Friday, May 27, 2011

Unbridled Hope by Loree Lough

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:

Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Loree Lough is a well-known, beloved Christian romance writer with nearly three million books in circulation. She's released 78 books, including one that's been optioned for a TV movie, 68 short stories, and over 2,500 articles. A tireless advocate of Christian fiction, she's recognized as a leader in the genre and spends time mentoring aspiring writers. She's also a sought-after speaker who encourages audiences with her comedic learned-the-hard-way lessons about writing and life. Loree and her husband Larry have four daughters and seven grandchildren. They split their time between Baltimore and their cabin in the Allegheny Mountains. An avid advocate for endangered species, Loree supports The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania and other worthy causes close to her heart including The Wounded Warriors Project and The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Callie Roberts' life is turned upside down when her parents, older brother, and fiancé are killed in a steamboat boiler explosion that leaves her younger brother deaf. Callie survives with a scar from cheek to chin that serves as a daily haunting reminder of the tragedy for which she's partly to blame. Hoping to put the past behind her, Callie moves to Eagle Pass, Texas, launches a successful business, and meets local rancher Micah Neville who is embroiled in a different kind of family drama. In an attempt to protect his cousin's honor, Micah returns from what he told others was a business trip to San Antonio, with a baby boy in tow. He handles the gossip just fine, especially when Callie volunteers to help -- and manages to capture his heart.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742271
ISBN-13: 978-1603742276

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

December 1887

On the Brazos River near Sweetwater, Texas

Raw, unrelenting wind whistled across the deck boards, scattering newspapers and rattling the cleats as the steamboat chugged toward its next major stop, Clear Fork. Callie cupped her elbows, wishing she’d thought to grab her shawl. She’d never liked weather like this, for it reminded her too much of the bitter Baltimore winter of ’85 that had nearly killed her mother and had prompted her father’s decision to move the family west. Ever since, Callie had begun every day with a prayer for her mother and ended by asking God to ease the ache of homesickness.

In time, the Lord had answered her first prayer, restoring her mother to robust health. The second He’d granted in the form of a young seminary graduate who’d been hired to entertain guests with the soothing sonatas of Beethoven and Bach. And, just as the sunshine dispels the nippy mists from the river, the music of Seth’s love had turned her longing for Maryland into a dim yet melodious memory.

Tonight, her beloved beau would give his final performance for the tycoons, high rollers, and politicians who gathered nightly in the grand salon. His final because, in twelve short hours, Callie’s father, a chaplain and owner of the Maybelline, would pronounce him and Callie man and wife.

Heart throbbing with hope and excitement, she hurried toward the jackstay, the secret meeting place where Seth had first confessed his love. Her fingers throbbed, too, from sewing fifty-two satin-covered buttons up the back of her full-skirted gown and from attaching a feathered headdress to her long, lacy veil. Callie smiled, knowing the discomfort would vanish the instant she saw Seth smiling at her from the makeshift altar where he would become her husband.

Sadly, the gown would not fit inside her valise. What a pity she wouldn’t be able to save her beautiful dress for the daughters she and Seth might have! She imagined a bright-eyed young woman with her papa’s dark eyes and her mama’s diminutive stature, walking down the center aisle toward her intended in the little church in Eagle Pass, Texas, where Seth’s dream of shepherding a flock of his own would come true, and he would eventually unite his own daughter with her soul mate.

Still, she took comfort in knowing that her hours of hard work had not been in vain. She said a little prayer for the senator’s wife, who’d agreed to pay a handsome sum for the gown and veil—and for Callie’s eternal silence. “Lord, help the poor woman keep secret the fact that her daughter will be married in a used—”

“Talking to yourself again?”

She stifled a tiny squeal. “Jonah Everett Roberts, you frightened me half to death!” How a boy of her brother’s height and weight managed to sneak up on her at least once a day, she’d never know. Raising one eyebrow, she rested a fist on her hip. “Say, what are you doing out here, anyway? Didn’t I hear Papa ask you to sweep out the saloon?”

He frowned. “I’m waiting for the green flash,” he said, taking a bite of an apple.

Not that again, she thought. “Well,” she said on a sigh, “if that’s the cause for the holdup, you’ll never get the job done, because the sun went down more than an hour ago.”

“Humpf. Leave it to little miss stick-in-the-mud to spoil the moment for a boy.”

“Boy, indeed. Papa says when he was sixteen, he worked as hard as any man on the family farm, and that his folks never had to remind him to do his chores.”

Jonah swallowed a mouthful of fruit. “Yeah, and he also says that if I’m patient, I’ll see the green flash, eventually.”

Callie couldn’t count the number of times she’d heard the same assurance. In fact, she’d heard so much about the elusive emerald flare, which was visible only under precise atmospheric conditions as the sun disappeared into the horizon, that she’d wished a time or two for the patience to believe in the phenomenon, herself.

But wishing wouldn’t get her any closer to the jackstay and her darling Seth. “Your tactic might work on Mama and Tim,” she said, giving his shoulder a playful shove, “but I see it for what it is: a ‘clever’ way to shirk your responsibility—”

A thunderous roar set the deck to quaking beneath their feet. Please, Lord, not the boilers! she thought as a second deafening blast threw her and Jonah to the floor. Instinct made her grab his collar and drag him under a heavy table, where she covered their heads with a tablecloth. Shards of glass and splinters of wood rained down as a third explosion rocked the steamer.

Choking smoke closed in around them as flecks of glowing ash floated down like fiery snowflakes. With its shallow keel and inch-thin hull, the Maybelline’s flimsy design assured swift river travel—and guaranteed that it would sink swiftly, too.

If that happened, it would be her fault.

If only she’d stoked the boilers like she was supposed to, instead of handing the job over to Tim! She’d seen the vacant “I don’t understand” stare in her older brother’s eyes enough times to recognize it for what it was, yet she’d ignored it to gain a few minutes more with Seth.

Callie scrambled forward with one objective: to make sure that Tim, her parents, and her beloved Seth had survived.

“Wait!” Jonah hollered.

“You’re safer right here,” she said, meeting his frightened eyes. “I know you’re scared, Jonah. I’m scared, too.” Using a corner of her apron, she dabbed at the blood dribbling from both of his ears. “But you need to stay here, before you’re hurt even worse.” She gave him a little shake. “If the steamer starts taking on water, I want you to make your way to the riverbank. Once you’re there, find the biggest tree and stay put. Do you understand?”

His confused expression mirrored the one that had long seemed frozen to Tim’s face. But their older brother had been slow from the day he was born, unlike Jonah, who could solve arithmetic problems without the aid of slate and chalk. She blamed Jonah’s expression on fear and scrambled to her feet. Why did both her brothers turn to her for comfort and support, when she was younger than both of them?

On the heels of a frustrated sigh, she scooted out from under the table. “Lord, watch over him,” she prayed as she raced along, darting between rivers of blue-orange fire that snaked and coiled across the deck and dodging the witch-finger flames that flared from each cabin window. When a fierce groan sounded from above, she crooked her elbow to protect her eyes and looked up. The breath caught in her throat when she saw the tallest of the three fat smokestacks teeter as it gave way to the gluttonous fire monster gnawing at its wooden moorings.

Callie barely gathered her wits in time to sidestep it. If only she’d thought to gather her skirts, too. The heel of her boot caught on a fold of muslin, slowing her escape by a mere fraction of a second. She was already falling when a grapefruit-sized lump of glowing coal slammed into her right temple.

“Sweet Jesus,” she prayed as dizziness overwhelmed her “Keep…them all…safe.”

For the second time in as many minutes, her prayer was interrupted, as she slipped into the dark unconscious.

Two years later~October 2, 1889

The Lazy N Ranch, Eagle Pass, Texas

The sweet-smelling envelope was addressed to “M. Neville.” At least, that’s what Micah had thought at first glance. But the message inside the envelope didn’t make a lick of sense. So, he studied the addressee a second time, and a third, before realizing that the fanciful M was, instead, a D. Guilt at reading his cousin’s mail was quickly overshadowed by concern at the nature of the message. Dan had already lived two lifetimes’ worth of misery in his twenty-eight years.

Micah shook his head and said a silent prayer for Dan, who’d shouldered a burden of self-blame ever since his twin sister had died tragically at the age of thirteen, even though nobody held him responsible. Guilt and remorse, along with the whiskey used to numb the emotional pain of his loss and the physical torment of a bum leg suffered in a stampede, had managed to turn the once shy, gentle boy into a man hell-bent on self-destruction and prone to angry brawls. About once a year, Dan had summoned the strength to shake his addiction, but, all too soon, self-loathing would lure him back to the bottle. Fourteen months into the latest stint of sobriety, Micah had begun to notice signs that made him fear things were about to take another ugly turn, but then, praise God, Levee O’Reilly had come to town as the new schoolteacher. She’d taught her students reading, writing, and arithmetic, all the while teaching Dan to value his own life.

The two had married, and their relationship seemed solid and strong. But now, something like this? Micah glared at the single sheet of scented ivory paper on which, with a few well-chosen words, the writer had implied a dozen sinister things, any one of which could start the dominos toppling in Dan’s life yet again.

Slumping onto the edge of his bed, Micah read the letter a fourth time. Maybe he’d underestimated his cousin’s ability to stand strong, even in the face of this woman’s spiteful threats. He had a lot more to live for now, though. Maybe this woman wanted to destroy him, once and for all.

