Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish byJenn Kelly - 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:

Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish

Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zonderkidz for sending me a review copy.***


Jenn Kelly lives in Ottawa, Canada, but her heart lives in Paris. Or Hawaii. She hasn’t decided yet. She is an undercover garden guru, painter, and chef, which has absolute nothing to do with this book. She won a writing award in grade 4, failed English Lit in university, spent many years writing bad poetry, and then decided to write a book. This is it. She is married to her best friend, Danny, and is mom to a five-year-old boy and a dog who worries too much. She embraces the ridiculousness and disorganization of life.

Visit the author's website.

Ari has worked as a freelance illustrator for a variety of projects, mostly in children’s media. Her specialty is character design and she most enjoys illustrating humorous and wacky predicaments.

She studied editorial and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the DuCret School of Art in New Jersey. She uses a variety of media to create my images both traditional and digital.

Visit the illustrator's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310720796
ISBN-13: 978-0310720799

My Thoughts:

What a fun, silly, imaginative book! While the story itself is rather far-fetched – kids just discovering the joy of reading are going to LOVE this!! Personally, I really appreciated the formatting of the book and the fact that the reader was addressed almost directly at times. This book is going to give a whole new spin on read-aloud moments, bed-time stories and parent-child read-togethers.

I really don’t want to say too much to spoil your fun, but I’ll give you a clue where the story takes place: study the artwork on the cover very carefully!

There is a whole lot of silly, good-natured fun packed in this story, and young readers will enjoy this immensely!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Mayan Apocalypse by Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky - Guest Reviewer!

This review of The Mayan Apocalypse comes to you courtesy of my oldest son. (he’s an older teen)

Andrew Morgan has all the money his heart desires, but he has suffered a loss that no amount of money can ease. When he begins to listen to the rumors that 2012 will usher in the end of the world, his heart is ripe to accept the suggestions made to him by a Mayan priest.

At the same time, his heart encounters a Christian news reporter who is also trying to report on the predictions of this Mayan prophecy. When she discovers who Andrew Morgan is and the power he possesses, she is tasked to report on the reasons this corporate executive would give heed to ancient prophecy. Does his support lend credence to the “prophet’s” words?

Well, the end of the world causes folds to do some pretty strange things, and apparently they think that protection from any problem is solved by throwing money at it. When emotions become involved, the decisions become a little less clear. But one thing that remains clear is that disaster of some kind is imminent. Facing that certainty without Christ is the scariest thing of all.

There is not a lot of fast-paced action in this story, so it was kind of a slow read. But over-all, it was a well-written story and I think people will enjoy it.

(my son asked me to tell you that he is a teen who prefers a bit more gun-slinging action throughout his stories)

About the Authors:

Mark Hitchcock is a leading Bible prophecy expert, prolific author who has penned over 20 books on the end times, senior pastor, and adjunct faculty member of the Dallas Theological Seminary. He has appeared on hundreds of radio programs and in print as well as The History Channel, MSNBC, Fox, The Glenn Beck Show, and CNN. A leading Christian voice on Mayan 2012 prophecy, he is scheduled to appear on an NBC sci-fi special related to 2012 airing fall, 2009.

A former attorney, Mark initially worked for the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Following a call to full-time ministry, today he serves as senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, just outside of Oklahoma City. He graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1991, where he subsequently earned his doctorate in 2006 and more recently has served as an adjunct faculty member.

Hitchcock has been a contributing editor for the Left Behind Prophecy Club for many years. His new book 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World (Harvest House Publishers) will be released September 15, 2009. He has also recently released Cashless (July 1, 2009, also published by Harvest House), showing how today’s headlines foreshadow a new and vastly different economic future—a one-world economy that is consistent with Bible prophecy in Revelation 13. Some of his other titles include: The Late Great United States: What Bible Prophecy Reveals about America’s Last Days; Armageddon, Oil, and Terror; Iran the Coming Crisis: Radical Islam, Oil and the Nuclear Threat; The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; What On Earth is Going On?; Is America in Bible Prophecy?; The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel; Is the Antichrist Alive Today?; Seven Signs of the End Times; and What Jesus Says About Earth’s Final Days.

Hitchcock maintains an active speaking schedule, appearing frequently at prophecy conferences, seminaries, and churches. He and his wife, Cheryl, live in Edmond, Oklahoma with their two sons Justin and Samuel.

ALTON L. GANSKY is the author of 20 published novels and 6 nonfiction works. He has been a Christy Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies. He is a frequent speaker at writer's conferences and other speaking engagements. When not writing his own books, Alton is often retained by publishers to bring his experience to various projects. He has also written video scripts, radio ads, copy and other material for business of all sizes.

Alton brings an eclectic background to his writing having been a firefighter, spent ten years in architecture, twenty-two years in pulpit ministry. He now writes fulltime form his home in southern California where he lives with his wife.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin Review and a Contest!

Can a nurse and a bomber pilot during WWII find love,
or will the war separate them forever?

A Memory Between Us is the second book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.

Major Jack Novak has never failed to meet a challenge--until he meets army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty. When Jack lands in the army hospital after a plane crash, he makes winning Ruth's heart a top priority mission. But he has his work cut out for him. Not only is Ruth focused on her work in order to support her orphaned siblings back home, she carries a shameful secret that keeps her from giving her heart to any man. Can Jack break down her defenses? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?

A Memory Between Us
By Sarah Sundin
Wings of Glory series
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3422-0
Available September 2010; $14.99

My Thoughts:
This is a precious story set in one of my favorite time periods - WWII! This was just the thing to mentally get away and enjoy two people falling in love during very difficult circumstances. My heart really went out to Ruth, because she had absolutely no control over her circumstances, and she was trying to do the best she could. That she was beautiful wasn't her fault either, and she had to put up with all kinds of nonsense from both men and women over that fact! I admired her character, and appreciated all she did for her family.

