Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cool Old Building ~ Rural Thursday

My husband and I saw this building as we were driving toward South Mtn.  


What drew my eye? 
The windows! 


And peeling paint!

I love to see these old buildings and I'm so glad that I live in an area where there are so many.


Images are mine. Please don't take them without asking. Not that anyone would want them. I'm just sayin'. 

I'm linked up on Rural Thursday.



Mary's Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley

Due to the recent death of my oldest daughter, I haven't finished reading this book (or any others that I am supposed to be reviewing) but I wanted to post the tour because Lena writes the BEST books! I reviewed the first book in this series, Maggie's Journey, and you can read that one here. It made my Favorites Books in 2011 list :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



Realms (May 15, 2012)


***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 650,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006—DFW Ready Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of over 45 years.

Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Mary Lenora Murray was adopted by parents who had recently lost a child while on the last wagon train west in 1867. When she is thirteen years old, Mary’s mother and her two older sisters die in the cholera pandemic, leaving her the oldest child with four younger siblings to raise. Her father, in his grief, pours himself into keeping the farm going, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary’s hands.


Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616386177

ISBN-13: 978-1616386177

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER: 


"Pa?” Mary Lenor a Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the heavy picnic basket. “You ready to go?” Why does he always drag his feet when we’re going to church?

Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn’t even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to get it clean.

Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt he would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She’d heard it all before too many times.

He set a bucket of fresh water beside the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signaled he was about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.

“I’m not going today.” This time he didn’t really make any excuses, just this bald-faced comment.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She’d give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The new pastor is coming today. We’re having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday.” She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn’t tell it
was fake.

“What happened to the last one? He didn’t last very long, did he?” Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. “Don’t understand why that church can’t keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off.”

Mary couldn’t keep from huffing out a breath this time. “I told you about that too.” She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around her mind. Why don’t you ever listen to me? At seventeen she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she’d carried the load of a woman in this household for years.

“His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he’d have a lot of help with the younger ones.”

Mary had never known her own grandparents, none of them. Not her mother’s parents. Not her father’s parents. Not the par- ents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn’t wonder about any of them very often, but today her heart longed for someone who really loved her.

With bright red curly hair and fair skin that freckled more every time she stepped into the sunlight, she didn’t resemble anyone in this family that had adopted her as an infant. Since they were black Irish, they all had dark hair and striking blue eyes, not like her murky green ones. And none of them had ever wanted to know what she thought about anything—except her mother.

“Well, I’ve gotta lot to do today.” Her father reached for the towel she’d made out of feed sacks. “You and the others go ahead. I might come over that way at dinner time.”

No, you won’t. Mary had heard his statement often enough to know he was trying to placate her so she would leave him alone. So she would.

“Frances, George, Bobby, come on. We don’t want to be late.”

She shifted the handle of the loaded basket to her other arm. “Frances, you grab the jug of spring water. We might get thirsty.” Her father’s icy blue eyes pierced her. “Pretty warm out today.

No sign of rain.”

“We’ll be picnicking in the field between the church and Willamette Falls. It’s cooler there, especially under the trees with the breeze blowing across the water.” She started toward the front door.

“Keep your eyes on the boys.” His harsh command followed her. “Don’t let either of them fall into the river. They could drown. Water’s fast right there.”

She nodded but didn’t answer or look back at him. All he cared about were those boys and getting them raised old enough to really help with the farming. He already worked them harder than any of the neighbors did their sons who were the same ages.

Six long years ago her mother and older sisters contracted diphtheria when they went to help Aunt Miriam and Uncle Leland settle in their house on a farm about five miles from theirs. On the trip to Oregon one of them had contracted the dread disease and didn’t know it until after they arrived. No one knew they were all dead until Pa went looking for Ma, Carrie, and Annette a couple of days later. He saw the quarantine sign someone nailed to a fence post and didn’t go closer until he had help. When he came home, he told Mary she would have to take over the keeping of the house. Six long years ago.

When did my life become such drudgery? Had it ever been any- thing else? At least not since Ma died, which seemed like an

eternity ago.

Daniel Winthrop whistled while he dressed for church. He looked forward with anticipation to the moment when he would lay eyes on Mary Murray. Even her name had a musical ring to it.

He’d been waiting and planning what to say when he approached her. Today he would start his subtle courting. With the situation at the Murray farm, he knew he would have his work cut out for him to convince her she could start a life of her own with him. After he achieved that, he’d ask her father for her hand.

Visions of coming home to her each night and building a family together moved through his head like the slides of photo- graphs in the Holmes stereopticon they had at home. He loved her already, but more than that, he wanted to get her out of that house, where she was loaded down with so much work and responsibility.

Daniel had often gone with his mother when she bought fresh produce from the Murrays, so he knew what her life had been like since her mother died. Their families came to Oregon on the same wagon train, so he’d known her all his life. He was only three years older than she was, and he had watched her over the last few years as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman.

Mary needed to be appreciated and cared for, and he was just the man to do it.

“Daniel, we’re leaving soon.” His father’s voice prodded him from his dreams.

With a final peek into the tall cheval glass, he straightened his necktie before he headed out the door of his room. “I’m on my way.”

He bounded down the stairs and took their picnic basket from his mother. “Something really smells good.” He gave a loud sniff. “Do you need me to test and make sure it’s all right?”

