Saturday, October 31, 2009

A View from Mike Mason's Window about his fiction debut: The Blue Umbrella

Earlier this month I introduced my readers to a delightful fantasy novel entitled The Blue Umbrella. I was so enchanted with this story, I sought out an interview with the author, and Mike Mason generously answered all of my questions! I am so delighted to introduce Mike to you, and I hope you will give him a warm welcome.

I also hope that you will read his delightful novel and that you are as enchanted as I was by his wonderful and adventuresome tale! You will find my review here, and you can also visit Mike's website to read a sample chapter.

Welcome, Mike Mason!

Regardless of age, people can’t help but be fascinated by the weather. What is your favorite kind of weather and why?

I’m not a sunny day sort of person. Like Zac’s mother in my book, I love weather with character, especially thunder and lightning and wind. This goes back to my childhood when, like Zac, I used to stay up with my mother late at night to watch storms. As it happens, the place where I live now (on the west coast) doesn’t have much electrical activity, but we do get a lot of rain. There’s nothing I like better than an all-day rain. It’s great writing weather!

You have a daughter. What weather events have you enjoyed together?

When Heather was about ten we had a holiday at a lakeside cottage. It rained solidly for several days, until we were sick of it. On Sunday we decided to have a little family church service. We read scripture, sang, and talked to God and about Him. Then at the end, moved by the Spirit, we did a sun dance! You’ve heard of rain dances? Well, this was a sun dance, to make the rain stop and bring out the sun. After all, it was Sunday! So we danced around the cottage and whooped it up and had ourselves a ball. And an hour later the sun came out and it stayed sunny the rest of our holiday.

As a child, weather also provided some terrifying moments…lightning struck our home and caught it on fire…a tornado touched down within 100 yards of our home and literally moved our porches around. What has been your most memorable weather moment?

Yes, I’ve known some extreme weather, especially the tremendous blizzards when I lived on the prairies. Ther’ve been times when I didn’t know if I’d come out alive. But my most memorable weather event was actually very peaceful and beautiful. Again I was at a cottage with my family, only this time I was the ten-year-old child. I was on a hike with my parents and we got caught in a downpour. We found refuge in the woods, where my dad built a fire, and for the next few hours we sat around that campfire and had the most beautiful family time, with the sound of the rain all around us. I still have the wooden spoon that my dad carved for me with his jackknife that day. My father was a very busy man and I didn’t get much time with him. But that day I had him and my mom all to myself and I felt so happy and protected.

The Blue Umbrella is your first journey into fiction. What drew you to the children’s fiction genre? Were you surprised by Zac Sparks’ adventure as it flowed from your mind to the page? Did your characters take on a life of their own?

About ten years ago I started reading children’s fiction for the first time as an adult, and I’m still at it. I find it so refreshing. Children’s literature is allowed to be idealistic in a way that modern adult literature is not. There are happy endings, heroic characters, a clear battle between good and evil, and portals leading to other worlds—all things that reflect, I believe, the deepest truths of life. Writing one of these stories for myself has been an amazing experience. I was at a point in my writing life where I needed a new challenge, and I definitely got it! With the change to a new genre, suddenly I was in the midst of a very steep learning curve, and I often felt terrified. What was going to happen next? Could I really do this? How would it end? So yes, I was very surprised at how the story and characters took on lives of their own and tumbled, or sometimes stumbled, forward. Eventually I learned to relax and just trust the process. Which is very interesting, considering that my story is fundamentally about learning to trust.

Who is your favorite character in the story? Why?

Chelsea! I love her because she is the one who has most retained her childlikeness. Through her connection with Eldy, she has resisted all pressure to conform to the evil that has the whole town in its grip. Book 3 in my series will be from Chelsea’s point of view and I can hardly wait to write it!

You have stated in the After Words section of the book that the spiritual analogy was not intentional. However, the final scenes seemed to reflect a deep sense of the gospel message (e.g. the color of Sky Porter’s umbrella will probably be seen by many as representative of the blood of Christ). Were you pleased that the story so effortlessly represented your faith? Do you hope that others will sense your message as they read? That parents will use this as an opportunity to talk with their children about Christ?

“The story effortlessly represented my faith”: Yes, this is exactly what happened. The red umbrella is a good example of a symbol that naturally presented itself. Of course I could have made that umbrella some other color. But if the story itself wants to go to Connecticut, and I see a signpost that says “Connecticut,” then I’ll take that road. Writing is a matter of following, not forcing. I was deeply pleased to find myself writing a story with such spiritual significance, and I do hope readers will notice this and talk about it. But I’m also pleased that the book can, I think, be enjoyed without fully being aware of this other dimension. If the story works well in its own right, then its spiritual truth can still be felt as a resonance, a perfume, that lingers in a reader’s heart. This is what C.S. Lewis meant by “baptizing the imagination,” and it’s what I experienced when his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was first read to me as a child. I had no idea of its Christian significance, but the story stayed with me powerfully.

What memorable moments have you enjoyed along with the release of The Blue Umbrella? Can you share a favorite moment with a fan? A memory of holding the finished volume in your hand? What stands out most about this fiction debut?