This really was a sweet story with realistic difficulties for all the characters to overcome. I highly recommend this story!

About the Author:
Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody, the first book in the Wings of Glory series.
Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

Sarah Sundin presents The Movies and Memories Giveaway in honor of book 2 in the Wings of Glory series. A Memory Between Us is available for purchase wherever fine books are sold. From the English countryside to the perilous skies over France, A Memory Between Us takes you on a journey through love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.


To celebrate Sarah is giving one lucky winner A Movie and Memory Prize Package! One grand prize winner will receive:

* Make-your-own-photo book from (Capture your own Memories)

* Netflix Subscription (New or Nostalgic Movies delivered right to your house)

* Starbucks gift card (To keep your engine revvin’)

*Gourmet chocolate (A favorite in the 1940’s and now)

* British specialty teas in carved wooden box (Timeless tradition)

* Miniature model of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber & C-47 cargo plane (Everyone needs a few toy planes)

*Big Band music CD (Break out your dancing shoes)

* WWII authentic poster playing cards (Cards – a perfect game for two)

* Keep Calm and Carry On (Uplifting sayings WWII, a boost for troubled times)

To enter simple click on the icons below (contest runs 9/27 - 10/17!)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Judgment Day by Wanda L. Dyson - Reviewed

About This Book (from the publisher):

Sensational journalism has never been so deadly.

The weekly cable news show Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell promises to expose businessmen, religious leaders, and politicians for the lies they tell. Suzanne positions herself as a champion of ethics and morality with a backbone of steel—until a revelation of her shoddy investigation tactics and creative fact embellishing put her in hot water with her employers, putting her credibility in question and threatening her professional ambitions..

Bitter and angry, Suzanne returns home one day to find an entrepreneur she is investigating, John Edward Sterling, unconscious on her living room floor. Before the night is over, Sterling is dead, she

has his blood on her hands, and the police are arresting her for murder. She needs help to prove her innocence, but her only hope, private investigator Marcus Crisp, is also her ex-fiancĂ©–the man she betrayed in college.

Marcus and his partner Alexandria Fisher-Hawthorne reluctantly agree to take the case, but they won’t cut Suzanne any slack. Exposing her lack of ethics and the lives she’s destroyed in her fight for ratings does little to make them think Suzanne is innocent. But as Marcus digs into the mire of secrets surrounding her enemies, he unveils an alliance well-worth killing for. Now all he has to do is keep Suzanne and Alex alive long enough to prove it.

My thoughts:

Well, when I first started this book I was a bit confused by the cast of characters and their stories - I couldn't quite figure out how they would ever tie together. I didn't have to wonder for long though, and man what a twisted bunch of bad guys Wanda Dyson dreamed up this time! And her main characters were pretty flawed themselves - dealing with a host of problems including family relationships, romantic relationships and unexpected heartache.

By the time I reached the final third of the story, the pace and the tension had mounted exponentially, and I couldn't seem to read fast enough. I would reach a place where I would think, "Oh, finally some resolution!" and oh no! Something else would spring from the shadows and add another twist! If you want a suspenseful tale that will really make you consider the depravity of the human heart, you need to read Wanda Dyson's novels! She's good!

About the Author:

Wanda Dyson
lives on a working horse farm in Maryland, boarding and keeping a menagerie of critters. She is the author of four acclaimed suspense novels including Shepherd’s Fall and the co-author of Why I Jumped, the true story of Tina Zahn.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Friend in the Storm by Cheryl Ricker - Review and a Contest Opportunity!

About A Friend in the Storm:

This ninety-six page gift-book combines heartfelt poetry with powerful quotes and Scripture verses to speak to the heart and soul of anyone going through difficult times. The beautiful fabric binding with foil stamping makes this the perfect gift for anyone seeking comfort.

Author Cheryl Ricker reaches into the depths of human suffering from the perspective of Christ speaking to the reader in soothing poetic words.

This elegant gift book will reach the heart and soul of anyone facing difficult circumstances, leading them through their suffering into the arms of a faithful loving God.

Each two-page spread includes a poem, as well as reflections written by Christian leaders, along with healing Scripture verses.

My Thoughts:
I'll be honest, when I first received this book I sort of put it to the side. By the time the Lord had me pick it up to prepare for my post, I was in desperate need of the comfort found among its pages. Friend, if you want to feel God's love, to know that He cares even when your circumstances would lead to to feel otherwise, please pick up a copy of this very special book right now! Share a copy with a friend! This is a very comforting book that is filled with the goodness of God's love and His tender care for His children! Most excellent!

About Cheryl Ricker: Cheryl Ricker has a degree in creative writing and has written columns and articles for various magazines and newspapers. She's been writing poetry all her life and her poems have won awards in fine arts and literary magazines. Cheryl lives with her husband and two sons in Rochester, Minnesota

Cheryl Ricker is hosting this great contest over at her website during the blog tour for A Friend in the Storm, Zondervan’s latest innovative gift book of quotes, Scripture and poetry that leads to lasting hope!

Since this book covers matters of the heart, Cheryl wants to hear from YOUR heart! In the midst of any type of loss, grief or crisis, A Friend in the Storm takes you on a healing journey where you experience Christ’s love in a fresh, memorable way. Now she invites you to submit an original poem, story or snippet about a time when someone was a friend in your storm… and she's giving you the opportunity to win a KINDLE to do it!