He welcomed her playful slap on his hand that crept toward the cover on the basket. Her laughter reminded him of the chimes he had heard in the larger church in Portland.

“Not a single bite until dinner.” Like a queen, she swept out the door Father held open for her.

Their familiar ritual warmed his heart. He looked forward to creating family rituals with Mary. Once more he whistled as he headed toward the brougham. Nothing could cloud his day.

When they pulled up to the Methodist church, his father guided the team toward the back, where a large area paved with fine gravel gave plenty of space for those who arrived in horse- drawn vehicles. While Father helped Mother down from the open carriage, Daniel took the reins and tied them to one of the hitching rails that outlined the space. He chose the rail under

a spreading black cottonwood tree where the limbs were just beginning to show the leaf buds.

He scanned the lot, looking for the Murray wagon. Not there. Disappointed, he stared at the ground. Please, God, let Mary come today.

Clopping hoofs and a jingling harness accompanied a wagon

taking too fast of a turn into the parking area. Daniel cut his eyes toward the advancing disaster. Two of the wheels did indeed lift from the ground. Before he could get a shout out of his mouth, he heard Mary’s sweet voice.

“Lean to the right, boys!”

George and Bobby, Mary’s brothers, scrambled across the seat, followed by Frances. The wagon wheels settled into the gravel, and Mary pulled on the reins.

“Easy. Settle down.” Even though she spoke to the horses, he heard every word. His heart that had almost leapt from his chest also settled down when he realized she was no longer in danger. Thank You, Lord.

The wagon came to a standstill, and Mary put her dainty hand to her chest and released a deep breath. The green cotton fabric, sprigged with white flowers, looked good on her, setting off her red hair, pulled up into a bunch on the top of her head. Without a hat or bonnet covering it, the sun danced across the curls. He loved seeing the wisps frame her face. That’s how he pictured her when he dreamed about their future.

Mary sat a moment without moving. She was probably scared out of her wits. Where was her father? He should have been driving the wagon, not her. How long had it been since the man had attended services? Daniel couldn’t remember the last time. It was not a good thing for a man to neglect his spiritual nature. He’d just have to pray harder for Mr. Murray.

Daniel hurried toward them. “Hi, Mary.”

She looked up, straight into his eyes, fear still flickering in the back of her gaze. “Daniel. Good morning.” Her words came out riding on short breaths.

He took hold of the bridle of the horse nearest him. “I can hitch your team under the trees for you.”

After releasing another deep breath, Mary nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.” She turned toward her siblings. “Frances, you get the picnic basket, and George, you carry the jug of water. Go find us a pew, perhaps near the back of the sanctuary, and put the things under the bench. I’ll be right in.”

The younger children climbed out of the wagon and followed their sister’s instructions. Mary watched them until they’d gone around the side of the building toward the front. Then she stood up.

Before she could try to climb over the side, Daniel hurried to help. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it, then looked at his face.

“I’ll help you down.” He gave her his most beguiling smile. For the first time since she arrived, she smiled back, and pink

bled up her neck into her cheeks. Her blush went straight to his heart. Oh, yes, he loved this woman.

Mary slipped her slim fingers into his hand. Even through the white cotton gloves, he felt the connection as warmth sparked up his arm like fireworks on Independence Day. She glanced down so she could see the step. When she hesitated, he let go of her hand and both of his spanned her tiny waist. With a deft swing, he had her on the ground in seconds. He wished he had the right to pull her into an embrace. Wouldn’t that just set the tongues a-wagging? He couldn’t do that to her. Mary needed to be cherished for the treasure she was. And as far as Daniel could see, her father really didn’t treat her that way.

He watched her walk toward the front of the building, enjoying the way her skirt swayed with each step, barely brushing the tops of her black patent shoes. That is one beau- tiful woman. He turned back to her team. Walking beside the horses, he led them toward the hitching rail where his family’s brougham was parked, hoping it would give him the oppor- tunity to help her back up onto the wagon seat. As he crossed the lot, several other conveyances entered, and he waved and exchanged greetings with each family.

The church was the first one established in Oregon City. At that time, it was the Methodist Mission but grew as the town did. Along the way, members of this body had a great influence on what happened in the burgeoning city. And that was still true today. His Winthrop ancestors, who settled nearby, had been instrumental in both the growth of the church and of the
town. He felt a sense of pride at being a part of something that important, and he wanted to increase the town’s assets, because he planned to raise his own family here. Maybe establish a dynasty of his own, watching his sons and daughters, then his grandchildren, prosper.

His woolgathering slowed the progress of tying the horses to their spot. He needed to hurry so he wouldn’t miss the begin- ning of the service. As he opened the front door, Mrs. Slidell struck the first chord on the new Mason and Hamlin reed organ. The church had ordered the instrument from the manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York. When it arrived only a couple of weeks before, the music added a special feeling to the worship and helped most people stay on the right tune better than the old piano did. He hummed along with the introduction to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” his favorite hymn.

Glancing around the room, Daniel finally spied Mary and her siblings sitting on the second pew from the back on the right side of the aisle. He squared his shoulders and confidently approached the wooden bench. He asked if he could sit with them, and she scooted over to make room. Just what he wanted. He would be sitting right beside her.