The best part was my book launch at the real Porter’s Store, just three blocks from where I live. It was one of the most wonderful events of my life. Not since my wedding day (27 years ago!) had so many people that I know gathered in one room. And it was a great community event. Before this, as a writer of non-fiction, none of my other books was really rooted in a particular place. But with this one I love the feeling of the neighborhood connection. One neighbor played jazz piano, the store managers were as excited as I was, and the owner even baked cookies in the shape of blue umbrellas! My favorite moment came as I announced, “Gandalf has his staff, Harry Potter has his wand, Luke Skywalker has his light saber, and Sky Porter has his blue umbrella!” whereupon I dramatically opened my own spring-loaded blue umbrella to a round of applause. As for a favorite moment with a fan, I think it was the little boy who asked, “Are you famous?” I suppose I should have said something about there being degrees of fame (“I’m not as famous as Hannah Montana!”), but instead I just beamed and said, “Right now it sure feels like it.”

Can you give us a sneak peek into the next volume, The Violet Flash? Will we see some of the same characters again?

Yes, the whole cast will be back, but this time the story takes place at Easter and it will be narrated from Ches’s point of view. I’m very fond of Ches. On the surface he’s gruff and unlikable, but he’s also very frank, and that’s a sign of someone who loves truth. Due to Ches’s background, he has so many problems. But precisely because of that, he has a great journey to make from darkness to light.

What exciting things is God doing in your life? Any closing words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

Finding the courage to identify myself as a fiction writer, committing to writing a long novel, and struggling through every difficulty to finally give it birth, has brought me to a mountaintop experience. I’ve never been happier or felt more free in my life, and I find myself with the closeness to God that I’ve always dreamed of. What happened is that I didn’t just write a novel, but I went on an epic journey myself. Although my book is a fantasy, in order to write it I, too, in my real life, had to face down villains, slay dragons, slog through darkness, and eventually emerge into the light. As I look around myself now, I see the battlefield strewn with the corpses of my enemies, and I am a new person. So I would challenge my readers to embark on a similar journey. It may not be writing a novel, but what is it for you? What is God stirring in your heart? Take hold of that dream and pursue it with all you’ve got, and don’t stop until you’ve achieved it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Breath (Rayne Series #2) by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins - 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:

Last Breath (Rayne Series #2)

Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Lindsey Rodarmer of ZONDERKIDZ for sending me a review copy.***


Brandilyn and Amberly Collins are a mother/daughter team from northern California. Brandilyn is a bestselling novelist, known for her trademarked "Seatbelt Suspense". Amberly is a college student in southern California. She and her mom love attending concerts together.

Visit the author's website.

Here's a video about the first book in the Rayne Series:

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310715407

ISBN-13: 978-0310715405


“Do you like flowers?”

“Yes, I like them very much.”

“Which is your favorite?”

“A white rose.”

“Really? Why?” (p. 62)

It’s hard to imagine that the answer to a simple question could change a life so dramatically. However, the answer to the mystery of the white rose proves to be a turning point in many lives for many years. Brandilyn and Amberly Collins have written a dramatic and touching sequel in the Rayne Tour series. Last breath begins just where Always Watching left off, and Rayne and Shaley O’Connor find themselves reeling in the wake of two murders and a kidnapping attempt. When Rayne confronts an obsessed paparazzi her tour comes to a screeching halt and her relationship with Shaley changes forever.

Shaley has spent most of her life asking her mother about the father that abandoned her before she was even born. With the dying words of a murdered man ringing in her ears, Shaley realizes that her father may be in the process of making a dangerous and even deadly attempt to re-enter their lives. Meanwhile, Rayne finally realizes that Shaley deserves to hear the truth about her father, and as she shares her past with her daughter Shaley is left with an entirely new set of questions that still have no answers. Will she ever get the opportunity to ask her father why he abandoned her seventeen years ago? Will her mother survive long enough to answer her questions?

Last breath is another suspenseful tale with lots of unexpected twists and turns that readers of all ages will enjoy! The ending is ripe with possibility, and Shaley and Rayne’s future finally seems to gain some direction and purpose. The faith element in this story takes another tentative step forward, and I will be interested to see if hope and healing ever truly arrive for the O’Connors. This is another great addition to any young adult reader’s collection, and I think this series would make an awesome holiday gift! I’m looking forward to more great fiction from this mother/daughter team!


Your father sent me.

The last words of a dying man, whispered in my ear.

Were they true? What did they mean?

Your father sent me. The stunning claim drilled through my head, louder than the crowd’s screams.

Guitars blasted the last chord of Rayne’s hit song, Ever Alone, as Mom’s voice echoed through the Pepsi Center in Denver. The heavy drum beat thumped in my chest. With a final smash of cymbals the rock song ended. Multicolored laser lights swept the stadium, signaling the thirty-minute intermission.

Wild shrieks from thousands of fans rang in my ears.

I rose from my chair backstage. Tiredly, I smiled at the famous Rayne O’Connor as she strode toward me on high red heels. In the lights her sequined top shimmered and her blonde hair shone. She walked with confidence and grace, the picture of a rock star—until she stepped from her fans’ sight. Then her posture slumped, weariness creasing her beautiful face. Mom’s intense blue eyes usually glimmered with the excitement of performing, but now I saw only the wash of grief and exhaustion. How she’d managed to perform tonight, I’d never know. Except that she’s strong. A real fighter.

Me? I had to keep fighting too, even if my legs still trembled and I’d probably have nightmares for weeks.

Your father sent me.

I had to find out what those words meant.

“You’re a very brave young lady,” a Denver detective had told me just a few hours ago. I didn’t feel brave then or now.

“You okay, Shaley?” Mom had to shout over the screams as she hugged me.

I nodded against her shoulder, hanging on tightly until she pulled back.

The crowd’s applause died down. A heavy hum of voices and footsteps filtered from the stadium as thousands of people headed for concessions and bathrooms during the break.

