Sunday, July 31, 2011

From the Library of A.W. Tozer: Selections From Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey

The name A.W. Tozer is widely known in the world of Christian Bible teaching. Though Tozer passed away in 1963, his books, messages, and teachings continue to influence Christians today. From the Library of A.W. Tozer, compiled by James Stuart Bell, offer readers a unique look into the writings that influenced Tozer and his ministry. These selections range from prayers and poetry to letters and sermons. Well-known authors such as John Bunyan, John Milton, and Dwight L. Moody are included alongside anonymous and obscure authors.

I found reading From the Library of A.W. Tozer: Selections from Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey as a supplement to my daily devotions was a helpful tool. Many of the selections are based on solid Biblical teachings, some are prayers of worship, and some are letters with practical teachings. While I did not agree with every selection in the book, I think that the majority of the selections are useful and applicable to Christian life. My advice in reading this book is to keep your Bible right beside it. The teachings in the book are good, but what the Bible says trumps anything that man says.

Click here to view the sources of the excerpts in From the Library of A.W. Tozer.

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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coming Soon....

Book Blogger HopEvery week Crazy-for-Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants. This week's question is:

“Highlight one book you have received this week (for review, from the library, purchased at the store, etc.) that you can’t wait to dig into!”

My answer: I received Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin from Revell Publishers this week. I normally avoid war-related stories, but this one looked good to me.  It will probably be a week or two before I get to start this one.

From the back cover:  In a time of peril, can they find the courage to confront their fears and embrace a love that lasts?

When her husband becomes a casualty of the war in the Pacific, Helen Carlisle throws herself into volunteering for the war effort to conceal her feelings. But keeping up appearances as the grieving widow of a hometown hero is taking its toll. Soon something is going to give.

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit. His stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life--and a convenient excuse to ignore his deepest fear. When the beautiful Helen catches his eye and captures his heart, he is determined to win her hand.

But when Ray and Helen are called upon to step out in faith and put their reputations and their lives on the line, can they meet the challenges that face them? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Filled with drama, daring, and all the romance of the WWII era, Blue Skies Tomorrow is the captivating final book in the popular Wings of Glory series.

Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

What about you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Karana planned to leave the dolphin-shaped island with her family and tribe. However, when she sees her little brother left behind on the shore, her split-second decision changes the course of her life. As Karana and her brother struggle to survive alone, she must hunt, find shelter, and contend with nature. When her brother is tragically killed, Karana perseveres as she waits for the boat to return for her. As the seasons pass, Karana realizes that no one is coming for her and she must make a life for herself. Her courage and resourcefulness allows her to survive and, ultimately, to thrive.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell is classified as children's literature, but I recommend it to all age groups. The story is entertaining and unique. O'Dell captured my imagination from the beginning of the story and carried it through until the end. What fascinated me the most is that the story is based on real-life happenings. I could identify with Karana and admired her throughout the story. A good read for children and adults, alike.

Friday, July 22, 2011

God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren

“Where did I come from?” An innocent question with a complex answer. In God Gave Us You, Little Cub asks this question of her Mama who replies that “God Gave Us You.” Mama goes on to explain that Little Cub was in her tummy, how they prepared for Little Cub's arrival, and how happy they were when Little Cub finally arrived. Colorful illustrations illustrate the classic theme that children are a precious gift from God.

God Gave Us You, written by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, is an adorable little book. The edition I received has a hard cover, thick pages and seems like it would be durable. The story is cute and the illustrations enhance the meaning of the story. The theme of the book assures a child that he or she is treasured, loved, and a blessing from God. Children will enjoy the colorful illustrations featuring animals (mostly polar bears) in various situations.

I recommend this book to any parent who is looking for an entertaining book with themes of assurance and love.

Click here to visit the FIRST Wild Card Tour for God Gave Us You and read an excerpt.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Press as part of FIRST Wild Card Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

One Genre That's Just Not Appealing....

Book Blogger HopEvery week Crazy-for-Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants. This week's question is:

"What's the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can't?"

My answer: Literary Criticism. I don't mind writing it for my classes and perhaps my book reviews are a minor form of literary criticism, but somehow I just don't like to sit and read it.

What about you?

First Wild Card Tour: God Gave Us You

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:

WaterBrook Press; 1st edition (September 19, 2000
***Special thanks to Laura Tucker, WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity, for sending me a review copy.***


Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling author of eight novels, three novellas, and two gift books, with more than a half-million books in print. God Gave Us You is her first children’s book. As an editor during the week and a writer on weekends, she makes her very-messy-but-cozy home in Colorado with her husband, Tim, and their daughters, Olivia and Emma.

Visit the author's website.


Laura J. Bryant attended the Maryland Institute of Art, where she received a strong foundation in drawing, painting, and print-making. Illustrating children’s books has provided her with both a rewarding and creative career. Laura’s clients have included Simon & Schuster, McGraw Hill, and Stech-Vaughn publishers, among others. She currently lives among the tidal rivers on the eastern shore of Maryland with her loving husband and curiously cantankerous cat!

Visit the author's website.


Filled with playful, winsome illustrations by an artist who specializes in polar bear images, this four-color, read-to-me picture book will build children’s self-esteem through the tale of a mama bear who reassuringly explains where her cub came from and affirms Mama and Papa’s great love for her.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Reading level: Baby-Preschool
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; 1st edition (September 19, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1578563232


To Liv, Emma, and Jack—
Words cannot express how glad
we are that God gave us you.

To Ron and Shirley—
Who have an endless supply of love and generosity.

“Good night, sweet child,” Mama said as she tucked Little Cub in.

But Little Cub wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep.

“Mama, where did I come from?” she asked.

“From God,” her mother answered. “Your papa and I were alone, and we wanted
a baby.”

“And you got me?” Little Cub asked, her voice muffled by the covers.

“Yes, my special child. God gave us you.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper

Carrie Carter's crush on ex-cop Greg Barnes is no secret to anyone except the object of her affection. As she serves him coffee every day, she yearns for him to notice her. After the untimely death of his family, Greg quit his job and closed himself off from the world around him. Hence, Carrie is no stranger to his indifference. When Jase, the dishwasher at Carrie's café, goes missing, Greg and Carrie are drawn into the case and into each other's lives. As they grow closer, secrets buried in their pasts threaten their new found friendship. Will the emotional baggage of their lives prevent them from finding love? Can they both lay the past aside and step into a new time of life?

Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper combines sand, sun, and mystery as the backdrop for a contemporary love story. While I loved the small-town, homey feel of the story, the plot never really hooked me. I started reading and then put it down without returning to it for several days. This is unusual for me. I love to read and usually once a story hooks me, I return to it whenever I have a spare moment. In the beginning Carrie seemed kinda pathetic. However, I liked her more as she progressed and developed through the book. Supporting characters such as Mary P and Mr. Perkins added a wonderful depth. I recommend this book to fans of Christian fiction.

Click here to read an excerpt from Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Multnomah Publishers via FIRST Wild Card Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

First Wild Card Tour: Shadows on the Sand

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:

Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Multnomah Publicity for sending me a review copy.***


Gayle Roper, a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, is the multi-award-winning, best-selling author of Fatal Deduction and more than forty other books. She teaches and leads mentoring clinics at writers’ conferences across the country. Gayle lives in eastern Pennsylvania.

Visit the author's website.


Carrie Carter’s small café 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, leaving only cryptic clues in her Sudoku book, Greg finds himself drawn into helping Carrie solve the mysteries … and into her life. But when Carrie’s own painful past becomes all too present, her carefully constructed world begins to sink.

Will the fragile relationship she’s built with Greg implode from the weight of the baggage they both carry?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420846
ISBN-13: 978-1601420848


So Bill punched him in the nose, Carrie!” Andi Mueller swung an arm to demonstrate and nearly clipped me. “He was wonderful!”

I leaned back and held up a hand for protection. “Easy, kiddo.” I smiled at the girl and her enthusiasm.

Andi giggled like the smitten sixteen-year-old she was. “Sorry.”

“Mmm.” I rested my elbows on the pink marble counter that ran along one wall of Carrie's Café, located two blocks from the boardwalk in the center of Seaside, New Jersey. I was the Carrie of the café's name, and Andi was one of my servers, in fact, my only server at the moment. She'd been with me almost two months now, taking up the slack when the summer kids left to go back to college or on to real jobs.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “On Saturday night Bill, who is your true soul mate, punched Jase, our Jase, for paying too much attention to you at a party.” I didn't think my voice was too wry, but soul mates at sixteen made me both cynical and scared, teen hormones being what they were.

Andi just grinned with delight of the even-mentioning-his-name-givesme-the-vapors kind and nodded as she sat on a stool at the counter. “Isn't it romantic?”

I was hearing this tale today, Monday, because now that the season was over, Carrie's was closed on Sundays. My staff and I had earned our day of rest over a very busy and marginally profitable summer. We might be able to stay open for another year if nothing awful happened, like the roof leaking or the dishwasher breaking.

Listening to Andi made me feel ancient. I was only thirty-three, but had I ever been as young as she? Given the trauma of my growing-up years, I probably hadn't. I was glad that whatever her history, and there was a history, she could giggle.

“How do you expect to continue working with Jase after this encounter?” I was very interested in her answer. Jase was one of three part-time dishwashers at the café. All three were students at the local community college and set their schedules around classes. Jase worked Tuesdays and Saturdays from six in the morning until three, and the last thing I wanted was contention in the kitchen between Andi and him.

Andi looked confused. “Why should I have trouble with Jase? I didn't punch him. Besides he's an old--” She cut herself off.

I wanted to pursue her half-thought, but the door of the café opened, and Greg Barnes walked in, all scruffy good looks and shadowed eyes. His black hair was mussed as if he hadn't combed it, and he had a two-day stubble. He should have looked grubby, but somehow he didn't. He looked wonderful.

All thoughts of Bill and Jase fled as my heart did the little stuttery Snoopy dance it always did at the sight of Greg. Before he could read anything in my face, assuming he noticed me as someone other than the person who fed him, I looked down at the basket of fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon-swirl muffins I was arranging.

Andi glanced from me to him and, much too quick and clever, smiled with a knowing look. I held my breath. She wasn't long on tact, and the last thing I wanted was for her to make some leading remark. I felt I could breathe again when all she did was wink at me. Safe for the moment, at least.

Greg came to the counter and slid onto his favorite stool, empty now that the receding flood of summer tourists left it high and dry this third week in October, a vinyl-covered Ararat postdeluge.

“The usual?” I asked, my voice oh-so-casual.

He gave a nod, barely glancing my way, and opened his copy of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Press of Atlantic City waited. I turned to place his order, but there was no need. Lindsay, my sister, partner, and the café's baker, had been listening to Andi's story through the serving window. She waved her acknowledgment before I said a word. She passed the order to Ricky, our short-order cook, who had stayed with us longer than I expected, long enough that he had become almost as much of an asset to Carrie's as Lindsay was.

My sister gave me a sly smile, then called, “Hi, Greg.”

He looked up from his paper and gave Lindsay a very nice smile, far nicer than he ever gave me.

“The sticky buns are all gone,” he said in mild accusation, nodding toward the glass case where we kept Lindsay's masterpieces.

She grinned. “Sorry. You've got to get here earlier.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Or you could make more.”

“I'll take the suggestion under advisement,” she said agreeably.

“Haven't you heard the adage about making your customers happy?”

“Yeah. So?”

He laughed and turned a page in the paper. I brought him a glass of OJ and a cup of my special blend.

“How're you doing?” I asked, just as I did every morning.

He gave me a vague smile. “Fine.” Just as he said every morning.

But he wasn't. Oh, he was better than, say, a year ago, definitely better than two years ago, but he wasn't well. Even three years after the tragedy that had altered his life, he was far from his self-proclaimed fine. If you looked closely--as I did--you could see the strain never completely left his eyes, and the purple stains under them were too deep and dark, a sure sign that a good night's sleep was still little more than a vague memory for him.

But he was sober. More than two years and counting.

“Keep talking, Andi,” Lindsay said as Ricky beat Greg's eggs and inserted his wheat bread in the toaster. “This is better than reality TV. It's really real.” She walked out of the kitchen into the café proper. “Bill bopped Jase,” she prompted.

“Our Jase,” I clarified.

Greg looked up. “Your dishwasher?”

I nodded.

“Hmm.” And he went back to his paper.

“And Jase went down for the count.” Andi's chest swelled with pride at her beloved's prowess.