Throughout the service, Daniel had a hard time keeping his mind on the proceedings. Mary sat close enough for him to touch her if he leaned a little to his right. He was so tempted to bump against her arm, but he held back. He imagined clasping her hand in his and holding it for longer than just a few seconds while helping her down from a conveyance or through a doorway, really wrapping his large fingers around hers and intertwining their fingers. Just thinking about it caught his breath.

He whooshed it out, and she turned toward him, her eyes wid- ening with a question. After flashing a smile at her, he glanced up at Rev. Horton. The man’s delivery was smooth, and his words made a lot of sense. He’d be a good pastor for them, but Daniel couldn’t keep a single word of his message in his mind. Not while he could feel Mary’s presence with every cell in his body.

Instead, in his mind he searched up and down the streets of Oregon City, seeking a place to turn into a home for him and his beloved. If the right house wasn’t for sale, he could build her one. She could help him choose the design. That’s what he’d do. Build her the home she’d always dreamed of. His heart squeezed with the knowledge of what he planned to do. He could hardly keep the idea to himself. He hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to convince her that they should marry.

He’d even hire servants to help her manage their home. Whatever her heart desired, he’d do everything he could to present her with all she wanted. He only hoped it wouldn’t take too long. At twenty years old, he was ready to move on to the next phase of his life—with Mary by his side.

“Now let us bow our heads in prayer.” Rev. Horton raised his hands to bless the whole congregation.

Daniel dropped his head toward his chest. How had the man finished his sermon without Daniel noticing? Next Sunday he’d have to listen more closely. He really did want to get to know the new pastor and his family.

“Amen.” After the pastor pronounced the word, several other men echoed it.

Daniel watched his father rise from the second pew near the front on the left side of the aisle and take his place beside the new preacher. He placed his arm across the man’s shoulders. “Dear friends, on your behalf, I welcome our new pastor. Now let’s all meet his lovely family.” He waved toward a woman sitting on the front pew. “Mrs. Horton?”

The woman stood and turned toward the congregation. She was pretty, but not as young or as pretty as Mary.

“And,” Father’s voice boomed, “these are their children.”

Four stair-step youngsters stood beside their mother. The tallest, a boy. The next, a girl. Then another boy, and the shortest, a cute little girl. As if they had rehearsed it, they bowed toward the people in unison.

Several women across the sanctuary oooed or aahed before a loud round of applause broke out. The three oldest children gave shy smiles, and the youngest tugged at her mother’s skirts. When Mrs. Horton picked her up, the girl waved to the people, clearly enjoying the attention.

“I hope you all brought your blankets and picnic baskets.” Father beamed at the crowd. “We’re going to spread our food together. I believe there are plenty of sawhorse tables set up near the building. And you can pick a spot under the trees to settle for your meal. Just don’t forget to take the time to greet our new ministerial family while you’re here.” Father led the Horton family down the aisle and out the front door.

Daniel turned back toward Mary. “Perhaps you and your brothers and sister could spread your blanket beside my family’s.” A tiny smile graced Mary’s sweet mouth. “If you’re sure your mother wouldn’t mind, I’d like that.”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure.” He stepped into the nearly empty aisle and moved back to let Mary and her family precede him, and he quickly followed behind.

His heartbeat accelerated just thinking about spending spe- cial time with the object of his affections. Without thinking, he started whistling a happy tune.

Mary glanced back at him. “I didn’t know you whistled.”

“Oh, yes. I’m a man of many talents.” His heart leapt at the interest he read in her gaze. Things were well on their way to working out just the way he wanted them to.




Saturday, May 26, 2012

WINNERS!!!



Congratulations goes to...


~ Brenda Stimely ~


Winner of Falling to Pieces and A Perfect Square by Vannetta Chapman



~ Denise ~


Winner of Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn



Note: I'm sorry it took me so long to choose the winners. I have been concentrating on my family since the death of my daughter two weeks ago. Thank you all SO much for the prayers and support! Each and every one has been felt!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our loss is Heaven's gain!



My precious daughter, Amy, has gone home to be with Jesus. She is free now to walk and run and talk and sing, and I cannot adequately express the joy that is felt in knowing that her heavenly Father heard her first words while she ran into His arms with abandon! My heart, at the same time, hurts so badly, feels such sorrow that on this side of Heaven I will never hold her hand, hear her giggle, or give me a choke hold hug again.

I appreciate prayer for my family. God has placed so many wonderful people in our path this past week and I have every confidence that He will continue to do so. But for the time being, I am going to stop posting and concentrate on my husband and three remaining children.

May God bless each of you!

http://www.greer-mcelveenfuneralhome.com/sitemaker/sites/GreerM1/obit.cgi?user=633066Payne#

Our loss is Heaven's gain!



My precious daughter, Amy, has gone home to be with Jesus. She is free now to walk and run and talk and sing, and I cannot adequately express the joy that is felt in knowing that her heavenly Father heard her first words while she ran into His arms with abandon! My heart, at the same time, hurts so badly, feels such sorrow that on this side of Heaven I will never hold her hand, hear her giggle, or give me a choke hold hug again.

I appreciate the prayers for my family. God has placed so many wonderful people in our path this past week and I have every confidence that He will continue to do so. I have received emails and Facebook messages from as far away as The Netherlands and Australia!

I know I have a stack of books for reviewing purposes and I will get to them, eventually. But for the time being, I am going to stop posting here for a short while and concentrate on my husband and three remaining children.