Kim, the band’s keyboard player and alto to my mom’s lead vocals, stopped to lay a darkly tanned hand on my head. A strand of her bleached white-blonde hair was stuck to the gloss on her pink lips. She brushed it away. “You’re an amazing sixteen-year-old.”

I shrugged, embarrassed. “Thanks.”

Mick and Wendell, Mom’s two remaining bodyguards, approached without a word. I gave a self-conscious smile to Wendell, and he nodded back, sadness flicking across his face. His deep-set eyes were clouded, and the long scar across his chin seemed harder, more shiny. At five-eleven, Wendell is short for a bodyguard but every bit as muscled. Tonight his two-inch black hair, usually gelled straight up, stuck out in various directions. He hadn’t bothered to fix it since the life and death chase he was involved in just a few hours ago. Seeing that messed-up hair sent a stab through me. Wendell was usually so finicky about it.

Mick, Mom’s main personal bodyguard, folded his huge arms and stood back, waiting. Mick is in his forties, ex-military and tall, with a thick neck and block-shaped head. I’ve rarely seen emotion on his face, but I saw glimpses of it now. He and Wendell had been good friends with Bruce, Mom’s third bodyguard.

Bruce had been killed hours ago. Shot.

And he’d been trying to guard me.

My vision blurred. I blinked hard and looked at the floor.

“Come on.” Mom nudged my arm. “We’re all meeting in my dressing room.”

Mick and Bruce flanked her as she walked away.

Usually we don’t have to be so careful backstage. It’s a heavily guarded area anyway. But tonight nothing was the same.

Kim and I followed Mom down a long hall to her dressing room. Morrey, Kim’s boyfriend and Rayne’s drummer, caught up with us. He put a tattoo-covered arm around Kim, her head only reaching his shoulders. Morrey looked at me and winked, but I saw no happiness in it.

Ross Blanke, the band’s tour production manager, hustled up alongside us, trailed by Stan, lead guitarist, and Rich, Rayne’s bass player. “Hey.” Ross put a pudgy hand on Mom’s shoulder. “You’re doing great.” He waved an arm, indicating everyone. “All of you, you’re just doing great.”

“You do what you have to,” Stan said grimly. His black face shone with sweat.

Narrowing single file, we trudged into the dressing room. Mick and Wendell took up places on each side of the door.

Marshall, the makeup and hair stylist, started handing out water bottles. In his thirties, Marshall has buggy eyes and curly dark hair. His fingers are long and narrow, deft with his makeup tools. But until two days ago, he’d been second to Mom’s main stylist, Tom.

“Thanks.” I took a bottle from Marshall and tried to smile. Didn’t work. Just looking at him sent pangs of grief through me, because his presence reminded me of Tom’s absence.

Tom, my closest friend on tour, had been murdered two days ago.

Mom, Ross, Rich and I sank down on the blue couch—one of the furniture pieces Mom requested in every dressing room. Denver’s version was extra large, with a high back and overstuffed arms. To our left stood a table with plenty of catered food, but no one was hungry. I’d hardly eaten in the last day and a half and knew I should have something. But no way, not now.

Maybe after the concert.

Stan, Morrey and Kim drew up chairs to form a haphazard circle.

“All right.” Ross sat with his short, fat legs apart, hands on his jeaned thighs. The huge diamond ring on his right hand was skewed to one side. He straightened it with his pinky finger. “I’ve checked outside past the guarded area. The zoo’s double what it usually is. The news has already hit and every reporter and his brother are waiting for us. Some paparazzi are already there, and others have probably hopped planes and will show up by the time we leave.”

Is Cat here? I shuddered at the thought of the slinky, effeminate photographer who’d bothered us so much in the last two days. He’d even pulled a fire alarm in our San Jose hotel the night before just to force us out of our rooms. Now by police order he wasn’t supposed to get within five hundred feet of us. I doubted he’d care.

My eyes burned, and my muscles felt like water. Little food, no sleep, and plenty of shock. Bad combination. I slumped down in the couch and laid my head back.

Ross ran a hand through his scraggly brown hair. “Now at intermission folks out there”—he jabbed a thumb toward the arena—“are gonna start hearing things. Rayne, you might want to say a little something when you get back on stage.”

Mom sighed, as if wondering where she’d find the energy to do the second half of the concert. “Yeah.”

I squeezed her knee. If only the two of us could hide from the world for a week or two.

Make that a whole year.

Rich frowned as he moved his shaved head from one side to the other, stretching his neck muscles. His piercing gray eyes landed on me, and his face softened. I looked away.

Everyone was so caring and concerned about me. I was grateful for that. Really, I was. But it’s a little hard to know you’ve been the cause of three deaths. Under all their smiles, did the band members blame me?

Ross scratched his hanging jowl. “We got extra coverage from Denver police at the hotel tonight. Tomorrow we’re supposed to head out for Albuquerque. It’s close enough for Vance to drive the main bus without a switch-off driver, and the next two venues are close enough as well. But that’s just logistics. We’ve all been through a lot. Question is—can you all keep performing?” He looked around, eyebrows raised.

“Man.” Morrey shook back his shoulder-length black hair. “If three deaths in two days isn’t enough to make us quit …” His full lips pressed.

I glanced hopefully at Mom. Yeah, let’s go home! I could sleep in my own bed, hide from the paparazzi and reporters, hang out with Brittany, my best friend—who was supposed to be here with me right now.

But canceling concerts would mean losing a lot of money. The Rayne tour was supposed to continue another four weeks.