I flinched. “Don't you think knocking a guy out for talking to you is a bit much?”

Andi thought for almost half a second, then shook her head. “It wasn't for just Saturday. He knows Jase and I work together, and he was staking his claim.”

I'd seen Jase and Andi talking in the kitchen, but there never seemed to be any romantic overtones. “Jase is a nice guy and a good worker. I don't want to lose him because of your boyfriend.”

“He is, and I don't want him to go either,” Andi agreed. “I like talking to him.”

“Me too.” Lindsay rested an elbow on the counter and propped her chin in her palm. “I think he's sad.”

“What do you mean, sad?” But I'd sensed he was weighed down with something too.

“He's funny and open most of the time,” Lindsay said, “but sometimes when no one's talking to him, I see this look of sorrow on his face.”

I nodded. “All the more reason to hate that he got punched.”

“Yeah.” Lindsay got a dreamy look in her dark brown eyes. “But there's something about a guy defending you, even if what he's defending you from isn't really a threat.” She sighed.

“Lindsay!” I was appalled. “Get a grip.” Though if Greg ever wanted to defend me, I was pretty sure I wouldn't mind. Of course, that presupposed he'd notice I was in trouble. I glanced at him bent over his paper. Not likely to happen. I bit back a sigh.

“Tell me, Andi. Does Bill plan to punch out any male who talks to you?”

“Come on, Carrie,” Andi said. “Don't be mad at Bill. You know how guys can be when they've had a few beers.”

I did know how guys could be, beers or no beers. “What were you doing at a party where there was drinking?”

She became all prim and prissy. “I did not drink.”

“I should hope not, but you shouldn't have been there.” Good grief. I was sounding more and more like her mother--or how her mother would have sounded if she weren't missing in action somewhere. Part of that history I didn't know.

“Order up,” Ricky announced as he walked to the pass-through. “The food is never better than when I plate it.”

You'd have thought he was Emeril or Wolfgang Puck or one of Paula Deen's sons, not a stopgap cook who couldn't find any other job after graduating from college with a psychology degree and who stayed around because he had a crush on the baker.

I grabbed Greg's scrambled eggs and wheat toast and served them. He accepted them with a nod and a grunt.

“So what happened to Jase?” I asked Andi. I found myself hoping Bill had bruised a knuckle or two in his violence, though I was pretty sure it meant I was a terrible person too. I didn't wish for a broken hand or anything that extreme, just something to remind him that punching wasn't the way to handle a perceived rival.

Andi waved her hand vaguely. “Bill and a buddy carried Jase to his car. They only dropped him once.”

I imagined the thunk of poor Jase's head hitting the ground and flinched in sympathy. No such thought bothered Andi. She was too busy being thrilled by Bill, who rode in like her shining knight, laying waste to the enemy with knuckles instead of the more traditional lance.

“How much older than you is Bill?” Lindsay asked.

Good question, Linds.

Andi studied the cuticle of her index finger. “He's nineteen.”

Lindsay and I exchanged a glance. Those three years from sixteen to nineteen were huge.

I couldn't keep quiet. “So he shouldn't have been drinking at this party either.”

Andi slid off her stool. If looks killed, Lindsay'd be sprinkling my ashes in the ocean tomorrow morning.

“What does Clooney think of you and Bill?” Lindsay asked. Clooney was Andi's great-uncle, and she lived with him.

Andi cleared her throat. “We don't talk about Bill.”

“Does he know about Bill?” Lindsay's concern was obvious.

Andi stared through long bangs that hung over her hazel eyes. The silky hair sometimes caught in her lashes in a way that made me blink but didn't seem to bother her. “Of course Clooney knows. Do you think I'd keep a secret from him?”

“I didn't think you would.” Lindsay smiled. “I'm glad to know I was right.”

So was I. Sixteen could go in so many different directions, and I'd hate for this pixie to make wrong choices--or more wrong choices.

“Is he going to college?” I asked. “Bill?”

“He was, but not now.” Her fingernail became even more absorbing. “He dropped out of Rutgers at the end of his freshman year.”

Uh-oh. Dropped out or failed out? “Does he plan to go back? Try again?”

She shrugged. “He doesn't know. Right now he's happy just being. And going to parties. And taking me.” By the time she was finished, she was bouncing at the excitement of it all, her strawberry blond ponytail leaping about her shoulders.

Greg looked up from his newspaper. “So this guy took you, a very underage girl, to a party where there was lots of drinking?”

Andi looked at him, eyes wide, acting as if he'd missed the whole point of her story. “Don't worry about me, Mr. Barnes. Or any of you.” She included Lindsay and me with a nod of her head. “I can handle any problems that might develop at a party. Believe me, I've dealt with far worse.”

I was intrigued. I'd stared down plenty of problems in my time too, and I wondered how her stare downs compared to mine.

She grinned and waved a hand as if she were wiping away her momentary seriousness. “But I'd rather talk about how great Bill is.”

“So how great is he?” Lindsay asked. “Tell me all.” At twenty-seven, she was an incurable romantic. I wasn't sure how this had come to pass, since she had every reason to be as cynical as I, but there you are.

I frowned at her. “Stop encouraging the girl.”

Lindsay just grinned.

I looked at Andi's happy face and had to smile too. “So what's this wonderful guy doing if he's not in school?” Besides being and partying.

“Uh, you mean like a job or something?”

“Yeah.” Lindsay and I exchanged another glance. Greg looked up again at Andi's reluctant tone.

“Well, he was a lifeguard over the summer. He's got this fabulous tan, and it makes him so handsome.”

Soul mate stuff if I ever heard it. I half expected her to swoon like a nineteenth-century Southern belle with her stays laced too tightly. “What about now? Postseason?”

“And he was the quarterback on the high school football team two years ago when they won the state championship.”

“Very impressive. What about now?”

“He was named Most Valuable Player.”

“Even more impressive. What about now?”

She began making sure the little stacks of sugar and sweetener packets in the holders on the counter were straight. “Right now he's just trying to figure it all out.”

Being. Figuring. And punching guys out while he thought. “You mean he's trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up?”

She glared at me. In her mind he was grown up. She turned her back with a little sniff and went to clean off a dirty table.

Lindsay swallowed a laugh. “Your sarcastic streak is showing, Carrie.”

