Friday, July 29, 2011

Atlanta Giveaways Begin Monday!

August is Back to School time for many of us, but why should the kids be the only ones hitting the books? Beginning Monday, August 1, I will be hosting a giveaway of many books I was given for my blog readers while I was in Atlanta. I will also begin sharing the interviews with the various authors.

Right now my plan is to post these as regularly as I am able, with the understanding that I am juggling our family vacation (which begins today), getting my boy ready for college (I suppose he would like some bedding and towels for his dorm room!) and moved in, getting my girl started on her junior year in high school and turning 16 the day before (and finding a time for a party!) and continuing to deal with some issues/caring for with my sister. And I guess this family will also continue to want clean clothes and meals, and I have my regular scheduled reviews and books to read.

(Excuse me a moment while I hyperventilate!)

Anyway, I'm excited to share some great books with you, so please check back frequently, post the button on your sidebar and link it to my blog, and get ready to win some books!


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Atlanta Fun - Swan House & Swan Coach House

After ICRS was over, my friend Kim from Window to my World and I stayed in Atlanta a couple of days for some fun. One of the things we did was go to the Atlanta History Center. We strolled through the Civil War museum, but our main interest was Swan House, a historic home built in the 1920's on which author Elizabeth Musser based her novel by the same name. I have not read it - yet! - and I really regretted that when I met Elizabeth and interviewed her regarding her incredible book The Sweetest Thing. (What's more, I remember standing in the book store on several occasions a few years ago with it in my hand and almost buying it!) I'll be sharing my interview with Elizabeth when real life slows down I can get it transcribed. We had already planned to visit Swan House, but didn't know about Swan Coach House until Elizabeth told me, so that was our first stop.

What a charming little restaurant it was - the epitome of a Southern tea room! Take a peek for yourself:

Swan Coach House

Kim at our table

Looking across the tea room.  (Notice the Red Hat Society!)

My delicious lunch

Kim's meringue dessert -shaped like a swan, of course!

Then we drove around the corner to the History Center, got our tickets and took a tour of Swan House itself.

This is the front of the house. Notice the sweeping stairs, but the relatively unimpressive door.

Picture Credit :  Atlanta History Center/Swan House

This is the back of the house and where everyone, including guests and partygoers, enter. The cars would drive down the street, see the front view of the house with the stairs and landscaping, and then drive around back to the porte cochere, where the guests would alight and enter through the back door.

Inside the back door, you stood in a round foyer with a beautiful chandelier, and this was your view of the open room ahead. Note the front door is actually on the underside of the grand staircase. Everything is oriented toward the back door! I found that so fascinating! We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so this picture is from the Atlanta History Center's website.

Picture Credit: Atlanta History Center/Swan House

Now to explain a couple of bizarre things about the lady of the house (whose name was Mrs. Ingram; it's called the Swan House because swans are a prominent theme in the decor and furniture).

To your left in the picture above are two rooms; one is the library, the room where the men would congregate. The decor was dark and heavy. The room next to it is called the morning room but it is essentially a parlor, and it was where the ladies gathered. It is much lighter than the library. On the opposite side of the grand hall is the formal dining room, with its large table and other pieces of furniture.

Notice the floor in the above picture. That is hand-cut Italian marble. The photographer would be standing in the smaller round foyer, and in the middle of that floor was a focal point, a round medallion type of design with a star of something like that. So the large squares gradually got smaller and began curving so that they merged with the circular design of that room.

About Mrs. Ingram: She allowed no one to go up or down that magnificent staircase except during parties. Now this was somewhat of a "retirement" home, and the children were grown, but after her husband died, her daughter and son-in-law and their two boys and the nanny came to live with her. Everyone had to go up and down the rather steep servant stairs in the back of the house.

Furthermore - and this is the weirdest part - with the exception of parties, anyone who walked on that black and white marble floor could only walk on the white squares. Her rationale was that scuff marks would be more visible on the black squares than on the white and harder to clean.

Now. If I had been a servant, busy with all my chores, I do not think I could have remembered what i was doing if I had had to concentrate on how I stepped! And in the entry foyer where the squares got smaller?! That just boggles my mind!

So for those of you who haven't been to Atlanta, that's a peek at this historical home that is the setting for The Swan House. Elizabeth Musser said she's been told that the book has been placed on some schools' AP/college-bound reading lists. How cool is that?!


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July's Last Hodgepodge

I've been out of town the last couple of weeks and have missed being part of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. I know I need to post some interviews, but my other sister came to visit and I have had minimal time at the computer. I thought it would be quick to jump in and do this but then I forgot that Joyce always makes me think with her questions! LO

1. July is National Ice Cream month...your favorite flavor? Soft served, hand dipped, or frozen yogurt...which do you prefer? And technically yogurt is not ice cream but its hot outside so I'll let that slide for today.

Well, first of all it has to be Blue Bell. You folks that don't live around here or in some of the southern states are really missing out.

As far as flavors, I love their Moo-llennium Crunch (Classic vanilla ice cream with a combination of dark chocolate chunks, creamy caramel chunks, roasted pecan halves, chopped almonds and walnut pieces), Mocha Almond Fudge, Cookies 'n Cream, and their classic Homemade Vanilla. Oh and Mint Chocolate Chip is always good too.