Head on over to her Contest Page on her website to find out how to enter!

On October 3rd, she will randomly select one winner to receive a brand-new KINDLE! She's also choosing 5 more names at random to receive a signed copy of A Friend in the Storm! The winners will be announced at her Facebook Party on October 4th. The party will take place on Cheryl's Facebook "A Friend in the Storm" Page - go here for all the details.

Share Your Storm Kindle GiveawayThe Facebook Party will be a blast! Not only will she be announcing the
Share Your Storm Kindle Giveaway winners, but she'll also be chatting with party goers, hosting fun trivia contests, and giving away even more prizes every 10 minutes – including signed copies of A Friend in the Storm, and gift certificates to and!

Oh, and check this out - Cheryl is also giving away a $50 Amazon gift certificate! Simply help her spread the word about the contest; Facebook Party. Interested? It’s easy to enter! Here’s how:

Share this on FACEBOOK: Want to help someone who’s hurting? “A Friend in the Storm,” Zondervan’s latest gift book of quotes, Scripture and poetry, is helping thousands find lasting Hope! Go here to enter to win a KINDLE!

Post this on TWITTER: A Friend in the Storm by @cherylricker heals hearts in tough times. Enter 2 win a KINDLE here! #litfuse (You must use hashtag #litfuse to be entered.)

Share this as many times as you like – just email by October 4th and let her know how many times you tweeted/shared on Facebook, twittered or blogged about the contest. Each ‘sharing’ represents one entry into the contest.

Another way to ‘share’ the contest is to add this button to your blog or website. Adding the button is worth ten entries into the contest!

Simply copy and paste the code in the text box below into the html screen of your blog/website, then send Amy an email letting her know that you added it along with your URL and she’ll toss your extra entries into the pot.

Share Your Storm Kindle Giveaway

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Opportunity to share good stories! Check it out!

Moody Fiction has a blog site where they post recent releases, author interviews, and other exciting events in Christian Fiction. They even include guest posts from just regular folks and bloggers - like me! I'd like you to stop by for a visit today and check out my guest post about the opportunity that I've had to use Christian Fiction to minister to ladies in a local rehab facility in my home town! You just never know what God is up to in the lives of others, so take every opportunity to reach others...even if it means sharing a good story!

You can go HERE to read my article!

A View from Delia Parr's Window - Love's First Bloom & GIVE AWAY!

It is a real privilege to welcome Delia Parr to my Window! Her stories always reach my heart in a special way, and I was so excited that she was able to take the time to talk about her latest book, Love's First Bloom!

I hope you will take some time and introduce yourself this this fabulous writer and her stories! Please welcome Delia Parr to my Window!

"There are no real coincidences in life for those with faith strong enough to recognize coincidences for what they really are: intricate pieces of the providential design God created for each of our lives.” (p. 312)

This truth, quoted from page 312 of your novel, seems so hard to grasp in the lives of many believers. Why do you think this is so? What allowed you to embrace this truth in your own life?

Ii think it's easy to get caught up in the drama of real life -- drama that sometimes distracts us and yanks us away from our faith. The older I get, the more I have come to reflect back on my life and see that what I once thought were mere coincidences or "accidents" of fate turned out to be paths that I was meant to walk with lessons I needed to learn. As a four-time cancer survivor, my faith has done more than sustain me. It has given me an anchor that keeps me steady and freed me to embrace His will rather than my own. I know now that whatever happens in my life is all part of His plan for me - a plan that is always perfect.

Ruth is the daughter of a minister wrongly accused of a horrible crime. Where did you get your inspiration for her character? Was there really a ministry similar to her father’s back in the early 1800’s?

In fact, there was! There were a number of ministers in New York City, and elsewhere I presume, who worked with prostitutes to help them to return to the faith they had abandoned. There was one particular minister who actually did visit the brothels and I patterned Ruth's father after him. His ministry made me wonder what it would have been like for his family, and that's when my imagination created Ruth.

What research was required to create Elias Garner’s chosen profession of pharmacist during that time period? What did you learn about medicine in your research?

I have lots of history books, and I rely on the internet to help fill in the gaps. While most families relied on the women to provide healing herbs and potions, as the 19th century progressed and urbanization spread, more and more families relied on pharmacists (mostly male) to provide the medicines they needed. Medicine gradually became dominated by men until we saw the pendulum swing back starting in the 1960s.

Jake’s profession as a newspaper reporter seemed very realistic as well. Were newspapers, or dailies as they are termed in the story, really that competitive? Has the new industry always been so unscrupulous?

The penny press of the early 19th century made the "news" available to the masses, and they relied on salacious stories to sell their newspapers. Just as we have the paparazzi now, they did have reporters then who looked in windows and toured crime scene to print the horrid details as "news." The history of tabloid journalism really does date back to this time period. Since they were very limited to what they could print in books, some journalists used the daily newspapers instead and justified their coverage as "news." They were highly competitive, just like the tabloids today, and I see very real connections between the two.

Another character that is deliciously realistic is darling Lily! Why did you choose to “burden” Ruth with such precious cargo on her journey? Weren’t the circumstances under which she left New York burden enough?

I think Ruth needed to know, first-hand, that her father's work was truly important. Ruth felt a little overlooked, I think, because her father was so committed to his ministry. Having Lily with her made her realize how important her father's work really was ... before she even knew who Lily was. Lily gave Ruth the opportunity to grow, too, and make her more faith-filled.

Without spoiling the significance of the sea shell in the story, is the article quoted within the novel real or imagined? If real, how did you discover it? If imagined, what was your inspiration for the allegory? I LOVED it!!

