Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes

Trying to atone for her mistakes as a wife, Lady Lydia Gale helps Christian de Meuse, a French prisoner and friend of her late husband, obtain parole. Having done her good deed, she expects never to see him again. With one sister debuting in London society and one sister close to marriage, Lydia's days are full with preparations for the events. However, when a mysterious stranger blackmails her and Christian reappears, Lydia struggles to keep her sanity. Will her preoccupation with Christian ruin her family? Or might he be able to help her connect the clues about the blackmailer?

A Necessary Deception by Laurie Alice Eakes is the first of the Daughters of Bainbridge House series. I definitely see potential for future stories that focus on Lydia's younger sisters. I loved all the plot twists in this story. The suspense kept the plot moving and I was unsure of the blackmailer's identity until almost the end. The one character that seemed out of place was Barbara. Although she accompanied Lydia occasionally for the sake of Lydia's reputation, Barbara seemed flat and unnecessary as there were plenty of times that Lydia went out alone or unaccompanied while spending time with Christian. Overall, I enjoyed this book and will probably read it again in a few years. I recommend A Necessary Deception to fans of historical Christian romances.

Available October 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. 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."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Dime A Dozen by Mindy Starns Clark

Callie Webber has an eye for detail that helps her as she investigates non-profit agencies applying for grants. As Callie travels to the Smoky Mountains to investigate MORE, the non-profit agency run by the parents of her late husband, she is hesitant to confront painful memories, but expects to be able to award a million-dollar grant to MORE. Strangely, the memories are less painful than expected, but awarding the grant is not so easy. A fatal stabbing, an arson fire, and the search for a missing migrant worker complicate the situation. As Callie investigates MORE and the crime in the area, she finds herself in danger. Will she be able to finish her investigation and award the grant prior the upcoming vacation with her boyfriend? More importantly, will she make it though this investigation alive?

A Dime A Dozen is the third book in the Million Dollar Mysteries series by Mindy Starns Clark. Like the other books of the series, it features investigator Callie Webber. The book is fine as a stand-alone and gives the reader sufficient background information, but I think it is probably more enjoyable when read in conjunction with the rest of the series.

I personally don't think this should be classified as a fictional romance. Though Callie has a romantic interest, there is not a lot of romantic interaction between them. The mystery element of the story was great. I had a hint about who was behind the murders, but didn't know the why or how until the climax of the story. Although mystery and suspense, usually go hand-in-hand, I thought the suspense level was a little lacking. In my opinion, the plot moved a little slow and the suspense just never heightened for me like it should have. I also thought it was slightly unbelievable that the government agencies would hand over sensitive information so easily to a private investigator.

Click here to visit the blog tour and read an excerpt from A Dime A Dozen by Mindy Starns Clark.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as part 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: A Dime A Dozen

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.

Visit the author's website.


Fast-paced and inspirational, The Million Dollar Mystery series is from bestselling author Mindy Starns Clark.

Attorney Callie Webber investigates nonprofit organizations for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation and awards the best of them grants up to a million dollars. In this series, Callie comes across a mystery she must solve using her skills as a former private investigator. A young widow, Callie finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her relationship with her employer, Tom.


In book number three of The Million Dollar Mystery series, Callie suddenly finds herself involved in the life of a young wife and mother whose husband has disappeared…possibly the victim of foul play.

Callie has come to the beautiful Smoky Mountains hoping to award a million-dollar grant to the charity set up in the woman’s late husband’s honor. But in the search for a missing migrant worker, a body is discovered, which puts the grant on hold and her new romance with her mysterious boss in peril. Trusting in God, Callie forges steadily ahead through a mire of clues that lead her deeper and deeper into danger.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929584
ISBN-13: 978-0736929585


I’d never been part of a sting before. Sure, I’d blown the whistle on some defrauders in the past, and I had seen more than one person arrested because of felonious deeds I had brought to light. But this time was different. This time the crime was still in the process of being committed. Worse than that, most of the people at this party were involved.

I stood near French doors that led to the patio, holding a soda in my hand and looking out through the glass at the pool sparkling in the cool March afternoon. Behind the pool was a small lawn dotted here and there with ornamental groupings of shrubbery and plants, all surrounded by a high, thick hedge. I knew that a team of cops was on the other side of that hedge, ready to enter from every direction as soon as I gave the signal.

“Callie, would you like a hamburger? Maybe a hot dog?”

My hostess appeared in front of me bearing a platter of raw meat shaped into patties, and I assumed she was on her way back outside to the grill. My eyes focused on the marbled beef, and then at her expectant face. She was the very picture of charm and hospitality. Oh, and theft.

“No, thank you,” I said, forcing a smile. “I’m fine.”

Her hands were full, so I opened the door to let her out. Music poured into the house, compliments of large speakers mounted under the eaves.

“You should come too,” she urged loudly as she handed the platter off to her husband, Skipper. “It’s a gorgeous day.”

“In a while, perhaps,” I said as I let the door fall shut between us. She turned her attention to a group of guests near the pool, and as she worked the crowd I thought, You don’t want me to go outside, Winnie. The last thing you want me to do is go outside.

I glanced at my watch, wondering how much longer this would take. The police had instructed me to wait until all of the elements had fallen into place, and so far that hadn’t happened. The tension was getting to me, so I set my glass on a nearby countertop and made my way through the small crowd in the kitchen to the upstairs bathroom. I needed to be alone, to catch my breath, to make a call.