Micah would not take that chance. For one thing, Dan had always been his favorite cousin—a statement in itself, since there were dozens in the Neville clan. For another, Dan had protected him more times than Micah could count. As a youngster, he’d been puny and timid and had spoken with a lisp, just the sort of stuff that invited the taunts of the bigger, older boys. But, without fail, Dan would always put a stop to it.

Eventually, Micah’s front teeth had grown together, eliminating the lisp, and his body had grown, too. At six feet three inches, and with two hundred and twenty pounds of raw muscle, Micah’s size alone would have discouraged any bully. But by the time the Neville men had embarked on the trail drive of ’86, Dan’s determination to defend Micah had become so ingrained that he hadn’t thought twice about maneuvering his horse between his cousin and a bevy of gun-blasting rustlers. Dan had laughed off the bullet in his shoulder in exactly the same way he’d laughed off every swollen knuckle, bloodied lip, and black eye endured to protect Micah. “You’ve done me a favor, cousin,” he’d said, gritting his teeth as Cookie dug out the slug, “because certain ladies like a man with scars!”

Had the author of this letter been one of those ladies?

Micah harrumphed. “A female, maybe, but I’d bet my horse she’s no lady.” Scooting closer to the night table, he turned up the lantern and leaned into the golden light to read those ominous closing lines yet again:

…at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, the fifteenth of October, I will be at the train station in San Antonio, Texas. If you choose not to meet me there, I shall have no alternative but to bring this very urgent matter to the attention of the authorities.

Most sincerely yours,

Pauline Eden Devereaux

“Urgent matter”? A dozen possible scenarios flashed in Micah’s brain, none of them good. Under ordinary circumstances, Dan wouldn’t squash a beetle under his boot, but there was nothing ordinary about the way his personality changed once a few pints of whiskey burned in his veins. If he was drinking when he ran into this woman….

Micah got to his feet and started pacing. He didn’t want to believe that Dan was guilty of any offense. The more likely story, he told himself, was that this Pauline character had gotten wind of how many acres made up the Lazy N Ranch and hoped to weasel a few hundred dollars in exchange for her silence about whatever matter she seemed to believe might interest the authorities. And, since the family never discussed their troubles beyond the closed door of Uncle Matthew’s office, she had no way of knowing how steeply their profits had dropped due to anthrax, weevils, droughts, and storms.

There was only one way to know for sure, and that was to take a trip to San Antonio to meet this femme flimflammer face-to-face. He didn’t know what excuse he’d cook up to put himself there, or how he’d squash her scam, but Micah knew this much: he intended to defend Dan for a change.

My review:
Haven't read this book yet, hoping to read the other two first. I thought it was from another series with a similar name when I ordered it. Looks like a great book, and I have read the author before and liked her books.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Reluctant Detective
Monarch Books (April 30, 2011)
by
Martha Ockley




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Martha Ockley is the pen-name of Rebecca Jenkins. She read history at Oxford University, and spent several years working alongside her father, the Rt. Revd. David Jenkins (Bishop of Durham 1984-94) during the turbulence of the 1980s. She lives in Teesdale in the North East of England where the landscape and history provide the inspiration for her Regency detective, F R Jarrett. Since September 2009 she has been Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Writer in Residence at York St John University. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction. (She should not be confused with a Canadian actor and singer, also called Rebecca Jenkins.)





ABOUT THE BOOK



The Reluctant Detective sees Faith Morgan arriving back in the region of her birth - Winchester in Hampshire. Recently ordained, she had been working as a curate in an Anglican inner-city church. Within an hour of her arrival at Little Worthy, she witnesses the sudden shocking death of a fellow priest during a communion service at St James's. He had been poisoned with a pesticide mixed with the communion wine. The senior police officer who arrives at the scene turns out to be Detective Inspector Ben Shorter, Faith's ex long-term boyfriend.



She is urged by the Bishop to stay on to look after the parish of Little Worthy. As she meets her parishioners she learns some surprising facts about her apparently well loved predecessor, and starts to suspect a motive for his death. And it is she who finally identifies the murderer.



The story gets off to a dramatic start with the previous vicar collapsing as soon as he drank the communion cup, and it holds the interest throughout. There is some romantic interest too. Inspector Ben Shorter starts by sneeringly telling his sergeant, "Ms Morgan is a vicar. One of the ordained," Ben emphasized the word. “She's a card-carrying professional at the touchy-feely stuff.” But he soon starts to feel differently about her again, although she is well aware that he "didn't understand the reality she experienced through her faith. He didn't even recognize its existence. That was the gulf between them." Her own beliefs and doubts are convincingly described, for even she can't help wondering, "What if there is no truth to it?" But for her, as for Pascal before her, it was a gamble worth taking.



If you would like to read the first chapter of The Reluctant Detective, go HERE

My review:
I have not read the book yet. I was looking forward to it, and May got so busy I got behind on my reading, so it is going on vacation with me, and I will try to post my thoughts later. It looks like a great read.

The Trigger by Hon Hoh

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:

Living Impact (May 16, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Hon S. Hoh is a gifted teacher of the Word. He is a minister committed to the calling that God has placed on his life. He began studying the Book of Revelation in Bible college, and he is passionate about reaching people with the truth and love of Christ.

Hoh has been a pastor in Australia for over ten years and is gifted in preaching, teaching, and visionary leadership. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (Psychology), the Swinburne Institute of Technology, the Bible College of Victoria, and the Harvest Bible College (M.A. Ministry). Hoh worked in the field of social welfare prior to entering pastoral ministries.

Hoh is the author of Risen Lamb, Empowered Saints: The Book of Revelation Made Easy (Maryland: McDougal Publishing, 2002). His latest book, The Trigger: A Novel on the Revelation, is based closely on the theology expressed in his first book.
Hoh is the founder and executive director of Living Impact Inc, a non-denominational Christian ministry with an emphasis on global missions. He founded the ministry to help fulfil the Great Commission in reaching some of the poorest and most unevangelized peoples of the world. Living Impact started at the turn of the century, in 1999.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Do each of us play a role in the kingdom of God? Can the choices we make affect God’s timing of future events? Hon Hoh examines these questions while taking his readers on a riveting adventure in The Trigger: A Novel on the Revelation. Through twists and turns, readers will be led on a powerful journey.

The Trigger follows three individuals (a pastor, a spy, and a missionary) from three continents (the United States, China, and Australia) who find their lives merged in a single divine purpose: to win the last unreached people group on earth and usher in the Second Coming of Christ. They must succeed in order to release the trigger for the return of the Lamb as declared in Matthew 24:14.

In their way stands a legion of demonic principalities intent on destroying the plan. Against the backdrop of unprecedented persecution and the onslaught of cataclysmic events, they must remain steadfast in order to carry out the priority revealed to them by God. It is evident that no believer will escape the greatest tribulation in human history and that only the matchless return of the King can deliver mankind from evil’s reign.

The climactic battle between Good and Evil unfolds as Lucifer executes his definitive act of defiance: the global genocide of all Christians. With the sound of the trumpets reverberating throughout the heavens, the events that have been set in motion must now complete their course. Eternity and the fate of the earth are at stake, and there is no plan B.

Far more than just another End-Times novel and theologically distinct from the Left Behind series, Hoh will alter the way you see the world and prepare you for the future. This novel is based closely on Hoh’s theology expressed in his book Risen Lamb, Empowered Saints: The Book of Revelation Made Easy. Although the events described are entirely fictional, they are but one of many plausible scenarios in which the end could occur. Though these depictions may not arise for more than another hundred years, it is conceivable that they could begin to unfold within the next decade—or less.

Hoh has written a thought-provoking and exciting novel that looks at the events leading up to the Second Coming and challenges us all to follow the plans that Christ has for our lives.




Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Living Impact (May 16, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578071959
ISBN-13: 978-0578071954

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Josh felt exhilarated as he left the apartment of one of the five key leaders of the persecuted church in China. Preaching and teaching the scriptures was one of Josh’s greatest ministry gifts. A distinct and powerful anointing of the Spirit came upon him whenever he was engaged in the delivery of the Word of God. That was abundantly evident while he was speaking in the underground churches of Shanghai, China.
“Jai Jian—goodbye,” Josh blurted out awkwardly. They were about the only Chinese words he had managed to learn in the past three weeks.

“Tank you for being good blessing to our people,” said Tai, one of the leaders sending him off. “Soli we cannot go wit you to airport; it not safe for us to do that for long time now. Government eyes everywhere, you know.”
“I understand. God bless you, brothers.” Josh waved his final farewell as the yellow taxi drove slowly away.

Everything had gone remarkably smooth. Despite the heightened crackdown on underground churches in the past six months, he had not run into trouble with the Public Security Bureau. Around five hundred Han Chinese had made first-time decisions to follow Christ during the many evangelistic meetings in and around the Shanghai area. Josh’s teaching had been well received by congregations of all sizes, a few of which had as many as a thousand worshippers. The secret police had been well aware of those larger congregations for many years. According to the latest statistics, 48% of mainland Chinese professed to be Christian, but only 15% were registered with the government endorsed Three-Self Patriotic Church. The Communist Party was clearly worried.