Thank you. The sea shell story is one I created, but it was a pure gift from God. I was walking on the beach in the morning, praying before I started to write (I do that every day in the summer) when the allegory came to me. I don't think I'll ever see a sea shell again that I don't think of the story and how blessed I was that God inspired me to write it.

What project has you currently engaged now that Love’s First Bloom is published?

I've just finished Hidden Affections which should be released some time next year. I'm very excited about this new story!

Over the winter, I'll be outlining my next book, too, so I'm keeping busy.

What exciting things is God doing in your life right now? Did He strengthen your own faith as you told Ruth’s story?

Right now, I'm waiting for my new granddaughter who will be born any day now, and I'm so excited that God has blessed us with this new baby girl. He's also helping me prepare to retire from teaching in early 2012 after 25 years, and I'm expecting that He will help me to find ways to serve Him during retirement. I do intend to keep writing, but there are some volunteer opportunities I'm anxious to explore. I can't wait to see where He leads me!

Closing word of encouragement you’d like to leave with your readers?

God loves you so much. Never underestimate His ability to surprise you!

I have an extra copy of Love's First Bloom to give away! Please leave a comment and your contact information to be entered to win this fabulous story!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love's First Bloom by Delia Parr - REVIEWED

“The path God chooses for each of us to follow isn’t always an easy one, but we all have to decide whether or not we’re willing to trust in His wisdom and embrace His will.” (p. 10)

Ruth Livingston’s heart was breaking as she heard her father speak these words of wisdom to her. Her faith struggled to grasp how the Lord could allow one of his faithful followers to be so wrongly accused, much less why she would be asked to take on an unsavory past as a disguise among people who loved the Lord as she did. The future did indeed look bleak for Ruth and her young charge, Lily, a precocious toddler for whom Ruth was to care for in the days ahead. Yet she was willing to trust God with her future even though she barely understood her present circumstances.

Jake Spencer was a man who couldn’t quite come to terms with his present circumstances either. Past mistakes had robbed him of his livelihood and his relationship with his only sibling. When he returns to New York to try to make amends with his brother, he is tasked to do something both challenging and intriguing – to find the daughter of the man accused of murdering one of the city’s “fallen angels”. Willing to do anything to regain ownership of his family’s newspaper, Jake travels to a small town in New Jersey on little more than a hunch. What he discovers there is something that will prove to be far more challenging than finding the woman every reporter in the nation was seeking.

Delia Parr has written a beautiful story that captures the essence of what it means to submit to the will of God. While none of her readers will probably find themselves embroiled in the intrigue of Ruth Livingston’s life, they will certainly find themselves – eventually – facing uncertain circumstances that will require them to trust God completely. Ruth and Lily quickly endear themselves to the reader as do the Elias and Phanaby Garner – the couple who take them in at the request of Ruth’s father. There are many colorful characters in the New Jersey town where Ruth resides, among them the mysterious man, Jake Spencer, who inhabits the small cabin on the edge of town. Page by page, event by event, this story unfolds to reveal a complex set of circumstances that will have far reaching effect on many characters in the story. The outcome is almost as uncertain as the events which created Ruth’s need to become, more or less, a fugitive in plain sight.

I was completely enthralled by this story, and I think you will be too! There are realistic life lessons to be learned among the pages of this novel, and precious truth about the providence of God among the events of the life of every believer. I am thrilled to recommend this novel to you!

Please come back tomorrow to see what Delia Parr has to say about her latest book! Be prepared for a blessing!

About the Author:

Delia Parr, pen name for Mary Lechleidner, is the author of 10 historical novels and the winner of several awards, including the Laurel Wreath Award for Historical Romance and the Aspen Gold Award for Best Inspirational Book. She is a full-time high school teacher who spends her summer vacations writing and kayaking. The mother of three grown children, she lives in Collingswood, New Jersey. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Very Private Grave by Donna Fletcher Crow - brief review

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:

A Very Private Grave (Book 1: The Monastery Murders)

Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Donna Fletcher Crow for sending me a review copy.***


Donna Fletcher Crow is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, primarily novels dealing with British history.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249681
ISBN-13: 978-1854249685

My Thoughts:
I didn't have as much time as I thought to devout to this book, but I can tell you this - it's very interesting! This is set in a contemporary setting, but the main characters really have to understand the events of the past - almost to the point of re-enacting them (in their minds at least) - to grasp the significance of the events unfolding around them. The events? Oh, just a few very disturbing murders!

So, slowly and methodically the clues reveal themselves, but alas! The bad guy remains difficult to identify! Ms. Crow actually sends the reader on a pretty good mental goose-chase before she ever reveals who has committed these deeds and what motivation they had to do so. You also get a pretty realistic look at someone who is basically agnostic gaining a rather dramatic lesson in how God works in our lives in very unexpected ways.

This is the first in a series of monastery murders, and I will look forward to meeting Donna Crow again on the pages of her next novel! If you enjoy a classic who dunnit mystery, check this out!


Felicity flung her history book against the wall. She wasn’t studying for the priesthood to learn about ancient saints. She wanted to bring justice to this screwed-up world. Children were starving in Africa, war was ravaging the Middle East, women everywhere were treated as inferiors. Even here in England—

She stopped her internal rant when she realized the crash of her book had obscured the knock at her door. Reluctantly she picked up the book, noting with satisfaction the smudge it had left on the wall, and went into the hall. Her groan wasn’t entirely internal when she made out the black cassock and grey scapular of her caller through the glass panel of the door. She couldn’t have been in less of a mood to see one of the long-faced monks who ran the College of the Transfiguration which she had chosen to attend in a moment of temporary insanity. She jerked the door open with a bang.

