed, and she sighed. She knew without looking at the display who it would be.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Maria, you have to do something about this.” Her mother never acknowledged the greeting but plunged into a voluble litany of complaints that covered everything from the state of the weather to her older sister Daphne’s management of the farm.

“Mom?” Maria tried to interrupt her mother’s diatribe. “Mom? Look, I’m the only one in the store right now. I’ll have to call you back later.”

“Where’s Stephanie? She was supposed to be there at nine.”

“I don’t know where she is. ”Maria’s younger sister, the baby at twenty-five, was AWOL more often than not.

Maria heard the shop door open with a whine of its hinges, not too different from her mother’s tone of voice. She looked up, expecting to see her younger sister. Instead, a tall, dark-haired man entered the store. He took two steps inside, then stopped. His eyes traveled around the rows of shelves, and his lips twisted in an expression of disapproval. The hairs on Maria’s neck stood on end. The stranger saw her, nodded, and then disappeared down the far aisle, but he was so tall that Maria could track his progress as he moved. He came to a stop in front of the office supplies. Someone from out of town, obviously. Probably a traveling salesman who needed paper clips or legal pads. Maybe a couple of blank CDs or a flash drive. Maria had dealt with his type before.

“Bye, Mom,” she said into the phone before clicking it shut. From experience, she knew it would take her mother several moments before she realized Maria was no longer on the other end of the line. Such discoveries never seemed to faze her mother. She would simply look around the room at home and find Daphne so she could continue her rant. Maria tucked the cell phone under the counter and moved across the store toward the stranger. “May I help you?” Upon closer inspection, she could see that his suit was expensive. So were his haircut, his shoes, and his aftershave.

His head turned toward her, and she felt a little catch in her chest. His dark eyes stared down at her as if she were a lesser mortal approaching a demigod.

“I’m looking for a fountain pen,” he said. He turned back toward the shelves of office supplies and studied them as if attempting to decipher a secret code.

A fountain pen? In Sweetgum? He was definitely from out of town.

“I’m afraid we only have ballpoint or gel.” She waved a hand toward the appropriate shelf. “Would one of these do?”

He looked at her again, one eyebrow arched like the vault of a cathedral. “I need a fountain pen.”

Maria took a calming breath. A sale was a sale, and the customer was always right—her father’s two favorite dictums, drummed into her from the day she was tall enough to see over the counter.

“I’m sorry. Our selection is limited, I know. Which way are you headed? I can direct you to the nearest Wal-Mart. You might find one there.”

At her mention of the chain superstore, the man’s mouth turned down as if she’d just insulted him. “No, thank you. That won’t be necessary.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” she said, practically gritting her teeth. She resisted the urge to grab his arm and hustle him out of the store. Today was not the day to try her patience. In two hours, assuming Stephanie showed up, Maria was going to cross the town square to the lawyer’s office and do the unthinkable. At the moment, she didn’t have time for this man and his supercilious attitude toward Sweetgum.

“I need directions,” he said, eyeing her dubiously, as if he thought she might not be up to the task.

“Well, if you’re looking for someplace nearby, I can tell you where you need to go,” she said without a hint of a smile.

He looked away, as if deliberating whether to accept her offer. Honestly, the man might be extraordinarily good-looking—and wealthy, no doubt—but she would be surprised if he had any friends. He had the social skills of a goat.

The hinges on the door whined again. Maria looked over her shoulder to see another man entering the shop.

“James!” The second man grinned when he caught sight of the stranger at Maria’s side. “You disappeared.” The newcomer was as fair as the first was dark. “We’re late.”

“Yes,” the stranger replied with a continued lack of charm.

“But I needed a pen. ”He snatched a two-pack of ballpoints from the shelf and extended them toward Maria. “I’ll take these.”

Maria bit the inside of her lip and took the package from his hand. “I’ll ring you up at the counter.” She whirled on one heel and walked, spine rigid, to the front of the store.

“Hi.” The second man greeted her with cheery casualness. “Great store. I haven’t seen anything like this in years.”

It was a polite way of saying that Munden’s Five-and-Dime was dated, but Maria appreciated his chivalry. Especially since his friend obviously didn’t have a courteous bone in his body.