May God bless each of you!

http://www.greer-mcelveenfuneralhome.com/sitemaker/sites/GreerM1/obit.cgi?user=633066Payne#

Friday, May 11, 2012

Update

I won't be posting here or responding to comments until my daughter is out of ICU. She is in Septic Shock and fighting a life threatening infection. Prayers appreciated :)

Please continue to leave your comments on the book giveaways. I am extending the two Vanetta Chapman books to be given to one winner until further notice. I'm sorry for the inconvenience!

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mountain Day Trip Part 2 ~ Rural Thursday

On Easter weekend my family took a trip up into the mountains of NC & VA. 
You can read about it on this post - A Glorious Day in the Mountains
Here's a few more pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Clicking on the images makes them bigger...and easier to see!


An awesome sign for this lumber company in Union Grove, NC! 
It's made from a saw blade and the silhouette's are just so cool!


Then as we were driving down one of the back roads, we came across this sign...


LOVE IT!!!


What a great name for a road!
Can you just imagine someone asking, 
"What road do you live on?" 


And if you click on this image, you can see how unique this old place is. It's empty now and no sign to indicate what it once was but it looks like it might have been a mill at one time. I would personally love to live in that building! This was on up the mountain toward Fancy Gap, VA. (I think)


Images are mine. Please don't take them without asking. Not that anyone would want them. I'm just sayin'. 

I'm linked up on Rural Thursday.




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Giveaway ~ Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn


Read the review at Guest Review ~ Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn then come back here and leave a comment on this post to be entered.

Ends May 14th. Continental US Only!

This book would make a nice Father's Day gift :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

 ~ From Bethany House Publishers ~


releases October 2nd ~ available for pre-order


 


Overview




Ann Silver is a cop’s cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region’s most trusted investigative positions.


Paul Falcon is the FBI’s top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.


Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn’t expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.


The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is . . .


Can’t wait to read the book? Read an excerpt today!


Visit www.bethanyhouse.com for more information.



Join the Reader Group on Facebook.


I can't wait for this book! What about you? Are you a Dee Henderson fan?



Monday, May 7, 2012

God's glory declared!



Psalm 19

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Law of the Lord Is Perfect

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

19 The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
     which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
     reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
     making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
     enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
     in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
     Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.


My daughter took this photo. Please do not copy or pin without asking. Thank you!
Scripture is from the ESV (English Standard Version) of the Holy Bible,  found at Bible Gateway.

Friday, May 4, 2012

WINNER!!!

CONGRATULATIONS...



~ JENNIFER WHITNEY ~


You won ACCUSED by Janice Cantore! 


Thanks to all who commented! I highly encourage you to purchase this book or check it out from your local library. It's such a great book.


Don't forget ~ Two Vanetta Chapman books are up for giveaway right now. They will both go to ONE WINNER!


Stay tuned for more to come :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Arachnophobia! ~ Rural Thursday

When you live out in the country, you kind of get used to bugs, critters of all kinds, and weird noises. One thing I just can't get used to is spiders. No matter how many times I see them. No matter how pretty some of them are. I don't like them.

Nope. 

I never will. I have ARACHNOPHOBIA.
 Especially when I see this...



Mrs. Black Widow 
and she was big, 
but now she's dead!

I'm linked to Rural Thursday.




Reviews & Two Book Giveaway

TWO BOOKS TO ONE WINNER!

Vannetta Chapman has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. She published a novel with Abingdon Press called A Simple Amish Christmas in October of 2010. Her first Quilt Shop Murder Mystery, Falling to Pieces (Zondervan), released in September 2011.Falling to Pieces is the first book in Vannetta's Amish mystery three-book series. Chapman lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

Vannetta is a proud member of the following writing organizations:
American Christian Fiction WritersFaith, Hope and Love (Inspirational Chapter of RWA)
Romance Writers of America

You can also follow Vannetta at:
The Vannetta Chapman Blog
Facebook
Goodreads

Contributing reviewer Judy Burgi is kindly offering both of her copies of these wonderful Amish Mystery books to one blog reader!


Falling to Pieces: Reviewed by Judy Burgi

Callie Harper makes a trip to Shipshewana , Indiana to get her deceased aunt's affairs in order. Her aunt has passed away and she has inherited her aunt's quilting store. Callie has every intention of cleaning up Daisy's Quilt Shop to sell and once sold getting out of Shipshewana as soon as possible.

The first person Callie meets in Shipshewana is an Amish woman named Deborah Yoder. Deborah talks Callie into selling her quilts on the internet. Callie finally agrees and forms a partnership to auction Deborah's quilts online.

Callie has a run in with the town newspaper editor, Mr. Stakehorn, over something he had printed in the newspaper regarding her. He accused her of hustling the Amish's wares (Quilt's) on the internet highway. Callie even goes so far as to threaten Mr. Stakehorn that if he didn't print a retraction he would regret making an enemy of her.

This is where all the excitement and mayhem begins! Is it a coincident that things begin to happen since Callie came to Shipshewana? Is she the cause of all the chaos that is going on? Is someone out to frame Callie? If so, what would someone have against a newcomer?

I love a good mystery! There are a couple of reasons why I loved this book. I really enjoyed the author's very first novel "A Simple Amish Christmas". After reading "A Simple Amish Christmas" I was hooked. I couldn't wait to see what her next book would be. Another reason I loved this book is, Falling to Pieces" was written about a small town called Shipshewana and that small town is just a hop, skip and jump from where I live. I know exactly where LaGrange County , Indiana is. Fort Wayne, Indiana was also mentioned in the book and that is where I go to do some major shopping. I've also eaten at The Blue Gate Restaurant many times! So it was exciting to read about places where I've actually been.