“Father Dominic!” Felicity was immediately sorry for her surly mood. Fr. Dominic was an entirely different matter. She was always happy to see him. “I didn’t realize you were back from your pilgrimage.” She held the door wide for him as he limped down the hall to her living room.

“Just returned, my dear. Just returned.” As he spoke he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes that belied his 85 years, but he couldn’t quite suppress a small sigh as he lowered himself stiffly onto her sofa.

“I’ll put the kettle on.” Felicity turned toward her small kitchen. “I’m so sorry I don’t have any scones.”

“No, no. Just tea today— black.”

She looked at him, puzzled for a moment, then remembered. Oh, yes— today was Ash Wednesday. Solemn fast and all that. Felicity mentally rolled her eyes as she filled the kettle with water and clicked it on.

A few minutes later she filled his cup with a steaming, amber stream of his favorite Yorkshire Gold tea. The Community had a year or two ago started serving a cheaper blend of tea and donating the money saved thereby to the African Children’s Fund Fr. Dominic chaired— a worthy cause, but the tea was dreadful.

He raised his cup, “Oh, who could ask for more? The nectar of the gods.” Still, she knew he was missing her scones for which he sometimes provided little jars of quince jam from the community kitchen. And at Christmas he had brought her favorite— slices of dark, rich fruit cake encased in marzipan an inch thick.

And yet today she wondered if he noticed what he was or wasn’t eating at all, he was so animated with his plans for the major funding drive the Children’s Fund was set to launch. “If one puts together abortion, infant mortality, AIDS and traumatic deaths, South Africa’s daily death toll is appalling. Thousands die in a matter of months. If this were a war, such troop causalities would not be acceptable. The entire future of that nation— the whole continent, really— is at stake. They simply cannot afford to lose so many of their people— especially the children who are the future. If you don’t maintain health and keep order, instability, violence and poverty tear a country apart.”

Felicity nodded vigorously. Yes, this was more like it. This was what she wanted to hear about, not some useless church history nonsense. Fr. Dominic had spent his life working in South Africa, and today his passion made every word strike her heart. “And it isn’t just South Africa, the rest of the continent looks to them— to us— for stability. If South Africa fails, millions of Africans will curse us— we who stand by and let it happen.”

Still, there was hope, Dominic had talked to key people while on pilgrimage and had secured a source for a vast amount for the fund, although he didn't say what that source was. “This will be enough to build a first rate hospital for AIDS babies in Africa and fund a research wing for prevention and cure. There are good leaders in the government. There are people working for justice. If we can just give the people hope to hold on— "

His eyes took on a dreamy look and a little smile played around his mouth. "Hope. That’s what it’s always been about. Through the centuries . . . At last, the treasure to be put to a truly worthy use. . ." He ducked his head and took a quick sip of tea. “Forgive me, I’ve said too much.” He became suddenly thoughtful and lapsed into a most uncharacteristic silence. All Felicity’s best efforts couldn’t coax any more stories from him. Perhaps it was just the solemnity of the day, but Felicity did miss his stories— even the ones she had heard multiple times.

He drained his cup and set it down. “Ah, thank you my dear. Always a pleasure to be in your bright company. But now I must be getting back up the hill. Father Superior has asked me to do the ashing at mass, so I must prepare.” He struggled to his feet, his broad-shouldered, once-muscular frame revealing gauntness under the weight of his black woolen cassock, as did the folds of flesh that hung beneath his square jaw.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” he patted the canvas scrip which hung at his side from a strap slung across his chest. “I thought this might interest you.” He held out a small parcel wrapped in brown paper and tied up with old-fashioned string. His hand shook ever so slightly as Felicity took it from him. The gesture was so endearing: his shyness charming; his eagerness humbling. If the circumstances had been vastly different he could have been a suitor offering jewels to his beloved, or perhaps in an earlier age a troubadour bestowing an ode to his lady. And oddly enough, Felicity had the distinct impression that he hadn’t at all forgotten, but rather that delivering this small package had been the sole object of his visit. One might almost say his mission.

Felicity couldn’t help herself. She stepped forward and kissed him on his cheek. “Thank you, Father.”

Unexpectedly he placed his hands on each side of her forehead. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.” She felt a warmth from his hands that infused her whole head and radiated toward her body as if she were being bathed in warm oil. She almost fancied a faint scent of spice as he made the sign of the cross over her.

Moving inside a bubble of hushed awe, she held the door for him and he walked out slowly, as if reluctant to leave, stepping carefully to avoid limping. “I’ll see you at mass, Father.”

She shut the door behind him and turned to the window to watch his slow progress down the uneven sidewalk, his grey scapular blowing in the wind. Somehow she wanted to call out to him, to cling to the moment, but already it was passing, the normality of the day moving in on a holy moment. Yet even as she turned away from the window, the warmth of his touch remained on her head. She turned back one last time, her hand held out to him, but no one was there. Only a fleeting shadow brushed the corner of her eye. She shivered, but when she blinked the sky was clear.

"Right. Back to the real world." Felicity spoke aloud to make herself focus. She looked longingly at the small brown package in her hand. It felt like a book. A very slim volume. Had Father D. found a publisher for his poetry? Her fingers plucked at the string. No. If this was a collection of her friend’s poetry perusing it must not be rushed. Reading it would be her treat when she finished the work she had set for herself for the day. Lectures had been cancelled to mark the solemnity, but essays would still be due when they were due. With a sigh she slipped the gift into one of the copious patch pockets of her skirt and returned to the tome on the Anglo-Saxon church Fr. Antony had assigned, forcing herself to concentrate on its obscure irrelevancies.