“Thank you. ”Maria smiled at him and then stepped behind the counter to ring up the sale on the ancient register. She’d pushed her father for years to computerize their sales—not to mention the inventory—but he’d been perfectly happy with his tried-and-true methods. Unfortunately, while he’d been able to keep track of sales and stock in his head, Maria wasn’t quite so gifted.

The tall man appeared on the other side of the register. “Three dollars and thirty-two cents,” she said, not looking him in the eye.

He reached for his wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. Maria refused to show her frustration. Great. Now he would wipe out all her change, and she’d have to figure out a way to run over to the bank without anyone to watch the store. She completed the transaction and slid the package of pens into a paper bag with the Munden’s logo emblazoned on it.

“Hey, can you recommend a place for lunch?” the blond man asked. He glanced at his watch. “We need a place to eat between meetings.”

“Tallulah’s Café down the block,” Maria said. Even the tall, arrogant stranger wouldn’t be able to find fault with Tallulah’s home cooking. People drove from miles around for her fried chicken, beef stew, and thick, juicy pork chops. “But you might want to go soon. The café gets busy at lunch.”

“Thanks.” His smile could only be described as sunny, and it made Maria feel better. She smiled in response.

“You’re welcome.”

The tall man watched the exchange impassively. Maria hoped he’d be gone from Sweetgum before the sun went down. Big-city folks who came into town dispensing condescension were one of her biggest pet peeves.

“C’mon, James,” the blond man said. “I have a lot of papers to go over.” He nodded toward his friend. “James here thinks I’m crazy to buy so much land in the middle of nowhere.”

Maria froze. It couldn’t be.

“Oh.” She couldn’t think what else to say.

“We’d better go,” the tall man said, glancing at his watch. “Thank you. ”He nodded curtly at Maria, letting her know she’d been dismissed as the inferior creature that she was.

“But I thought you wanted—” Before she could remind him about his request for directions, the two men disappeared out the door, and Maria’s suspicions—not to mention her fears— flooded through her.

She should have put two and two together the moment the first man had walked into the store. A stranger in an expensive suit. In town for a meeting. Looking for a fountain pen to sign things. Normally Maria was good at figuring things out. Like where her father had put the quarterly tax forms and how she and Stephanie could manage the store with just the two of them for employees.

What she hadn’t figured out, though, were the more complex questions. Like how she had come to be a small-town spinster when she hadn’t been aware of time passing. Or how she was going to keep the five-and-dime afloat even as the town’s economy continued to wither on the vine. And she certainly had no idea how she was going to tell her mother and sisters that she, as executrix of her father’s will, was about to sell their farm, and the only home they’d ever known, right out from under them.

“Welcome to Sweetgum,” she said to the empty aisles around her, and then she picked up the feather duster once more.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back-To-School Fiction Blog Tour!! GREAT BOOKS!!

A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope.

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

e returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.

You can read my review of this amazing book here!


The future is clearly mapped out for New York socialite Eugenia “Gennie” Cooper, but she secretly longs to slip into the boots of her favorite dime-novel heroine and experience just one adventure before settling down. When the opportunity arises, Gennie jumps at the chance to experience the Wild West, but her plans go awry when she is drawn into the lives of silver baron Daniel Beck and his daughter and finds herself caring for them more than is prudent–especially as she’s supposed to go back to New York and marry another man.

As Gennie adapts to the rough-and-tumble world of 1880s Colorado, she must decide whether her future lies with the enigmatic D
aniel Beck or back home with the life planned for her since birth. The question is whether Daniel’s past–and disgruntled miners bent on revenge–will take that choice away from her.

I am a HUGE fan of Kathleen Y'barbo, and can't wait to read this great book!


Once a month, the six women of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects. Inspired by her recently-wedded bliss, group leader Eugenie chooses “Great Love Stories in Literature” as the theme for the year’s reading list–a risky selection for a group whose members span the spectrum of age and relationship status.

As the Knit Lit ladies read and discus classic romances like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice, each member is confronted with her own perception about love. Camille’s unexpected reunion with an old crush forces her to confront conflicting desires. Newly widowed Esther finds her role in Sweetgum changing and is surprised by two unlikely friends. Hannah isn’t sure she’s ready for the trials of first love. Newcomer Maria finds her life turned upside-down by increasing family obligations and a handsome, arrogant lawyer, and Eugenie and Merry are both asked to make sacrifices for their husbands that challenge their principles.

Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum, Tennessee, love isn’t easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their family, their community–and especially in each other.

I LOVED the first book in this series!! You can read my review HERE. I am looking forward to reading this one!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Frontiersman’s Daughter

Revell (September 1, 2009)


Laura Frantz


I was born and raised in Kentucky and my love of history goes deep - way back to the 18th-century when my family first came into the Bluegrass State. It will always be home to me, even though I now live with my husband, Randy, and my sons, Wyatt and Paul, in the misty woods of northwest Washington. I go back as often as I can to visit family and all the old haunts that I love.

I grew up playing on the original site of Fort Boonesborough and swimming in the Kentucky River and climbing the Pinnacle near Berea and watching the great outdoor dramas of the early settlers. Often my cousins and brother and I would play in my Granny's attic and dress up in the pioneer costumes she made us and pretend to be Daniel Boone, Rebecca, Jemima, or the Shawnee.

As I grew up I began to write stories and they were always historical, filled with the lore I had heard or read about. It's no accident that my first book (which is actually my fifth book - the others were practice!) is about those first Kentucky pioneers.

I feel blessed beyond measure to write books. My prayer is that you are doubly blessed reading them.

Note: Laura Frantz credits her 100-year-old grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's family followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in 1792 and settled in Madison County where her family still resides. Frantz is a former schoolteacher and social worker who currently lives in the misty woods of Washington state with her husband and two sons, whom she homeschools.


Lovely but tough as nails, Lael Click is the daughter of a celebrated frontiersman. Haunted by her father's former captivity with the Shawnee Indians, as well as the secret sins of her family's past, Lael comes of age in the fragile Kentucky settlement her father founded.

Though she faces the loss of a childhood love, a dangerous family feud, and the affection of a Shawnee warrior, Lael draws strength from the rugged land she calls home, and from Ma Horn, a distant relative who shows her the healing ways of herbs and roots found in the hills.

But the arrival of an outlander doctor threatens her view of the world, God, and herself--and the power of grace and redemption. This epic novel gives readers a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians, all through the courageous eyes of a determined young woman.

Laura Frantz's debut novel offers a feast for readers of historical fiction and romance lovers alike.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Frontiersman’s Daughter, go HERE


Unplanned Journey by Tanya Unkovich

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:

Unplanned Journey

VMI (January 1, 2009)


In both her professional and personal life, Tanya Unkovich describes herself as “a mixed bag.” As a qualified CPA and expert in accounting software, she provides counseling and consulting services. Later in life, she received training as a life and corporate coach and now maintains a private coaching [therapy] practice in Auckland, New Zealand. Her latest career developments include writing articles for local magazines, publishing Unplanned Journey and the accompanying workbook, and fulfilling speaking engagements. On the personal side, Unkovich traces her passionate approach to life to her Croatian roots. She pursues health and wellness on all levels—physical, emotional, and spiritual—and prefers to fill her hours with fun, creativity, friends, family, and Fergus the cat, who is a source of absolute joy.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: VMI (January 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1933204753
ISBN-13: 978-1933204758




November 8, 2004

It was November 8, 2004; we were at my mom and dad’s home to celebrate Phil’s birthday, just the four of us that night. My parents were not aware that Phil and I were awaiting the results of a biopsy on a lump in his left armpit, a procedure that had been done some five days earlier.

The secret of this lump that Phil and I shared had caused me much distress during the previous two weeks; however, Phil insisted that we tell no one. My mother however, knowing her daughter, knew that something was not right with me during this time but did not push me for an answer when she approached me about my somber moods. Oh how much I wanted to share my concern with her, but I could not, as I had sworn to Phil that mom and dad were not to know. We were not to cause them any concern. I however could not help myself and had told three girlfriends during these two weeks, simply to release the pressure that was upon me and eventually he too had told a close friend.

On the day of his birthday, my concern was that it was five days later, and we still had not heard the result of this biopsy. Phil, however, was still not concerned. Earlier that day Phil and I had spoken on the phone, and when I asked him if he had heard from the doctor yet, he said to me. “No and I am not worried either Tanya. God is not going to give me sickness now. I have too much to do in this world.” He did add that it was only a five percent concern for him. I was not convinced that all was well until we had heard the final result, and the simple fact that this result was taking so long was worrying me.