The journey to Hongqiao Airport was relatively short; soon Josh was lining up to check in for his flight to Australia. He was looking forward to his stopover Down Under before traveling home. The queue was long, but Josh was relaxed, thankful that his Shanghai mission had gone so incredibly well. He had at least a dozen intriguing stories waiting to fascinate Beverly and Rebecca, the two most precious women in his life.

His moment of reverie was quickly interrupted by a loud squeal as a dark green van braked to a stop at the entrance of the airport. Within seconds, a group of uniformed police stormed in the double glass doors. Josh quickly counted—there were eight of them. He tried to convince himself that it was just a routine operation in communist China, especially with the ongoing international clampdown on terrorist suspects.

To his dismay, the officers were moving in his direction. As they approached the United Airlines counter, Josh instinctively looked away. Surely they can’t be searching for me. The commotion was drawing closer to where he stood. He could feel his heart begin to race.

Please, Lord, make them blind to my presence if it’s me they’re After.
He had barely completed his lightning prayer when he felt a firm tap on his shoulder.
“Are you Mr. McGuire?” One of the officers inquired.

“Why?”
“Show me passport.”
“Sure, but can you tell me what’s happening? I mean, is there a problem?” Josh handed the officer his American passport, trying to keep as calm as possible.
With barely a glance at the document, the officer announced, “Come wit us, Mr. McGuire.”
Grabbing his bags, Josh hoped they would ask him some questions at the airport, but they placed him in the police van instead and sped off, honking impatiently at the passersby.
“May I know where you’re taking me, please?”

“Headquarter.”
“The local police headquarters?”
“No. MSS.”
“Forgive my ignorance, sir, what is this MSS?”

“Ministry of State Security! No more questions.”

Josh’s heart immediately sank with that curt reply. The Ministry of State Security was the Chinese equivalent of the CIA, or worse, the Soviet KGB in the former USSR. Josh figured that he could be in serious trouble. What did they want from him? What if they were after the names of his contacts, or wanted him to divulge some incriminating evidence? What was he going to do? Josh slid his left hand slowly on top of his trouser pocket to make sure his cell was still there. Perhaps he should call the American Embassy, if they’ll even let him. At least he was assured of one

thing, folks at home were praying. Bev would be, no doubt about that. His staff, his elders, and his band of intercessors had also assured him of their daily prayers.
What’s your purpose for allowing this to happen, Lord? Strengthen me now that I may know and fulfill your will in this .Josh closed his eyes to focus on Jesus. It took a while for his heart to stop pounding. Gradually he began to sense the presence of God permeate his soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~
Michael was about to enter, then hesitated. The Twenty Four were in session, and he had no desire to interrupt. It was not that he was intimidated—the Twenty Four and the archangels had always gotten along perfectly well ever since the dawn of time, and angels have no human apprehensions—not archangels anyway. Like Michael, the twenty-four elders were spiritual beings of an exalted order, not humans, even though they were referred to as “elders” in that sacred scroll called the Apocalypse.

He knew the session they were having with the Lamb was of paramount importance. At the appropriate moment, Michael made an entrance into the throne room, kneeling before the King of Kings. He had always felt amazed before the presence of the Resurrected One. Since the ascension of Jesus over two thousand years ago, the splendor of the Lamb had never ceased to create a sense of awe and wonderment in him. The face of Jesus beamed with pure power, and His voice thundered mightier than Niagara Falls. The matchless Lamb of God was on the throne—the only one worthy to open the seven seals, slain in weakness yet risen with power. For centuries angels had striven to determine Yahweh’s plan of salvation, but they couldn’t—until the crucifixion and resurrection.

The Lamb stood to welcome Michael into the celestial council, and immediately the Twenty Four bowed in worship as Jesus rose to His feet. Michael could not get accustomed to that either.

The glorified Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, approached to make him feel welcome while he elders knelt in meek reverence to the Almighty. Then again, the Ascended One did put His hand on old Apostle John, saying, “Do not be afraid,” when the beloved disciple first received the vision of Revelation. John was trembling with dread as any man would.

“Forgive me for interrupting, my LORD,” Michael said. “The accuser has come to make his demands once again.”

“We know what he wants,” one of the Twenty Four said.

Michael nodded. “Yes, he wants all restraints to be removed so that he can begin his vengeful and wicked scheme.”

“Tell the evil one,” Jesus said, “that Gabriel will be out of his way only at the appointed time. If he maneuvers for more information, you may reveal a little extra at your own discretion.”

“Yes, my LORD.” Michael took a bow to the Lamb and the elders before exiting the throne room. As he was leaving the chamber, he heard one of the spiritual beings ask, “While we are on the matter, LORD, may I inquire if our favored servant is on schedule?”

“Most definitely,” the Lamb said. “It is progressing exactly as I have anticipated; he truly does have an obedient heart.”

Michael smiled, and sped to his destination in a brilliant beam of light.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~
The interrogation room was bright and clinical. The entire building looked new, or at least recently renovated. In the middle of the room was a chrome rectangular table with a red chair on each side. The walls were painted stark white, with no sign of a two way mirror on any of them. The guards confiscated Josh’s phone and ordered him to sit and wait for the interrogating officer. He looked at his wristwatch; it was 10:15 A.M.

An hour later, the door swung open. Two sagacious-looking agents entered swiftly, files in hand. The female officer sat down without a word, studying the files. The silence was disquieting and deafening, with the only sound an antiquated Mandarin clock on the wall.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, on it went.

“Mr. McGuire, what have you been doing in Shanghai?” the woman finally asked.
“I came as a tourist. This is my first time in China.” Josh was relieved to tell the truth. He was touring the underground house churches and some Three-Self congregations, and he had ticked the ‘tourist’ box on the disembarkation form on arrival.

“Have you been visiting illegal churches?”

“Why do you ask?” Josh tried to give nothing away. Maybe they are only fishing for information, he hoped.

“We know you’ve been preaching Christianity at some illegal gatherings.”
Josh swallowed hard. “Have you been following me? Why is it illegal to worship God?”
The man who was standing next to the female officer weighed in, “We don’t want to waste your time, Mr. McGuire, and believe me, you don’t want to waste ours. Whether you get out of here in a matter of hours, days, or weeks is up to you. Just answer the questions.”

For a moment Josh was glad he didn’t say months or years.

“Who are your contacts for the house churches? We want all their names!”
Josh was silent. He could not give them the names of the underground leaders. It would implicate them, and they could be imprisoned for years as a result. Those flourishing house churches could be closed down forever. Josh did not want to jeopardize the work of God, no matter what they might do to him personally. He decided to keep quiet.

“Names, Mr. McGuire!”
Josh stared hard at the files on the table in front of him.

“Your contacts, McGuire, or you will know the true meaning of PAIN,” the male officer hollered, pounding the table with his huge palm.

Josh clasped his hands tight beneath the table and raised his eyes to bravely meet the agent’s.
The man swung his fist in a rapid move, striking Josh with the back of his knuckles. The blow landed hard upon his right cheek. He fell off his chair on to the floor, and bubbles of blood instantly oozed from his nose.
A solid kick directed firmly at the abdomen followed.

Josh gritted his teeth to endure the agony. He had never been punched or kicked by a grown man in his life. He’d had fights with others when he was a young boy, but that was long ago and far different.

“I…demand…to see the U.S. ambassador,” Josh managed to say, groaning as he sat up on the floor. “You…have no right to strike me…. I’m a citizen of the United States.”

“Sure, you can tell that to the chief when you see him!”

The two agents stormed out the room, infuriated by Josh’s refusal to cooperate.
Did he say the chief? That was probably the last person Josh wanted to see; he could imagine a three-headed beast coming to torture him. With his handkerchief, Josh wiped the blood off his nose. Oh, Lord Jesus, help me to fear nothing and no one. Help me to be your faithful witness, and when your purpose for this is completed, get me out of here.


There was nothing Josh could do in the interrogation room but wait, pray, and not allow his imagination to run wild with anxiety. He remembered the strong anticipation he’d had for this trip and the thrill he’d felt at the airport before boarding. For a long time, particularly after the much-needed renovation, JFK has been his favorite airport. Actually, he had quite enjoyed visiting international airports around the world. This in spite of September Eleventh, which had taken place thirty-one years ago. Airports had not been quite the same since; for some, flying had permanently lost its appeal, with pleasure being replaced by apprehension and in some cases loathing because of those obtrusive security checks. The same couldn’t be said for Josh, though. Perhaps it still gave him

a sense of adventure—the restaurants and cafes, the bookstores, the movement of different people, planes taking off, each stirring within him a feeling of embarking toward something exciting.

It was often hard saying goodbye for the pastor and his wife, even if it was only for four weeks. One month could seem like a long time, and it sure did feel that way for Josh and Bev, particularly for this trip. He was travelling to a “closed” country on a mission, ministering and preaching at different underground churches. In the continuing era of international terrorism, he knew how difficult it would be for Bev not to worry about this particular mission of his. But her faith in God’s willingness and capacity to protect His own in any and every circumstance had rarely wavered over the years.

Josh remembered Rebecca, who’d been waiting ruefully at the front door, looking a little sad but eager to give Josh her warmest goodbye hug. “Go give them all you’ve got, Dad. I’ll be waging war on your behalf 24-7, both mom and I.” She’d given him the tightest bear squeeze a teenager can muster.