Mr. Perkins, another regular at Carrie's Café and at eighty in better health than the rest of us put together, rapped his cup on the pink marble counter. He'd been sitting for several minutes with his eyes wide behind his glasses as he listened to Andi.

“No daughter of mine that age would ever have gone to a party where there was drinking,” he said. “It's just flat out wrong.”

Since I agreed, I didn't mention that he was a lifelong bachelor and had no daughters.

He rapped his cup again.

“Refill?” I asked, not because I didn't know the answer but because the old man liked to think he was calling the shots.

He nodded. “Regular too. None of that wimpy decaf. I got to keep my blood flowing, keep it pumping.”

I smiled with affection as I topped off his cup. He gave the same line every day. “Mr. Perkins, you have more energy than people half your age.”

He pointed his dripping spoon at me. “And don't you forget it.”

“Watch it,” I said in a mock scold. “You're getting coffee all over my counter.”

“And a fine counter it is.” He patted the pink-veined marble slab. It was way too classy and way too pricey for a place like the café. “Did I ever tell you that I remember when it was the registration counter at Seaside's Grand Hotel? And let me tell you, it was a grand hotel in every sense of the word. People used to come from as far as Pittsburgh, even the president of U.S. Steel. Too bad it burned down. The hotel, not U.S. Steel.”

“Too bad,” I agreed. And yes, he'd told us the story many times.

“It was in 1943,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes. “I was thirteen.” He blinked back to the present. “It was during World War II, you know, and people said it was sabotage. Not that I ever believed that. I mean, why would the Germans burn down a resort hotel? But I'll tell you, my father, who was an air-raid warden, about had a seizure.”

“I bet he was convinced that the flames, visible for miles up and down the coast, would bring the German subs patrolling offshore right up on our beaches,” Lindsay said with a straight face. “They might have attacked us.”

I glared at her as she repeated word for word Mr. Perkins's line from the story. She winked unrepentantly.

Mr. Perkins nodded, delighted she was listening. “People kept their curtains drawn at night, and even the boardwalk was blacked out for the duration, the lights all covered except for the tiniest slit on the land side, so the flames from the fire seemed extra bright. All that wood, you know. Voom! ” He threw his hands up in the air.

Lindsay and I shook our heads at the imagined devastation, and I thought I saw Greg's lips twitch. He'd heard the story almost as many times as we had.

Mr. Perkins stirred his coffee. “After the war some investor bought the property.”

“I bet all that remained of the Grand was the little corner where the pink marble registration counter sat.” Lindsay pointed where I leaned. “That counter.”

Again she spoke his line with a straight face, and this time Greg definitely bit back a grin.

Mr. Perkins added another pink packet to his coffee. “That's right. The buyer decided to open a restaurant around the counter and build a smaller, more practical hotel on the rest of the property.”

Even that hotel was gone now, replaced many years ago by private homes rented each summer to pay the exorbitant taxes on resort property.

I walked to Greg with my coffeepot. “Refill?”

He slid his mug in my direction, eyes never leaving his paper.

Be still my heart.


The café door opened again, and Clooney sauntered in. In my opinion Clooney sauntered through life, doing as little as possible and appearing content that way. I, on the other hand, was a bona fide overachiever, always trying to prove myself, though I wasn't sure to whom. If Clooney weren't so charming, I'd have disliked him on principle. As it was, I liked him a lot.

Today he wore a Phillies cap, one celebrating the 2008 World Series victory. His gray ponytail was pulled through the back of the cap and hung to his shoulder blades.

“You work too hard, Carrie,” he told me frequently. “You'll give yourself indigestion or reflux or a heart attack or something. You need to take time off.”

“If I didn't want to pay the rent or have insurance or eat, I'd do that very thing,” I always countered.

“What you need is a rich husband.” And he'd grin.

“A solution to which I'm not averse. There just seems to be a shortage of candidates in Seaside.”

“Hey, Clooney,” Andi called from booth four, where she was clearing. She gave him a little finger wave. Clooney might be her great-uncle, but try as I might, I couldn't get her to call him Uncle Clooney. Just “Clooney” sounded disrespectful to me, but he didn't seem to mind.

“Hey, darlin'.” Clooney walked over to Andi and gave her a hug. Then he came to the counter and slid onto the stool next to Greg. He did not take off his cap, something that drove me crazy. I've developed this manners thing, probably because my childhood was so devoid of anything resembling pattern or politeness. I know people thought me prissy and old-fashioned, but I am what I am, a poor man's Miss Manners.

Clooney pointed at a muffin, and I placed one on a dish for him. He broke off a chunk, then glanced back at Andi. “She tell you about that fool Bill?”

I grinned at his disgruntled expression. “She did.”

“What is it with girl children?” he demanded. “I swear she's texted the news around the world.”

“She thinks it's a compliment--her knight defending her.”

Clooney and Greg snorted at the same time.

“Slaying a dragon who's threatening the life of the fair damsel's one thing,” Greg said, actually looking at me. “Decking a kid for saying hi to a pretty girl is another.”

“Your past life as a cop is showing,” I teased.

He shrugged as he turned another page of the paper. “Old habits die hard.”

The door opened again, and in strutted the object of our conversation. I knew it had to be him because, aside from the fact that he looked like a very tanned football player, he and Andi gazed at each other with love-struck goofy grins. I thought I heard Lindsay sigh.

Andi hurried toward the kitchen with an armful of dirty dishes from booth four. She squeaked in delight as Bill swatted her on the rump as she passed. Clooney stiffened at this unseemly familiarity with his baby. Mr. Perkins tsk-tsked his disapproval.

“Can I have breakfast now?” Andi asked when she reappeared empty- handed.

The wait staff usually ate around ten thirty at a back booth, and it was ten fifteen. We were in the off-season weekday lull between breakfast and lunch, and the three men on their stools were the only customers present. I nodded.

Bill looked toward the kitchen. He appeared overwhelmed at the prospect of food, unable to make a selection. He draped an arm over Andi's shoulder as he considered the possibilities, and she snuggled against him. Clooney's frown intensified.

Bill was a big guy, and it was clear by the way he carried himself that he still thought of himself as the big man on campus in spite of the fact that he was now campusless and unemployed. As I studied him, I wondered if high school football would end up being the high point of his life. How sad that would be. Clooney drifted through life by choice. I hoped Bill wouldn't drift for lack of a better plan or enough ability to achieve.