Mom hunched forward, elbows on her knees and one hand to her cheek. Her long red fingernails matched the color of her lips. “I almost lost my daughter tonight.” Her voice was tight. “I don’t care if I never tour again—Shaley’s got to be protected, that’s the number one thing.”

I want you protected too, Mom.

“I agree with that a hundred percent,” Morrey said, “but at least the threat to Shaley is gone now that Jerry’s dead.

Jerry, one of our bus drivers—and a man I’d thought was my friend—killed Tom and Bruce, and then came after me earlier that night. A cop ended up shooting him.

Kim spread her hands. “I don’t know what to say. I’m still reeling. We’ve barely had time to talk about any of this tonight before getting on stage. I feel like my mind’s gonna explode. And Tom …”

She teared up, and that made me cry. Kim had been like a mother to Tom. Crazy, funny Tom. It was just so hard to believe he was gone.

I wiped my eyes and looked at my lap.

“Anyway.” Kim steadied her voice. “It’s so much to deal with. I don’t know how we’re going to keep up this pace for another month.”

Mom looked at Ross. “We can’t keep going very long with only Vance to drive the main bus.”

Ross nodded. “Until Thursday. I’d have to replace him by then.”

“With who?” Mom’s voice edged.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to jump on it.”

“You can’t just ‘jump on it.’ We need time to thoroughly check the new driver out.”

“Rayne.” Ross threw her a look. “I did check Jerry out. Completely. He had a false ID, remember? That’s what the police said. I couldn’t have known that.”

“You might have known if you’d checked harder.”

Ross’s face flushed. “I did—”

“No you didn’t! Or if you did it wasn’t good enough!” Mom pushed to her feet and paced a few steps. “Something’s mighty wrong if we can’t even find out a guy’s a convicted felon!”

What? I stiffened. “How do you know that?”

Mom waved a hand in the air. “The police told me just before we left the hotel.”

We’d huddled in the manager’s office after the policeman killed Jerry.

I stared at Mom. “When was he in jail?”

Mom threw a hard look at Ross. “He’d barely gotten out when we hired him.”

Heat flushed through my veins. I snapped my gaze toward the floor, Jerry’s last words ringing in my head.

Your father sent me.

How could my father have sent Jerry if he was in jail?

“Rayne,” Ross snapped, “I’ve told you I’m sorry a dozen times—”

“Sorry isn’t enough!” Mom whirled on him. “My daughter was taken hostage. She could have been killed!”

Rich jumped up and put his arms around her. “Come on, Rayne, it’s okay now.”

She leaned against him, eyes closed. The anger on her face melted into exhaustion. “It’s not okay.” Mom shook her head. “Tom’s dead, Bruce is dead. And Shaley—”

Her words broke off. Mom pulled away from Rich and hurried back to the couch. She sank down next to me, a hand on my knee. “Shaley, you’re the one who’s been through the most. What do you want to do?”

My throat nearly swelled shut. Go home! I wanted to yell. But I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair. This wasn’t my tour. I didn’t have to pay the bills.

I glanced around at all the band members. Morrey was holding Kim’s hand. Stan and Rich watched me, waiting. A canceled tour wouldn’t just affect them. Rayne had three back-up singers, one of them Carly, who’d been such a help to me. Plus all the techs and roadies. They’d all lose money.

Wait—maybe Mom would let me go home and stay with Brittany. Now that Tom’s and Bruce’s killer was dead …

“Shaley?” Mom tapped my leg.

“I don’t … I can’t stop the tour.”

Ross exhaled. “Rayne?”

Mom looked at the wall clock and pushed to her feet. “We can’t decide this now. It’s only fifteen minutes before we have to be back on stage. I still need to change.”

Stan stood. “I say we figure on doing Albuquerque, and then we can decide about the rest.”

“Yeah, me too.” Rich got up, along with everyone else. I could see the business-like attitude settle on all their faces, including Mom’s. Soon they had to perform again. Every other concern must be pushed aside. In the entertainment world the saying was true: the show must go on.

Within a minute everyone had left except Mom, Marshall and me. Mom threw herself into a chair by the bright mirrors so Marshall could adjust her makeup. When he left she changed into a steel blue top and skinny-legged black pants.

I sat numbly on the couch, four words running through my mind. Words, I sensed, that would change my life.

Your father sent me.

Mom didn’t know what Jerry had whispered to me as he died. I needed to tell her.

But how? Like me, she was running on empty. It would be one more shock, another scare. I wasn’t sure she could take anymore and still perform.

Had Jerry told me the truth? Had the father I’d never known—the man my mother refused to talk about—purposely sent a killer to join our tour?

I needed to know. I needed to find out. Because if it was true—the danger was far from over.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur - REVIEWED

“Most if not all the true wisdom of God, the true insight of God, and the true knowledge of God that a man holds in his heart he has learned from resistance and affliction.”

(p. 217)

Randall Arthur’s book, Wisdom Hunter, is a haunting and rather painful tale of a man in search of God’s wisdom, God’s guidance, and God’s direction in his life. The first few chapters of the book are spent introducing the reader to Pastor Jason Faircloth and then systematically stripping his life bare of everything he cherished, believed God for, and led the members of his church to believe as truth. As the story progresses, Jason begins the process of working through his painful experiences and then rediscovering his faith. His journey takes his practically around the globe, but eventually takes him back to the place he has longed for all along.

