Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Jerk Magnet

The Jerk Magnet
Melody Carlson
(Revell)
978-0800719623
January 2012/224 pages/$12.99


What if beauty is more than just skin deep?

When Chelsea Martin's future stepmother helps her transform from gawky and geeky into the hottest girl at her new school, Chelsea is pretty sure it's the best thing that ever happened to her. But her hot new look has a downside. She's attracting lots of guys who all have one thing in common: they're jerks. Oh, and stealing the attention of all the guys in school doesn't exactly make her BFF material for the girls.

Finally a great guy catches her eye. But he's the only one around who doesn't give her a second glance. Can Chelsea come up with a plan to get his attention? Or will her new image ruin everything?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, The Jerk Magnet, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books in 2010 and 2011. She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Melody visit her website at www.melodycarlson.com.

MY THOUGHTS:
Melody Carlson writes great books for teen girls and has her pulse on the hot issues that impact them. My thoughts on this book are mixed because my opinion swung all over the place as I read. The message Melody Carlson wants teens to take away from this book is an important one: don't judge by external appearance. The girl with the hottest looks is not necessarily a jerk and may in fact be a warm, committed Christ-follower. The "plain Jane" should not be dismissed as only being worthy of sisterly friendship and thereby essentially overlooked. The part of the book I struggled with is Chelsea's makeover itself. While I recognize that the story needed Chelsea to undergo the transformation for the experience, I wanted her to realize at the end that she was beautiful the way God made her, without the spray-on tan, hair coloring, and designer (albeit at a discount) clothing. I am not against make-up and looking our best. But I took issue with the extent of changes that Chelsea's future step-mom made, including her comments about Chelsea's mousy brown hair. As a mom who wants my girl to be content with how God created her (not to mention we can't afford routine mani/pedis, brow treatments, salon appointments, and make-up consultations!), that factor would keep me from passing this book along to her. I fear that the message of not judging by appearances might be overshadowed by the discontent felt by girls who long for their own fairy godmother to change them rather than helping them find the beauty hidden within.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Monday, January 30, 2012

Ruth's Redemption

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Ruth's Redemption
Moody Publishers/Lift Every Voice (February 1, 2012)
by
Marlene Banks


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marlene Banks has worked 30+ years combined in nursing and the business arena. Her goal as a writer is to create inspiring, gripping and realistic stories with an emphasis on African American literature. She believes her gift and desire to write is from God and desires to use it to fulfill His purposes. Marlene lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she is a member of Bethel Deliverance International Church.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Set in the 1800s, Ruth's Redemption, is an unusual depiction of the lives of slaves and free blacks in pre-Civil War America. Bo, a main character, was educated while a slave. He was given his freedom and now owns a farm buying slaves for the sole purpose of giving them their freedom.

Bo is also a man of God and widower whose life is destined to change when he meets the proud and hard-hearted slave girl, Ruth. Ruth has known nothing but servitude and brutality since being separated from her mother at age thirteen. Purchased and sold primarily for breeding, Ruth struggles to adjust to life outside of bondage. She wants no part of Bo's Godly devotion. Yet Bo is unlike any man she's known and her experiences with him will leave her forever changed.

A gripping slave era novel, Ruth's Redemption is a story of love, forgiveness, and redemption. Set against the backdrop of the Nat Turner Rebellion in Tidewater, Virginia, this novel shines the light of God's unconditional love in the darkness of a culture's cruel socially accepted inhumanity.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ruth's Redemption, go HERE.

MY THOUGHTS:

This is a captivating book which portrays that, however deep the sin and depravity, God's love is greater still. Due to the subject matter, I was expecting this to be a morose and depressing--and perhaps even dry--book to read, but I was immediately drawn into the story from the first page. Marlene Banks has crafted a story that is frank and authentic in its portrayal of the darkness of the days before the Civil War, yet at the same time she has infused it with the hope and love of God, even--or especially!--when He is unseen and certainly not understood. This is truly a beautiful and tender story of redemption that will touch your heart.




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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Summer of Promise


Summer of Promise
Amanda Cabot
(Revell)
ISBN: 978-0800734596
January 2012/416 pages/$14.99


Though she had planned to spend the summer in Vermont, Abigail Harding cannot dismiss her concerns over her older sister. Charlotte's letters have been uncharacteristically melancholy, and her claims that nothing is wrong ring false, so Abigail heads west to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. When her stagecoach is attacked, Wyoming promises to be anything but boring. Luckily, the heroics of another passenger, Lieutenant Ethan Bowles, save the day.

Abigail plans to marry when she returns to Vermont, just as soon as she attends to her sister. As the summer passes, she finds herself drawn to this rugged land and to a certain soldier determined to persuade her to stay. When summer ends, will she go back East, or will she find her heart's true home?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Amanda Cabot is an accomplished author under various pen names and a popular speaker. The author of Paper Roses, Scattered Petals, and Tomorrow's Garden, she is also a charter member of Romance Writers of America, the cofounder of its New Jersey chapter, a member of the ACFW, and an avid traveler. She lives in Wyoming.




MY THOUGHTS:

This is a fun read. It starts off with a bang - literally! - with a stagecoach robbery, introducing Abigail to the perils of the untamed West. This new series is off to a great beginning with this book about Abigail. I love her care and concern for Charlotte. I could also relate to her character; how many times have I predetermined I am not going to like something, only to discover that either it's not what I expected at all or my tastes begin to change the more I learn about it? I look forward to reading more about Charlotte and a third sister in upcoming books.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Saturday, January 28, 2012

TSMSS - Come to Jesus

I hadn't heard this song in awhile until a friend sang it at his father-in-law's memorial service yesterday. I've always loved the piano on this, and the words are so beautiful. No matter what we go through in our lives, we can Come to Jesus. I love how the song portrays a believer's life, with its lows and highs, from the moment of salvation to the final homegoing.





Thanks to Amy for hosting this meme each Saturday!