2. When you travel do you tend to pack too much or too little?

Generally a little too much in the clothing department. I like having some choice in what I wear and not be forced to wear certain things on certain days. And my mom to always take an extra pair of underwear!

3. What's your favorite cleaning product?


4. Which is the greater tragedy-an innocent person imprisoned or a guilty person set free? Explain.

Well, if I am the victim, I would say a guilty person going free! But no, I would always rather err on the side of grace. I can think of few things more devastating and damaging to one's sense of hope than to be innocent and imprisoned.

5. What's the longest trip you've taken by car?

A couple of years ago when we made a big sweep of the Southeast - went through nine states. Slept in five of them.

6. tennis-golf-canoeing-biking...pick one.

Well, Joyce said "pick one" but didn't indicate what for. . . so I'll pick golf to eliminate from the planet. And to watch it on TV just boggles my mind.

7. What sound drives you crazy?

Fingernails on a chalkboard, of course. And smacking gum or food.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I need ideas for a fun, memorable, yet relatively inexpensive (and easy on the mom's time and energy level!) way to celebrate a girl's 16th birthday with her friends. Suggestios?

BTW, If you didn't get a chance, be sure to read my girl's inaugural book review on yesterday's post!


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Perfectly Invisible - A Guest Review

Life was so crazy busy when I got the invitation to review Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck that I knew I wouldn't have a chance to read it. However, I also knew my girl would be mightily perturbed if I passed up a YA novel! When the publicist suggested that perhaps my girl could write a guest review, it seemed like the perfect solution. My girl agreed but was a little intimidated by the idea. I thought she did a marvelous job; of course I am just a tad biased! The only thing I adjusted in her thoughts (following the book summary and author bio) was italicizing the title of the book. Everything else is exactly as she emailed it to me.

I'm thinking it's a good thing she doesn't have the password to this blog!

Perfectly Invisible
A Universally Misunderstood Novel

Kristin Billerbeck
ISBN: 978-0-8007-1973-9
July, 2011/272 pages/$9.99

Life after high school is so close . . . and yet so very far away.

It's Daisy Crispin's final semester of high school, and she plans to make it count. Her long-awaited freedom is mere months away, and her big plans for college loom in the future. Everything is under control.

Or is it?

Her boyfriend is treating her like she's invisible, and her best friend is making her sell bad costume jewelry in the school quad--and hanging out with her boyfriend. To top it off, Daisy's major humiliation of the year will be remembered in the yearbook for all eternity. It's enough to make her wonder if maybe being invisible isn't so bad after all.

Can Daisy get her life back on track? Or is she stuck in this town forever?


Kristin Billerbeck is the bestselling, award-winning author of several novels, including What a Girl Wants and Perfectly Dateless. A Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year, Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California.

Perfectly Invisible is an amazing book. Kristin Billerbeck took everyday situations, such as mean girls and over-protective parents, and dramatized them a little to create a gripping read. From a car on the school roof to her best friend kissing her boyfriend, Daisy Crispin struggles through her final year of high school and manages to find herself, and her humility, in the process. This book kept me reading all day and I couldn’t put it down. I was very sad when I finished the last page but very content with how Billerbeck created so many plot twists and still managed to finish the book up without leaving any gaps in plot. This is a must read for teenage girls everywhere!

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 daughter's own opinion. 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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Come Back in Just a Bit!

My other sister arrived for a visit Monday and I have had essentially no time at the computer. I have a really fun guest blog post to put up a little bit later this morning. Stay tuned!


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Canary Island Song

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Canary Island Song
Howard Books; Original edition (July 5, 2011)
Robin Jones Gunn


Robin Jones Gunn was born in Wisconsin and lived on a dairy farm until her family moved to southern California when she was five years old. She grew up in Orange County and spent her summers at Newport Beach with friends from her church youth group. After attending Biola University and Capernwray Bible School in Austria, Robin and Ross were married and spent the next two decades working together in youth ministry.

It was the young teens at Robin’s church who challenged her to write stories for them. She hadn’t thought much about being a writer, but took their request to heart and set her alarm for 3am, three days a week. With two small children it was the only time she could find to write the first story about Christy Miller. After two years and ten rejections the novel Summer Promise was accepted for publication in 1988. Robin hasn’t stopped writing since. Over 4 million copies of her 75 books have sold and can be found in a dozen translations all over the world.

Robin and her husband now live in Hawai’i where Ross is a counselor and Robin continues to write to the sound of tropical birds chattering in the palm trees outside her window. Their children are grown but manage to come to the islands with their families every chance they get. Robin's awards include: three Christy awards for excellence in fiction, a Gold Medallion finalist, Mt. Hermon Pacesetter and the Mt. Hermon Writer of the Year award. Robin travels extensively and is a frequent key-note speaker at various events around the world. She serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and Jerry Jenkin’s Christian Writer’s Guild.


When Carolyn’s grown daughter tells her she needs to “get a life,” Carolyn decides it’s time to step out of her familiar routine as a single woman in San Francisco and escape to her mother’s home in the Canary Islands. Since Carolyn’s mother is celebrating her seventieth birthday, the timing of Carolyn’s visit makes for a perfect surprise.