That had been the hardest thing she had found about adjusting to her first year at theological college— the constant pressure for work, the lack of time to pursue her own interests— and that in a monastery, even. You really would think, living with a bunch of monks and future priests you'd have all the time in the world. Felicity shook her head.

And besides that, there was no margin for error on her part. As one of only four women among the student body of forty-some— and the only American— Felicity felt a double burden to reach the highest standards possible. This was the first year the Anglo-Catholic College of the Transfiguration had accepted women as ordinands, although they were still housed off campus awaiting alterations to the dormitories. Before "the Great Change" a few women enrolled as students, but were not allowed equal status with the male ordinands. Last year, however, the college had submitted to the winds of change and the powers that be, so now the women had full status— and double pressure.

Felicity, however was never one to let such barriers discourage her. She could rise to any challenge and her determination to succeed in this male-dominated world knew no limits. Anyway, she had few complaints. She had been warmly welcomed— by most. A handful of ordinands and perhaps two or three of the monks or lay teachers were less warm— whether because she was female or because she was American she wasn’t sure.

Two hours later the insistent ringing of the community bell called her back from her reading just in time to fling a long black cassock on over her shetland sweater and dash across the street and up the hill to the Community grounds. Her long legs carried her the distance in under three minutes— she had timed it once. Once inside the high stone wall enclosing the Community she slowed her pace. It never failed. No matter how irritated she became with all the ancient ritual and nonsense of the place, there was something about the storybook quality of it all that got through to her in her quieter moments.

The spicy scent of incense met her at the door of the church. She dipped her finger in the bowl of holy water and turned to share it with the brother just behind her. Shy Br. Matthew extended a plump finger without meeting her eyes. They each crossed themselves and slipped into their seats in the choir.

“Miserere mei, Deus. . .” The choir and cantors had practiced for weeks to be able to sing Psalm 51 to the haunting melody composed by Allegri. The words ascended to the vaulted ceiling; the echoes reverberated. Candles flickered in the shadowed corners. She had been here for six months— long enough for the uniqueness of it all to have palled to boredom— but somehow there was a fascination she couldn't define. “Mystery,” the monks would tell her. And she could do no better.

What was the right term to describe how she was living? Counter-cultural existence? Alternate lifestyle? She pondered for a moment, then smiled. Parallel universe. That was it. She was definitely living in a parallel universe. The rest of the world was out there, going about its everyday life, with no idea that this world existed alongside of it.

It was a wonderful, cozy, secretive feeling as she thought of bankers and shopkeepers rushing home after a busy day, mothers preparing dinner for hungry school children, farmers milking their cows— all over this little green island the workaday world hummed along to the pace of modern life. And here she was on a verdant hillside in Yorkshire living a life hardly anyone knew even existed. Harry Potter. It was a very Harry Potter experience.

She forced her attention back to the penitential service with its weighty readings, somber plainchant responses, and minor key music set against purple vestments. Only when they came to the blessing of the ashes did she realize Fr. Dominic wasn’t in his usual place. Her disappointment was sharp. He had definitely said he was to do the imposition of the ashes and she had felt receiving the ashen cross on her forehead from that dear man would give the ancient ritual added meaning. Instead, Fr. Antony, one of the secular priests who lectured at the college, not even one of the monastic community, stood to hold the small pot of palm ashes while Fr. Anselm, the Superior of the Community, blessed them with holy water and incense.

Felicity knelt at the altar rail, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes were cold, a sooty mark of grief, gritty on her forehead.

“Amen,” she responded automatically.

She was back in her seat, turning ahead to the final hymn, “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” when she heard the soft slapping of sandals on the stone floor. Oh, there’s Fr. Dominic. She relaxed at the thought, putting away her worries that he had been taken suddenly ill. But her relief was short-lived when Fr. Clement, the Principal of the college, and Jonathan Breen, a scholar making a retreat at the monastery, slipped to the altar for their ashes.

The final notes of the postlude were still echoing high overhead when Felicity rose from her seat and hurried outside. Dinner, a vegetarian Lenten meal, would start in the refectory almost immediately and it wouldn’t do to be late. If she hurried, though, she could just dash back to her flat and pick up a book of Latin poetry for Fr. Dominic. She had a new volume of Horace, and she knew Fr. D loved the Roman's half Stoic, half Epicurean philosophy. He would have time to enjoy what he called his “guilty pleasure” while he recuperated from his indisposition.

She bounded up the single flight of stairs, flung open her door and came to a sudden halt. “Oh!” The cry was knocked from her like a punch in the stomach. She couldn’t believe it. She backed against the wall, closing her eyes in the hope that all would right itself when she opened them. It didn’t. The entire flat had been turned upside down.

Felicity stood frozen for perhaps a full minute, trying to take it all in: books pulled from shelves, drawers pulled from her desk, cushions flung from chairs. Hardly breathing, she rushed into her kitchen, bath, bedroom— all chaos— sheets and duvet ripped from her bed, clothes pulled from her wardrobe. She picked her way through scattered papers, dumped files, ripped letters. Dimly she registered that her computer and CD player were still there. Oh, and there was the Horace book still by her bed. She pulled her purse from under a pile of clothes. Empty. But its contents lay nearby. Credit cards and money still there.

Not robbery. So then, what? Why?

Was this an anti-women-clergy thing? Had she underestimated the extent of the resentment? Or was it an anti-American thing? The American president was widely unpopular in England. Had he done something to trigger an anti-American demonstration? Felicity would be the last to know. She never turned on the news.