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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Sound of Red Returning

The Sound of Red Returning
Sue Duffy
(Kregel Publications)
ISBN: 978-0825425745
December 2011/288 pages/$14.99

After losing everyone she loves, concert pianist Liesl Bower has nowhere to go but to escape into her music. Searching for the peace she usually finds in her concertos and sonatas, Liesl can’t shake the feeling that she is being haunted by her past . . . and by someone following her. When she spots a familiar and eerie face in the audience of a concert she’s giving for the president in Washington, DC, the scariest day of her life comes back to her with a flash. It has been fifteen years since Liesl watched her beloved Harvard music mentor assaulted on a dark night in Moscow and just as long since the CIA disclosed to her that he’d been spying for Russia. She had seen that man--that eerie face--the night Professor Devoe was attacked. And now he’s back--and coming for her.

On the run and struggling to rely on the protection of CIA agent Ava Mullins and handsome newspaper reporter Cade O’Brien, Liesl learns she is the prey of an underground cell of Russian KGB agents determined to restore their country to its former Soviet might. But what she doesn’t know is that she is in possession of something--a piece of sheet music--that Russian intelligence is now frantic to find. Inside that music is a secret code, the hidden transcriptions of her deceased mentor, that clearly identify a Russian mole operating inside Israel’s Department of Defense, a mole with enough power and access to execute a daring assassination that no one would see coming.

Caught in a deadly conflict between American and Russian undercover agents, this innocent young pianist is just trying to survive her own personal trauma. Through it all, Liesl must learn that no matter how dark her world grows or how fiercely her enemies pursue her, God is still in control--if only she can yield herself to His grace. Read an excerpt here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sue Duffy is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Moody Magazine, The Presbyterian Journal, Sunday Digest, and The Christian Reader. She is the author of Mortal Wounds (Barbour, 2001) and Fatal Loyalty (Kregel, 2010). Sue has also contributed to Stories for a Woman’s Heart (Multnomah). She and her husband, Mike, have three grown children.

Find out more at www.sueduffybooks.com.

MY THOUGHTS:
This was an intriguing novel which brought back memories of the days of the Cold War between the USA and Russia. Liesl immediately captured my heart as she is suddenly thrust into the midst of a race for something she's unaware she has -- or even know where it is. The introduction of Cade and his grandfather, Ian, was a little bumpy; I wasn't initially sure how they connected to the story, but once that was clear, they quickly endeared themselves to me and it was a relief to know that Liesl had someone looking out for her personal interests as well as for national security. Spies, counterspies, CIA agents, political intrigue, dysfunctional family baggage, and a hint of romance all intertwine in this captivating book, and an unexpected twist at the end leaves potential for an upcoming sequel.


Read what others are saying and visit other blogs on the tour here.


Win a Kindle Fire from @SueDuffy2 and @KregelBooks in the "Red Returning" Giveaway!

Sue Duffy and her publisher, Kregel Publications, are celebrating the release of The Sound of Red Returning by giving away a Kindle Fire prize package worth over $200 to one lucky winner!!!! (1/23-2/11)


Enter the Sue Duffy’s Giveaway today and you could win:

* A brand new Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
* The Sound of Red Returning (Book One in the Red Returning series) by Sue Duffy

To enter click one of the icons below. But, hurry! The giveway ends on 2/11. Sue will be announcing the winner of the “Red Returning” Giveaway on February 13th on the Litfuse website!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications & Litfuse Publicity as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Four Letter Words


Four Letter Words:
Conversations on Faith's Beauty and Logic

Bill Giovannetti
(Endurant Press)
ISBN: 978-0983681267
September 2011/208 pages/$13.99


Thou shalt tolerate every opinion... except the Christian's. Today's postmodern "prime directive" leaves many followers of Jesus tongue-tied. In the global village, isn't it unreasonable, and even dangerous, to suggest that the Bible has a monopoly on truth?

The church needs a new breed of Christ-follower. We need Christ-followers who are alert to today's touchy ideas, the truths that fire up more heat than light. We need Christ-followers who can make a clear case for the Bible's worldview; who are ready to help our friends think through their beliefs; who can recognize inconsistencies and challenge them; and who can do all of this with humility, confidence, humor, and love. For more information visit the book's website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Bill Giovannetti is a professor at A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and the senior pastor of Neighborhood Church of Redding. An experienced speaker and author, Bill informs the mind in ways that touch the heart. He enjoys life with his wife and two kids in northern California. For more information about Bill and his other books, visit http://maxgrace.wordpress.com and http://fourletterwords.org.


Bill is celebrating the new Kindle edition of Four Letter Words (only $4.99)! He’ll be traveling coast to coast over the next few weeks on this virtual book tour and he's celebrating by hosting a great giveaway!

Click here to find out how you can win two gift certificates to Amazon (in the amount of $50 and $25) and free downloads of his yet-to-be-released title, Recession-Proof: Living a God-Blessed Life in a Messed Up World.


MY THOUGHTS:
This book endeavors to help teens know what and why they believe so that they are able to defend their faith. It has some excellent points and I like how each chapter begins with several Scriptures relating to that chapter's focus. The title is catchy, as the Four Letter Words of which Bill Giovannetti writes are not edgy but are simply words such as True, Know, Pain, Evil, and Wait, among others. Talking points in the back of each chapter, a discussion guide available for download, and scannable "QR Enabled" codes throughout make this an interactive book which will appeal to Christian teens. While I didn't agree with everything exactly as he presented it, this will be an asset to students looking for answers to deeper questions of faith. I would recommend this book be used in a group led by a wise adult rather than just handing it to a youth to read without discussing the content further.

I do think teens need to be cautioned against expecting to debate someone into becoming a Christian; the Holy Spirit must woo and draw a seeking heart. And the idea that folks have to understand and accept many theological concepts before believing is in opposition to the Bible's directive to come as a child. In fact, I'm reminded of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he said, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." and "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power." (I Corinthians 1:20-21, 2:4-5) The neighbors and friends of the blind man whom Jesus healed, and even the Pharisees, peppered him with questions about Jesus, and his response was ". . .I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25)


See what others are saying about this book and follow the blog tour here


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity and Endurant Press as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Love Blooms in Winter

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love Blooms in Winter
Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)
by
Lori Copeland


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband Lance. Lance and Lori have three sons, three daughter-in-laws, and six wonderful grandchildren, and two great-granddaughters. Lance and Lori are very involved in their church, and active in supporting mission work in Mali, West Africa.