“I know you will, my panda bear. And you’ll look after mom for me, won’t you?”
He used to call her panda bear when she was little. He would never forget that cherished occasion when Rebecca was just four years old. She was playing in bed with both him and Bev when he cuddled her gently and asked, “Will you still be my panda bear when you grow up?”

“Yes, a BIG ONE!” was her spontaneous reply. They all broke into laughter. It was one of those precious moments enshrined forever in his memory. Now she was sixteen, and exceedingly pretty with her mesmerizing blue eyes.
Josh recalled giving Bev a long caress. “The Lord is with you as always, my dear, so there’s nothing to fear. Love you heaps.”

“We’ll be fine, hon, don’t worry about us. I’ll be praying hard for you. Hurry on now, Bill’s been out there a long time.”

Senator Bill Davies had been patiently waiting in his white limousine for Josh to say his good-byes. He usually insisted on chauffeuring his pastor to JFK, knowing that Bev didn’t fancy the 90-minute drive.

“Love ’em lots, don’t you? Gonna miss them, I bet?” the Senator had said when Josh climbed into the back seat.

“Nah! Not much,” Josh had joked, half-smiling, staring blankly out the tinted window.
“You’re a great pastor, Josh, and you have a wonderful relationship with Bev and Rebecca. Everyone in the church knows that. But tell me, why do you do this?”
“Do what, pal?”
“Go preaching to these dangerous and peculiar places.”

“Compelled to.”
“Just make sure we don’t have to send in our Special Forces to get you out of the ‘Middle Kingdom,’ okay?”

“Oh, I won’t bother; God has already sent His units ahead of me. Your guys are no match for His.”

The Senator had smiled and nodded. “Dead right there.”

Given what had just transpired in the last four hours, Josh sure hoped Bill wouldn’t have to stage a rescue from Shanghai.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~~~~
The Prince of Darkness had been pacing restlessly. His hollow eyes revealed nothing except a pit of venomous hatred stretching back through eternity. “What took you so long? Did He just delay you as usual?” The voice of Satan, once called Lucifer, was deep and demeaning.

“Keep your sarcasm to yourself,” Michael commanded, unfazed by Satan’s provocation, though saddened at the sight of such insatiable evil. “You shall not begin global persecution of the faithful until the time foreordained by the LORD God Almighty. Gabriel will not be out of your way until then.”
“Spare me your totalitarian autocratic babble. Tell me when that time is.”

“When the designated one is born again—”

“And who might that be?”
“You know.”
“I see. You mean the one whom my foot soldier has been pestering the last few years. Why is that pathetic, insignificant soul so important?”

“The LORD rebukes you, Satan. I do not want to see your face here ag—”
“Oh, you surely will. Just let Him know that I have the right to begin implementing my great plan for the earth when the hour arrives. I will not wait for even half a second longer.”

As the devil swept out on his scheming way, Gabriel appeared alongside Michael. His being emitted a pure, shimmering glow, much like his comrade except for a tint of sapphire.

“The Day is drawing very near indeed,” Gabriel said.

“You are right, my friend. The Great Commission has made outstanding progress over the past two decades. The gospel of our LORD has touched almost every people of every nation.”

“Only one city and one group remain…our very last bastion.”

“Hmm. The final frontier...”
From an enormous distance, they were taking an extended gaze at the Earth.

She was exceptionally beautiful.

My review:
This was a great and engaging read. I am pre-trib, so I don't agree with the author that Christians will go through the tribulation, but this book was still a fascinating book to read, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The idea of there being a "trigger" to usher in the last days - the last unreached people on earth to be reached by the Gospel  - is a very interesting and intriguing idea.

The author does know his stuff on prophecy, and though I differ with him on a few things, we really don't know everything, so it was refreshing to read some differing opinions. And I have to say, I enjoyed this book more than the Left Behind series. So if you want to read a great end-times novel, check this one out.

A blog post.......

Wow, it has been ages since I have blogged... not counting book reviews. I guess I just haven't had anything to say. At least nothing I want the general public to read, nor would they want to.

Today I turned a day older. #42. At this stage of my life, that number doesn't just represent another year lived. To be brutally honest, I view myself as a failure, and each year that comes is just another signpost to remind me of that fact. But enough morose talk.

I started out the day by reading several birthday greetings from facebook friends. A nice gesture, and it made my day. Sadly, I have already opened all of my gifts a day early. I got some clothes and books... what more could I ask for? ;-) Also sadly, I work today on my birthday. There should be a law against such things......

But on the bright side, today is the last day I will work for a little over a week. I leave tomorrow afternoon for a week at the ocean... The Outer Banks, NC. I and my parents will travel to Breezewood, PA, where we will meet up with my little sister, her husband, and my three nephews. We will travel together to a motel in Maryland, where we will spend the night. On Saturday, we will head on to North Carolina and meet my other sister, her husband, and my three nieces somewhere and have a 3 mini van caravan the rest of the way.

Traditionally, we stop around Nags Head at a really cool Ben Franklin store. It isn't your average BF. They have all kinds of souvenirs and things pertaining to the beach. A pretty cool place to shop. We will most likely eat in that area.. pizza is on the menu from what I hear. Then we will head on to The Outer Banks.

The vacation house we rented, Beach Haven, has 6 bedrooms, 4 1/2 bathrooms, game room with a pool table and Foosball table, a private heated pool, and a hot tub. We will be joined from Saturday through Monday by my cousin Barry and his wife, Dorsie, and their family: twins Bowen and Brianna, age 16, and Barry's other daughter,  Natasha and her husband, making a grand total of 19 of us under one roof for three days. Not sure where everyone will sleep. :-) After the cousins leave, we will actually have an extra bedroom, as all 6 of my nieces and nephews will be in one bedroom. Hopefully not too close to mine.... ;-)


This vacation we take is pretty much a glorified fishing trip. If my one brother-in-law couldn't fish, there would be no ocean vacation. The same might hold true for my dad.... but I am still happy to go, though I am not much into fishing. Not enough to pay to fish. Nah. It is enough for me to sit on the beach and view the might and beautiful ocean, walk in the sand and feel the warm sand under my feet, watch small crabs scurry for cover, see shells lying on the sand, feel the cold ocean lapping at my feet as I walk along the edge of the massive body of water. It makes me want to stay and open up a small shop on the beach.

And of course read. I usually get a lot of reading done at the ocean. I have at least 10 books, possibly more, that I am taking, and will most likely read all of them, or at least most of them next week. Some of them while sitting on one of the decks on the house. Sounds like paradise.

Beach Haven.... I may not want to leave.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason

What happens when the hunter . . . becomes the hunted?



Kit Kenyon is a first-rate hostage negotiator. Noah Lambert is a good detective with excellent instincts. These new partners have hardly had time to get used to each other when they are thrown into a grisly murder case. As evidence mounts up and more victims are found, Kit and Noah realize they are on the hunt for a serial killer. The problem is, he may be hunting one of them too.


With nail-biting suspense, clever plot twists, and a hint of romance, A Killer Among Us is the latest thriller from Lynette Eason.

My review:
Lynett Eason is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I have had the privelege of reading and reviewing all three books in her Women of Justice Series. This book is the third and final book in that series, and I am sad to see it end.

It seemed to me that book two was even better than the first book, and this third novel is the best of all three. At least it seems so to me.

Not only is this an awesome murder mystery, there is also some hostage negotiation in the book, which interested me to see how it is done. I figured out who the killer was early on in the book, but that did not ruin the book for me. It only made me feel a tad bit smug. :-)

As far as murder mysteries go, this is one of the best and most suspenseful I have read. It is definitely a page-turner. I did indeed read the book in one sitting. I could not put it down. Add to the mix some romance, and you have the perfect novel.

Eason isn't afraid to add God to the center of her book, and has one of her characters struggling with their faith.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series, and especially this book, and look forward to reading more from her in the future.

About the author:

Lynette Eason is the author of Too Close to Home, Don't Look Back, and three other romantic suspense novels. She is a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.


Available May 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Donna at Revell for the review copy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Power of a Story... repost

I am re-posting this in response to a blog post I read that is condemning Christian fiction. That post is here.

I love to read. Always have. I remember in my elementary school days excelling at reading so much, that I was reading books above my reading level. As my reading skills grew and changed, so did what I read. I devoured The Hardy Boys books, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Black Beauty. I read at any chance I got.

When the day came that I got my own library card, I remember librarians being amazed at the stacks of books I would take out on loan. Where other people got a few books, I would get eight, ten, or even more, even as I grew onto adulthood.

Now at age forty (ugh!), I still have a love of books. My main enjoyment for pleasure reading is Christian fiction. The Christian fiction book has gotten a bad rap, in my opinion. Some people look down on people who read a lot of fiction. Even in my own church, I have heard people refer to the "novel" with distaste and a bit of pious self righteousness that they don't read books like that.

I will be the first to say the Bible should be the most important book in our reading, and should be read daily, and meditated on. And there are other good books to read that aren't fiction, but if we discount Christian fiction, and consider it a shallow pursuit, I believe we are discounting something that not only can be a pleasurable past time, but something that could help us.

Because of a good novel, I have been all over the world. The jungles of Africa, Russia, the swamps of Lousiana, China, Japan - even in the Oval office. I have learned things from reading a novel.