The day of Phil’s birthday was long and arduous for me as each time the phone would ring my heart would pound as I wondered if this was the call we were waiting for. How I got through this day was by means of a fantasy that I had created and which replayed in my head constantly.

My fantasy was that we would be having dinner with mom and dad, one of her fabulous feasts. Phil would receive a phone call from his doctor whilst we were dining saying that all was well, that the lump was simply an infection of some sort and there was nothing to be concerned about. We would then tell mom and dad what we had been going through over the past two weeks and that everything was fine, and within days we could now move ahead and enjoy our dream holiday of a Caribbean cruise, on which we were due to leave three days later. We could then proceed to really celebrate Phil’s birthday and enjoy the remainder of the evening.

This was my fantasy and what I needed to hold onto in order to get through this day, November 8, as the alternative was too unbearable to invest any more energy into. Anyway, that sort of thing would never happen to me and was not part of my life plan.

Intuitively I knew that Phil would receive the call whilst we were there for dinner. However, I did not know which way the pendulum would swing for us––after all it was a fifty-fifty chance either way. What kept me positive and thinking that the outcome would be favorable was simply the belief that surely Phil and I would never be given such an enormous hurdle to overcome in our lives. We were the perfect couple, with the perfect love and perfect life. This alone kept me positive and any other outcome would simply be a tragedy.

There still existed many facts that continued to fuel my fear. Firstly and most importantly, the lump was still there, and it was not getting any smaller. Secondly and my most fearful was what my intuition kept telling me, that Phil had cancer.

I could not rest and be at peace during this wait. Little snippets of peace would blanket me, but would be short lived as the fear would roll in over and pull the comfort of this blanket away from me as if taken by a corner and whisked away, often leaving me shivering.

That evening I was unable to enjoy mom’s famous roast chicken, which as always, had a crunchy golden roasted skin, with the flavors of garlic, olive oil and salt in exactly the correct portions that only mom could measure to perfection.

It was just after 6.15 p.m. when Phil was about to cut his birthday cake when the sound of his cell phone ringing startled me. I recall the exact times very clearly as each moment was like an eternity for me that night. I knew that this was the call. My fantasy had begun. How would the pendulum swing?

Immediately my heart began to race as I heard Phil say, “Hello Rhona,” he stood up from the dining room table and walked about ten feet to the kitchen bench with the cell phone in his left hand. I followed him staring at his face, his blue eyes, just to get some indication from his expressions, his words or his tone that all was well and I could then continue to live out my fantasy that I had so perfectly composed with my perfect outcome.

It was Phil’s reply to Rhona in four words that altered my life forever, “What time tomorrow morning” that I knew the pendulum had not swung in our favor. I placed my hands on the kitchen bench, bent my head down and looked to the fawn tiled floor. The feeling of overwhelming nausea immediately came over me, and my breathing became heavy. It felt as though pins were jabbing into my head. I looked up and was facing Phil as he used his spare hand to look for a pen and began shuffling on the kitchen bench to look for some paper. He settled for the back of an envelope. He said very little at first then commenced to ask Rhona what the results were. She did not want to say on the phone, but he insisted that she tell him and said that he would rather know now than wait until the morning.

The walls of the kitchen began to turn around me as I watched Phil write on the back of this envelope the words, lymphoma and small cell carcinoma with a question mark. He ended his conversation to Rhona saying that he would see her at eight thirty the following morning.

Phil slowly placed his cell phone on top of the envelope that now held his fate, and I immediately draped my arms around his neck, terrified. I could not cry; I could barely get air into my lungs. I just held him as my head was nestled to his left. Phil appeared to be strong, in fact, like someone who did not want to be fussed over at that moment. He appeared in shock and was later to tell me that this was one time that he was in fact very frightened.

Meanwhile, my parents were still sitting at the dining room table confused and looking at us both. But by this stage knowing that something was seriously wrong. I can still see my mother’s look of confusion as she kept saying to me, “Tanya, what is wrong?”

It was I who looked at my mother and said, “Mom, Phil has cancer.” I recall seeing her look of confusion become a state of absolute disbelief in the words she had just heard. Briefly and hurriedly I informed them of the sequence of events during the previous two weeks.