Lori began her writing career in 1982, writing for the secular book market. In 1995, after many years of writing, Lori sensed that God was calling her to use her gift of writing to honor Him. It was at that time that Lori began writing for the Christian book market. To date, she has had over 100 books published.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A romantic new book from bestselling author Lori Copeland that portrays God’s miraculous provision even when none seems possible.

1892—Mae Wilkey’s sweet next-door neighbor, Pauline, is suffering from old age and dementia and desperately needs family to come help her. But Pauline can’t recall having kin remaining. Mae searches through her desk and finds a name—Tom Curtis, who may just be the answer to their prayers.

Tom can’t remember an old aunt named Pauline, but if she thinks he’s a long-lost nephew, he very well may be. After two desperate letters from Mae, he decides to pay a visit. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more of an adventure than Tom is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter when God is in charge of things.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Blooms in Winter, go HERE.

ABOUT THE BOOK

LOL - Although I only received one copy of this book, I accidentally signed up for this book on two blog tours! Here's my review, which I also posted last week:

Love Blooms in Winter is a charming book for many reasons. The characters are delightful (with a few exceptions, just as you would find in any town!), and I particularly loved the portrayal of Pauline. I don't know that I've read many--if any--historical novels with a character slipping into dementia, and this was a charming and realistic look at how very challenging it was more than a hundred years ago to deal with an elderly friend or family member whose mental capabilities are declining. This is a wonderful book to curl up with by the fire on a cool night.


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Wednesday Hodgepodge and a Giveaway!

UPDATE Sunday, 1/29/12 3:15 pm WINNER!

Here are your random numbers:
8
Timestamp: 2012-01-29 21:04:18 UTC

Congrats to April!

Email me your address, April, and the book will be on its way to you!

* * * * *



1. The NFL playoffs were held this past weekend and this year's Superbowl lineup will feature The New York Giants versus The New England Patriots. How do you define 'patriot'?

One who serves sacrificially, acting and making decisions based on what is best for the country, without regard for personal gain or welfare.

2. What's something in your life right now that feels like a 'giant'?

Thinking of answers to these questions. :-)

3. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to being 18?

My freshman year in college.

4. Coconut-mashed potatoes-vanilla ice cream-mayonnaise...which white food would be the hardest to give up?

I guess the vanilla ice cream. Although I've essentially pretty much given up all of them recently.

5. Describe an incident or a day you remember as the coldest you've ever experienced?

Years ago my two sisters and I went to the Grand Canyon just after Labor Day. We camped out on the south rim, and it got down in the 40's. I slept in my clothes, my coat, and my sleeping bag, and I was still freezing. One sister finally went and slept in the car. The next morning when we cooked breakfast, I didn't think the eggs were ever going to scramble, between the altitude and the temperature! When we got to the north rim and it was in the 30's, we got a cabin!

6. You're hosting a brunch...what's your favorite dish to prepare and serve?

Can't go wrong with an egg casserole, especially one with a Tex-Mex twist!

7. How do you combat negative thinking?

Scripture, prayer, music, destraction.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Does a giveaway count as random?!

Guideposts sent me a second copy of this new devotional book, Mornings with Jesus 2012, which I reviewed Monday, to give away, and in my haste to post the review, I omitted the giveaway. But what better place than the Hodgepodge to piggyback a review?! I'll choose a winner from the comments left on this post by 8:00 pm CST Saturday (1/28/12). US Residents only, please. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog so I can contact you if you win.

Each day's devotional is written by one of seven authors: Judy Baer, Gwen Ford Faulkenberry, Tricia Goyer, Sharon Hinck, Keri Wyatt Kent, Erin Keeley Marshall, and Camy Tang.

You can find out more about the book and read my review here.






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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where Wildflowers Bloom - Contest!



Where Wildflowers Bloom
Ann Shorey
(Revell)
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2074-2
January 2012/336 pages/$14.99


How far will she go to follow her dreams?

The Civil War stole a father and brother from Faith Lindberg--as well as Royal Baxter, the man she wanted to marry. With only her grandfather left, she dreams of leaving Noble Springs, Missouri, and traveling west to Oregon to start a new life, away from the memories that haunt her. But first she must convince her grandfather to sell the family's mercantile and leave a town their family has called home for generations.

When Royal Baxter suddenly returns, Faith allows herself to hope that she and Royal will finally wed. But does he truly love her? Or will another man claim her heart?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ann Shorey is the author of The Edge of Light, The Promise of Morning, and The Dawn of a Dream. She has also published selections in the Cup of Comfort series and in Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul. Shorey lives with her husband, Richard, in Oregon.

MY THOUGHTS:
Maybe it was the mercantile. Or the wagging tongues of some of the folks in Noble Springs, Missouri. But the setting of this wonderful story reminded me just a bit of Little Town on the Prairie, my all-time favorite series from childhood. So many great characters populate this novel. Faith's grandfather is adorable; I love the contrast between his feisty nature and his soft heart! Rosemary Saxton has such a kind and tender heart as well, and it's amazing that society of the times had such a negative and harsh view of her altruism during the Civil War. Her brother Curt, the doctor, the ready-to-give-advice checker players, and others all contribute to the town's charm. Yet although the story takes place more than a century ago, the challenges with which Faith wrestles are as contemporary as the latest tech gadget: faith, hope, and love.

CONTEST!


To celebrate the story, author Ann Shorey and Revell Books are proud to announce the MERCANTILE MEMORIES giveaway, featuring three incredible prizes!

GRAND PRIZE:
Our Grand Prize winner will receive an heirloom chess set, handmade from 1830s chestnut & cherry wood, just like the one Judge Lindberg and Curt use in their chess battles.

SECOND PRIZE:
Our Second Prize winner will receive a deluxe, Missouri-shaped box of mercantile goods from the Missouri Mercantile company. The box features an assortment of items just like those stocked by Faith in Lindberg’s Mercantile.

THIRD PRIZE:
Our Third Prize winner will receive a Memoirs Gift Set. Write your memoirs just like Judge Lindberg does in the story! The set includes the bestselling Writing the Memoir book, and a $30 gift card to Blurb, to create and print your story.