I am rather passionate that Christian fiction should indeed be Christian. Nowadays, there are books being published as Christian fiction that might mention God once or twice - or not at all, and is just a clean secular book marketed as Christian fiction. Worse than that, are the Christian fiction books that have curse/swear words in, or situations or discussions that do not belong in a Christian book.

Now there are a lot of Christian novels that are "fluff" - romance, and books just for fun. I am not knocking those - they have their place, and there is nothing wrong with reading a book that is just fun and clean, whether it be Christian, or not - but in the last several years, I have been discovering a wealth of Christian fiction books that not only entertain and tell a good story, but have lessons, truths - even life-changing truths.

Sound far-fetched? That God could use a story - fiction - to speak to someone? To convict, change? I don't believe so. Jesus Himself used stories to get a message across. We call them parables.

Many of Karen Kingsbury's stories carry a strong message, address a specific topic. I have told the story here, but it bears repeating: a few years back, I had loaned Karen Kingsbury's book Waiting For Morning to my pastor's wife. It is a fictional story of a woman who loses her husband and daughter because of a drunk driver, and her journey to forgiving him. Not long after she read that book, a lady in my church related a sad story to her about a co-worker. This woman's daughter had a small boy. The daughter's boyfriend seriously abused the boy - damaged his motor skills, it was so bad. He, and the boy's mother were charged, as she allowed it. The boy's grandmother was given custody of this little abused boy, and she told the woman from my church that she knew she needed to forgive them, but couldn't. My pastor's wife recommended the book by Karen Kingsbury, and the co-worker later said it did help her a lot. A fiction book - who knew?!

Karen received so many emails and letters from people influenced by her books, that she actually has a place on her website for them. Here are a few:


Hi, my name is Chris and I am a 16 year old boy with a second chance. For years now I've been struggling with pornography addiction. Looking for the answers, but only getting frustrated. Then I read Ocean's Apart and the part where Connor realizes what the preacher said about "it will start with you" and how he was to blame.

For years I blamed God for allowing it to cross my path, then I blamed the devil, then I blamed my brother (it started on his computer), then the world. But Connor (the character in your book) helped me to realize that it was all my fault.
My fault that I alone chose to look at them. Now seeing what can happen when one realizes it was their fault, it brought me to my knees and I asked God to forgive me and for a second chance, and guess what HE DID! Now I'm no longer addicted to that awful sin. Thank you so much for writing this book, I feel it was written to me from God. It helped me in more ways than just this. If you don't mind I would like to use the butterfly story as a tool for witnessing.

Keep allowing God to use you and you will never falter, I'm praying for you and your family, thank you Karen. -Chris R

My sister-in-law gave me One Tuesday Morning and it changed my life. I had turned my back on God for many years due to beliefs I had from a former religion. I believed that if I were not part of their religion I would not ever have Gods favor again.
After reading One Tuesday Morning I started questioning what I believed in my heart all those years. By the time I was done with the book I sat down and prayed to God for the first time, honestly knowing he was really with me.
She knew what your books would do for me. You have given me my faith and my love of God back and I can not thank you and my sister-in-law enough no matter how long I live. -Cheryl H

After reading A Time To Dance, I spontaneously flew to Japan, surprising my husband during his business trip, to tell him that I chose us and committed myself to saving our marriage. I suggested that he MUST read your book; you wrote it specifically for us.

We did not fly home together, however, he took the book and said he'd read it. I just got off the phone with my husband who elatedly called from the Detroit, MI Airport, choked up and near tears because he finished your entire book without stopping the whole flight, except for bathroom breaks, and realized the blessed relationship that we nearly lost.

Thanking you doesn't convey my heart's gratitude. However, I want to commend you for your obedience to the Lord for clarifying to readers that God doesn't let go even when we do.
As John and Abby nearly threw in the matrimony towel, so did my husband and I. Your characters marriage paralleled mine to a tee, except my husband is a pilot and not a football coach.
Otherwise, the coincidences of my life as a writer, having two sons and one daughter, experiencing the loss of a child, possessing a seemingly perfect marriage externally, one spouse faced with the possibility of choosing an affair, and the wounds that are inflicted through relationship neglect, stemming from the busyness of raising children and providing for a family, were utterly uncanny.
You did write this about us! Your God given gift to write impacts lives.
It saved mine


And there are many more on her website.

Just recently, I have read The Last Word by Kathy Herman. The author told a great story of suspense while driving home the point that we need to be working harder to win our loved ones to Christ. Also addressed in the book was the importance of life, and that abortion is not the answer.

In Scream, the most recent book that I reviewed, author Mike Dellosso spins a tail of kidnapping and treachery, all the while pointing out the reality of hell, and that anyone who dies without Christ will go there for all eternity.

Not so recently, A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury stresses the importance of marriage, and of saving a marriage, even when wrong has been done. She also addressed the issue of pornography in this book, and why it is wrong.

Not every Christian novel is going to present life-changing truths, and I am not saying they must, but I did want to address the issue of the power in a story. No, a Christian novel - or any book - should never replace the Bible, and many Christian novels are just a good, clean story, presenting God as the answer, but that in itself is something we need reminded of now and then. But I would like to tip my hat in recognition of those authors and books that not only tell a good story, but do it with a message to help someone out there that will read their story, and be encouraged, convicted, and possibly even become a Christian, because God used a Christian novel to speak to their heart.

So you aren't a reader of Christian fiction? Why not give it a try. You might learn something, and God may speak to you through it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Undaunted Faith by Andrea Boeshaar



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Undaunted Faith
Realms (May 3, 2011)
by
Andrea Boeshaar




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been married for more than 30 years. She and her husband, Daniel, have three adult sons, daughters-in-law, and two precious grandchildren. Andrea's educational background includes the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, where she studied in English, and Alverno College where she studied in Professional Communications and Business Management.



Andrea has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl; however, it wasn't until 1984 that she started submitting her work for publication. Eight years after that, she was convicted about writing for the Christian market. She read books in her genre (Inspirational Romance & Women's Fiction), studied the market, and worked hard to hone her craft.



Finally her first novel was published in 1994. Since then she's written numerous articles and devotionals. Andrea has also published inspiration romance novels, women's fiction, and novellas.



In 2003, Andrea joined the Hartline Literary Agency and worked for Joyce Hart as a literary agent. She saw much success. But then in 2007, Andrea realized she was more of a teacher/encourager than a sales person. She left the agency and became a certified Christian life coach. Now, in addition to her writing, Andrea enjoys encouraging others to use their God-given talents and gifts to their fullest.



Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as Write-To-Publish, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is cofounder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.



ABOUT THE BOOK



When Pastor Luke McCabe begins paying extra attention to her, Bethany takes his fine-sounding words with a grain of salt. She's heard sweet talk before. This time she is going to keep her mind on the Lord and on her new teaching job in the Arizona Territory.



But when her reputation is accidentally soiled by the rakish town sheriff, Luke steps in with a marriage proposal to save Bethany's good name. Luke is certain their marriage is God's will...but Bethany is just as certain God must have someone else in mind to be Luke's wife.



Someone sweet and spiritual, who knows the Scriptures better than Bethany does. Someone like Luke's old friend from home.



If you would like to read the first chapter of , go HERE.





Watch the video trailer:



Monday, May 16, 2011

Leaving by Karen Kingsbury

The Bailey Flanigan series begins with Bailey leaving Bloomington for the adventure of a lifetime. She has won an audition for the ensemble of a Broadway musical in New York City.



She’s determined to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but is she really ready to leave family and friends for the loneliness of the city? And what of Cody? His disappearance has her worried about their future and praying that their love can survive. In order to be closer to his mother in jail, Cody takes a coaching job in a small community outside Indianapolis. New friends, distance, and circumstances expose cracks in his relationship with Bailey Flanigan. Love, loneliness, big opportunities, and even bigger decisions highlight the first book in the new Bailey Flanigan series that features members of the popular Baxter family and finally completes the Bailey Flanigan/Cody Coleman story.

My review:
Although my favorite genre' of Christian fiction to read is suspense/mystery, Karen Kingsbury is a genre' all to her own, and is my favorite non-suspense author.

I have to say up front that even though I am a big KK fan, I am tiring of the storyline in these books. The Redemption series was awesome, but this makes the fourth series that has been "spin-offs" of the series, and I find myself not looking forward to reading the new books in the new spin-offs as much as I used to look forward to reading a new KK book.

That being said, I still loved the book. Karen definitely has a style all of her own, and has a God-given way of writing an emotionally charged novel that has God at the center. In spite of my feelings about another spin-off, I did enjoy reading more of Cody and Bailey's story.

As with any KK book, this one is a page-turner, though not in the suspense/mystery sort of way. This book, as all of hers, are gripping and emotional, and I wanted to see how the story ended. And it was worth reading.

If you have never read a Karen Kingsbury novel, I wouldn't advise starting with this one, as much of the characters' stories are told in previous books, but if you are a KK fan, and even if you are weary of the Baxter and friends story line, go ahead and read Leaving anyway. The setting is different, and like me, you may be wondering how the Cody and Bailey story will play out.