Careful, Carrie. I was being hard on this kid. Nineteen and undecided wasn't that unusual. Just because at his age I'd already been on my own for three years, responsible for Lindsay, who was six years my junior…

Bill gave Clooney, who was watching him with a rather sour look, a sharp elbow in the upper arm and asked, one guy to another, “What do you suggest, Clooney? What's really good here?”

Clooney's relaxed slouch disappeared. I saw the long-ago medal-winning soldier of his Vietnam days. “You will call me 'sir' until I give you permission to call me by name. Do you understand, boy?”

Bill blinked. So did I. Everyone in Seaside, no matter their age, called him Clooney.

“Stop that, Clooney!” Andi was appalled at her uncle's tone of voice.

“Play nice,” I said softly as I realized for the first time that I didn't know whether Clooney was his first name or last. I made a mental note to ask Greg. As a former Seaside cop, he might know. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, darlin'.” Clooney gave Andi an easy smile. He gave Bill a hard stare. “Right, Bill?”

Bill blinked again. “Y-yes, sir.”

Andi took her beloved's hand and dragged him toward the back booth. “Ignore my uncle. He's having a bad day.” She glared over her shoulder at Clooney, who grinned back at her.

“She's got spunk, that one,” he said with pride.

“How'd she end up living with you?” I'd been longing to ask ever since Clooney showed up with Andi just before Labor Day and asked me to give her a job. I did, and I guess I thought that gave me the right to ask my question.

Clooney disagreed because he said, “I think I'll have one of your amazing Belgian waffles with a side of sausage.”

“I'm on it.” Lindsay headed back to the kitchen before I said a word. “Got it, Ricky?”

“Got it.” Ricky tested the waffle iron with a flick of water. He smiled as the water jumped and evaporated. He was a handsome kid with dark Latino looks of the smoldering kind, a young Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately for him, his smoldering looks appeared to have no effect on Linds.

Another victim of unrequited love.

Andi came to the counter and placed an order for Bill and herself. I blinked. We could have served the whole dining room on less.

Mr. Perkins eyed me. “Are you going to make him pay for all that? You should, you know.”

True, but I shook my head. “Job perk. He's cheaper than providing health benefits and not nearly as frustrating.”

“So say you.” Clooney settled to his waffle and sausage.

I watched the parade of laden plates emerge from the kitchen and make their way to the back booth, making me reconsider the “cheaper” bit. Andi took her seat and stared at Bill as if he could do no wrong in spite of the fact that he leaned on the table like he couldn't support his own weight. Didn't anyone ever tell the kid that his noneating hand was supposed to rest in his lap, not circle his plate as if protecting it from famished marauders or little girls with ponytails?

“Look at him,” Clooney said. “He's what? Six-two and over two hundred pounds? Jase Peoples is about five-eight and one-forty if he's wearing everything in his closet.”

“Let's forget about Jase, shall we?” Andi's voice was sharp as she came to the counter and reached for more muffins. “The subject is closed.”

I grabbed her wrist. “No more muffins. We need them for paying customers. If Bill's still hungry, he can have toast.”

“Or he could pay.” To Mr. Perkins a good idea was worth repeating.

Andi laughed at the absurdity of such a thought.

Ricky had left his stove and was leaning on the pass-through beside Lindsay. “Four slices coming up for Billingsley.”

“Billingsley?” I looked at the big guy as he downed the last of his four-egg ham-and-cheese omelet. With a name like that, it was a good thing he was big enough to protect himself.

“Billingsley Morton Lindemuth III,” Ricky said.

“I should never have told you.” Andi clearly felt betrayed.

“But you did. And you got to love it.” Laughing, Ricky turned to make toast.

“He hates it,” Andi said.

I wasn't surprised.

Greg drew in a breath like you do when something terrible happens. We all turned to stare at him.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

He was looking at the front page of The Press of Atlantic City. “Jase Peoples.”

“What?” I demanded.

Clooney grabbed the paper and followed Greg's pointing finger.

I could see the picture and the headline above it: “Have You Seen This Man?”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Women of Faith... coming in October!

I am super-excited right now.  Thanks to Book Sneeze and Women of Faith, I will be attending the Women of Faith conference in October.  I'll be posting about it here on my blog prior to and following the event.

I've heard great things about these conferences, but I've never been able to attend one. I'm definitely looking forward to it and hoping for a wonderful time of encouragement and spiritual growth.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler

Born on a hot August day, Ira Wagler was raised in the Old Order Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario. Growing up in the Amish way suited Ira only until he became a young man. After watching most of his older siblings leave the Amish way of life, Ira followed suit at age seventeen. Over the course of the next nine years, Ira would repeatedly return to the Amish and then leave again. At twenty-six, he left Amish permanently. In this memoir Ira candidly shares the myriad of experiences that his life journey consisted of.

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler peals away common stereotypes and misconceptions about the Amish people and reveals one man's journey in and out of the Amish world. In the Christian fiction realm, the Amish way of life is often idealized. Reading Growing Up Amish was like seeing a side of Amish culture that I had not been exposed to before. I thought the book started off a little slow. However, by the time the author began talking about his teenage years and Rumspringa, I was hooked. I live in one of the non-Amish areas that the author talks about visiting, so it was interesting to see his observations and experiences in my own area. Christians who are fans of biographies will probably enjoy this book.

Click here to read an excerpt from Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler.

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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yay for Publix Freebies!!!

I made my weekly shopping trip to Publix yesterday and got some awesome deals.  My savings percentage was 76% -- not my highest ever, but close.

  • Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats with a Touch of Fruit: Free! They were BOGO and I had a manufacturer coupon for BOGO.
  • Zantac Heartburn Tablets: Free! They were on sale for $6.99. I had a store coupon for $2/1 and a manufacturer coupon for $5/1.  
  • Scotch Scissors: Free! They were BOGO, plus I had a $1/1 manufacturer coupon.  

I Love Free Books!

Book Blogger HopEvery week Crazy-for-Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants. This week's question is:

"How/Where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use like paperbackswap?"

My answer: I used to buy all my books.  Now, I'm much more frugal.  :)  I get a lot of my books from publishers who want their book reviewed.  I also download lots of the free ebooks that Amazon offers to Kindle users. I occasionally get books from the library. If I see a book that I really want, but can't get it from anywhere else, I will write down the title and author and ask for it for my birthday or Christmas.