Thank you Vannetta Chapman for such a good read. I am so looking forward to reading "a Perfect Square".

A Perfect Square: Reviewed by Judy Burgi

Will Callie and Deborah solve another Amish mystery? The adventures begin once again in the small town of Shipshewana, Indiana.

Esther and Deborah are on their way to take food to Reuben and Tobias. While driving down the lane Esther spots some wildflowers growing near the pond and asked Deborah to stop the buggy so she can pick some. They are meeting Callie at Daisy's Quilt Shop in an hour and Esther wants to take some flowers to her. As Esther nears the wildflowers she sees the body of an Amish girl face down in the pond. All of a sudden Deborah hears a loud scream from Esther.

This book was a real page turner for me and reeled me in from page one. I loved how the author includes mystery, suspense, some romance, the power of prayer and following God's will into this great read. Not only is this a murder mystery but this book also includes another mystery woven in. I found this to be a very pleasant surprise and loved how this situation was handled.

This book is filled with a variety of characters in all walks of life. I found myself really caught up in the lives of these characters. Of course we can't forget Max. He is definitely one of my favorites!

For those who have read "Falling to Pieces" and liked the book I am here to tell you that you will love "a Perfect Square" just as much if not more. I can't wait for book 3 in this series to be published. Thanks to Vannetta Chapman for some great reads. Keep them coming!



Thanks again, Judy, for offering to share your books! 

Leave a comment to be entered to win BOTH books! We like conversation :) If you aren't a follower, it would be nice if you signed up through email, RSS, or Linky Tools, but I'm not making it a requirement. Ends May 9th. Continental US Only! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gwendolyn Gage ~ Guest Post

I remember the night vividly. I was sitting on my porch. The air was cool and breezy, smelling like spring. It was one of the darkest moments of my life.

Our house was in foreclosure. My mother-in-law was living with us. My job was simply another place where people filled my days with drama and stress. I faced a spiritual battlefield everywhere I went—my car was my only sanctuary. As I sat there, overwhelmed with discouragement, I evaluated my life and found it far from what I had wanted or expected. And I did what I swore I would never do: I pictured what my life would be like if I left my husband.

Thankfully, I was honest enough with myself to see that leaving would only intensify my problems and heartache, and it would also greatly displease God. Far better to endure a miserable situation with God’s approval, than a miserable situation made worse by His disapproval. But was I prepared to brave my current situation with no end in sight?

Then a lightning bolt of truth shot down from the heavens and struck me. God never promised us an easy, happy life here on earth. In fact, He promised persecution and trials. Yes, He wants to bless us with the desires of our hearts, but He is far more interested in the condition of our souls (and the souls of others) than He is in our earthly happiness.

Four years later, I look back on that terrible experience and smile, for now I clearly see what God was up to. He was opening my husband’s eyes to something, and showing my mother-in-law His love through our Christian example. I’m convinced that if more Christian couples would stop looking at their spouses through selfish-colored glasses and start serving and loving one another unconditionally, the divorce rate among Christians would plummet. Tragically, when we fail to put off selfishness and wreck homes in our quest for happiness, we ruin our witness and give the world reason to mock Christ.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31

This fall, David and I will celebrate our eighth anniversary. :-) And just two years ago, God blessed us with our son, Micah. He is our joy, our laughter, and our daily exercise. His latest thrill is climbing on top of the dining room table. He loves to tease. Whenever David asks him to say "Dada", he'll smile slyly and say "Mama!"


Did I really write this whole article without mentioning that I write books??? I’m not published yet, but I do have two manuscripts I'm seeking homes for–one speculative, and the other historical romance. The Back of Beyond: A wormhole carries a Texan cowgirl to Roman-ruled Egypt where she wrestles with God over the happy life she wants and the destiny He's prepared her for. The Way of Impressions: Louisa Howe is just another girl who wants to be in love and happy, but little does she know that a secret romance with Captain Stanley threatens more than her world; it threatens Georgian England’s national security.

Come hang out with me at my blog, Gwendolyn Gage ~ Serving Through Words. I post weekly on Tuesdays, usually about writing, book reviews, or something God has put on my heart. Occasionally, I offer snippets of my work, updates on my adventures in publishing, and fun facts about the time periods I'm researching.

Thanks, Anne, for inviting me to be your guest!

Gwendolyn Gage writes Christian romance novels packed with history, adventure and humor. She doesn't write to simply entertain, but sees her talent as an opportunity to minister. It is her ambition and prayer that her readers will come away from her stories and blog with a desire for more of God.

Gwendolyn has lived in Hungary, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and visited many other countries in Europe and southern Asia. She attended Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, TX, and graduated in 2002 with a major in Christian theology. She currently lives in Dallas with her husband, David, and their two-year-old son, Micah.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Garden of Madness by Tracy L. Higley ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour




It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:

 

 
and the book:

 

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)


***Special thanks to Ruthie Dean of Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After earning a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University, she spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry before beginning to write fiction. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome and Persia, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.

She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The Untold Story of King Nebuchadnezzar's Daughter.

For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.

Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an opulent but oppressive life in the palace. But her husband has since died and she relishes her newfound independence. When a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own is freedom threatened.

As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family's secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband's brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.


Product Details:

List Price: $9.99

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 140168680X

ISBN-13: 978-1401686802

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

 
Babylon, 570 BC

 
My name is Nebuchadnezzar. Let the nations hear it!

I am ruler of Babylon, greatest empire on earth. Here in its capital city, I am like a god.

Tonight, as the sun falls to its death in the western desert, I walk along the balconies I have built, overlooking the city I have built, and know there is none like me.

I inhale the twilight air and catch the scent of a dozen sacrifices. Across the city, the smoke and flames lift from Etemenanki, the House of the Platform of Heaven and Earth. The priests sacrifice tonight in honor of Tiamat, for tomorrow she will be wed. Though I have questioned the wisdom of a marriage with the captive Judaeans, tomorrow will not be a day for questions. It will be a day of celebration, such as befits a princess.

Tiamat comes to me now on the balcony, those dark eyes wide with entreaty. “Please, Father.” 

I encircle her shoulders in a warm embrace and turn her to the city.

“There, Tia. There is our glorious Babylon. Do you not wish to serve her?”

She leans her head against my chest, her voice thick. “Yes, of course. But I do not wish to marry.”

I pat her shoulder, kiss the top of her head. My sweet Tia. Who would have foretold that she would become such a part me?

“Have no fear, dear one. Nothing shall change. Husband or not, I shall always love you. Always protect you.”

She clutches me, a desperate grip around my waist.

I release her arms and look into her eyes. “Go now. Your mother will be searching for you. Tomorrow will be a grand day, for you are the daughter of the greatest king Babylon has ever seen.”

I use my thumb to rub a tear from her eye, give her a gentle push, and she is gone with a last look of grief that breaks my heart.

The greatest king Babylon has ever seen. The words echo like raindrops plunking on stones. I try to ignore a tickling at the back of my thoughts. Something Belteshazzar told me, many months ago. A dream.

I shake my head, willing my mind to be free of the memory. My longtime Jewish advisor, part of my kingdom since we were both youths, often troubles me with his advice. I keep him close because he has become a friend. I keep him close because he is too often right.

But I do not want to think of Belteshazzar. Tonight is for me alone. For my pleasure, as I gaze across all that I have built, all that I have accomplished. This great Babylon, this royal residence with its Gardens to rival those created by the gods. Built by my mighty power. For the glory of my majesty. I grip the balcony wall, inhale the smoky sweetness again, and smile. It is good.

I hear a voice and think perhaps Belteshazzar has found me after all, for the words sound like something he would say, and yet the voice . . . The voice is of another.

“There is a decree gone out for you, Nebuchadnezzar. Your kingship has been stripped from you.”

I turn to the traitorous words, but no one is there. And yet the voice continues, rumbling in my own chest, echoing in my head.

“You will be driven from men to dwell with beasts. You will eat the herbs of oxen and seven times will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is ruler in the kingdom of men. To whom He wills power, He gives power.”

The tickling is there again, in my mind. I roll my shoulders to ease the discomfort, but it grows. It grows to a scratching, a clawing at the inside of my head, until I fear I shall bleed within.

The fear swells in me and I am frantic now. I rub my eyes, swat my ears, and still the scratching and scraping goes on, digging away at my memories, at my sense of self, of who I am and what I have done, and I stare at the sky above and the stones below and bend my waist and fall upon the ground where it is better, better to be on the ground, and I want only to find food, food, food. And a two-legged one comes and makes noises with her mouth and clutches at me but I understand none of it and even this knowledge that I do not understand is slipping, slipping from me as the sun slips into the desert.

And in the darkness, I am no more.

 
Chapter 1

 
Seven years later

 
The night her husband died, Tia ran with abandon.

The city wall, wide enough for chariots to race upon its baked bricks, absorbed the slap of her bare feet and cooled her skin. She flew past the Ishtar Gate as though chased by demons, knowing the night guard in his stone tower would be watching. Leering. Tia ignored his attention.

Tonight, this night, she wanted only to run.

A lone trickle of sweat chased down her backbone. The desert chill soaked into her bones and somewhere in the vast sands beyond the city walls, a jackal shrieked over its kill. Her exhalation clouded the air and the quiet huffs of her breath kept time with her feet.

Breathe, slap, slap, slap.

They would be waiting. Expecting her. A tremor disturbed her rhythm. Her tears for Shealtiel were long spent, stolen by the desert air before they fell.

Flames surged from the Tower and snagged her attention. Priests and their nightly sacrifices, promising to ensure the health of the city. For all of Babylon’s riches, the districts encircled by the double city walls smelled of poverty, disease, and hopelessness. But the palace was an oasis in a desert.

She would not run the entire three bêru around the city. Not tonight. Only to the Marduk Gate and back to the Southern Palace, where her mother would be glaring her displeasure at both her absence and her choice of pastime. Tia had spent long days at Shealtiel’s bedside, waiting for the end. Could her mother not wait an hour?

Too soon, the Marduk Gate loomed and Tia slowed. The guard leaned over the waist-high crenellation, thrust a torch above his head, and hailed the trespasser.

“Only Tiamat.” She panted and lifted a hand. “Running.”