It is my understanding that Wisdom Hunter was originally published several years ago, and this copy I received for review is actually a re-released version of a very popular story. The basic concept behind the telling of this tale is the struggle that exists within the believer’s life between the hypocrisy that can exist within legalistic religious practices and the joy that comes from understanding the sovereignty of God and the gift of His grace. This is not a new struggle, and through the years the debate between what constitutes “right” religious practices has grown rather heated. The re-release of this novel reflects this conflict and sets it amid present day differences among believers.

Arthur defines legalism as those who focus upon dress, hair length, choice of music and other common points of conflict among believers. His main character, Jason Faircloth, actually has to find himself in an international setting after suffering incredible loss before he begins to understand the true meaning of grace. The story is touching and will actually be familiar to many who have suffered the growing pains of reaching spiritual maturity.

My only hesitation before offering a heartfelt recommendation of this book is that believers should be mature enough to recognize the difference between legalism and true conviction. For instance, at one point Arthur speaks harshly about the use of the King James version of the bible. For some, myself included, that is a true conviction and is an act of obedience for the believer. Convictions are not something you beat others over the head with. True convictions, whether about dress, music, holiday celebrations ect…are between God and the believer and used to grow and mature that child of God. Only when these things become battering rams do they enter into the realm of legalism, and then they do become very dangerous.

We are living in an age where believers need to be solidly grounded in God’s word and able to discern the false doctrines cropping up all around us. I think that is Randall Arthur’s primary message. We need to be salt and light in this ever darkening world, and hopefully we will grow to love and serve others just as Christ commanded us to do.

May we all be a Wisdom Hunter…seeking the truth of God’s Word, following His direction in our lives and sharing Christ with others.

Please visit the Multnomah website to learn more about this novel, read sample chapters and learn how to purchase your own copy.


Randall Arthur is the bestselling author of Jordan’s Crossing and Brotherhood of Betrayal. He and his wife have served as missionaries to Europe for over thirty years. From 1976 till 1998, he lived in Norway and Germany as a church planter. Since 2000, he has taken numerous missions teams from the United States on trips all over Europe. Arthur is also the founder of the AOK (Acts of Kindness) Bikers’ Fellowship, a group of men who enjoy the sport of motorcycling. He and his family live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

eye of the god by Ariel Allison - REVIEWED

“So, Alligator food, huh?” (p. 348)

By the time you reach the end of Ariel Allison’s novel, eye of the god, you will have a list of people that should be used as alligator food! Honestly! If you can imagine James Bond mixed up with the most fascinating and true story of the world’s most infamous diamond, you can begin to imagine what reading eye of the god must be like! Truth and fiction blend upon the pages as the story moves from past to present and back again weaving a tale of intrigue you won’t soon forget.

Ariel Allison’s novel begins with an unusual concept of a band of thieves that steal the world’s most valuable pieces of art and jewelry. The methods they use are unusually brilliant and enable them to steal the treasures in almost plain view of the owners. The higher the stakes the higher the creativity! When the Hope Diamond becomes the focus of these mysterious collectors the diamond’s mysterious and cursed past is brought to the forefront. Will the collector’s dare to brave the diamond’s history? Are they willing to risk life itself to own this lovely blue gem?

The gem’s protector at the Smithsonian, Dr. Abigail Mitchell, finds herself in the crosshairs of this incredible jewel heist although she isn’t aware of it at the time. Or is she? See, Dr. Mitchell has some rather mysterious ties to a couple of people that don’t quite fit into the picture just right. Then there’s her dad who is the source of unending emotional pain who always shows up at the worst possible moments! The poor lady finally falls in love just before she has to host the world’s largest celebration and fund-raising event in honor of the Hope Diamond, and what poor timing that turns out to be!

Dear reader, if you enjoy a tale with so many twists and turns that you are practically dizzy by the end of the story, then please, go to the nearest bookstore and by Ariel Allison’s eye of the god! You will think you’ve landing right in the middle of a James Bond movie! Although it the spiritual element of this story is quite weak, the story is great fun, and I eagerly await the next novel from this writer’s pen!

Many thanks to Abingdon Press and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my reading copy of this great book!


Ariel Allison is a published author who lives in a small Texas town with her husband and three young sons. She is the co-author of Daddy Do You Love Me: a Daughter’s Journey of Faith and Restoration (New Leaf Press, 2006). Justin Case, the first of three children’s books will be published by Harvest House in June 2009. Ariel is a weekly contributor to and has written for Today’s Christian Woman. She ponders on life as a mother of all boys at and on her thoughts as a redeemed dreamer at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shadow Government by Grant R. Jeffrey

ABOUT THE BOOK: (from the publisher)

Security cameras, surveillance of private financial transactions, radio frequency spy chips hidden in consumer products, eavesdropping on e-mail correspondence and phone calls, and Internet tracking. No one is protected, and privacy is a thing of the past.

An ultra-secret global elite, functioning as a very real shadow government, controls technology, finance, international law, world trade, political power, and vast military capabilities. These unnamed, unrivaled leaders answer to no earthly authority, and they won’t stop until they control the world.

In Shadow Government, prophecy expert Grant Jeffrey removes the screen that, up to now, has hidden the work of these diabolical agents. Jeffrey reveals the biblical description of Satan’s global conquest and identifies the tools of technology that the Antichrist will use to rule the world.

Readers will have their eyes opened to the real power that is working behind the scenes to destroy America and merge it into the coming global government. Armed with this knowledge, readers will be equipped to face spiritual darkness with the light of prophetic truth.

I am slowly reading this book. I don't want to miss any of this. I fully believe we are watching prophecy being fulfilled right before our eyes, and I am devouring a lot of material on this subject right now. I encourage readers to check this out!!