What about you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Someone to Watch Over Me by Michelle Stimpson

After an emergency surgery and several lonely days in the hospital, Tori Henderson has a new view on life. Her boyfriend's lack of affection and her co-workers' lack of sensitivity leave Tori seeking the one source of unconditional love that she has ever known – her Aunt Dottie. To her surprise and dismay, Aunt Dottie has fallen ill. Tori immediately travels to the small town of Bayford to care for her aunt and, at Dottie's request, relunctantly agrees to temporarily take over Dottie's struggling business. Balancing the business and trying to telecommute for her job in Houston proves difficult. Add in supervising her step-cousin, DeAndre, and a budding romance with a former crush and Tori has her hands full. When things seem overwhelming, Tori is faced with a choice. Will she accept the unconditional love offered by God? Can she trust him to guide her and work all things for her good? Or will she leave behind the small-town life in pursuit of big city promises?

The characters of Someone to Watch Over Me by Michelle Stimpson were unique and well-developed. Tori's spiritual development and personal progress felt authentic. I appreciated the theme about unconditional love. Stimpson masterfully demonstrated that when we receive unconditional love from God, we are able to extend that love to others who will be drawn to the acceptance associated with love. Unfortunately, I felt like  detailed foreplay between Tori and her boyfriend was inappropriate and unnecessary as it did not contribute to the story. In addition to that, I don't think a book that is marketed as Christian fiction should show the top part of the character's breasts on the front cover.

Someone to Watch Over Me has a beautiful message about unconditional love, but should be read with discretion and may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Click here to read an excerpt from Someone to Watch Over Me by Michelle Stimpson.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kensington Publishers via FIRST Wild Card Blog Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

First Wild Card Tour: Someone to Watch Over Me

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:

Dafina; 1 Original edition (June 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Michelle Stimpson for sending me a review copy.***


Michelle Stimpson is an author, a speaker, and an educator who received her Bachelor of Science degree from Jarvis Christian College in 1994. She earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2002. She has had the pleasure of teaching elementary, middle, and high school as well as training adults.

In addition to her work in the field of education, Michelle ministers through writing and public speaking. Her works include the highly acclaimed Boaz Brown, Divas of Damascus Road (National Bestseller), and Last Temptation. She has published several short stories for high school students through her educational publishing company, Right Track Academic Support Services, at

Michelle serves in the Discerning Hearts women's ministry at her home church, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. She also ministers to women through her online newsletter:

Michelle tours annually with the Anointed Authors on Tour. She regularly speaks at special events and writing workshops sponsored churches, schools, book clubs and other great organizations.

Michelle lives near Dallas with her husband, their two teenage children, and one crazy dog.

Visit the author's website.


Tori Henderson is on the fast track in her marketing career in Houston, but her romantic life is slow as molasses and her relationship with Christ is nonexistent. When her beloved Aunt Dottie falls ill, Tori travels back to tiny Bayford to care for her. But when Tori arrives, she's faced with more than she bargained for, including Dottie's struggling local store, a host of bad memories, and a troubled little step-cousin, DeAndre. Worse, the nearest Starbucks is twenty miles away...

Just as Tori is feeling overwhelmed, she re-connects with her old crush, the pastor's son, Jacob, who is every bit as handsome as to remembers. As the church rallies for Aunt Dottie's recovery, Tori realizes that she came to Bayford to give, but she just might receive more than she dreamed was ever possible for her.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.00
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Dafina; 1 Original edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0758246889
ISBN-13: 978-0758246882


I crossed my fingers in hopes they would name me Top Quarterly Producer for my department. I mean, every single one of my clients had experienced website traffic and sales above the projected estimates, and I had even received two letters from pleased customers. “Tori’s expertise made all the difference in our product launch,” one had commented. “We’ll be using NetMarketing Results for a long time to come!” Planning and implementing online marketing campaigns came with its own sense of fulfillment. After all, depending on who you asked, the Web pushes America’s economy even more than a good old-fashioned mall.

But even as we stood around the conference room waiting for the announcement, I felt queasy. What if they didn’t name me? One look around the room sparked another dose of apprehension.

Lexa Fielder was recently hired, yet she’d already managed to land a pretty impressive list of new customers for the company, though it was rumored she did quite a bit of work on her back.

Brian Wallace was one of the older marketing representatives, but he still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Every once in a while, he pulled off a last-minute record-breaking month for one of his clients and caught management’s eyes.

There were only four eyes I wanted to catch, and all of them belonged to Preston Haverty. Okay, he really only had two eyes, but he did wear a set of insistently thick glasses that took on life of their own at the center of his slight facial features. Every time I saw him, I felt like I was in a scene from The Emperor’s Clothes. Like, why won’t somebody tell Preston that those glasses are ridiculous and we do have technology to free us from such spectacles? Probably the same reason no one talks to Donald Trump about that comb-over.

Anyway, Preston was good people, glasses and all. I appreciated his “hands off” management style – he didn’t really care where or how we worked, so long as we got the job done. I only hoped that I’d done a good enough job to add to my collection of blue and green plaques given to outstanding employees. Lexa and Brian aside, I appreciated being appreciated. And God knows I’d put in enough woman-hours to earn this recognition.

“And February’s project manager of the month is…”—Preston announced as everyone in the room beat a drum roll on either the 16-foot table or some spot on the surrounding walls—“Tori Henderson!”

My cheekbones rose so high I could barely see in front of me. Is that what it’s like to be Miss America? Everybody applauding, confetti flying, the runners-up on the sideline clapping wildly to distract themselves from their jealousy and impending mental meltdowns after the show?

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that serious, but I sure felt like a pageant queen. My fellow co-workers, probably twenty-five people or so, cheered me on as I walked toward the front end of the table to receive my plaque. “Good job, Tori!” “You go, girl!” Their affirmations swelled inside me, feeding my self-esteem. If only my mother could see me now. Then maybe she’d forget about 1996.

I shook Mr. Haverty’s hand and posed for the obligatory picture. In that moment, I wished I’d worn a lighter-colored suit. Black always made me look like a beanpole. Gave no testament of all my hours at the gym and the donuts I’d passed on to keep the red line on my scale below one hundred and twenty-five.