    The surprise, however, is on Carolyn when she sees Bryan Spencer, her high school summer love. It’s been seven years since Carolyn lost her husband, but ever since that tragic day, her life has grown smaller and closed in. The time has come for Carolyn to get her heart back. It takes the gentle affection of her mother and aunts, as well as the ministering beauty and song of the islands to draw Carolyn into the fullness of life. She is nudged along by a Flamenco dance lesson, a defining camel ride and the steady gaze of Bryan’s intense blue-gray eyes.

    Is it too late for Carolyn to trust Bryan? Can Carolyn believe that Bryan has turned into something more than the wild beach boy who stole her kisses so many years ago on a balmy Canary night?

    Carolyn is reminded that Christopher Columbus set sail from the Canary Islands in 1492 on his voyage to discover the New World. Is she ready to set sail from these same islands to discover her new life?

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


This is a fun read. I enjoyed the tropical setting and the loving relationship Carolyn shares with her mother as well as her own daughter. I was immediately caught up into the relationship between her and Bryan. The only part of the story I didn't connect with was the insertion of the thread about Christopher Columbus. It just felt a little abrupt and choppy to me and didn't seem to flow with the story. But other than that, this is a good book to tuck into your beach bag.


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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Agony of De-Feet

I mentioned yesterday that my girl has been at a a state choir camp at a small private university in Houston this week while my boy and I were at Texas A&M for his New Student Conference. The camp was excellent and she wanted to find out more about the school as a possibility for college.

So I made the appointments and yesterday afternoon we met with an admissions counselor. And then, of course, they gave us The Tour.

How is it that I ended up walking around another college campus when my feet and legs were still in full protest mode after the previous two days at A&M?!

Fortunately, this was a much smaller campus and the counselor just pointed out a couple of buildings rather than taking us to them.


Aleve is my new best friend. I actually look forward to the drive back home later today. If you see me at the grocery store tomorrow, I'll be the one leaning on my cart for support.


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Catching My Breath

Whew! These past few days have been a whirlwind! I walked into the house from my trip to Atlanta Saturday evening, unpacked, did a quick load of laundry, repacked, went to bed, got up and went to church, then packed the car and left with my kids for Houston. My girl had to be at a state choir camp first thing Monday morning. It's a day camp and other than that first morning, my MIL has been taking her and picking her up because my boy and I headed to his New Student Conference (NSC) at Texas A&M Monday afternoon.

Can I just say that somehow, the university missed the concept that NEW STUDENT generally means young and energetic and therefore requiring OPA (Old Parent Attendance) at the NSC is counterproductive?

It has been in the vicinity of 30 years since I last traipsed back and forth across a college campus. And slept on a dorm bed.

I ache.

But it was a great couple of days. We attended the same NSC as my boy's cousin, and their older cousin, who will be a Senior, came to help them navigate through the confusion of setting up their schedules and finding courses that weren't already filled to capacity.

And this mom, who grew up in a multigenerational family of burnt-orangeblooded Texas Longhorns, bought an Aggie Mom t-shirt.

We must surely be in the Last Days.

(I promise that I am going to post interviews and giveaways from my Atlanta trip. Soon, I hope.)


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shadows on the Sand

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Shadows on the Sand
Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Gayle Roper

Gayle is the award winning author of more than forty books. She has been a Christy finalist three times for her novels Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, and Winter Winds. Her novel Autumn Dreams won the prestigious Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Summer Shadows was voted the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Book of the Year (tied with fellow author Brandilyn Collins).

Gayle has won the Holt Medallion three times for The Decision, Caught in a Bind, and Autumn Dreams. The Decision won the Reviewers Choice Award, and Gayle has also won the Award of Excellence for Spring Rain and the Golden Quill for Summer Shadows and Winter Winds. Romantic Times Book Report gave Gayle the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her Amhearst mystery series, Caught in the Middle, Caught in the Act, and Caught in a Bind, originally published by Zondervan, was reprinted in 2007 by Love Inspired Suspense with a fourth original title added, Caught Redhanded. Another original single title, See No Evil, was also released. Caught in the Middle has been optioned for film.

For her work in training Christian writers Gayle has won special recognition from Mount Hermon CWC, St. Davids CWC, Florida CWC, and Greater Philadelphia CWC. She directed St. Davids for five years and Sandy Cove CWC for six. She has taught with Christian Leaders, Authors and Speakers Services (CLASS), serving for several years as their writer in residence. She enjoys speaking at women's events across the nation and loves sharing the powerful truths of Scripture with humor and practicality.

Gayle lives in southeastern Pennsylvania where she enjoys her family of two great sons, two lovely daughters-in-law, and the world's five most wonderful grandchildren. When she's not writing, or teaching at conferences, Gayle enjoys reading, gardening, and eating out.

Carrie Carter’s small cafĂ© in Seaside, New Jersey, is populated with a motley crew of locals although Carrie only has eyes for Greg Barnes. He’s recovering from a vicious crime that three years ago took the lives of his wife and children—and from the year he tried to drink his reality away. While her heart does a happy Snoopy dance at the sight of him, he never seems to notice her, to Carrie’s chagrin.