He shrugged and shook his head, then turned back to his post, as though a princess running the city wall at night in the trousers of a Persian were a curiosity, nothing more. Perhaps he’d already seen her run. More likely, her reputation ran ahead of her. The night hid her flush of shame.

But she could delay no longer. The guilt had solidified, a stone in her belly she could not ignore.

She pivoted, sucked in a deep breath, and shot forward, legs and arms pounding for home.

Home. Do I still call it such? When all that was precious had been taken? Married at fourteen. A widow by twenty-one. And every year a lie.

“I shall always love you, always protect you.”

He had spoken the words on the night he had been lost to her. And where was love? Where was protection? Not with Shealtiel.

The night sky deepened above her head, and a crescent moon hung crooked against the blackness. Sataran and Aya rose in the east, overlapping in false union.

“The brightest light in your lifetime’s sky,” an elderly mage had said of the merged stars. The scholar’s lessons on the workings of the cosmos interested her, and she paid attention. As a princess already married for treaty, she was fortunate to retain tutors.

Ahead, the Ishtar Gate’s blue-glazed mosaics, splashed with yellow lions, surged against the purpling sky, and to its left, the false wooded mountain built atop the palace for her mother, Amytis, equaled its height. Tia chose the east wall of the gate for a focal point and ignored the Gardens. Tonight the palace had already seen death. She needn’t also dwell on madness.

Breathe, slap, slap, slap. Chest on fire, almost there.

She reached the palace’s northeast corner, where it nearly brushed the city wall, slowed to a stop, and bent at the waist. Hands braced against her knees, she sucked in cold air. Her heartbeat quieted.

When she turned back toward the palace, she saw what her mother had done.

A distance of one kanû separated the wide inner city wall from the lip of the palace roof, slightly lower. Tia kept a length of cedar wood there on the roof, a plank narrow enough to discourage most, and braced it across the chasm for her nightly runs. When she returned, she would pull it back to the roof, where anyone who might venture past the guards on the wall would not gain access. Only during her run did this plank bridge the gap, awaiting her return.

Amytis had removed it.

Something like heat lightning snapped across Tia’s vision and left a bitter, metallic taste in her mouth. Her mother thought to teach her a lesson. Punish her for her manifold breaches of etiquette by forcing her to take the long way down, humiliate herself to the sentinel guard.

She would not succeed.

With a practiced eye, Tia measured the distance from the ledge to the palace roof. She would have the advantage of going from a higher to a lower level. A controlled fall, really. Nothing more.

But she made the mistake of looking over, to the street level far below. Her senses spun and she gripped the wall.

She scrambled onto the ledge, wide enough to take the stance needed for a long jump, and bent into position, one leg extended behind. The palace rooftop garden held only a small temple in its center, lit with three torches. Nothing to break her fall, or her legs, when she hit. She counted, steadying mind and body.

The wind caught her hair, loosened during her run, and blew it across her eyes. She flicked her head to sweep it away, rocked twice on the balls of her feet, and leaped.

The night air whooshed against her ears, and her legs cycled through the void as though she ran on air itself. The flimsy trousers whipped against her skin, and for one exhilarating moment Tia flew like an egret wheeling above the city and knew sweet freedom.

This was how it should always be. My life. My choice. I alone control my destiny.

She hit the stone roof grinning like a trick monkey, and it took five running steps to capture her balance.

Glorious.

Across the rooftop, a whisper of white fluttered. A swish of silk and a pinched expression disappeared through the opening to the stairs. Amytis had been waiting to see her stranded on the city wall and Tia had soured her pleasure. The moment of victory faded, and Tia straightened her hair, smoothed her clothing.

“Your skill is improving.” The eerie voice drifted to Tia across the dark roof and she flinched. A chill rippled through her skin.

Shadir stood at the far end of the roof wall, where the platform ended and the palace wall rose higher to support the Gardens. His attention was pinned to the stars, and a scroll lay on the ledge before him, weighted with amulets.

“You startled me, Shadir. Lurking there in the shadows.”

The mage turned, slid his gaze the length of her in sharp appraisal. “It would seem I am not the only one who prefers the night.”

Long ago, Shadir had been one of her father’s chief advisors. Before—before the day of which they never spoke. Since that monstrous day, he held amorphous power over court and kingdom, power that few questioned and even fewer defied. His oiled hair hung in tight curls to his shoulders and the full beard and mustache concealed too much of his face, leaving hollow eyes that seemed to follow even when he did not turn his head.

Tia shifted on her feet and eyed the door. “It is cooler to run at night.”

The mage held himself unnaturally still. Did he even breathe?

As a child, Tia had believed Shadir could scan her thoughts like the night sky and read her secrets. Little relief had come with age. Another shudder ran its cold finger down her back.

Tia lowered her chin, all the obeisance she would give, and escaped the rooftop. Behind her, he spoke in a tone more hiss than speech. “The night holds many dangers.”

She shook off the unpleasant encounter. Better to ready herself for the unpleasantness she yet faced tonight.

Her husband’s family would have arrived by this time, but sweating like a soldier and dressed like a Persian, she was in no state to make an appearance in the death chamber. Instead, she went to her own rooms, where her two slave women, Omarsa and Gula, sat vigil as though they were the grieving widows. They both jumped when Tia entered and busied themselves with lighting more oil lamps and fetching bathwater.