Well, whatever it was, she would show them. If someone in the college thought they could scare her off by flinging a few books around she’d give them something new to think about. She stormed out, slamming her door hard enough to rattle the glass pane and strode up the hill at twice the speed she had run down it. Not for nothing her years of rigorous exercise at the ballet barre. When she reached the monastery grounds she keyed in the numbers on the security lock with angry jabs and barely waited for the high, black iron gates to swing open before she was speeding up the graveled walk.

Felicity's long blond braid thumped against her back as she charged onward, her mind seething. If those self-righteous prigs who posed as her fellow students thought they could put her off with some sophomoric trick—

She approached the college building, practicing the speech she would deliver to all assembled for dinner in the refectory: “Now listen up, you lot! If you think you can push me around just because your skirts are longer than mine. . .”

She punched a clenched-fist gesture toward her imaginary cassock-clad audience, then saw the Horace book still clutched in her hand. Oh, yes. First things first. She would have missed the opening prayer anyway. She would just run by Father D’s room— then she would tell them.

She hurried on up the path beyond the college to the monastery, ran her swipe card through the lock, and was halfway down the hall before the door clicked shut behind her. She had only been to Dominic’s room once before, to collect a poetry book he was anxious to share with her, but she would have had no trouble locating it, even had the door not been standing ajar.

She pushed it wider, preparing to step in. “Father D— ” she stopped at the sight of a man in a black cassock standing there praying. He jerked around at the sound of her voice and she recognized Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer.

She took a step backward when she saw the look of horror on his sheet-white face. “Felicity. Don’t come in.” He held up a hand to stop her and she saw it was covered with blood.

“Father D! Is he hemorrhaging?” She lunged forward, then stopped at the sight before her.

The whole room seemed covered in blood. Bright red splotches on the pristine white walls and bedding, on the open pages of a prayer book, on the statue of Our Lord, forming lurid stigmata on His hands extended in mercy. . .

And in the center of the floor, in a pool of red, his battered head all but unrecognizable— her beloved Father Dominic. The smell of fresh blood clogged her nostrils. Gorge rose in her throat.

“Felicity— ” Fr. Antony extended his reddened hands to her in a pleading gesture.

“No!” She screamed, wielding her Latin book as a shield against the blood, a red haze of shock and horror clouding her vision.

She couldn’t believe Antony's face could get even whiter. “Felicity, wait. Listen—”

She dimly registered his words, but the voice in her head shouted with far greater force. No! It can’t be. It's a mistake. She was in the wrong room. Must be. She shook her head against the nightmare she had seen yet couldn't accept that she had seen. Blackness rolled toward her.

She staggered backward into the hall and slumped to the floor as the room spun before her. She closed her eyes against the darkness as her mind reeled, groping for a coherent thought. How could this be?

Only a short time ago she had been reveling in the peace of this remote holy place. Where could such violence have come from? How was it possible here? In a place of prayer? To a holy man. Why?

If Fr. Dominic wasn't safe who could be?

And even as the questions tumbled, half-formed through her head, even as her mind denied the act her eyes saw, she knew she had to find an explanation. How could she continue studying— believing in— purpose and justice if such senseless irrationality reigned free?

Focusing on the questions gave her strength to get her feet under her again.

Antony was still standing dazed in the gore-splattered room looking as though he could collapse in the middle of the pool of blood. Felicity grabbed his arm, jerked him into the corridor, and shoved him against the wall where he stayed, leaning heavily. He held his hands before his face as if unbelieving they were his own. “When he missed mass I came to check on him. . . I felt for a pulse— ”

“We must get help!” Felicity looked wildly around.

“Yes, of course.” Her energy seemed to galvanize Antony. He pushed himself forward unsteadily. “Forgive me, I feel so stupid. It was the horror. I— we must tell the Superior. He’ll call the police.”

“Police? You mean an ambulance.” Felicity started toward the room again. Yes, that was it— how could she have dithered so when they must get help. “He’s lost so much blood, but maybe—”

“No!” Antony gripped her shoulder with more strength than she realized he was capable of. “Don’t go in there again, Felicity. It’s useless.”

She knew. She had seen the blood.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's a Giveaway Extravaganza! Kindle Giveaway, Facebook Party and Book Bomb - OH MY!

It's a Giveaway Extravaganza! Kindle Giveaway, Facebook Party and Book Bomb - OH MY!

Visit the Roaring 20’s with Julie Lessman in the Technology and Romance KINDLE Giveaway! Julie’s latest series has just ‘shimmied’ it’s way onto the scene with book 1 in The Winds of Change series, A Hope Undaunted!

Find out more about the book, Julie here.

Enter The Technology and Romance KINDLE Giveaway!

One Grand Prize winner will receive a KINDLE preloaded with Julie Lessman's latest title. The Prize Pack (valued at over $150.00) includes:

* A brand new KINDLE, with Wi-Fi

* A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman

To enter, simply click on the icons below to fill out the entry form and be sure to tell your friends about the contest.

Oh, and enter soon! Winner will be announced on October 7th.

Not only is Julie hosting the fabulous KINDLE giveaway, but also a FACEBOOK PARTY and a BOOK BOMB!!!

Are you ready for PRIZES GALORE??? Then come to the Facebook Party!

How does a gift certificate and a signed book given away EVERY 10 minutes during an hour-long Facebook party sound? (Yeah, we think it sounds pretty great too!) On October 7th at 5pm PST (6:00 MST, 7:00 CST, & 8:00 EST) Julie is inviting you to attend the A Hope Undaunted Facebook Party! She'll announce the winner of the KINDLE and in addition to the prizes every 10 minutes, she'll also be giving away great prize baskets filled with even more Romance and Technology (Netflix, Starbucks,, Champagne body Lotion, Pearls, & more!)!