About the author:
New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America’s favorite inspirational novelist, with over 15 million books in print. Her Life-Changing Fiction™ has produced multiple bestsellers, including Leaving, Take One, Between Sundays, Even Now, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, and Ever After, which was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year. An award-winning author and newly published songwriter, Karen has several movies optioned for production, and her novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture and is now available on DVD. Karen is also a nationally known speaker with several women’s groups. She lives in Washington with her husband, Don, their daughter and five sons.

Leaving is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy.

To Be Perfectly Honest by Phil Callaway

Would I Lie to You? Not This Year.



Veteran author and speaker Phil Callaway is no stranger to daunting challenges. He has been laughed at—repeatedly—by large crowds of people from Halifax to Hong Kong. He fathered three children in three years, spent much of last year on airplanes built by the lowest bidder, and flipped an out-of-control ATV, which doesn’t mean he sold it for a profit. So who better than Phil Callaway to boldly accept a challenge that would make the average person run and hide?


Phil promised to tell the truth for an entire year, and he wasn’t joking. Twelve months later, his journal was crammed with successes, near-successes, and outright failures. During his year-long experiment with veracity, he made a disastrous financial investment, fielded hundreds of intrusive questions from friends and strangers, attended a thirty-year class reunion, and waded into possibly the most revealing—and hilarious—situations he has ever documented.


Find out what happens when a follower of Jesus does his level best to always tell the truth. There is no doubt you’ll be entertained. But don’t be surprised if you are left with a question: how might your life be changed if you sold out to the truth—with no exceptions?

My review:
I love Phil Callways books. They are always humorously written, yet get a message and point across. I admit I was a bit dubious about this one, as I like to believe any true Christian is always honest, but since I like his books, I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

This book is funny, but that is to be expected from Callway, but it made me think. He is bluntly honest in the book and it made me realize how so many of us aren't perfectly honest. Oh, we may not outright lie, but we find ways around telling the truth.

The book is written in journal form, with each entry being a differtent day from day 1 up to day 365. At the end of the book is discussion questions for each chapter.

I did thoroughly enjoy this book, and recommend it to anyone who wants to be entertained, convicted, and challenged at the same time, for this book will do all three.

About the author:

Phil Callaway is an award-winning author known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life. He is president of Laugh and Learn, Inc., and the author of twenty books, including Laughing Matters and Family Squeeze. Callaway is a wildly popular speaker who keeps being asked to appear at churches, couples’ nights out, healthcare conventions, and corporate events. He also is a repeat guest on national radio and television shows. Phil and his wife, Ramona, have three grown children.


To Be Perfectly Honest is available from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing.

Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble

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:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Colleen Coble’s thirty-five novels and novellas have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers Best, and the 2009 Best Books of Indiana-Fiction award. She writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail and love begin with a happy ending.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Olivia seems to have it all, but her heart yearns for more.

Olivia Stewart's family is one of the Four Hundred—the highest echelon of society in 1910. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Olivia leaves their New York City home for Mercy Falls, California, to determine what befell Eleanor. She suspects Harrison Bennett, the man Eleanor planned to marry. But the more Olivia gets to know him, the more she doubts his guilt—and the more she is drawn to him herself.

When several attempts are made on her life, Olivia turns to Harrison for help. He takes her on a ride in his aeroplane, but then crashes, and they’re forced to spend two days alone together. With her reputation hanging by a thread, Harrison offers to marry her to make the situation right. As a charity ball to rebuild the Mercy Falls lighthouse draws near, she realizes she wants more than a sham engagement—she wants Harrison in her life forever. But her enemy plans to shatter the happiness she is ready to grasp. If Olivia dares to drop her masquerade, she just might see the path to true happiness.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159554268X
ISBN-13: 978-1595542687

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The New York brownstone was just half a block down from the Astor mansion on Fifth Avenue, the most prestigious address in the country. The carriage, monogrammed with the Stewart emblem, rattled through the iron gates and came to a halt in front of the ornate doors. Assisted by the doorman, Olivia Stewart descended and rushed for the steps of her home. She was late for tea, and her mother would be furious. Mrs. Astor herself had agreed to join them today.

Olivia handed her hat to the maid, who opened the door. “They’re in the drawing room, Miss Olivia,” Goldia whispered. “Your mama is ready to pace the floor.”

Olivia patted at her hair, straightened her shoulders, and pinned a smile in place as she forced her stride to a ladylike stroll to join the other women. Two women turned to face her as she entered: her mother and Mrs. Astor. They wore identical expressions of disapproval.

“Olivia, there you are,” her mother said. “Sit down before your tea gets cold.”

Olivia pulled off her gloves as she settled into the Queen Anne chair beside Mrs. Astor. “I apologize for my tardiness,” she said. “A lorry filled with tomatoes overturned in the street, and my driver couldn’t get around it.”

Mrs. Astor’s face cleared. “Of course, my dear.” She sipped her tea from the delicate blue-and-white china. “Your dear mother and I were just discussing your prospects. It’s time you married.”

Oh dear. She’d hoped to engage in light conversation that had nothing to do with the fact that she was twenty-five and still unmarried. Her unmarried state distressed her if she let it, but every man her father brought to her wanted only her status. She doubted any of them had ever looked into her soul. “I’m honored you would care about my marital status, Mrs. Astor,” Olivia said.

“Mrs. Astor wants to hold a ball in your honor, Olivia,” her mother gushed. “She has a distant cousin coming to town whom she wants you to meet.”

Mrs. Astor nodded. “I believe you and Matthew would suit. He owns property just down the street.”

Olivia didn’t mistake the reference to the man’s money. Wealth would be sure to impact her mother. She opened her mouth to ask if the man was her age, then closed it at the warning glint in her mother’s eyes.

“He’s been widowed for fifteen years and is long overdue for a suitable wife,” Mrs. Astor said.

Olivia barely suppressed a sigh. So he was another of the decrepit gentlemen who showed up from time to time. “You’re very kind,” she said.

“He’s most suitable,” her mother said. “Most suitable.”

Olivia caught the implication. They spent the next half an hour discussing the date and the location. She tried to enter into the conversation with interest, but all she could do was imagine some gray-whiskered blue blood dancing her around the ballroom. She stifled a sigh of relief when Mrs. Astor took her leave and called for her carriage.

“I’ll be happy when you’re settled, Olivia,” her mother said when they returned to the drawing room. “Mrs. Astor is most kind.”

“She is indeed.” Olivia pleated her skirt with her fingers. “Do you ever wish you could go somewhere incognito, Mother? Where no one has expectations of you because you are a Stewart?”

Her mother put down her saucer with a clatter. “Whatever are you babbling about, my dear?”

“Haven’t you noticed that people look at us differently because we’re Stewarts? How is a man ever to love me for myself when all he sees is what my name can gain him? Men never see inside to the real me. They notice only that I’m a Stewart.”

“Have you been reading those novels again?” Her mother sniffed and narrowed her gaze on Olivia. “Marriage is about making suitable connections. You owe it to your future children to consider the life you give them. Love comes from respect. I would find it quite difficult to respect someone who didn’t have the gumption to make his way in the world. Besides, we need you to marry well. You’re twenty-five years old and I’ve indulged your romantic notions long enough. Heaven knows your sister’s marriage isn’t what I had in mind, essential though it may be. Someone has to keep the family name in good standing.”

Olivia knew what her duty demanded, but she didn’t have to like it. “Do all the suitable men have to be in their dotage?”

Her mother’s eyes sparked fire but before she spoke, Goldia appeared in the doorway. “Mr. Bennett is here, Mrs. Stewart.”

Olivia straightened in her chair. “Show him in. He’ll have news of Eleanor.”

Bennett appeared in the doorway moments later. He shouldn’t have been imposing. He stood only five-foot-three in his shoes, which were always freshly polished. He was slim, nearly gaunt, with a patrician nose and obsidian eyes. He’d always reminded Olivia of a snake about to strike. His expression never betrayed any emotion, and today was no exception. She’d never understood why her father entertained an acquaintance with the man let alone desired their families to be joined.

“Mr. Bennett.” She rose and extended her hand and tried not to flinch as he brushed his lips across it.

“Miss Olivia,” he said, releasing her hand. He moved to her mother’s chair and bowed over her extended hand.

Olivia sank back into her chair. “What do you hear of my sister? I have received no answer to any of my letters.”

He took a seat, steepled his fingers, and leaned forward. “That’s the reason for our meeting today. I fear I have bad news to impart.”

Her pulse thumped erratically against her ribcage. She wetted her lips and drew in a deep breath. “What news of Eleanor?” How bad could it be? Eleanor had gone to marry Harrison, a man she hardly knew. But she was in love with the idea of the Wild West, and therefore more than happy to marry the son of her father’s business partner.

He never blinked. “I shall just have to blurt it out then. I’m sorry to inform you that Eleanor is dead.”

Her mother moaned. Olivia stared at him. “I don’t believe it,” she said.

“I know, it’s a shock.”

There must have been some mistake. She searched his face for some clue that this was a jest. “What happened?”

He didn’t hold her gaze. “She drowned.”

“How?”

“No one knows. I’m sorry.”

Her mother stood and swayed. “What are you saying?” Her voice rose in a shriek. “Eleanor can’t be dead! Are you quite mad?”

He stood and took her arm. “I suggest you lie down, Mrs. Stewart. You’re quite pale.”

Her mother put her hands to her cheeks. “Tell me it isn’t true,” she begged. Then she keeled over in a dead faint.