When Carrie’s dishwasher is killed and her young waitress disappears, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But Carrie has a painful past, too, and when the reason she once ran away shows up in town, the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg threatens to implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry. Two wounded hearts struggle to find a way to make one romance work. Failure seems guaranteed when Carrie locates her waitress but is taken hostage...

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

This is a fun summer read containing mystery, suspense, and romance; tuck it into your beach bag!


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Falls Like Lightning - A Searing Read

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Falls Like Lightning
Bethany House (July 1, 2011)
Shawn Grady


Shawn Grady signed with Bethany House Publishers in 2008. He was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference. He is the author of the novels Through the Fire, Tomorrow We Die & Falls Like Lightning.

Shawn has served for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. From fire engines and ambulances to tillered ladder trucks and helicopters, Shawn’s work environment has always been dynamic. The line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras.

After graduating from James Logan High School in Union City, California, Shawn attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego as a Theology undergrad. There he found clarity of direction and proceeded on to acquire an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology as well as Paramedic licensure through Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.

Shawn currently lives in Reno, just outside of Lake Tahoe. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, three children and yellow Labrador.


When hotshot smoke jumper Silas Kent gets his own fire crew, he thinks he's achieved what he's always wanted. But a lightning-sparked fire in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas has his team in a plane before they can even train together.

Pilot Elle Westmore has been called up to drop the crew into the heart of the forest infernos. A single mother of a mysteriously ill six-year-old, she can't imagine her life getting any more complicated.

It doesn't take long for things to go very wrong, very quickly. A suspicious engine explosion forces Elle to make an emergency landing. Silas is able to parachute to safety but soon discovers his crew can't be trusted. They're hiding something, and now Silas is on a race to save himself and Elle from the flames--and from a more dangerous threat: his own team.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Falls Like Lightning, go HERE

I have been a Shawn Grady fan since his first release a couple of years ago and have eagerly been anticipating this book. Shawn's experience as a firefighter and paramedic, combined with his talent as an author, makes the flames leap off the pages. This book arrived while I was in Atlanta and I haven't finished it yet, but the pages I've read so far fairly crackle with authenticity. And the timing of the book's release is perfect as Texas is in the middle of a horrendous drought and wildfires are flaring up. And as Silas and Elle reconnect in the book, the wildfire isn't the only thing that sizzles!


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Monday, July 18, 2011

Living the High Life

While in Atlanta, my bloggy friend Kim from Window To My World and I stayed at the designated hotel, the Omni. It was half a block away from the Georgia World Congress Center where ICRS was being held, and I don't think our feet could have handled being another half block farther than that! I've stayed in some nice hotels before, but last week was a glimpse of a standard of living that I don't generally experience. I enjoyed it but it seemed like each perk had its hassle! (Note: this post is not meant in a gripey, critical spirit but in a light-hearted manner.)

  • The good: It was nice driving right up to the door, getting out, and not having to worry about finding a spot, walking through a downtown garage, and remembering where we parked the next time we wanted to go somewhere.
  • The hassle: Tipping! Every time we came and went, we had to tip the valet. It definitely made us organize our trips - on our sight-seeing days, for example, we stayed gone and didn't come back to the hotel to rest for an hour before leaving again for dinner. Tipping is the one thing I really hate about service.

  • The good: When we checked in, I received a card for each day to fill out and hang on the door by 2:00 am indicating if I wanted coffee or juice brought to the room (along with the newspaper) each morning. I could check off the time I wanted it delivered (in 15-minute increments) and they would knock and leave it outside the door.
  • The hassle: One morning they brought it earlier than I had requested and knocked louder than usual, which woke me up. Now it was a BIG hotel, and I understand that if someone just a few doors down had an order at an adjacent time slot, they might want to bring them both up at the same time. But if that is what they will do, then don't give the option of 15-minuter time slots!

  • The good: Each evening we came in to find our bed linens turned back and our hotel robes neatly laid across the bed.
  • One night we came back while the gal was in the process of doing it. That was kinda awkward. We just waited in the hall until she was finished. And I always thought they were supposed to put a chocolate on your pillow?! Nary a one for us; it's soooo hard to find good help these days! Besides, I really don't think it's that hard to pull the covers back before I get in the bed!

  • The good: We had a nice flat-screen TV in our room, although we were so busy we didn't even really turn it on.
  • The hassle: Atlanta is the home of CNN, and our hotel was connected to the CNN center. Therefore, the first SIX stations on the remote were CNN-related. Fox News was the last one (#34)!

Atlanta is the Land of Coca-Cola. Heaven forbid if you are a Texas gal and want a Dr. Pepper. I finally accidentally found one on Thursday afternoon.

Everything is bigger in Texas, but Georgia may win with this restroom. It was on one of the meeting room levels at the hotel. It was so impressive that I had to take a picture! Each of these doors opens into a private stall, and there were more behind me. I think it must have had 30-35 stalls, and I believe there were 12 sinks. Just walking in was overwhelming! It seemed like it was never-ending!