Phil said very little, as he sat there, obviously in shock and stunned. It was then that my very intuitive mother told me that she had sensed something was wrong with me over the past weeks, that I was not the same. I was quiet and distant, but she was unable to pinpoint what was happening to me. However, she admitted that even this mother would never have expected something like this to be troubling her daughter, whom she knew so well.

Horror now replaced the joy that my parents had felt only ten minutes earlier as they were about to sing happy birthday to their son-in-law, who they referred to as their fourth son. “Not our Philip” were the words that mom repeated, I can still hear them.

Phil and I sat down again at the dining room table where his uncut birthday cake still remained. I wrapped my arms around my waist and started to cry in disbelief, rocking forwards and backwards in my chair. This cannot be happening to us; this is not true, not Phil, not my precious Phil, were the thoughts that were racing through my very confused mind.

Once again the dining room felt as though it was spinning around me, and all I wanted to do was to escape and return back two weeks to that feeling of bliss that I was experiencing in my perfect life.

Phil was slightly annoyed at my reaction, and he was trying to indicate to me that it was not something to panic about and not to frighten mom and dad any more than they should be. Mom and Dad both kept reassuring me of the same, saying that Phil would be fine and that I should calm down and that once they simply cut out the cancerous growth, “he will be fine,” they kept saying.

Never in my life had I hoped that my parents would be right as they tried to comfort their little girl, their terrified little girl. Phil did not show his fear that night as I did; whilst he was in shock and frightened, he tried to be strong for us all.

No matter what anyone said to me at the dinner table that night, I had a terrible feeling. Something inside me knew that it would not be as simple as cutting out a cancerous lump. It was far greater than this, and something big was about to happen in our lives.

Phil’s frame of mind changed to being slightly jovial, and he was determined to have a piece of his birthday cake that mum made for her son-in-law: banana with chocolate icing on top. He proceeded to cut his cake but without the usual joyous singing and ate this piece of cake in a manner to show his mum he appreciated and enjoyed the cake that she made for him. This was what he portrayed. Phil’s state of happiness was in fact his own defense mechanism kicking in as he was trying to protect himself from what his consciousness at that moment was actually not able to assimilate. I believe that Phil also wanted to protect us from seeing what he was really feeling at that moment.

Whilst we were still at my parent’s home that night, I went into the bathroom upstairs and made a phone call to my close friend Catherine. I was trying to speak as quietly as I could to tell her what we had just heard, and all I can remember is Catherine replying in her gentle Scottish accent saying “Oh no.”

Catherine had been my main support, not only during the previous two weeks, but also during many other painful journeys in my life. It was Catherine whom I had phoned in the early hours of a cold May morning in 1998 after we had discovered that my father had just been diagnosed with cancer. We cried together on the phone that morning and we would be shedding many more tears together in the months to follow this phone call.

As we drove away from mom and dad’s, I recall them standing at the front door of their home saying goodbye with hand waves that were not like the usual ones of joy but simply raising their hands in some form of acknowledgement, neither of us really knowing of what.

I knew very well what would happen behind that closed front door once they went inside. In spite of being strong for both Phil and I that night, normally mom and dad do not mind expressing their feelings, and this would have been done whilst they were together behind that closed door. Their tears would have flowed as they held each other, in utter disbelief of what they had just learned, of what had just been asked of their little girl and her husband to now endure in their life.

On our way home, not a lot was spoken in the car between Phil and I; we were silent. However we wanted to commence our fight against this beast inside Phil’s body immediately. Phil was an Area Manager for a supermarket chain, and his office was at our local supermarket, only a five minute drive from our home. Phil had always kept a very healthy diet and was at one point in his life a vegetarian, so he was very knowledgeable about food groups and what his body needed.

We had decided to stop there before returning home and we began buying organic vegetables, fruits, cereals, vitamins, and anything that we felt would help cleanse Phil’s body and somehow take away this nightmare. We were in shock and disbelief as we frantically looked around the market, wanting to find anything that would assist us and provide us with a feeling that we were doing something towards the cause.

Later that evening, the two of us sat in the lounge together praying that somehow this nightmare for us would end, and we could return to our simple life as it was only two weeks earlier.

All we knew was that Phil had either Lymphoma or Small Cell Carcinoma; we knew nothing about either of these types of cancer. I had heard that Lymphoma was treatable and knew of people whom had survived this type of cancer but was not sure about those other three words. Somehow, with the word small in the description, Phil naively assumed that Small Cell Carcinoma was perhaps not that bad. Little did we know how deadly three words could be.