#
Harrison Bennett tugged on his tie, glanced at his shoes to make sure no speck of dirt marred their perfection, then disembarked from his motorcar in front of the mansion. The cab had rolled up Nob Hill much too quickly for him to gather his courage to face the party. Electric lights pushed back the darkness from the curving brick driveway to the porch with its impressive white pillars. Doormen flanked the double doors at the entry. Through the large windows, he saw the ballroom. Ladies in luxurious gowns and gentlemen in tuxedos danced under glittering chandeliers, and their laughter tinkled on the wind.

His valet, Eugene, exited behind him. “I’ll wait in the kitchen, sir.”

Harrison adjusted his hat and strode with all the confidence he could muster to the front door. “Mr. Harrison Bennett,” he said to the doorman.

The man scanned the paper in his hand. “Welcome, Mr. Bennett. Mr. Rothschild is in the ballroom.”

Harrison thanked him and stepped into the opulent hall papered in gold foil. He went in the direction of the voices with a sense of purpose. This night could change his future. He glanced around the enormous ballroom, and he recognized no one among the glittering gowns and expensive suits. In subtle ways, these nobs would try to keep him in his place. It would take all his gumption not to let them. It was a miracle he’d received an invitation. Only the very wealthy or titled were invited to the Rothschilds’ annual ball in San Francisco. Harrison was determined to do whatever was necessary to secure the contract inside his coat pocket.

A young woman in an evening gown fluttered her lashes at him over the top of her fan. When she lowered it, she approached with a coaxing smile on her lips. “Mr. Bennett, I’d hoped to see you here tonight.”

He struggled to remember her name. Miss Kessler. She’d made her interest in him known at Eleanor’s funeral. Hardly a suitable time. He took her gloved hand and bowed over it. “Miss Kessler. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“I came when I heard you were on the guest list.”

He ignored her brazen remark. “It’s good to see you again. I have some business to attend to. Perhaps later?”

Her eyes darkened and she withdrew her hand. “I shall watch for you,” she said.

And he’d do the same, with the intent to avoid her. “If you’ll excuse me.” He didn’t wait for an answer but strolled through the crowd. He finally spied his host standing in front of a marble fireplace. A flame danced in the eight-foot hearth. Harrison stepped through the crowd to join the four men clustered around the wealthy Rothschild.

The man closest to Harrison was in his fifties and had a curling mustache. “They’ll never get that amendment ratified,” he said. “An income tax! It’s quite ridiculous to expect us to pay something so outrageous.”

A younger man in a gray suit shook his head. “If it means better roads, I’ll gladly write them a check. The potholes outside of town ruined my front axels.”

“We can take care of our own roads,” Rothschild said. “I have no need of the government in my affairs. At least until we’re all using flying machines.” He snickered, then glanced at Harrison. “You look familiar, young man. Have we met?”

Flying machines. Maybe this meeting was something God had arranged. Harrison thrust out his hand. “Harrison Bennett.”

“Claude’s son?”’

Was that distaste in the twist of Rothschild’s mouth? Harrison put confidence into his grip. “Yes, sir.”

“How is your father?”

“Quite well. He’s back in New York by now.”

“I heard about your fiancĂ©e’s death. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Harrison managed not to wince. “Thank you.” He pushed away his memories of that terrible day, the day he’d seen Eleanor Stewart for what she really was.

“Your father was most insistent I meet you. He seems to think you have a business proposition I might be interested in.”

Harrison smiled and began to tell the men of the new diamond mines that Bennett and Bennett had found in Africa. A mere week after Mr. Stewart’s passing, Mr. Bennett had renamed the venture to include Harrison. An hour later, he had appointments set up with three of the men as possible investors. His father would be pleased.

Harrison smiled and retraced his steps to toward the front door but was waylaid by four women in brightly colored silk. They swooped around him, and Miss Kessler took him by the hand and led him to a quiet corner.

“Let’s not talk about anything boring like work,” she said, her blue eyes sparkling. “Tell me what you love to do most.”

He glanced at the other women clustered around. “I’m building an aeroplane. I’d like to have it in the air by the time Earth passes through the tail of Halley’s Comet.”

She gasped. “Do you have a death wish, Mr. Bennett? You would be breathing the poisonous fumes directly. No one even knows if the Earth will survive this.”

He’d heard this before. “The scientists I’ve discussed this with believe we shall be just fine,” Harrison said.

“I assume you’ve purchased comet pills?” the blonde closest to him said.

“I have no fear.”

The brunette in red silk smiled. “If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings. Or so I’ve heard the minister say.”

He finally placed the brunette. Her uncle was Rothschild. No wonder she had such contempt for Harrison’s tone. All the nobs cared for were trains and ships. “It’s just a matter of perfecting the machine,” Harrison said. “Someday aeroplanes will be the main mode of transcontinental transportation.”

The brunette laughed. “Transcontinental? My uncle would call it balderdash.”

He glanced at his pocket watch without replying. “I fear I must leave you lovely ladies. Thank you for the conversation.”

He found Eugene in the kitchen and beckoned to his valet.

Eugene put down his coffee cup and followed. “You didn’t stay long, sir,” he said. “Is everything all right?”

Harrison stalked out the door and toward the car. “Are there no visionaries left in the country?”

Eugene followed a step behind. “You spoke of your flying machine?”

“The world is changing, Eugene, right under their noses—and they don’t see it.”

Eugene opened the door for Harrison. “You will show them the future, sir.”

He set his jaw. “I shall indeed.”

“I have a small savings set aside, Mr. Bennett. I’d like to invest in your company. With your permission, of course.”

Eugene’s trust bolstered Harrison’s determination. “I’d be honored to partner with you, Eugene. We are going to change the world.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Darkness Follows

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:

Realms (May 3, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He is a regular columnist for AVirtuousWoman.org, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed websites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and FaithWriters, and plans to join International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sam Travis lives in a Civil War era farmhouse in Gettysburg, PA, where he awakens one morning to find an old journal with an entry by a Union soldier, Lt. Whiting…written in Sam’s own handwriting. When this happens several more times, both at night and during waking “trances,” Sam begins to question his own sanity while becoming obsessed with Lt. Whiting and his bone-chilling journal entries. As the entries begin to mimic Sam’s own life, he is drawn into an evil plot that could cost many lives, including his own. Can the unconditional love of Sam’s daughter, Eva, break through his hardened heart before a killer on the loose catches up with them and Sam’s past spurs him to do the unthinkable?




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback:
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616382740
ISBN-13: 978-1616382742

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue



Gettysburg, 1863


Captain Samuel Whiting removed his gloves and sat on the cot in his tent. It had been a long, grueling day of battle, and his clothes were soaked through with sweat. He’d lost more men, good men, family men. Men who would never return home to their wives. Boys who would never again cross the thresholds of their parents’ homes.


He leaned forward, removed his boots, and stretched his legs. The air in the tent was still and muggy. At least outside there was a light breeze to carry away the stench of the wounded. In here, the smells hung in the air like a haze. Beyond the canvas walls the sounds of soldiers—heroes—in the throes of agony wandered through the camp like the souls of dead men looking for rest. But there was no rest in a place like this.


A single oil lamp sat on the floor, casting an orange glow about the tent’s interior. Samuel turned the knob on the lamp, giving more wick to the flame. The light brightened and the shadows darkened. From a writing box he removed a leather-bound journal, the one his mother had given him before he left to join Mr. Lincoln’s army. At the time he thought he was doing the right thing, thought he was fighting for a noble cause.


Now he thought differently. There was nothing noble about this war, nothing honorable about the way it was being fought nor the reasons for which it was being waged.


After dipping the tip of his quill into an inkwell, he put the tip to the paper and began to write. The words flowed from his hand, though they were not born of him but of something else, something dark and sinister, something to which he had finally given himself.


In the corner of the tent a shadow moved. He saw it from the corner of his eye. It was a shadow cast not by the oil lamp’s flame but by some other source, a source Samuel did not fully understand but felt.


The shadow glided along the canvas, following the angles of the tent, and came to a stop beside the cot. There it seemed to lurk, to hover, as if curious to see what was being written on the pages of the journal. A chill blew over Samuel, penetrated his clothes and

flesh, and settled into his bones.


The shadow began to throb in rhythm with Samuel’s beating heart. His quill moved across the paper more rapidly now, the point carving words—vitriol—at an alarming pace. His heart rate quickened and, with it, the pulsations of the shadow.


At once a strong wind ruffled the canvas and brought with it a low howl that sounded more like a moan. It did not originate from outside the tent, from wounded and homesick boys, but rather from within, from the shadow. The wind circled the tent’s interior, stirred

the pages of the journal, Samuel’s hair, his clothes, and finally, as if in one final great sigh, extinguished the light of the lamp.


Captain Samuel Whiting was engulfed by darkness.

One



Present day


Sam Travis awoke in the middle of the night, cold and

terrified. The dream had come again. His brother. The shot.



You did what you had to do, son.


He sat up in bed and wiped the sweat from his brow.


Next to him Molly stirred, grunted, and found his arm with her hand. “You OK, babe?”


“Yeah. I’m gonna go get some water.”


“You sure?”


He found her forehead in the darkness and kissed it. “Yeah.”