As much fun as it was to live the high life, I don't think I would like it on a regular basis. I am a tad too independent. I feel strange having folks do for me what I can do for myself.

Although I could definitely get used to the daily maid service!


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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Dream

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:

Summer Dream

Realms (June 7, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.


This is a new series by Martha Rogers.

“Summer Dream is a sweet, heartfelt, and well-written story about faith in action and a love that never fails. I can't wait to read the rest of this series.”—Andrea Boeshaar, author of Unexpected Love and Undaunted Faith

A Heart in Need of Redemption. An Unlikely Love. And a God Who Can Bring Them Together.

As the daughter of a small-town minister in Connecticut, Rachel Winston fears that the only way she’ll ever find a husband is to visit her aunt in Boston for the social season. But when Nathan Reed arrives in town, she can’t help but wonder if he could be the one.

Although attracted to Rachel, Nathan has no desire to become involved with a Christian after experiences with his own family. What’s more, until he resolves his anger with God and his family, he has no chance of courting her.

When Nathan is caught in a devastating blizzard and lies near death in the Winston home, Rachel and her mother give him a lesson in love and forgiveness that leads him back to his home in the South. Will he make peace with his family and return before Rachel chooses a path that takes her away from him?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616383607
ISBN-13: 978-1616383602


I enjoyed this book. Sweet characters and a strong message of faith and forgiveness combine to make this a pleasant read. And an unexpected meeting with the author this past week added to the pleasure! Martha Rogers is a delightful lady. And imagine my surprise when I discover that she is good friends with a long-time friend of mine, a woman who was my Sunday School teacher many years ago and a mentor and surrogate mom. What a fun connection that was. Behind us is the poster for the next book in this series, Autumn Song.


Briar Ridge, Connecticut, February 5, 1888

Why did Papa have to be so stubborn? Rachel Winston stared at the gray clouds outside her window and fought the urge to stomp her foot like a spoiled child. However, young women of twenty years must behave as befitting their age, as Mama so often reminded her. Perhaps she should have shown the letter to her mother first. Too late for that now; Papa would tell Mama as soon as he had the opportunity.

The back door closed with a thud, and Rachel shuddered. Papa had left for the church. His departing meant she needed to finish dressing or she’d be late, and then Papa would be even more upset with her. It wouldn’t do for the preacher’s family to be late for the services.

The paper in her pocket crackled when she moved toward the bed to retrieve her boots. Rachel fingered the crumpled edges of Aunt Mabel’s letter. There was no need to read it again, for she knew the words by heart. Her aunt’s invitation to come to Boston for an extended visit had arrived at a most inopportune time with the winter weather in the northern states at its worst. Even so, she shared the letter with Papa, hoping he might be agreeable to the visit.

A metallic taste soured her mouth, and she swallowed hard in an attempt to squelch it. Papa argued that the unpredictable weather of February made travel from Connecticut to Boston dangerous. If only one of the many Boston trains came to Briar Ridge. Aunt Mabel meant well, but her timing left something to be desired. Papa didn’t even want her going to Hartford or Manchester to board a train. It took over three hours by horseback to make the journey to Hartford—longer in bad weather.

She grasped the wrinkled letter in her hand and pulled it from its resting place. “Oh, Auntie, why did you wait until now to invite me for a visit?” she said to the letter, as if Aunt Mabel could hear her. “Last spring when I graduated from the academy would have been perfect, but you had to travel abroad.” A deep sigh filled her, then escaped in a long breath and a slump of her shoulders.

Aunt Mabel believed that a young woman should go to finishing school before she thought of marriage and had offered to pay for Rachel’s tuition. Papa had frowned on the idea, but her mother finally prevailed. For that, Rachel was most grateful, and she wouldn’t have traded those years at the academy for marriage to anyone. But now that she was twenty, she found that the pool of eligible bachelors in her area was slim to nonexistent.

Going to Boston would have provided the opportunity to meet more young men.

Rachel sat on the bed to ease off her slippers and bent over for the winter boots thatwould protect her feet from the slush. The frozen ground outdoors called for them, but they were not the choice she would have liked to wear to church this morning. Rachel shoved her feet down into the sturdy boots designed for warmth, not attractive appearance.

Of the eligible young men in Briar Ridge, only one came to mind, but then Daniel Monroe didn’t count. His sister had been Rachel’s best friend since Papa came to be pastor of the Briar Ridge church nearly seventeen years ago. Daniel treated her more like his sister anyway. Two years older, and just starting out as a lawyer, he was far more knowledgeable than she, and keeping up a conversation with him took more effort than she deemed it to be worth. Rachel had finished at the seminary with good marks, but Daniel’s conversation interests leaned more toward science and new inventions like electricity and the telephone than things of interest to her.
Rachel’s anger subsided as she pulled on the laces of her boots. As she reflected on her father, she remembered that he loved her and wanted only the best for her. He had promised that when spring came, he’d talk to her about the trip. Until then she would be the obedient daughter he wanted her to be and dream of the trip ahead. The Lord would give her patience, even though that was not one of her virtues.

She smoothed her skirt down over her hips and picked up the letter to place it on the table beside her bed. A response to Aunt Mabel would go out with tomorrow’s mail to express her regrets in not being able to accept the invitation. Papa would probably write to her as well, but Rachel wanted her aunt to know how much she appreciated the invitation.