Click here for details and to enter!



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Firethorn

Strap yourself into your seat! This is an adrenaline-laced, action-paced conclusion to Ronie Kendig's phenomenal Discarded Heroes series that will absolutely hold you captive to the page. The covert special ops group's final and most desperate mission is to discover who just blew them apart - but first they have to survive the attack and make it back together. Ronie Kendig is a brilliant author who does not avoid difficult issues and her characters find themselves in the trenches of faith as surely as they dodge bullets. My only caveat: I do not recommend this book for bedtime reading. It's entirely too hard to put down!


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:

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (2012)

***Special thanks to Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

An Army brat, Ronie Kendig grew up in the classic military family, with her father often TDY and her mother holding down the proverbial fort. Their family moved often, which left Ronie attending six schools by the time she’d entered fourth grade. Her only respite and “friends” during this time were the characters she created.
It was no surprise when she married a military veteran—her real-life hero—in June 1990.  Married more than twenty years, Ronie and her husband, Brian, homeschool their four children, the first of whom graduated in 2011. Despite the craziness of life, Ronie finds balance and peace with her faith, family and their three dogs in Dallas, TX.
Ronie has a deep love and passion for people, especially hurting people, which is why she pursued and obtained a B.S. in Psychology from Liberty University. Ronie is an active member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and has volunteered extensively, serving in a variety of capacities from coordinator of a national contest to appointment assistant at the national annual conference.
Since launching onto the publishing scene in 2010, Ronie and her books have been gained critical acclaim and national attention, including:
    • Finalist in Christian Retailing’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards (Nightshade)
    • RWA’s Faith, Hope, & Love’s 2011 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards in Romantic Suspense (Nightshade)
    • Named one of the Top 25 Christian Fiction Suspense, Mystery, and Thriller Writers by FamilyFiction (Sept 2011)
    • 2011 FamilyFiction Readers’ Choice Awards – 3rd place as New Favorite Author, 8th place with Nightshade for Novel of the Year.
    • INSPY Award Shortlist final in Mystery/Thriller (Dead Reckoning)
    • The Christian Manifesto’s 2010 Lime Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Nightshade)

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Blown and dismantled, Nightshade is ready to repay the favor.

Former Marine and current Nightshade team member Griffin "Legend" Riddell is comfortable. So comfortable he never sees the set up that lands him in a maximum security prison, charged with murder. How can he prove his innocence behind bars?

Covert operative Kazi Faron is tasked with reassembling Nightshade—the black ops team someone dissected. Breaking Griffin out of a federal penitentiary amid explosive confusion may turn out to be her last assignment. What will it take to convince the fugitive that whoever set him up has also dissected the Nightshade team? As Kazi and Griffin race to rescue the others and discover the traitor, love begins to awaken in their hearts.

Can a covert operative and the felon she's freed overcome their mutual distrust long enough to save Nightshade? Will anything prepare them for who—or what is coming?



Product Details:


  • List Price: $12.99
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602607850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602607859






AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







       To all American military heroes



At home and abroad,



Those who have gone before



and those serving today—



THANK YOU!



Because of you, we are FREE!



RECON CREED
Realizing it is my choice and my choice alone to be a Reconnaissance Marine, I accept all challenges involved with this profession. Forever shall I strive to maintain the tremendous reputation of those who went before me.

Exceeding beyond the limitations set down by others shall be my goal. Sacrificing personal comforts and dedicating myself to the completion of the reconnaissance mission shall be my life. Physical fitness, mental attitude, and high ethics—The title of Recon Marine is my honor.

Conquering all obstacles, both large and small, I shall never quit. To quit, to surrender, to give up is to fail. To be a Recon Marine is to surpass failure; To overcome, to adapt and to do whatever it takes to complete the mission.

On the battlefield, as in all areas of life, I shall stand tall above the competition. Through professional pride, integrity, and teamwork, I shall be the example for all Marines to emulate.

Never shall I forget the principles I accepted to become a Recon Marine. Honor, Perseverance, Spirit, and Heart.

A Recon Marine can speak without saying a word and achieve what others can only imagine.

Swift, Silent, Deadly 




Chapter 1
The Shack

“It’s sad, really.” Marshall “The Kid” Vaughn trudged away from the thumping rotors of the helo that had deposited them back at the Shack, his pack almost dragging the ground. “Ya don’t realize how much a person adds until he’s gone.”

“Legend’s not gone.” Max “Frogman” Jacobs hoisted his rucksack into a better group, his mind locked on Sydney and their two sons waiting for him at home. Poor woman had to be going out of her mind with two of his Mini-Me’s running around.

“Yeah.” John “Squirt” Dighton hit the light breaker, then waited for the six-man team to clear the door. “He’s just temporarily detained.”

Lights sizzled and popped to life. Groaning bounced off the grimy windows as he hauled the door closed, locked it, then started toward the showers.

The Kid grunted. “Forty-years-to-life temporary.”

In the locker room, a depressive gloom hung over the team. They’d been on countless missions, hit just about every terrain and environment imaginable, but none had taken the toll the last couple had. And there was one reason—they were down a man. Griffin “Legend” Riddell. If Max could write the playbook, they wouldn’t do another mission without the guy. But with the man in federal prison for murdering a congressman, it’d be a long wait.

It was quiet. Too quiet. Max looked around the Spartan room. Walls of lockers, most unused. A few benches. A giant once-white bin for dirty duds. And the team. Six men, now. All very skilled. Good men. Even the one missing. Every man here knew Legend had been set up—he didn’t murder that congressman. But nobody could prove it. The evidence was damning. Justice—injustice was more like it—came swiftly. Lambert, ever the puppeteer, couldn’t pull the right strings to get Legend off.

“I’m heading up to visit him tomorrow. Anyone game?” Colton “Cowboy” Neeley slumped on a bench and ran a hand over his short, dark hair. His blue eyes probed the group.

“Nah, man. I’ve got a date,” the Kid said.

Squirt beaned him with a towel. “What girl would go out with you, mate?”

The Kid snapped the terry cloth back at the former Navy SEAL. “Your sister.”