BUT WAIT … there’s more (and no, this is not an infomercial … it’s WAY better!). If you participate in the Book Bomb on October 7th you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to All you need to do to participate is buy a copy of A Hope Undaunted on October 7th and send your receipt (just transaction number from store, store name & date) to! Each book purchased equals one entry, buy 10 books get 10 entries!

All this fun begins with Revell’s blog tour SEPTEMBER 19-25, when 122 blogger/reviewers will post reviews about A Hope Undaunted, followed by the Book Bomb and Facebook Party!

So mark your calendars with these important dates:
September 19-25: A Hope Undaunted will be making an appearance on blogs across the country (and beyond!) in Revell's blog tour!

September 20th: The Technology and Romance KINDLE Giveaway launches (contest runs 9/20 - 10/6)

October 7th: Book Bomb Day (where everyone is encouraged to buy the book online at the same time!) and Facebook Party - meet and chat with Julie, win some great prizes & find out who won the KINDLE!

Want to help us spread the word about all this fun and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate?

Share Julie's Giveaway Extravaganza on Facebook, Twitter or your blog and we'll enter your name into our random drawing to win 50 smackers to!

Once you've tweeted, posted on Facebok or added the button to your blog/website - simple email Amy and let her know you helped spread the word. Easy.

Here is a sample post for both Twitter/Facebook:

Tweet This: @JulieLessman is giving away a KINDLE and tons more during her giveaway extravaganza! Details here: Pls RT

Share on Facebook: Julie Lessman is celebrating her new release, A Hope Undaunted by giving away a KINDLE, having a Book Bomb and a Facebook Party! Prizes Galore - don't miss the fun!

Or add this button to your blog or website! Simply copy and paste the code in the box into the HTML screen of your blog or website. Then email Amy and let her know you did!

A Hope Undaunted Facebook Party

A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the pubisher)

What happens when the boy she loved to hate becomes the man she hates to love?

The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O'Connor is the epitome of the new woman--smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband--good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Luke McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face-to-face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?

My Thoughts:

And if I’ve learned anything from painful experience, Katie, it’s that God’s will is the path to my ultimate happiness…and yours.” (p. 57)

Oh that the second generations of the O’Conner clan would learn from others’ experience! Katie O’Conner isn’t wise enough in her own strength to do such a thing though, so she is destined to have her own painful teaching experiences – the hard way. Katie has her life mapped out – or so she thinks – when all of the sudden she finds herself facing a summer of unusual punishment. Katie’s dad – and we ALL remember Patrick O’Conner do we not? – uses his parental wisdom to protect his daughter from her own destructive behavior. Meanwhile, God is moving people and circumstances – time and opportunity – like so many pieces of a chess game, and Katie finds herself in the ultimate check-mate of God’s love!

Julie Lessman is quite masterful at creating a multi-layered and complex plot within her stories. Once again, she delves into the complexities of the close-knit O’Connor family. This time she inserts Cluny McGee (Luke McGee now!) in the midst of life’s circumstances, and it isn’t long before trouble surfaces. Katie’s world is rocked to its core as she is re-introduced to this character from her childhood and forced to come face to face with the reality of her own self-will and the desire to order her own steps as she enters adulthood.

A Hope Undaunted touches on some pretty universal truths about the human spirit and the natural state of rebellion that exists between an unredeemed heart and a merciful God. Lessman explores friendships, family relationships and romance as only Julie can. Yes, there is a healthy dose of passion that exists throughout the story, but truly it is written well within the realm of reality and only serves to add depth and meaning to the relationships in the story.

It’s hard to adequately sum up this story without giving away key plot twists – and there are MANY! The early 30’s provides a tumultuous backdrop to Julie’s story. The O’Connor family feels the effects of this tumult in mighty and personal ways. The storm extends into the lives of all of her characters and reaches to many emotional levels. Personal faith is challenged, changed and tried by fire, and the results are both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. The end result is satisfying indeed!

A Hope Undaunted begins the Winds of Change series, and it looks like Julie Lessman has great changes in store for her readers! So delve in, my friend, and enjoy a passionate story of God’s mighty love!

About the Author:

Julie Lessman is the author of A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Lessman has garnered several writing awards, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She lives in Missouri.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer - with my comments

About the Book: (from the publisher)

Three best friends, three cherished dreams, three searching hearts...

As three friends who grew up in the same orphanage head off to college together, they each harbor a special plan for the future. Libby Conley hopes to become a famous journalist. Pete Leidig believes God has called him to study to become a minister. And Bennett Martin plans to pledge a fraternity, find a place to belong, and have as much fun as possible. But as tensions rise around the world on the brink of World War I, the friends' differing aspirations and opinions begin to divide them, as well.

When Libby makes a shocking discovery about Pete's family, will it drive a final wedge between the friends or bond them in ways they never anticipated?

My Thoughts:

Okay readers, life has sort of interrupted, and I haven't finished reading this one yet. However, this has an awesome story line that promises to be very fulfilling. So far, the main characters are really tugging on my heart strings! To be an orphan is something I really can't comprehend, and it really does present some very real emotional challenges. Libby, Pete and Bennett all have unique challenges in their lives, not the least of which is that the U.S is about to be plunged into the first World War!!

Kim Vogel Sawyer is a very talented author, and I've never read one of her books that wasn't immensely satisfying. I'm looking forward to completing this one! I'm sorry I haven't got this finished in time for the tour, but so far - it's GOOD!!

You can read some of my other reviews of Kim's work HERE and HERE.

About the Author:

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren. She invites you to visit her Web site at for more information.