In spite of her marriage to the eldest son of the captive Judaean king, Tia’s chambers were her own. She had gone to Shealtiel when it was required, and only then. The other nights she spent here among her own possessions—silk fabrics purchased from merchants who traveled east of Babylon, copper bowls hammered smooth by city jewelers, golden statues of the gods, rare carved woods from fertile lands in the west. A room of luxury. One that Shealtiel disdained and she adored. She was born a Babylonian princess. Let him have his austerity, his righteous self-denial. It had done him little good.

One of her women stripped her trousers, then unwound the damp sash that bound her lean upper body. Tia stood in the center of the bath chamber, its slight floor depression poked with drainage holes under her feet, and tried to be still as they doused her with tepid water and scrubbed with a scented paste of plant ash and animal fat until her skin stung.

When they had dressed her appropriately, her ladies escorted her through the palace corridors to the chamber where her husband of nearly seven years lay cold.

Seven years since she lost herself and her father on the same day. Neither of them had met death, but all the same, they were lost. Seven years of emptiness where shelter had been, of longing instead of love.

But much had ended today—Shealtiel’s long illness and Tia’s long imprisonment.

She paused outside the chamber door. Could she harden herself for the inevitable? The wails of women’s laments drifted under the door and wrapped around her heart, squeezing pity from her. A wave of sorrow, for the evil that took those who are loved, tightened her throat. But her grief was more for his family than herself. He had been harsh and unloving and narrow-minded, and now she was free. Tia would enter, give the family her respect, and escape to peace.

She nodded to one of her women, and Gula tapped the door twice and pushed it open.

Shealtiel’s body lay across a pallet, skin already graying. The chamber smelled of death and frankincense. Three women attended her husband—Shealtiel’s sister, his mother, and Tia’s own. His mother, Marta, sat in a chair close to the body. Her mourning clothes, donned over her large frame, were ashy and torn. She lifted her head briefly, saw that it was only Tia, and returned to her keening. Her shoulders rocked and her hands clutched at a knot of clothing, perhaps belonging to Shealtiel. His sister, Rachel, stood against the wall and gave her a shy smile, a smile that melded sorrow and admiration. She was younger than Tia by five years, still unmarried, a sweet girl.

“Good of you to join us, Tia.” Her mother’s eyes slitted and traveled the length of Tia’s robes. Tia expected some comment about her earlier dress, but Amytis held her tongue.

“I was . . . detained.” Their gazes clashed over Shealtiel’s body and Tia challenged her with a silent smile. The tension held for a moment, then Tia bent her head.

She was exquisite, Amytis. No amount of resentment on Tia’s part could blind her to this truth. Though Amytis had made it clear that Tia’s sisters held her affections, and though Tia had long ago given up calling her Mother in her heart, she could not deny that her charms still held sway in Babylon. From old men to children, Amytis was adored. Her lustrous hair fell to her waist, still black though she was nearly fifty, and her obsidian eyes over marble cheekbones were a favorite of the city’s best sculptors. Some said Tia favored her, but if she did, the likeness did nothing to stir a motherly affection.

Tia went to Shealtiel’s mother and whispered over her, “May the gods show kindness to you today, Marta. It is a difficult day for us all.” The woman’s grief broke Tia’s heart, and she placed a hand on Marta’s wide shoulder to share in it.

Marta sniffed and pulled away. “Do not call upon your false gods for me, girl.”

Amytis sucked in a breath, her lips taut.

Tia’s jaw tightened. “He was a good man, Marta. He will be missed.” Both of these statements Tia made without falsehood. Shealtiel was the most pious man she had ever known, fully committed to following the exacting requirements of his God.

Marta seemed to soften. She reached a plump hand to pat Tia’s own, still on her shoulder. “But how could the Holy One have taken him before he saw any children born?”

Tia stiffened and brought her hand to her side, forcing the fingers to relax. Marta rocked and moaned on, muttering about Tia’s inhospitable womb. Tia dared not point out that perhaps her son was to blame.

“But there is still a chance.” Marta looked to Amytis, then to Tia. “It is our way. When the husband dies without an heir, his brother—”

“No.” 

The single word came from both her mother’s and her own lips as one. Marta blinked and looked between them.

“It is our way.” Marta glanced at Rachel against the wall, as though seeking an ally. “My second son Pedaiah is unmarried yet. Perhaps Tia could still bear a son for Shealtiel—”

“You have had your treaty marriage with Babylon.” Amytis drew herself up, accentuating her lean height. “There will not be another.”

Tia remained silent. Her mother and she, in agreement? Had Amytis watched her languish these seven years and regretted flinging her like day-old meat to the Judaean dogs? Did she also hope for a life with more purpose for Tia now that she had been released? Tia lifted a smile, ever hopeful that Amytis’s heart had somehow softened toward her youngest daughter.

“Jeconiah shall hear of your refusal!” Marta stood, her chin puckering.

Amytis huffed. “Take the news to your imprisoned husband, then. I shall not wait for his retribution.” She seemed to sense the unfairness of the moment and regret her calloused words. “Come, Tia. Let us leave these women to grieve.” She meant it kindly but it was yet another insult, the implication that Tia need not remain for any personal grief.

Tia followed Amytis from the chamber into the hall, her strong perfume trailing. Amytis spun on her, and her heavy red robe whirled and settled. Her nostrils flared and she spoke through clenched teeth.

“By all the gods, Tiamat! For how long will you make our family a mockery?”