Please visit the Random House website to learn more about this book, read sample chapters and find out how to purchase your own copy.


Grant R. Jeffrey is the internationally known prophecy researcher, Mideast expert, and author of Countdown to the Apocalypse, The New Temple and the Second Coming, The Next World War, and twenty other best-selling books. He is also the editor of the Prophecy Study Bible. His popular television program, Bible Prophecy Revealed, airs weekly on TBN. Jeffrey earned his master’s and PhD degrees from Louisiana Baptist University. He and his wife, Kaye, live in Toronto.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Little Help From My Friends by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbuilt - REVIEWED

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do was my introduction to the Miracle Girls and the wonderful writing of writing duo Anne Dayton and May Vanderbuilt. When I was offered the opportunity to review A Little Help From My Friends, I was all too eager to find out what this very unique group of teens would face during their Junior year of highschool. Zoe Fairchild and her hippie parents are the featured characters in this story, and believe me, they have a LOT going on in their lives! Zoe's faith gives her an anchor during the unexpected storms of her Junior year, but she still must deal with some very real heartaches as she discovers new things about love and relationships.

Zoe's family might be a little quirky with their vegan meals and their earthy lifestyle, but they have always been close to one another and able to depend upon each other when life made unexpected turns. As Zoe and her girlfriends begin their Junior year, all but one is sporting a great boyfriend, and they are all enjoying the feeling of moving to upperclass status. When a new student from New York makes a rather unforgettable entrance into Zoe's history class, things get interesting in a hurry! (although her history teacher alone is rather memorable!) Zoe also decides to come alongside her former teacher and counsellor who was wrongly dismissed the previous year, and that battle teaches her a great deal about friendship and loyalty.

Meanwhile, things on the homefront begin to grow a bit unusual between Zoe's parents. When her older brother returns from Colorado unexpectedly, Zoe knows that change is imminent. Her heart isn't quite prepared for the changes that begin to take place, and she determines right away that there are some things in life that are worth fighting for! With the help of her friends and a lot of prayer, Zoe must stand up for her family and for her own heart's desire in order to discover what God has for her life during this very dramatic year.

Once again, I thouroughly enjoyed my time with The Miracle Girls. Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt have a true connection with teens, and their stories would make a positive impact on any teen reading collection! I enjoyed "meeting" this great writing duo, and I'd invite you to read my interview with them here. If you have teen girls at home, or you work with the youth group, I'd strongly recommend introducing them to this series!



Anne was born in San Jose, California, where she wasted her childhood playing Nintendo and watching The Facts of Life. Eventually, she went off to Princeton where she learned many important things, including how to recognize a kumquat. Four years and a useless degree later, she landed a job at Random House, where she promptly got bored and applied to graduate school, trained for a marathon, and reminisced about her days as a competitive finswimmer. A few years later, a blond guy showed up at her door with power tools and gazpacho. They live in Brooklyn. An editor by day, she enjoys bad horror movies, good cheese, and Count Chocula.

May grew up in Panama City, Florida, otherwise known as the Redneck Riviera. She graduated from Baylor University in Waco, TX and went on to earn her MA in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. After living in Brooklyn for four years and working at Random House as an Assistant Editor, Vanderbilt moved to fabulous San Francisco, putting an end to her long tour of undesirable cities. May is a Southern girl who is always on the search for decent grits in the Bay Area and makes artisanal cheese at home.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Double Cross by James David Jordan - 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:

Double Cross

B&H Books (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


James David Jordan is a business attorney in Texas and was named by the Dallas Business Journal as one of the most influential leaders in that legal community. He holds a journalism degree from the University
of Missouri as well as a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois and lives with his wife and two children in the Dallas suburbs.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447547
ISBN-13: 978-0805447545


“ I suppose the ditch that separates pain and pleasure is more like a narrow crevice. Sometimes it’s small enough that a person can step back and forth over it, or even straddle it for a while.” (p. 200)

Taylor Pasbury is a woman whose life has been filled with painful lessons - addiction, the loss of parents, a close friend’s tragic and sacrificial death…so many burdens for a twenty-nine year woman to bear. Double Cross provides the reader a second visit with Taylor and her life as a private security provider for highly visible individuals. In James Jordon’s first novel, Forsaken, Taylor’s job ended in the loss of one of her closest friends, but it also provided her with a powerful example of grace. As Double Cross opens, Taylor is attempting to re-establish her life and her job when she is faced with tragedy once again. Sorting through deception, loss and the unexpected renewal of a relationship she thought lost to her, Taylor once again finds herself in a deadly race against time to solve a crime before she loses those she loves all over again.

Taylor Pasbury is still one of the most emotionally damaged human beings to ever grace the pages of fiction. Although she learned about grace in the last novel, she still views those who name the name of Christ with a healthy dose of skepticism. She has established a close friendship with the daughter of Simon Mason, and Kacey provides a delightful contrast to Taylor’s angst even though she is also reeling from a huge emotional loss. When these two women discover what appears to be a suicide they both recognize immediately that there must be more to the grizzly scene than meets the eye.

Rather than leave well enough alone, Taylor and Kacey begin to search for the truth, and their search leads them into the heart of duplicity. Along the way, Taylor must sort through the emotional fog of her past, and attempt to make sense of a very unexpected renewal of a relationship lost to her some twenty years ago. The contrast of suspense, emotional upheaval and the raw longing to understand and accept her own worth, place Taylor into one of the deadliest situations she has ever faced. Will she learn what it means to love sacrificially? Will she ever accept the fact that she too is worthy of God’s grace?