The house was as still and noiseless as a crypt. Sam made his way down the hall to Eva’s room, floorboards popping under his feet. He cracked the door and peeked in. The Tinker Bell night-light cast a soft purple hue over the room, giving it a moonlit glow. Odd-shaped shadows blotted the ceiling, like dark clouds against a darker sky. Eva was curled into a tight ball, head off the pillow, blankets at her feet.


Sam opened the door all the way, tiptoed to the bed, and pulled the covers to his daughter’s shoulders. She didn’t stir even the slightest. For a few hushed moments he stood and listened to her low rhythmic breathing.


The past six months had been hard on them all, but Eva had handled them surprisingly well. She was just a kid, barely seven, yet displayed the maturity of someone much older. Sam had never known that her faith, much like her mother’s, was so strong. His,

on the other hand . . .


He left the door open a few inches. Farther down the hall he entered the bathroom, where another night-light, this one a blue flower, reflected off the porcelain tub, toilet, and sink. He splashed water from the faucet on his face. Remnants of the dream lingered and stuttered like bad cell phone reception. Just images now, faces, twisted and warped.


After toweling off, he studied himself in the mirror. In the muted light the scar running above his ear didn’t look so bad. His hair was growing back and covered most of it. Oddly, the new crop was coming in gray.


From downstairs a voice called Sam’s name. A chill tightened the arc of his scar.


He heard it again.


“Sammy.”


It was neither haunting nor unnatural, but familiar, conversational. It was the voice of his brother. Tommy. He’d heard it a thousand times in his youth, a hundred ghostly times since the accident that had turned his own brain to mush. The doctor called them auditory hallucinations.


Sam exited the bathroom and stood at the top of the staircase. Dim light from the second floor spilled down the stairs into the foyer below, and the empty space looked like a strange planet, distant and odd. Who knew what bizarre creatures inhabited that land

and what malicious intentions they harbored?


He heard that same voice—Tommy’s—calling to him. “Sammy.”


Sam shivered at the sound of his name.


A dull ache had taken to the length of the scar.


Descending the stairs, Sam felt something dark, ominous, present in the house with him. He stopped and listened. He could almost hear it breathing, and with each breath, each exhalation, he heard his own name, now just a whisper.


He started down the stairs again, taking one at a time, holding the

railing and trying to find the quiet places on the steps.


From the bottom of the stairway he looked at the front door,

half expecting it to fly open and reveal Tommy standing there, with

half his head...


You did what you had to do, son.


He looked left into the dining room, then right into the living room. The voice was coming from the kitchen. Turning a one-eighty, he headed that way down the hall.


At the doorway Sam stopped and listened again. Now he heard nothing. No breathing, no whispers, no Tommy. The kitchen held the aroma of the evening’s meal—fettuccine Alfredo—like a remote memory.


“Tommy?” His own voice sounded too loud and strangely hollow.


He had no idea why he said his brother’s name since he expected no reply. Tommy had been dead for—what?—twenty-one years. Thoughts of his death came to Sam’s mind, images from the dream. And not just his death but how he’d died.


You did what you had to do, son.


From off in the distance Sam heard a cannon blast. Living in Gettysburg, near the battlefields, the sound was common during the month of July when the reenactments were going on. But not in the middle of the night. Not in November. Another blast echoed across the fields, then the percussion of rifle shots followed by a volley of more cannons.


Sam walked back down the hall and opened the front door. He saw only darkness beyond the light of the porch lamp, but the sounds were unmistakable. Guns crackled in rapid succession, cannons boomed, men hollered and screamed, horses whinnied and roared. The sounds of battle were all around him. He expected Eva and Molly to stir from their sleep and come tripping down the stairs at any moment, but that didn’t happen. The house was as still and quiet as ever.


Crossing his arms over his chest, Sam stepped out onto the porch. Three rotting jack-o’-lanterns grinned at him like a gaggle of toothless geezers. The air was cold and damp, the grass wet with dew. Nervously he felt the bandage on his index finger. He’d slipped while carving one of the pumpkins and gouged his finger with the knife. Molly had thought he should get stitches, but he refused. It was still tender, throbbing slightly, healing up well enough on its own. Here, outside, the loamy smell of dead wet leaves surrounded him. Beyond the glow of the porch lamp, the outside world was black and lonely. The sky was moonless.


Across the field and beyond the trees the battle continued but grew no louder. Sam gripped his head and held it with both hands. Was he going crazy? Had the accident triggered some weird psychosis? This couldn’t be real. It had to be a concoction of his damaged brain. An auditory hallucination.


Suddenly the sounds ceased and silence ruled. Dead silence. No whispers of a gentle breeze. No skittering of dry leaves across the driveway. No creak of old, naked branches. Not even the hum of the power lines paralleling the road.


Sam went back inside and shut the door. The dead bolt made a solid thunk as it slid into place. He didn’t want to go back upstairs, didn’t want to sleep in his own bed. Instead he went into the living room, lay on the sofa, and clicked on the TV. The last thing he remembered before falling asleep was watching an old Star Trek rerun.


Sam’s eyes opened slowly and tried to adjust to the soft morning light that seeped through the windows. He rolled to his side and felt something slide from his lap to the floor with a papery flutter. He’d not slept soundly on the sofa.


Pushing himself up, he looked out the window. The sun had not yet cleared the horizon, and the sky was a hundred shades of pink. The house felt damp and chilly. The TV was off. Leaning to his left, he saw that the front door was open. Maybe Molly had gone out

already and not shut it behind her.


“Moll?” But there was no answer. “Eva?” The house was quiet. Sam stood to see if Molly was in the yard and noticed a notebook on the floor, its pages splayed like broken butterfly wings. Bending to pick it up, he recognized it as one of Eva’s notebooks in which she wrote her kid stories, tales of a dog named Max and of horses with wings.


Turning it over, he found a full page of writing. His writing. Before the accident he’d often helped Eva with her stories but had never written one himself. He’d thought about it many times but had never gotten around to doing it. There was always something more pressing, more important. Since his accident he’d had the time, home from work with nothing to do, but his brain just wasn’t working that way. He couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate. His attention span was that of a three-year-old.


Sitting on the sofa, he read the writing on the page, the writing of his own hand.


November 19, 1863

Captain Samuel Whiting

PennsylvanIa Independent Light Artillery, Battery E


I am full of dArkness. It has coMpletely overshadowed me. My heart despairs; my soul swims in murky, colorless waters. I am not my own but a mere puppet in his hanD. My intent is evil, and I loathe what the dAy will bring, what I will accomplish. But I must do it. My feet have been positioned, my couRse has been set, and I amcompelled to follow. Darkness, he is my commander now.


I can already smell the blood on my hands, and it turns my stomach. But, strangely, it excites me as well. I know it is the darKness within me, bloodthirsty devil that it is. It desires death, his death (the president), and I am beginning tounderstand why. He must die. He deserves nothing more than death. So much sufferiNg has come from his words, his policies, his will. He speaksof freedom but has enslaved so many in this cursed war.


See how the pen trEmbles in my hand. I move it,not myself but the darkneSs guides it, as it guides my mind and will. Shadowy figures encircle me. I can see them all about the room, specters moving as lightly as wiSps of smoke. My hand trembles. Iam overcome. I am their slave. His slave.


I am not my own.

I am not my own.

I am notnotnotnotnotnotnotno

my own


Sam let the notebook slip from his hands and scrape across the hardwood floor. Gooseflesh puckered his skin. He thought of last night’s battle sounds, of Tommy’s voice and feeling the darkness around him—the darkness. He remembered the grinning jack-o’lanterns, the click of the sliding dead bolt. He had no memory of turning off the TV and opening the door, nor of finding Eva’s notebook and writing this nonsense.


What was happening to him?


He stood and went to the front door, barely aware of his feet moving under him. With one elbow on the doorjamb he poked his head outside and scanned the front yard, listening.


“Moll?” His voice was weak and broke mid-word. There was no answer. If Molly was out here, she must be around back.


Then, as if last night’s ethereal battle had landed in his front yard, a rifle shot split the morning air, and the living room window exploded in a spray of glass.

My review:
Mike Dellosso has become one of my favorite authors, so this book was a must read for me. I was lucky to snag a copy to review, which made my day. Not only is he a great writer and author, he seems like a great guy. I keep up with his blog have enjoyed reading what God has brough him through.

In my humble opinion, this is his best book yet. All of his books have a Frank Peretti feel to them, and this one follows in that style. Interestingly, this book came from strange and true events: Mike's uncle shared a journal with him that he wrote in his sleep and does not remember writing. The journal entries were from the point of view of a soldier in the Civil War, and contained things that his uncle didn't even know. Mike was fascinated and got the idea for a book from that.

I occasionally label a book a  "read-in-one-sitting" book, and this was definitely one of those. I started reading it, and so thoroughly enjoyed the story, that I kept reading until I finished it. And I loved every minute. The plot was different, but really, really good. I loved the setting: Gettysburg, PA. I enjoyed visiting that great historical place through the pages of a fiction book, and anything involving the Civil War catches my interest.

The book didn't quite go as I expected toward the end, but though Mike surprised me, I still liked the conclusion of the book, and he brought home the point that God can help anyone.

As I already stated, this is Mike's best book so far, so if you haven't read anything by him, give him a try, and start with this one. You will not be disappointed. A definite 5 star read.

Check out my interview with Mike that posted yesterday.