I wasn’t going to pass on the sweets today, though. Jacquelyn, the lead secretary, retrieved a towering pink-and-white buttercream frosting cake and brought it forward now to celebrate my achievement.

Preston offered, “Tori, you get the first piece.”

“Get some meat on those bones, girl,” from Clara, the Webmaster.

But the mention of meat and the sight of the cake suddenly made me nauseous. To appease the group, I took the first piece. Then Jacquelyn got busy cutting and distributing pieces as everyone stood around milking the moment before having to return to work.

I sat in one of the comfy leather chairs and took and ate a bite of my celebratory sweetness. Almost instantly, my stomach disagreed with my actions. My hand flew to my abdomen, lightly stroking the panel of my suit. People were so busy devouring the cake they didn’t notice me catching my breath. Whew!

I pushed the plate away from me, as though the pink mass had the power to jump onto my fork and into my mouth. This was clearly not the cake for me. I thought for a moment about how long it had been since I ate something so densely packed with sugar. Maybe this was like red meat—once you stop consuming it, one backslidden bite tears you up inside.

No, that’s not it. I’d eaten a candy bar the previous week, before my monthly visitor arrived. Renegade cramps? I rubbed my palm against the aggravated area again. No. The pain was too high in my torso for female problems. This had to be some kind of bug. Whatever it was, it didn’t like strawberry cake so, I quietly tossed my piece in the trash on the way back to my desk.

An hour later, I felt like I could throw up so I sat perfectly still at my desk because…well…any movement of my torso sparked a pain in my side that might trigger this upchuck. I just didn’t feel like I wanted to go through the process of throwing up. I would never tell anyone this, but I find vomiting an altogether traumatic experience. Such a nasty feeling in one’s throat. And the aftertaste, and the gagging sounds. Not to mention getting a close-up look at the toilet seat. It’s just not humanlike and should be avoided at all costs, in my opinion.

Thank God I made it all the way to my apartment before I finally had to look at the inside of a porcelain throne, only this time I hadn’t even eaten anything. Bile spewed out of me, but the pain in my side was probably up to 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Now that I’d done the unthinkable and temporarily lost all self-respect, perhaps my body would relent. I could only hope the worst of whatever this was had passed (albeit out of the wrong end).

I managed to thoroughly brush my teeth and gargle a great number of times, assuring myself it was safe to swallow my own spit again. The image staring back at me in the mirror was normally me after a good workout—kinky twists dampened slightly at the base by my sweat, light brown face glowing in the accomplishment of burning hundreds of calories. Today, however, my sagging eyelids told the story of a woman who’d…vomited. I tried smiling, elevating my cheekbones even higher. No use. Maybe my mother was right when she’d told me, “You’re not that pretty, Tori, but you can keep yourself skinny and, when you turn fifteen, I’ll let you wear makeup. Fourteen if you’re really ugly by then.”

I closed my eyes and pressed fingers onto my temples, reminding myself that people told me I was cute all the time. One time, I went to this women’s empowerment event my client was hosting and I won a T-shirt that read I’M BEAUTIFUL with some Bible verse on it about being beautifully and wonderfully made. I wore that shirt to Wal-Mart and a total stranger walked up to me and said, “I agree.” So why did the only voice ringing now belong to my ever-beautiful, timeless Margie Carolyn James who bragged of still being carded at age 40?

My side still ached enough for me to call off the evening’s kickboxing class. Good thing Kevin was out of town working. He probably would have called me a wimp and dared me to run at least two miles. And I probably would have at least attempted to make him eat his words, despite the pain now radiating through my stomach.

After downing a dose of Advil, I trudged to my bedroom, changed into a night shirt and gently lay across the bed. I didn’t have the energy to answer my landline when it rang. I could only listen for the message.

“Hey, I’m gonna layover tonight. My flight comes in at seven, I leave out again tomorrow morning at eight. See ya.”

I was hoping that by the time he got home, I would have awakened from a refreshing nap, totally healed and ready to finish up some of the work I’d had to bring home with me in light the unproductive afternoon I endured. Yet when Kevin returned, he found me hunched over the toilet seat again.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing? Uuuuck!” The wretching produced another plop of bile into the commode.

“Are you okay?”


“What’s going on?”

“I’m pregnant,” I quipped, though the hint of mockery escaped my tone thanks to the reverberating bowl.

“Oh my God, Tori, you’re kidding, right? You know how I feel about kids,” he yelled. “How could you—”

“Stop freaking out. I’m joking.”

He balled up his fist and exhaled into the hole. “Don’t give me a heart attack.”

“I ate some cake today at work and got sick.”

He backed out into the hallway. “Let me know if you need me.”

I rested an elbow on the toilet seat and looked up at Kevin. Six foot one looks even taller from my bathroom floor perspective. His deep sandy skin contrasted perfectly with his ivory teeth and hazel eyes which, according to him, had won over many women back in the day. I wasn’t one of those eye-color crazy girls, but I was definitely a sucker for track star legs, and Kevin had those for miles and miles. Watching him unveil those limbs when he undressed was definitely the greatest benefit of moving into his condo eighteen months earlier. Well, the legs and the free rent. And the sex, when my mind cooperated.

Kevin was the modern, metrosexual type when it came to clothes, but he had some pretty old-fashioned ideas about finances. Who was I to argue with him? He paid the major bills. I handled groceries, the housekeeper, dry cleaning, and all things communication-related since I needed high-speed everything for my job. I often wondered if he was just being chivalrous or if he never obligated me to a substantial bill because he still thought of the condo as his place.

At first glance, our living quarters resembled a bachelor pad. Simple furniture, mix-and-match bath towels. Not one picture of us on display, though I had plenty on my computer and stored on my camera waiting to be downloaded someday.

Either way, I’m no fool. Thanks to our financial arrangement, I had a growing stash of rainy-day money I’d earmarked to start my own business after an early retirement.

My stash was chump change compared to Kevin’s anyway. I’d seen a few of his paystubs lying around the condo from his work in telecommunications sales. Made my college degree seem like a huge scam to keep the masses from getting rich, maybe.

Thoughts of my master plan to retire well and get rich later compelled me to hoist myself from the floor to a semi-standing position and shuffle back to bed. Sick or well, I needed to get some work done.

Kevin did check on me, but only be default as he changed into his running clothes.