Squirt froze. His jaw went slack. Then his eyes darkened.

Laughing, Canyon “Midas” Metcalfe rose to his feet from the corner. “You just proved his point by thinking your sister would actually go out with him.”

Squirt swallowed, his face drained of color. “I introduced them at a New Year’s party.”

Midas laughed harder. “Your mistake, mate.

Shuffling closer, Squirt pointed a finger at the Kid. “I swear, you touch her, I’ll shove a fist full of witchety grubs down your gullet.”

“Give me credit, dude.” The Kid raised his hands. “I’m a gentleman.”

Max grunted. “Right.” As he strode around the lockers to the shower well, he heard more threats and much more laughter from the Kid. Max shook his head. Would the Kid ever grow up, learn when to leave things alone?

As he tossed his oily, grimy duds on the bench, Max paused, thinking maybe he should send his report to Lambert now so he wouldn’t have to mess with it tomorrow. The mission had been simple enough, a snatch-n-grab of an Iranian doctor. It’d been nice and clean, in and out. The report wouldn’t take long. Then he could shower, bug out, and know he had the whole weekend with Syd and the boys.

Max jogged up the iron stairs, which creaked and groaned beneath his weight. Down the hall to the right. He punched in the code and entered the secure hub, the door hissing shut behind him. The most high-tech part of this dump-of-a-warehouse.

Shouts drew his attention to the blinds. He jabbed two fingers between a couple and spread them to peeked down into the main area. Squirt and the Kid raced into the bay and back the way they came. Squirt looked ready to kill. The Kid’s face revealed his fear. Max shook his head again. Man, he wanted Griffin back. The guy seemed to bring balance to the team. Badly needed balance.

Max powered up the computer. Hand propped on the warped wood, he waited for the system to boot.

More shouts. Loud thuds.

He pinched the bridge of his nose. Would they never—?

Tat-a-tat! Tat-tat-a-tat!

Instinct drove Max to his knee at the sound of gunfire. He scrambled to the window. Through the slanted blinds, he peered down into the slab of cement. His brain wouldn’t assemble what he saw. Gunmen. A dozen or more. Rushing into the Shack from the parking bay. Moving swiftly, as if. . .

They know the layout.

Max darted to the door and jerked it open. He sprinted down the hall toward the stairs. As his boot hit steel, he froze. A shadow emerged. Floated into the hall.

Too late.

Max jerked back. Pressed his spine against the wall.

By the showers, the Kid looked up. Max signaled to him. Then made his best and loudest Nightshade whistle, hoping it would penetrate the building, give the men warning to take cover.

The Kid threw himself back into the locker room.

Men swarmed the corner. One looked to his left, one right. His weapon slowly rose as he traced the stairs with his M16.

Max leapt backward into the darkness and into office. He closed the door. As the lock clicked, darkness dropped like an anchor over the entire building. Behind him, a glow screamed his location. The monitor!

Max spun. Lunged across the desk. Stabbed the power button. And paused with his hand still near the monitor. If someone was coming after them. . .accessing this computer. . .

On his knees, Max yanked the cords free. With the box, he moved to the window and reassessed the parking bay. Another van with a half-dozen men with AK-47s. They streamed into the warehouse.

Max’s gut wound into a dozen knots. They were screwed.

Think! Hand on the door, he considered going back downstairs. But that would get him captured. Killed. Yet he’d rather be with his guys than running like a chicken.

No, not running. Considering options, gaining the advantage. Planning. The invasion force was armed to the teeth. They knew who they were coming after. They’d brought weapons. And those guys moved with precision. Swift, deadly precision.

Though Nightshade had a stellar ops record, perhaps they had finally met their match. Still. . .two to one? Nightshade had faced worse.

A large black Suburban screeched to a halt in the middle of the parking bay. Two men emerged, both wearing trench coats.

Max cursed his luck to be up here, away from his gear, his weapons. Up here, without firepower. Thus, powerless.

Okay, enough. He was going down there. He eased the door open and slid across the hall. Bathed in darkness, he crouched at edge of the landing, using the wall for cover. A dozen men so far, rushing here and there. Quick, quiet chatter between the men.

A smirk slid into Max’s face. His team had taken cover and these goons couldn’t find them. If he could just get a weapon. . .

“Can’t find them.”

“They’re here. I saw them go in,” the man nearest the SUV shouted. “Find them! Lights!”

Light rushed through the building as headlamps from the vehicles stabbed the dusty, damp building. Max yanked back, out of sight. He needed to get down there, defend his men. His boot hit the landing.

Shouts erupted. A shot bounced off the steel rafters, taunting as it echoed through the Shack. Stilled, Max waited. More shouts. The sound of a scuffle. The half-dozen men waiting by the SUV lifted their weapons to the ready.

The locker room door swung open. A man walked backward, his AK-47 aimed at a large form filling the doorway. Cowboy. Arms raised, dressed only in his jeans, he stalked forward. Someone shoved him from behind, which barely moved the big lug.

Spine pressed against the wood, Max peered down into the bay.

“You move one wrong muscle,” the one in front of Cowboy growled, “and so help me God, I’ll kill you.”

“No you won’t.” Cowboy lowered his hands. “If you wanted me dead, I wouldn’t be out here.”

Ride ’em, Cowboy.

From the side entrance to the showers, three men dragged a shouting, cursing Kid into the bay. Max smirked that it took three tangos to wrangle the Kid.

Hand clenched, Max’s mind went into overdrive. What could he do? God. . .I need. . .something. What could he pray for? Intercepting the team was impossible. Twelve, fifteen armed tangos against one unarmed man?

He latched on to the hope that they’d only found Cowboy and the Kid. No Midas, Squirt, or Aladdin. Good. Maybe they could regroup and—

A man flew through the bay door from the showers and landed with a thud a yard from the others. Midas flipped over, scissored his legs, and swept the thug off his feet. The Kid seized the confusion to attack the men guarding him. And impressively. With a hard right, he dropped the first and used that weapon to disable the second.

Cowboy took a step back and rammed his elbow into the gut of the nearest guard. The gunman bent forward—straight into Cowboy’s meaty fist. The big guy pivoted, slapped the interior of the gunman’s wrist, effectively seizing the weapon and flipping the muzzle around. He fired at the guy.