We were later to learn that small cell carcinoma of unknown primary (SCUP) is a deadly and uncommon cancer that is usually diagnosed in the lymph nodes, liver, brain or bone. The prognosis varies from a few months to several years depending on the location, extent of disease and response to therapy.

The following morning I was physically and emotionally shattered. Apart from momentarily dozing, neither of us slept that night. Phil got up and went to the gym early that day, as he did every other morning. Today would be no different for him. He was going to continue with his life. I did not have the energy to do much at all; my body was in shock and shaking. It astounded me that Phil actually got up and did his usual gym routine.

At five thirty that morning I phoned my friends, Sue and Meg, the other two friends who were aware of our dilemma during the previous weeks, and I just wept. Whatever sleep I got the night before was not enough to remove the nightmare when I awoke that morning. Yes, last night did happen and yes, my fantasy that I had so perfectly scripted did not come true.

When Phil returned from his workout, he told me that his friend Tony stopped him at the gym and said “Mate, you are looking really good, what are you doing? I have never seen you look in better shape.” Phil told me that he sarcastically wanted to say, “oh just get cancer mate, that’s how you do it.”

Phil and I went together for the eight–thirty appointment. Even though we were early, Phil’s doctor Rhona came out to get us as soon as we arrived. The first thing I noticed as she approached us was firstly her gentle but very nervous smile and then her beautiful bush of black wavy hair.

Rhona had been wonderful to us both in the past. I had always respected her for how thorough she was and her beautiful manner during the times when I sat with her and cried to her about not being able to conceive and become pregnant. She was originally from South Africa, and I often felt comforted by her accent and soft voice. However, on this morning, no matter how softly and calmly Rhona spoke, when I heard the words “secondary cancer,” it was as if she was shouting them directly into my face.

My knowledge of cancer was reasonable, and what I did know for sure was that secondary cancer was not good and it meant that there was a primary cancer elsewhere in Phil’s body. The biopsy result was not yet conclusive, and further tests were being performed to rule out lymphoma. They believed that Phil had small cell carcinoma, which we were told apparently often originates in the lung. This meant that whatever was in his lymph nodes in his armpit was not all there was, and it was not going to be a matter of simply “cutting out a lump.”

Once again I began to feel nauseated, and the room was closing in on me. I could barely look at Phil, who was also in shock and feeling the same disbelief that I was. Immediately I visualized a tumor inside Phil, sitting on his lung. Then I began to tremble harder and stronger, wanting to escape from this cage that I was placed in. All I wanted was to return to my life before October 25 when all was well in my world, and I was ignorant of what in fact lay ahead in my life.

This was November 9. We were due to go on a Caribbean Cruise only two days later––a holiday that Phil desperately needed and one that up until October 25 I had looked forward to so much.

My immediate reaction was that we could not go on this holiday and that Phil had to begin treatment of some sort to remove this cancer from his body immediately. Rhona already had a verbal suggestion from an oncologist that Phil was not to travel, and I agreed. “We cannot go, please, let’s stay home and get you well. Start treatment, do whatever to stop this beast.” Phil said no, and he insisted that we go on this holiday. For him this was to be the beginning of his healing. He said he was tired and needed to rest and was adamant in Rhona’s office that nothing or no one would hold him back from this holiday which he so desperately needed.

He became angry with me in the office at my fearful reaction. I did not want to lose another moment to this disease which was inside Phil’s body and what I sensed was moving rapidly.

It is only as I now write this that I can look back and feel, Phil, you followed your heart your intuition and your decision was perfect. Who was I to suggest what you were to do with your body? Phil said no to everything that everyone was firing at him that morning. “This is my decision and I need to do this, we will go on this holiday, I need this holiday, I need this rest, I want to start my healing by resting my body, and I will not have chemotherapy.” It was as simple as that for Phil; this was his body and his call.

I don’t know how we got home that morning. All we had to do was to walk two hundred meters from the Doctor’s surgery which was across the road and down a side street from our home. We walked in silence. Looking at Phil was my greatest pain. At that moment, I could see his fear as we crossed the busy road, both of us oblivious to all the traffic on that Tuesday morning. Tuesdays would not be the same for me for many a month after that day.