There went those strong, milk chocolate legs again.

“I’m going for a jog at the track. Might head over to Cameron’s after to watch the game.”

I gave my best big-brown-doe-eyes routine. “But you’re leaving again first thing in the morning. Can’t we spend time together?”

He held up a cross with his fingers. “I don’t want to catch whatever this is you’ve got. You looked pretty distraught in that bathroom there a minute ago.”

“Thanks so much, Kevin.”

“Any time, any time,” he smirked. “I do feel bad for you, if that helps.”

“It doesn’t.”

“You need me to get you anything while I’m out?”

“A new stomach.”

“No can do, babe. How about Pepto-Bismol or Sprite? That’s what my mom used to give me when I was sick,” he recommended.

I scrunched my face. “Didn’t your mom also make you swallow Vicks VapoRub?”

“Yeah,” he supported the madness, “makes you cough the cold up. Worked every time. If you’re getting a virus, you might want to give it a shot.”

My stomach lurched at the thought. “No. I don’t want anything else coming up out of me tonight. Just…call and check on me.”

He detoured to my side before walking out of the room. A gentle kiss to my forehead was his first affectionate gesture since he’d walked into the place, despite more than a week’s passing since we’d seen each other last. I suppose it would have been hard for him to kiss me since I was engulfed in the commode earlier. Still, I wanted him to rub my back or something. What I really wanted was for him to stay home and…I don’t know, watch me suffer. Hover like they do when women are giving birth in those old movies. Put a damp towel on my forehead and encourage me, “You can do it! You can do it, Tori!”

Who was I kidding? Kevin would hire a birthing coach before he’d subject himself to my labor. Not that I’d ever find myself in a position to give birth so long as Kevin stubbornly refused to father a child. I held hope, however, that things would change after a few of his friends settled down. Sometimes guys are the only ones who can convince other guys to grow up. It’s a sick reality.

I decided to put the suffering out of my head for a moment. The Advil had taken the edge off the pain, so I carefully reached onto the floor and pulled my laptop bag onto the bed. The sweet challenge of work carried me into a trance that dulled the pain for a while.

I tapped on the mouse to wake my computer and then resumed toggling between the open programs on my computer desktop, making sure my client’s newsletter matched the updated blog content precisely. Next to update their social media networks with useful information about the company’s new products.

With reviewing several press releases still on my agenda, I really didn’t want to stop working. But the pain in my midsection returned with new vigor, biting into my concentration. I powered down my computer for the night and made my way back to the restroom for another bout with bile and a double-dose of Advil.

If the pain wasn’t any better by tomorrow, I’d have to miss a little work so I could visit the doctor.

Kevin rolled in a little after eleven to assess me again. He slipped a hand beneath the comforter and rubbed my backside. “You all right now?”

“No,” I groaned.

He nibbled on my ear, a sure indication of his intentions. “Mind if I make you feel better?”

“That won’t help.”

“Marvin Gaye says sexual healing is the best thing for you.”

“Marvin Gaye never felt this bad. Besides, I might have germs.”

Kevin tried again, lapping my neck with his tongue. “I don’t care. I miss you.”

Now he doesn’t care about the germs.

His hand moved around to my stomach, warranting a stern reaction. “Kevin, I cannot do this tonight. Move your hand.”

He jumped up from the bed. “Fine. Fine. I understand. I’ll be on the couch.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart

Lacey Bishop hasn't had an easy life and things get even more difficult when she marries Pastor Elwood Palmer in order to continue caring for Rachel. Though she did not give birth to Rachel, Lacey considers Rachel to be her daughter and would do anything to stay with her. As tensions in the parsonage mount, a move to the Shaker community, where all marital relationships are dissolved, seems like a relief. Unfortunately, the Shakers also believe in dissolving parent-child relationships. Lacey is compelled to stay within the Shaker community to be near Rachel. The strange rules and practices of the Shakers leave Lacey feeling isolated and desperate. When she finds herself drawn to Isaac Kingston, a widower living among the Shakers, Lacey struggles with to trust in God. Trapped by obligations, Lacey must fight to keep her faith and hope alive. Will she ever fit in with the Shakers? Can God deliver her and Rachel from this tangled mess? Will she find true love in this unlikely place?

Reading The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart was an interesting experience for me. I've never read a book about the Shaker religion. Though I don't know much about the history of the Shakers, the book seemed well-researched and included Shaker songs. As a word of warning, this book is much more fiction than romance. Although romance is included, it reads more on the fiction side. I don't mind fiction, so this was okay with me, but I expected more interaction between Lacey and Isaac. Lacey and Isaac are extremely well-developed characters. The author takes the reader deep into their thoughts and feelings without boring the reader with a lack of action. Fans of historical Christian fiction will probably like this book.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Blessed by Ann H. Gabhart.

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

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Yesterday's Publix trip...

I went to Publix yesterday. Let me tell you, I will make sure I never use that particular cashier ever, ever again! Apparently, she did not know/understand Publix's coupon policy (which I happen to have a copy of in my purse).  So, several times I had to point out things to her and once I had to speak to her superior. This, of course, substantially increased my check out time and I'm pretty sure the lady behind me was unhappy. Publix really needs to better educate their employees on their own coupon policy.  Enough ranting... Onto the deals!

My favorite deals this week were:

Smucker's Magic Shell Topping: Originally priced at 2.19. I got them for $.39 each using the sale price, store coupons, and manufacturer coupons.

TreSemme Shampoo & Condition:  Originally, 4.29. I got them for $2.33 each using a competitor coupon and sale price.. I go through a lot of hair products, so this was a great deal for me!

Dove Deodorant:  Originally, 2.99.  With manufacturer's coupons and BOGO, I got them for $.75 each!  Great deal!

Friday, July 1, 2011

This & That & a Blog Hop.

Book Blogger HopEvery week Crazy-for-Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop. Participants answer a question and then visit other blogs of fellow participants. This week's question is:

"What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?"

My answer: I do my best to finish every book that I start. Ideally, a well-placed plot hook and an expectation of a good story keep me reading past the first few pages of any book. Honestly, sometimes the reason I finish is because I received the book from the publisher and am required to write a review. More than anything else, what makes me want to put a book back on the shelf is when the plot is predictable, the characters have no depth, and each scene is cliche.

What about you?