If Seth were here now, he could give her good counsel. He’d always been the one she’d turned to when things didn’t go well with Mama and Papa. She loved her older brother and missed him, but he’d be home from the seminary in May, and she could talk with him then. Since he studied to be a minister like Papa, he’d most likely leave Briar Ridge if his ministry took him elsewhere after his graduation.

She’d met a few young men while at school, but the strict rules and regulations set forth at Bainbridge Academy for Young Women in Hartford had given her few opportunities to develop a relationship. Not that she would have considered any of them, but she would have appreciated the chance.
Mama called to her, and Rachel hurried to the front hall. She noted the firm set of Mama’s jaw and braced for the scolding that would be in order. “I’m sorry to take so long, Mama.” She grabbed her cloak from its hook.
“You know how your father hates for us to be late to church. It is unseemly for the minister’s family to be the last to arrive.” Mama turned and walked outside, her back ramrod straight.

Rachel breathed a sigh of relief. No time for a scolding now. She set a dark blue bonnet firmly over her hair and fastened the ties. She followed her mother out to the carriage, where the rest of the family waited. As usual, Papa had gone on ahead to open the church and stoke the two stoves to provide heat on this cold winter morning. Rachel climbed up beside her sister, Miriam, and reached for the blanket.

“What delayed you, Rachel? There’s no excuse for not being ready with everyone else.” Mama settled in her seat beside Noah, who had taken over his brother’s responsibilities until his own departure for college next fall.
“Time slipped away from me.” No need to tell her everything now. Rachel tucked a blanket around her legs and glanced at Miriam beside her. Miriam’s eyebrows lifted in question, but Rachel shook her head.

Micah piped up from the front seat. “Did you make Papa angry?”

“Micah! Of course not.” Rachel glanced at her brother Noah and noted the smirk on his face. She frowned to let him know she didn’t approve.
His gaze slid to her now. “Oh, then why did he stomp through the kitchen and ride off without a word to anybody?”

Mama clucked her tongue. “Now, children, it’s the Sabbath. Papa was late and in a hurry to get to the church.” But the look in Mama’s eyes promised she’d speak to Rachel about it later, especially after Mama learned the real reason for the tardiness.

Even though his decision disappointed her, Papa simply wanted to protect her from danger. She should be grateful for his love and concern, not angry because he said no. The promise of a trip to Boston when the weather improved would have to be enough to get her through the remainder of winter.

A recent snowfall still covered the frozen ground. Most of it in the streets had melted into a hodgepodge of brown and black slush caused by carriages and buggies winding their way toward the church. Rachel breathed deeply of the clean, fresh air that seemed to accompany snow in winter and rain in the spring.
If not for the inconveniences caused by ice and snow, she would love this time of year, even when the leafless branches of the trees cracked and creaked with a coating of ice. She gazed toward the gray skies that promised more snow before the day ended. If it would wait until later in the day, she might manage a visit with her best friend Abigail this afternoon.
However, a warm house, a cup of hot tea flavored with mint from Mama’s herb garden, and a good book might entice her to stay home on this cold, winter afternoon. Tomorrow would bring the chores of keeping the woodpile stocked and the laundry cleaned. She enjoyed the winter months, although this year she wished them to hurry by.

Miriam snuggled closer. Rachel smiled at her sister, who had recently turned thirteen. “I see you’re wearing your Christmas dress today. Is there a special occasion?”
Miriam’s cheeks turned a darker shade of red. “Um, not exactly.”

“Then what is it . . . exactly?”
Miriam tilted her head to one side and peered up at Rachel. She whispered, “Jimmy Turner.”
So her little sister had begun to notice boys. “Well now, I think he’s a handsome lad. Has he shown an interest in you?”

Miriam nodded and giggled. Rachel wrapped an arm around her sister as the buggy slowed to enter the churchyard. She stepped down onto the snow-covered ground muddied by all the wagons crossing over it. Now she was thankful for the thick stockings and shoes she wore to protect her toes. She then reached up for Micah while Miriam raced ahead.

The little boy pushed her hands away. “I can get down by myself.”

Rachel couldn’t resist the temptation to laugh. At seven, her younger brother expressed his independence and insisted on doing things for himself. He jumped with his feet square in a pile of snow and looked first at his feet then up to Rachel. She shook her head and grabbed his hand to go inside the building. How that little boy loved the snow. He’d be out in it all day if Mama would let him.

When she entered the foyer with Micah, she spotted Miriam already sitting in their pew with Jimmy Turner in the row behind her. Rachel hastened to sit down beside her sister. Miriam stared straight ahead but twisted her hands together in her lap.

When had Miriam grown up? Even now she showed signs of the beauty she would one day be. Thick, dark lashes framed her brown eyes, and her cheeks held a natural pink glow. Papa would really have to keep an eye out for his younger daughter.
Rachel glanced around the assembly room and once again admired the beauty of the old church built not long after the turn of the century. Instead of the quarry stone and masonry of the churches in Boston and even New Haven, Briar Ridge’s church walls were of white clapboard with large stained-glass windows along the sides. On bright days, sunlight streamed through them to create patterns of color across the congregation.