Once we arrived home we made a couple of phone calls: one to Phil’s friend and confidant Debbie and once again I saw his fear. I held him tightly with my arms around his waist as he spoke to her.

A few moments later, I called mom and dad and told them in my Croatian tongue that it was worse than we thought––that it was on Phil’s lungs and who knows where else. I recall having to repeat it to Dad so that he understood and even louder again so he could hear what I was saying. This however was disrupted by the wailing in the background that came from my mother’s heart. I cried as I told my father. I could hear his tears also and feel his heart being taken from his chest as I did my best to explain what I understood of Phil’s condition.

I made this call from our bedroom as I was looking out at nothing on the street. It was a busy main road with the constant sound of cars going past. This morning however, the sound of the cars did not register in my thinking and the noise that would so often have bothered me just did not compute, because all I knew and could think about was that my husband Phil had cancer. Nothing else mattered any more.

Phil asked that my parents tell no one of his diagnosis, not even my brothers. I pleaded with him that we not keep this a secret that my parents needed support here also, and he finally agreed that yes my brothers could know, but no one else was to know at this point. My father left mom alone for awhile as he went to my brother Zel’s office to tell him what was now happening in our family.

Phil headed off to work shortly after our phone calls, and, once he had departed, Zel phoned me, and finally I was able to release the anguish that had lodged itself in my chest that morning. We were both in tears as we gently spoke. I was sitting on the edge of my bed, facing the mirror of my bedroom suite looking unbelievably at a distressed woman in the reflection as if I was watching a movie. I could not believe and did not want to believe that it was actually I who was looking back at me.

Horror overcame me as I watched this movie, and I began crying to Zel that I did not want to lose Phil. I did not want him to die. Once again, my arm was wrapped around my stomach as I sat on the edge of my bed rocking forwards and backwards. Did I think that this cradling of self would ease my pain, perhaps? I will never forget the words that Zel then spoke to me, “Tanya, if it is God’s will to take our brother Phil, then one thing I know is that he will be in Heaven, and that is what really matters.” Whilst I knew this to be true, this was not to be the outcome; it could not be.

Phil did want to visit his sister Marie that morning to let her know what had happened to us over the past two weeks and what he was now facing. Marie was special to him, very similar to his mother, Moira, who had already passed away some 18 years earlier. Marie was his “big” sister, with a big heart, who had a huge love for her “big baby” brother.

When we arrived at her shop she knew that something was wrong, since we had both shown up unannounced––something that had never occurred before. As I walked towards her I could see her apprehension which was hidden behind a smile that was placed on her face as if it was painted on.

It was Phil who began to tell her that he had cancer and the brief details of what we knew, and then came his first tears. Finally he was able to let his tears come with his big sister. He did not need to be brave at this moment. How he would have loved to have had his mom with him at that time I am sure.

Marie was stoic. The three of us held each other closely in her shop as I then completed the story which Phil had begun, as much as I could, with the only words that I knew, “cancer, secondary, probably lung.” I was strong, but my voice was trembling. I too wanted to cry, but I could not. This was Phil’s time now to shed those much needed tears, and, as difficult as it was for me at this time, I held mine in for now.

Those other big words, small cell carcinoma, meant nothing to me at this point. In time however, they would haunt me––they would wake me in the night and it would be a long time before I could see or hear those words without trembling.

The three of us continued to hold each other and formed a little triangle, me, hoping that these cuddles and love would be what would start to shrink this foreign beast that had lodged itself inside Phil’s beautiful body.

Phil was such a proud man. He trained hard at the gym and always liked to look his best. He was well known for his beautiful wardrobe of clothes. He was naturally lean. At six foot three inches tall he weighed in at only eighty four kilograms when we met; as he did a lot of running. However, that was something I knew would change after being in a Croatian family. He needed some padding; my mom thought, and she had much joy in doing this!

By the time of our wedding day some two years later, Phil was ninety kilograms and at the time of his diagnosis he was ninety six kilograms, of which he was very proud. I remember one night when he was coming to bed as he proudly waltzed in to our room after his typical lengthy shower, and I said to him, “Do you love your body honey”?

“Hell yeah,” was his jovial reply, “it’s the only one God gave me and I am going to look after it!” This was something Phil always did.

No matter what shape or size we naturally are, I realized first hand at the time of Phil’s illness how lucky we were that we had healthy bodies.