James David Jordan has written another fantastic novel, and I strongly recommend that you introduce yourself to his work today! You can enjoy Double Cross as a stand-alone novel, but it will be much more meaningful if you read Forsaken first. You can read my review of Forsaken HERE. Don’t miss these fantastic novels by James David Jordan!


The day my mother came back into my life began with a low December fog and a suicide. Mom was not responsible for the fog.

I hadn’t seen her for twenty years, and the idea that she might show up at my door was the farthest thing from my mind on a Thursday morning, a few weeks before Christmas, when the music alarm practically blasted me off my bed. With the Foo Fighters wailing in my ear, I burrowed into my pillow and tried to wrap it around my head. I rolled onto my side and slapped the snooze bar, but smacked the plastic so hard that it snapped in two, locking in another minute and a half of throbbing base before I could yank the cord from the wall socket. It wasn’t until my toes touched the hardwood floor and curled up against the cold that I remembered why I was waking up at five-forty-five in the first place. Kacey Mason and I were meeting Elise Hovden at eight o’clock in a suburb northwest of Dallas. We would give her one chance to explain why

nearly half a million dollars was missing from Simon Mason World Ministries. If she couldn’t, our next stop would be the Dallas police.

Since Simon Mason’s murder earlier that year, I’d been living in his house with Kacey, his twenty-year-old daughter. I had promised to watch out for her if anything happened to him. It wasn’t a sacrifice. By that time Kacey and I were already so close that we finished each other’s sentences. I needed her as much as she needed me.

I slid my feet into my slippers and padded down the hall toward Kacey’s door. Chill bumps spread down my thighs in a wave, and I wished I’d worn my flannel pajama bottoms to bed under my Texas Rangers baseball jersey. Rather than turning back to my room to grab my robe, I decided to gut it out. I bent over and gave my legs a rub, but I knew they wouldn’t be warm again until I was standing next to the space heater in the bathroom.

I pressed my ear to Kacey’s door. The shower was humming. Of course she was awake. Had there ever been a more responsible college kid? Sometimes I wished she would let things go,

do something wild. For her, that would probably mean not flossing before going to bed. If hyper-responsibility got her through the day, I supposed it was fine with me. After all, she was a markedly better person than I had been at her age.

By the time I met her father I was twenty-nine, and thanks to a decade of too much alcohol and too many useless men, I was dropping like a rock. But Simon Mason caught me and held me

in place for a while, just long enough to give me hope. Then he did what he had to do, and he died for it. Some things are more important than living. He and Dad both taught me that. So now I was changing. To be accurate, I would say I was a work in progress. I hadn’t had a drink since before Simon died, and I’d sworn off men completely, albeit temporarily. Frankly, the latter was not much of a sacrifice. It wasn’t as if a crowd of guys had been beating a path to my door. I simply figured there was no use getting back into men until I was confident the drinking was under control. One thing I had demonstrated repeatedly in my life was that drinking and men just didn’t go together—at least not for me.

As for Kacey, after everything she’d been through, it was amazing she hadn’t folded herself into a fetal ball and quit the world for a while. Instead, she just kept plugging along, putting one foot in front of the other. I was content to step gingerly behind her, my toes sinking into her footprints. She was a good person to follow. She had something I’d never been known for: Kacey had character.

I shook my head. I was not going to start the day by kicking myself. I’d done enough of that. Besides, I no longer thought I had to be perfect. If a good man like Simon Mason could mess

things up and find a way to go on, then so could I. Even in his world—a much more spiritual one than mine—perfection was not required. He made a point of teaching me that.

I closed my eyes and pictured Simon: his shiny bald head, his leanly muscled chest, his brilliant, warming smile. As I thought of that smile, I smiled, too, but it didn’t last long. Within seconds the muscles tightened in my neck. I massaged my temples and tried to clear my thoughts. Soon, though, I was pressing my fingers so hard into my scalp that pain radiated from behind my eyes.

If only he had listened. But he couldn’t. He wanted to die. No matter how much he denied it, we both knew it was true. After what he had done, he couldn’t live with himself. So he found the only available escape hatch. He went to preach in a place where his death was nearly certain.

I lowered my hands and clenched them, then caught myself and relaxed. This was no good. It was too late. Not this morning, Taylor. You’re not going to think about Simon today. I took a deep breath and ran my fingers back through my hair, straightening the auburn waves for an instant before they sprang stubbornly back into place. Today’s worries are enough for today. That was the mantra of the alcohol recovery program at Simon’s church. It was from the Bible, but I couldn’t say where. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention as closely as I should. Regardless of origin, it was a philosophy that had worked for my drinking—at least so far. Maybe it had broader application: Focus on the task at hand and let yesterday and tomorrow take care of themselves.

At the moment, the first priority was to get the coffee going. I started down the hall.

When I turned the corner into the kitchen, I could see that Kacey had already been there. The coffee maker light was on, illuminating a wedge of countertop next to the refrigerator. In the red glow of the tiny bulb, the machine chugged and puffed like a miniature locomotive. Two stainless steel decanters with screw-on plastic lids waited next to the ceramic coffee jar, and

the smell of strong, black coffee drifted across the room. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and pictured the cheese Danish we would pick up at the corner bakery on our way out of our neighborhood. That was plenty of incentive to get moving. I headed back down the hall.

When I reached the bathroom I flipped on the light, closed the door, and hit the switch on the floor heater. I positioned it so it blew directly on my legs. Within a minute the chill bumps were retreating. I braced my hands on the edge of the sink, leaned forward, and squinted into the mirror. Glaring back at me was a message I had written in red lipstick the night before: Start the coffee!