Brass light fixtures hung from the high vaulted ceilings, and the flames from the gaslights danced in the breeze as the back doors opened to admit worshippers. As much as she loved her church here in Briar Ridge, she remembered the electric lights she’d enjoyed in Hartford, one of the first cities to have its own generating plant. How long before electricity would become as widespread in Briar Ridge as it was in the larger cities? Probably awhile since Briar Ridge wasn’t known for its progress.
When the family first came to town, Rachel had been three years old, so this was the only home and church she could remember before leaving for school. Familiar faces met her everywhere she gazed. A nod and smile greeted each one as she searched for her friend Abigail and the Monroe family.
Unexpectedly a new face came into view a few rows back. A young man with the most incredible brown eyes stared back at her. Rachel’s breath caught in her throat, and the heat rose in her cheeks.

She felt her mother’s hand on her arm. “Turn around, Rachel. It’s not polite to stare.”
With her heart threatening to jump right out of her chest, Rachel tore her gaze away from the stranger seated with the Monroe family. Papa entered from the side door and stepped up to the pulpit. The service began with singing, but Rachel could barely make a sound. Everything in her wanted to turn and gaze again at the mysterious person with the Monroe family, but that behavior would be unseemly for the daughter of the minister.

However, her thoughts refused to obey and skipped to their own rhythm. Rachel decided that whoever he was, he must be a friend of Daniel’s because Abigail had never mentioned any man of interest in her own life. In a town like Briar Ridge, everyone knew everyone’s business. She hadn’t heard any talk of a guest from Daniel or her other friends yesterday.
A prickling sensation crept along her neck as though someone watched her. She blinked her eyes and willed herself to look at Papa and concentrate on his message. However, her mind filled with images of the young man. Who was this stranger who had come to Briar Ridge?

Nathan Reed contemplated the dark curls peeking from beneath the blue bonnet. When she had turned and their eyes met, his heart leaped. He had never expected to see such a beauty in a town like Briar Ridge. His friend Daniel’s sister was attractive, but nothing like this raven-haired girl with blue eyes.
When she turned her head back toward the front, he stared at her back as if to will her to turn his way again. When she didn’t, he turned his sights to gaze around the church, so much like others he’d once attended. He wouldn’t be here this morning except out of politeness for the Monroe family. He’d arrived later than intended last evening and welcomed Mrs. Monroe’s offer to stay the night with them. The least he could do was attend the service today.

Nathan had no use for church or things of God. He believed God existed, but only for people who needed something or someone to lean on. God had forsaken the Reed family years ago, and Nathan had done quite well without any help these four years away from home.

He shook off thoughts of the past and concentrated once more on the blue bonnet several rows ahead. Perhaps Daniel would introduce him. She would be a nice diversion from the business he must attend to while in town. He blocked the words of the minister from his mind and concentrated on the girl’s back.
The little boy seated next to the young woman seemed restless, so she lifted him onto her lap. The child couldn’t be her son. She didn’t look old enough. Then the older woman next to them reached for the boy and settled him in her arms. In a few minutes the boy’s head nodded in sleep.
Nathan resisted the urge to pull his watch from his pocket and check the time. Surely the service would end soon. Potbellied stoves in the front and back of the church provided warmth, and the additional heat of so many bodies caused him to wish he had shed his coat. He fought the urge to nod off himself. Oh, to be like the young lad in his mother’s arms.
Finally the congregation rose, and the organ played the final hymn. It was none too soon for Nathan, for he had grown more uncomfortable by the minute. Long sermons only added to his distaste for affairs of the church. The singing ended and people began their exit, but he kept his eye on the girl in blue until the crowd blocked her from view.

He stayed behind the Monroe family, who stopped to greet the minister. Mrs. Monroe turned to Nathan. “Reverend Winston, this is Nathan Reed, our houseguest from Hartford this week and a friend of Daniel’s.”

The minister smiled in greeting and shook Nathan’s hand. “It’s very nice to have you in our services today, Mr. Reed. I hope you enjoy your stay in Briar Ridge and that we’ll see more of you.”

“Thank you, sir. I look forward to my visit here.” But the minister wouldn’t be seeing any more of him unless they possibly met in town.

When they reached the Monroe carriage, Nathan turned and spotted the girl coming down the steps. He watched as Daniel waved to the young woman and she waved back. Abigail ran to greet her, and the girls hurried over to where Nathan stood with Daniel. Abigail tucked her hand in the girl’s elbow.
“Nathan, this is my best friend, Rachel Winston. Rachel, this is Daniel’s former roommate in college, Nathan Reed.”

Rachel Winston? Nathan’s hopes dashed against the slushy ground on which he stood. Could she be the preacher’s daughter? He didn’t mind a young woman being Christian, but he drew the line at keeping company with one so close to the ministry.
When her blue eyes gazed into his, a spark of interest flamed, and it took him a few seconds before remembering his manners. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Winston.”
Her cheeks flushed red, and she glanced away slightly but still smiled. “Thank you. I’m pleased to meet you too, Mr. Reed. Perhaps we’ll see each other again if you’re in town long.”