Crack!

In the split second it took for Max to realize the sonic boom that rent the air wasn’t the report of Cowboy’s .45 MEU but of a rifle, Max saw the man in the black trench coat drop to the ground. A circle spread out like a dark halo.

“Sniper!” someone shouted.

The dead guy had fallen backward. Most likely shot from the front. Which meant. . . Max’s gaze rose to the rafters. With no light, it’d be the perfect hiding spot. But. . .who? Squirt? Aladdin?

Crack!

The man guarding Colton stumbled forward, then went to his knees before hitting the cement.

The man in the black trench coat nearest the SUV dropped. A pool of blood spilled out.

“There!” One guard swung and fired his fully automatic at the ceiling. Four others followed suit, firing at the bank of grimy windows on the southeast wall of the building.

Max followed their direction and watched. Waited, his breath caught at the back of his throat. Cracks and shattering glass blended with the staccato punches of the guns to create a wild cacophony of noise. Max tuned it out, praying whoever—Aladdin or Squirt—wouldn’t be hit.

But then he saw it. A shift of a shadow. Like someone rolling. . .

The gunfire petered out as a body plummeted the eight feet to the ground.

The thud seemed to have supernatural powers as it pounded Max’s chest and pushed him back. Away from the window but not far enough that he lost line of sight.

Silence dropped on the Shack.

“Where’s Max Jacobs?”

As the question streaked through the warehouse, Max registered a red glow in the far corner. Even as he noticed it, he heard a beep. Another. His gaze darted to the source of the noise. Two men were walking the perimeter, their M16s dangling as they raised their arms and pressed something against the supports. Arms lowered and the men stepped back revealing gray bricks with wires.

Explosives.

Gotta stop this. Do something. His gaze collided with Cowboy’s. The big lug gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

Max’s nostrils flared as he wrestled with what to do.

“Where’s Dighton?”

How do they know our names?

“Dead,” someone answered.

Pulled back into the shadows, Max clenched his eyes and bit down on his tongue. Dighton was dead. What about Aladdin—had he survived the fall?

Sirens wailed in the distance.

“Load ’em up.”

“What about Jacobs?”

“Outta time.” The leader left as the gunmen dragged the team out of the building.

Stealthily, Max held on to the box and sprinted the length of the hall to the side of the Shack. In the conference room, he plunged toward the window. Craned his neck to peek out. Three vehicles—twin white vans and a black town car.

The guys were loaded into the van and one into the car.

The leader shifted, held something out, then it wavered.

Detonator.

Max spun around, searching for an out. Doors. Only one way down—the stairs. But they led to the bay, which would be engulfed.

Windows. Overlooked the dock. The canal. It was January. The water would be brutal cold. His split-second assessment told him no matter what route he took, it’d be deadly. Despite his training, if he didn’t find shelter out of the water once he broke surface, he’d die an ice cube. If he stayed, he’d die a fireball.

Good thing SEALs are insulated against cold water.

Max vaulted toward the window, hurtling the computer through the window. The glass shattered as a violent force blasted through the air. It lifted him. Up. . .up. . . Flipped him. Searing pain sliced through his arm. Heat stroked his back and legs. Fire chased him out of the building. Into the night.

Boom!

Another wave slammed into him. Threw him backward. Toward the water.

Something punched his gut. Knocked the breath from his lungs.

Bright white lit the night. Blinded him. Then—almost instantaneously—black. Pure black. And he was falling. . .down. . .down. . .





Ro n i e K e n d i g
Firethorn
Discarded Heroes # 4



OTHER BOOKS BY RONIE KENDIG


Nightshade (Discarded Heroes #1)


Digitalis (Discarded Heroes #2)


Wolfsbane (Discarded Heroes #3)


© 2011 by Ronie Kendig

ISBN 978-1-60260-0785-9

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.


For more information about Ronie Kendig, please access the author’s Web site at the following Internet address: www.roniekendig.com


Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683,


www.barbourbooks.com


Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.


Printed in the United States of America.




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Mornings with Jesus 2012


Mornings with Jesus
Authors: Judy Baer, Gwen Ford Faulkenberry,
Tricia Goyer, Sharon Hinck, Keri Wyatt Kent,
Erin Keeley Marshall, Camy Tang
(Guideposts)
ISBN:978-0824945046
October 2011/384 pages/$14.99


"Be still and know that I am God.” is one of the most beautiful verses from the Bible, but it’s not easy to practice in this busy world. Mornings with Jesus will help you do just that—“be still” in Jesus’ beautiful and powerful presence. For those who are seeking a deeper experience in their relationship with Christ, Mornings with Jesus offers a fresh perspective of who Jesus is (the Healer, the Son of God, the Comforter, the Good Shepherd) and what that means for day-to-day life. With a warm and friendly voice, 365 short devotional writings on the character and teachings of Jesus encourage readers to greet each day by drawing near to Him and inviting His presence into their day. Spend time with Jesus at the beginning of each day and experience His nearness and peace in a new way throughout the year. Each day’s selection includes: • a Bible verse • an entry based on Jesus: His words, miracles, and parables; His wisdom, compassion, and comfort; His mystery, power, divinity, and humanity • a “faith step” that will inspire and challenge readers to apply the day’s message to their lives

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Get to know the authors here

MY THOUGHTS:
Mornings with Jesus is a fresh new devotional book that will appeal to those who not only want to focus their day on Christ but also enjoy the writings of the authors who contributed. The authors often use personal anecdotes to illustrate the Scripture and focus for the day. I especially like the Faith Step at the end of each day which encourages a practical application. While a devotional book such as this should never replace deeper, in-depth Bible Study, this is a good choice for a shorter Quiet Time.

See what others are saying about this devotional book here.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Guideposts & Litfuse Publicity as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Friday, January 20, 2012

Gone to Ground


Gone to Ground
Brandilyn Collins
(B&H Publishing Group)
ISBN: 978-1433671630
March 2012/352 pages/$14.99


Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the flower for which it’s named—bright and fragrant. But the Amaryllis flower is poison.

In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago—-a sixth murder.