I wiped the words off with a hand towel and peered into the mirror again. A tangled strand of hair dangled in front of one eye. I pushed it away, blinked hard, and studied my face. No lines, no bags, no creases—no runs, no hits, no errors, as Dad used to say. I was beginning to believe the whole clean living thing. Zero liquor and a good night’s sleep worked like a tonic for the skin.

It was tough to stay on the wagon after Simon’s death. I had never been an every-day drinker. My problem was binge drinking. With all that had happened during the past six months, the temptations had been frequent and strong, but I was gradually getting used to life on the dry side of a bourbon bottle. There was much to be said for routine. Maybe that’s why dogs are so happy when they’re on a schedule. When everything happens the same way and at the same time each day, there’s not much room for angst.

On second thought, the dog analogy didn’t thrill me. I pulled the Rangers jersey over my head, tossed it on the floor, and turned to look in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Standing in nothing but my bikini panties, I rocked onto the toes of one foot, then the other. My long legs were still lean and athletic. Fitness was something Dad had always emphasized—fitness and self-defense. There were times when I had hated him for it, but now I was glad for the benefits. It would be years before I had to worry about really showing age. I might have lived harder than most twenty-nine year olds, but I could still turn heads in a crowded room. No, the dog analogy was not appropriate. I had plenty of issues, but I was no dog. At least not yet.

I turned on the water and cupped my hands beneath the faucet. It was time to wake up and plan what we would say to Elise. After splashing my face and patting it with a towel, I turned around, leaned back against the countertop, and crossed my arms. I caught a whiff of the lavender cologne I’d taken to spraying on my wrists before bed. The Internet said it would soothe me into peaceful slumber. For fifty dollars an ounce, it should have brought me warm milk and rocked me to sleep. I tried to recall how I’d slept the past few nights, then caught myself. I was just looking for ways to waste time. I needed to focus. The issue at hand was Elise.

Simon informed me about the missing money just before he left for Beirut. His former accountant, Brandon, had confronted him about it, thinking that Simon had been skimming. Simon wanted someone to know that he hadn’t done it, someone who could tell Kacey that her dad was not a thief. That’s why he told me. In case he didn’t come back. And as the whole world knew, he didn’t come back.

Elise was the obvious person for the board of directors to choose to wind up the business of Simon’s ministry. She had been his top assistant for years. When I told Kacey about the missing money, though, she bypassed Elise and went directly to the board to demand an audit—impressive gumption for a twenty year old. It didn’t take the auditors long to confirm that Simon had nothing to do with the missing money.

The accountants concluded that the board had assigned the cat to clean the birdcage. Elise had set up dummy vendor accounts at banks around the country in a classic embezzlement scam. Simon’s ministries had major construction projects going, and Elise issued bogus contractor invoices to Simon

Mason World Ministries from fake businesses with P.O. box addresses that she controlled. When the ministry mailed the payments, she picked up the checks from the post office boxes and deposited them in the bank accounts. Who knows where the money went from there?

The ministry had grown so quickly during the years before Simon’s death—and Simon was so trusting—that controls were lax. When the invoices came in, the payables department

paid them without question. By now the money was probably stuffed under a mattress in some tropical paradise. That was another thing I intended to pursue with Elise. She had developed a great tan.

Before I stepped into the shower, I wrapped myself in a towel and went back into the bedroom. I pulled my Sig Sauer .357 out of my purse and checked the magazine. It was full. I slipped the pistol into the inside pocket of my purse. Elise didn’t strike me as the type to get violent, but people did weird things when backed into a corner. If I’d learned anything during my time in the Secret Service, it was to hope for the best—and prepare for the worst.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Fence My Father Built by Linda S. Clare - REVIEWED

The Fence My Father Built is a quirky story about even quirkier people. The main character, Muri, is a single mom with two children, out of work and looking for answers. Her father has died and her aunt has asked her to help sort out his legal affairs. She travels to the dessert of central Oregon and finds her aunt and uncle living in a shack with a bunch of pot-bellied pigs with a fence made of old oven doors. The fence, built by her father before he succumbed to liver disease, is meant to protect something valuable, but Muri has no idea what that is. Her search for answers leads her deep into the heart of a very eclectic group of folks who have little more than their faith left to them in life. Muri must decide for herself whether this faith is real and whether or not it actually makes a difference for anyone.

The Fence My Father Built is not a book that particularly appealed to me. Muri came off as a sort of academic snob, and the whole city-girl-came-to-the-country idea actually got on my nerves. The folks of Murkee, Oregon were made out to be rather simple-minded overly zealous folks, when I think they were just doing the best they could under the circumstances. Muri’s children were disrespectful and smart mouthed the entire novel, and the fact that the daughter placed herself in a dangerous situation was no surprise whatsoever. Overall, this story just didn’t ring true. Everything seemed over exaggerated and dramatic. The spiritual elements seemed very “I’m a seeker” oriented, and the “spiritual awakening” didn’t seem based on repentance and faith but rather on a bargain made in desperation.

If you like father-daughter stories (after all, Muri is trying to find her roots throughout the story because her dad abandoned her), if you like struggling parent stories, if you like drama - then try this one on for size. Maybe this just hit me in the wrong mood or something, but I never connected with this story at all. The spiritual element was forced and the relationship between Muri and her children was just sad.

Visit the Abingdon Press website to learn more about this novel and make up your own mind about Muri Pond's story.