Rachel’s smile sent a warmth into his heart that caused him to swallow hard. Although the length of his stay was uncertain, his desire to see the lovely Miss Winston again might just override his pledge to avoid anything or anyone with ties to the church.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pattern of Wounds

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Pattern of Wounds
Bethany House (July 1, 2011)


J. Mark Bertrand

J. Mark Bertrand lived in Houston, where the series is set, for fifteen years, earning an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Houston. But after one hurricane too many he relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of one hung jury and served on another that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.

It's Christmas in Houston, and homicide detective Roland March is on the hunt for a killer. A young woman's brutal stabbing in an affluent neighborhood bears all the hallmarks of a serial murder. The only problem is that March sent the murderer to prison ten years ago. Is it a copycat -- or did March convict the wrong man?

Alienated from his colleagues and with a growing rift in his marriage, March receives messages from the killer. The bodies pile up, the pressure builds, and the violence reaches too close to home. Up against an unfathomable evil, March struggles against the clock to understand the hidden message in the pattern of wounds.

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

Mark Bertrand's second book in his Roland March series kept me eagerly turning pages as March battles time - and sometimes those with whom he works - to solve what increasingly appears to be the work of a serial murder. Yet this is more than just a "whodunit" as themes of compromise, ethics and "sticking to your guns" even when it's not popular are woven throughout the story. The faith element is subtle but well-presented; March is rather cynical and doesn't have much use for God yet he can't deny the difference in those around him who live out their faith. As with most mystery novels, I enjoyed trying to solve the crime before the perpetrator is revealed, and Mark Bertrand does a great job of hiding him or her in plain sight.

I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Mark Bertrand this week at ICRS. Be on the lookout for my review in the days to come, along with a giveaway.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Randy Alcorn Says Hi

On my first post from Atlanta Sunday, Diane in Oregon, commenting as DidLynltold me to "Go say hi to my friend, Randy Alcorn. He should be doing book signings and also a fiction panel thingy. I know he was awake and couldn't sleep last night, so hopefully he'll be awake for today. Praying for all of you at the convention. Have fun!"

I was intrigued but thought, "What are the chances of my having a personal encounter with Randy Alcorn?" I had briefly met him at the Expo in 2009 and subscribe to his blog, but had no illusions that I would just walk right up to him and have a conversation.


Many of the interviews are occurring in a media room with a number of tables for sitting and chatting as well as a refreshment area with water, coffee, and tea. Yesterday I was between interviews when in walks. . . Randy Alcorn! After putting his stuff down at the table with the man who was going to interview him, he walked over to get some coffee. So I grabbed one of my "business cards" that I had made with my blogger header and info and went to talk to him.

Oh my. What fun! Not only did he know exactly who Diane is, but he told me the history of the special relationship she has with his family. Then he took me over to show me his new book, We Shall See God: Spurgeon's Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven and showed me where Diane is listed in the acknowledgements. (He was even going to give me a copy but didn't have an extra one in his bag. He did give me another of his books.)

Then he said, "Let's take a picture so you can put it on your blog!" So I gave his interviewer my camera and Diane, here is Randy Alcorn saying "Hi"!!

I am having so much fun! There are some other incredible things happening too! Gotta go!


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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Christy Awards!

Oh. My. Tonight was incredible. Actually, the entire trip is, and I look forward to sharing with you. I am absolutely blown away by how gracious and kind the authors that I am interviewing and meeting are!

Lots to share in the days to come, but for now I just wanted to pop in and share the results of the Christy Awards. What an unforgettable night!

Here are the nominees in each category, with the winner indicated by the Christy symbol.

Blood Ransom
by Lisa Harris (Zondervan)

by Kristin Heitzmann (WaterBrook Press)

Sworn to Protect
by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale House Publishers)

The Reluctant Prophet
by Nancy Rue (David C. Cook)

The Thorn
by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Waiting
by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell Books,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Almost Heaven
by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)

Lady in Waiting
by Susan Meissner (WaterBrook Press)

A Season of Miracles
by Rusty Whitener (Kregel Publications)

Crossing Oceans
by Gina Holmes (Tyndale House Publishers)

by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Season of Miracles
by Rusty Whitener (Kregel Publications)

Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther
by Ginger Garrett (David C. Cook)

For Time & Eternity
by Allison Pitman (Tyndale House Publishers)

While We’re Far Apart
by Lynn Austin (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Girl in the Gatehouse
by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

She Walks in Beauty
by Siri Mitchell (Bethany House Publishers,
a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Within My Heart
by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Bishop
by Steven James (Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Bride Collector
by Ted Dekker (Center Street)

by Terri Blackstock (Zondervan)

To Darkness Fled
by Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press)

Konig’s Fire
by Marc Schooley (Marcher Lord Press)

The Last Christian
by David Gregory (WaterBrook Press)

The Charlatan’s Boy
by Jonathan Rogers (WaterBrook Press)

The Healer’s Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)

Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book
by Nancy Rue (Zondervan)

Nancy Rue is the first person to receive two Christy Awards on the same night for two different books. What an extra thrill it was for me to be there and be able to give her double hugs!


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