Clearly a killer lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are sure they know who he is-—someone they love. None is aware of the others’ suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer down. But each woman suspects a different man.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. Awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice. Also, The Writer magazine named her nonfiction release, Getting Into Character, one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho. Visit her website to learn more about her.

MY THOUGHTS:
Oh. My. This is a marvelous novel. Brandilyn Collins is the Queen of Suspense and she has certainly delivered another page-turner. The characters are so well-crafted; even without being told, you can tell this is a story set in the deep South. And the plot is brilliant. Many suspense novels, while tossing false clues around, still seem to point to a certain conclusion. In Gone to Ground, Brandilyn has created three completely plausible scenarios. As the perspective of each woman is presented, I found myself utterly convinced that each was right. . . .until I read the next one! This is a book that will appeal to readers of Southern literature as well as suspense and is one that you won't be able to put down until the last page is turned. Pre-order it now so you'll have it to tuck in your bag for spring break!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an electronic advanced reader galley from B&H Publishing Group as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

FIRST Love Blooms in Winter

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:

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This new romance from bestselling author Lori Copeland portrays God’s miraculous provision when none seems possible. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more adventure than Tom Curtis is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter with God in charge.

1892—Mae Wilkey’s sweet next-door neighbor, Pauline, is suffering from old age and dementia and desperately needs family to come help her. But Pauline can’t recall having kin remaining. Mae searches through her desk and finds a name—Tom Curtis, who may just be the answer to their prayers.

Tom can’t remember an old aunt named Pauline, but if she thinks he’s a long-lost nephew, he very well may be. After two desperate letters from Mae, he decides to pay a visit. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more of an adventure than Tom is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter when God is in charge of things.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0736930192

MY THOUGHTS:

Love Blooms in Winter is a charming book for many reasons. The characters are delightful (with a few exceptions, just as you would find in any town!), and I particularly loved the portrayal of Pauline. I don't know that I've read many--if any--historical novels with a character slipping into dementia, and this was a charming and realistic look at how very challenging it was more than a hundred years ago to deal with an elderly friend or family member whose mental capabilities are declining. This is a wonderful book to curl up with by the fire on a cool night.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Dwadlo, North Dakota, 1892 
  The winter of ’92 is gonna go down as one of the worst Dwadlo’s ever seen,” Hal Murphy grumbled as he dumped the sack of flour he got for his wife on the store counter. “Mark my words.” He turned toward Mae Wilkey, the petite postmistress, who was stuffing mail in wooden slots.
  “Spring can’t come soon enough for me.” She stepped back, straightening the row of letters and flyers. She didn’t have to record Hal’s prediction; it was the same every year. “I’d rather plant flowers than shovel snow any day of the week.”
  “Yes, ma’am.” Hal nodded to the store owner, Dale Smith, who stood five foot seven inches with a rounded belly and salt-and-pepper hair swept to a wide front bang. “Add a couple of those dill pickles, will you?” Hal watched as Dale went over to the barrel and fished around inside, coming up with two fat pickles.
  “That’ll fix me up.” Hal turned his attention back to the mail cage, his eyes fixed on the lovely sight. “Can’t understand why you’re still single, Mae. You’re as pretty as a raindrop on a lily pad.” He sniffed the air. “And you smell as good.”
  Smiling, Mae moved from the letter boxes to the cash box. Icy weather may have delayed the train this morning, but she still had to count money and record the day’s inventory. “Now, Hal, you know I’d marry you in a wink if you weren’t already taken.” Hal and Clara had been married forty-two years, but Mae’s usual comeback never failed to put a sparkle in the farmer’s eye. Truth be, she put a smile on every man’s face, but she wasn’t often aware of the flattering looks she received. Her heart belonged to Jake Mallory, Dwadlo’s up-and-coming attorney.
  Hal nodded. “I know. All the good ones are taken, aren’t they?”
  She nodded. “Every single one. Especially in Dwadlo.”
  The little prairie town was formed when the Chicago & North Western Railroad came through five years ago. Where abundant grass, wild flowers, and waterfalls had once flourished, hundreds of miles of steel rail crisscrossed the land, making way for big, black steam engines that hauled folks and supplies. Before the railroad came through, only three homesteads had dotted the rugged Dakota Territory: Mae’s family’s, Hal and Clara’s, and Pauline Wilson’s.
  But in ’87 life changed, and formerly platted sites became bustling towns. Pine Grove and Branch Springs followed, and Dwadlo suddenly thrived with immigrants, opportunists, and adventure-seeking folks staking claims out West. A new world opened when the Dakota Boom started.
  Hal’s gaze focused on Mae’s left hand. “Jake still hasn’t popped the question?”
  Mae sighed. Hal was a pleasant sort, but she really wished the townspeople would occupy their thoughts with something other than her and Jake’s pending engagement. True, they had been courting for six years and Jake still hadn’t proposed, but she was confident he would. He’d said so, and he was a man of his word—though every holiday, when a ring would have been an appropriate gift, that special token of his intentions failed to materialize. Mae had more lockets than any one woman could wear, but Jake apparently thought that she could always use another one. What she could really use was his hand in marriage. The bloom was swiftly fading from her youth, and it would be nice if her younger brother, Jeremy, had a man’s presence in his life.
  “Be patient, Hal. He’s busy trying to establish a business.”
  “Good lands. How long does it take a man to open a law office?”
  “Apparently six years and counting.” She didn’t like the uncertainty but she understood it, even if the town’s population didn’t. She had a good life, what with work, church, and the occasional social. Jake accompanied her to all public events, came over two or three times a week, and never failed to extend a hand when she needed something. It was almost as though they were already married.
  “The man’s a fool,” Hal declared. “He’d better slap a ring on that finger before someone else comes along and does it for him.”
  “Not likely in Dwadlo,” Mae mused. The town itself was made up of less than a hundred residents, but other folks lived in the surrounding areas and did their banking and shopping here. Main Street consisted of the General Store, Smith’s Grain and Feed, the livery, the mortuary, the town hall and jail (which was almost always empty), Doc Swede’s office, Rosie’s CafĂ©, and an empty building that had once housed the saloon. Mae hadn’t spotted a sign on any business yet advertising “Husbands,” but she was certain her patience would eventually win out.
  With a final smile Hal moved off to pay for his goods. Mae hummed a little as she put the money box in the safe. Looking out the window, she noticed a stiff November wind snapping the red canvas awning that sheltered the store’s porch. Across the square, a large gazebo absorbed the battering wind. The usually active gathering place was now empty under a gray sky. On summer nights music played, and the smell of popcorn and roasted peanuts filled the air. Today the structure looked as though it were bracing for another winter storm. Sighing, Mae realized she already longed for green grass, blooming flowers, and warm breezes.
  After Hal left Mae finished up the last of the chores and then reached for her warm wool cape. She usually enjoyed the short walk home from work, but today she was tired—and her feet hurt because of the new boots she’d purchased from the Montgomery Ward catalog. On the page they had looked comfortable with their high tops and polished leather, but on her feet they felt like a vise.
  Slipping the cape’s hood over her hair, she said goodbye to Dale and then paused when her hand touched the doorknob. “Oh, dear. I really do need to check on Pauline again.”
  “How’s she doing?” The store owner paused and leaned on his broom. “I noticed she hasn’t been in church recently.”
  Dale always reminded Mae of an owl perching on a tree limb, his big, dark blue eyes swiveling here and there. He might not talk a body’s leg off, but he kept up on town issues. She admired the quiet little man for what he did for the community and respected the way he preached to the congregation on Sundays.
  How was Pauline doing? Mae worried the question over in her mind. Pauline lived alone, and she shouldn’t. The elderly woman was Mae’s neighbor, and she checked on her daily, but Pauline was steadily losing ground.
  “She’s getting more and more fragile, I’m afraid. Dale, have you ever heard Pauline speak of kin?”
  The small man didn’t take even a moment to ponder the question. “Never heard her mention a single word about family of any kind.”
  “Hmm…me neither. But surely she must have some.” Someone who should be here, in Dwadlo, looking after the frail soul. Mae didn’t resent the extra work, but the post office and her brother kept her busy, and she really didn’t have the right to make important decisions regarding the elderly woman’s rapidly failing health.
  Striding back to the bread rack, she picked up a fresh loaf. Dale had private rooms at the back of the store where he made his home, and he was often up before dawn baking bread, pies, and cakes for the community. Most folks in town baked their own goods, but there were a few, widowers and such, who depended on Dale’s culinary skills. By this hour of the day the goods were usually gone, but a few remained. Placing a cherry pie in her basket as well, she called, “Add these things to my account, please, Dale. And pray for Pauline too.”
  Nodding, he continued sweeping, methodically running the stiff broomcorn bristles across the warped wood floor.
  The numbing wind hit Mae full force when she stepped off the porch. Her hood flew off her head and an icy gust of air snatched away her breath. Putting down her basket, she retied the hood before setting off for the brief walk home. Dwadlo was laid out in a rather strange pattern, a point everyone agreed on. Businesses and homes were built close together, partly as shelter from the howling prairie winds and partly because there wasn’t much forethought given to town planning. Residents’ homes sat not a hundred feet from the store. The whole community encompassed less than five acres.
  Halfway to her house, snowflakes began swirling in the air. Huddling deeper into her wrap, Mae concentrated on the path as the flakes grew bigger.
  She quickly covered the short distance to Pauline’s. The dwelling was little more than a front room, tiny kitchen, and bedroom, but she was a small woman. Pauline pinned her yellow-white hair in a tight knot at the base of her skull, and she didn’t have a tooth in her head. She chewed snuff, which she freely admitted was an awful habit, but Mae had never heard her speak of giving it up.
  Her faded blue eyes were as round as buttons, and no matter what kind of day she was having, it was always a new one to her, filled with wonders. Her mind wasn’t what it used to be. She had good and bad days, but mostly days when her moods changed as swift as summer lightning. She could be talking about tomatoes in the garden patch when suddenly she would be discussing how to spin wool.
  Mae noted a soft wisp of smoke curling up from the chimney and smiled. Pauline had remembered to feed the fire this afternoon, so this was a good day.
  Unlatching the gate, she followed the path to the front porch. In summertime the white railings hung heavy with red roses, and the scent of honeysuckle filled the air. This afternoon the wind howled across the barren flower beds Pauline carefully nurtured during warmer weather. Often she planted okra where petunias should be, but she enjoyed puttering in the soil and the earth loved her. She brought fresh tomatoes, corn, and beans to the store during spring and summer, and pumpkins and squash lined the railings in the fall.
  In earlier days Pauline’s quilts were known throughout the area. She and her quilting group had made quite a name for themselves when Dwadlo first became a town. Four women excelled in the craft. One had lived in Pine Grove, and two others came from as far away as Branch Springs once a month to break bread together and stitch quilts. But one by one the women had died off, leaving Pauline to sew alone in her narrowing world.
  Stomping her boots on the porch, Mae said under her breath, “I don’t mind winter, Lord, but could we perhaps have a little less of it?” The only answer was the wind whipping her garments. Tapping lightly on the door, she called, “Pauline?”
  Mae stepped back and waited to hear the shuffle of feet. Pauline used to answer the door in less than twenty seconds. It took longer now. Mae made a fist with her gloved hand and banged a little harder. The wind howled around the cottage eaves. She closed her eyes and prayed that Jeremy had remembered to stack sufficient firewood beside the kitchen door. The boy was generally responsible, and she thanked God every day that she had him to lean on. He had been injured by forceps during birth, which left him with special needs. He was a very happy fourteen-year-old with the reasoning power of a child of nine.
  A full minute passed. Mae frowned and tried the doorknob. Pauline couldn’t hear herself yell in a churn, but she might also be asleep. The door opened easily, and Mae peeked inside the small living quarters. She saw that a fire burned low in the woodstove, and Pauline’s rocking chair sat empty.
  Stepping inside, she closed the door and called again. “Pauline? It’s Mae!”
  The ticking of the mantle clock was the only sound that met her ears.
  “Pauline?” She lowered her hood and walked through the living room. She paused in the kitchen doorway.
  “Oh, Pauline!”











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