Once I was locked inside, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number of the police captain. He knew it was me and that I couldn’t say much on my end for fear of being overheard.

“Looks like things are moving along as expected,” he said.


“Have they brought out the hamburgers yet?”

“Oh, yes. Everything’s in full swing.”

He chuckled into the phone.

“I hope they’re enjoying it while they can,” he said.

“They seem to be.”

“We’re all set on our end. Soon as the guy shows up, we’ll text you.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“You found the garage?” he asked.



“Except for the boxes in the freezer.”

“Perfect. Simply perfect. Hang in there, kid. We’re on the homestretch.”

I hung up the phone and slid it into my pocket, wondering if all would go off as planned. There were so many elements coming into play here, and it was important that they close in at the moment when we could nab the greatest number of guilty parties. I shook my head, marveling at the situation I now found myself in. This wasn’t how I usually spent my Saturday afternoons!

As the Director of Research for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, my job was to investigate charitable organizations in order to verify their suitability for a grant. I had come here to get a closer look at Dinner Time, a food bank and soup kitchen for the homeless in a suburb of San Francisco. I had gone “undercover” by posing as a volunteer to get a good look at the organization from the inside. Almost immediately, however, I realized there was something stinky in the sauce. Dinner Time may have been providing food to the homeless, but it was also providing a handy second income to its founders and many of its employees by way of food donations that were ending up in places other than on Dinner Time’s tables.

Even this party was an appalling, blatant display of theft, and, according to my source, they had similar such events every few months. From the chips and hamburgers to the condiments, most of the food being consumed here today had actually been donated to the charity, intended for the poor. Instead, our hosts had simply loaded many of the boxes into their cars and driven the food home for this impromptu party. Any minute now a local food supplier would show up and collect his share of the take, which was waiting for him in the garage. Unbeknownst to any of them, however, much of the donated food this time was marked, from the codes printed on the bottom of the mustard bottles to the labels on the frozen steaks in the freezer.

A knock on the bathroom door startled me from my thoughts.

“Just a minute,” I called, and then I washed my hands in the sink and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. My own image still surprised me sometimes. Four months ago I had gone from having long hair to short, from wearing my hair in a tight chignon at the back of my neck to having just enough length to frame my face and touch at my collar. I liked the new look, both because of the years it seemed to take from my features and the way it worked with my usual attire of suits and dresses. I’d spent this week in more casual clothes, however, and today was no exception. I had on jeans and a lightly knit tan shirt, and I felt I looked the part I was playing—that of a woman interested in some simple volunteer work at the local soup kitchen. Little did they know that I was something much more threatening: an investigator with a mission to ferret out the bad guys in the nonprofit world and bring them all to justice!

I opened the bathroom door and found a familiar face waiting to get in, an employee of Dinner Time named Clement Jackson.

“Oh, hey, Callie,” he said, “I didn’t realize that was you in there.”

“No problem.”

I moved out of the way so that he could pass me and go into the bathroom. As he closed the door behind him, I made my way back downstairs to the kitchen.

Clement was such a dear man, a tireless worker who served full time at the food bank for a salary so low I didn’t know how he managed to make ends meet. He wasn’t aware that I knew his salary rate or anything about him beyond facts he had mentioned to me in casual conversation. He had told me about his lovely wife of 36 years, his five grown children, his eight grandchildren. But the scope of my investigation had included all of the employees and volunteers of Dinner Time, so I also knew his address, his work record, and much more. In the end, he had turned out to be one of only three people connected to the center who apparently weren’t involved in the theft of the food.

I was so glad, because it confirmed what I had felt to be true about him all week, that he was a wonderful person with a true heart for charity. His personal side mission was to collect and distribute free used books to all of the children who came to the food bank and, whenever he had time, to sit and read to them and encourage them to read more for themselves.

“Reading can get you through some mighty tough spots,” I had heard him say more than once this week. “Even if your feet can’t always go somewhere else, your mind sure can.” Poor Clement was going to be stunned when this sting came together, for he believed most people were motivated by the same altruism and good faith he himself possessed.

“Callie, can I get you something to drink?”

This time, Winnie’s husband, Skipper, was playing the host, walking toward me with a newly filled ice bucket.

“No, thanks,” I replied. “My drink’s right over here.”

As if to prove it, I walked to the spot where I had left my soda, picked it up, and swirled the liquid. Skipper’s very presence made me so nervous I didn’t dare speak for fear I would begin to babble. Unfortunately, he persisted.

“How about a little ice then,” he said, using the tongs to load up my drink with ice. Holding my tongue, I watched as he clunked square cubes into the glass I was holding in front of me.

“So what do you think of our weather here in California?” he asked. “Winnie said you just recently moved here, right?”

Actually, I hadn’t told her that. What I had said was that I had never lived in California before, implying, I guess, that I lived here now. It was the kind of half-truth that going undercover necessitated and the very reason I hated playing a role. As a Christian, lying was hard for me to rationalize, even when the ends seemed to justify the means.

“It’s certainly a beautiful day today!” I said, glancing toward the window. I was desperately trying to think of some other sort of socially acceptable patter when I was saved by the bell—or the ring, to be exact, because Skipper’s cell phone began ringing from his hip pocket.

With a smile, he thrust the ice bucket at me, extricated the phone, and turned it on.

“Skipper here,” he said amiably, winking at me as he did so.

Clutching the ice in front of me, I took a step back, wondering if I could seize the moment and get away before his conversation was finished. Unfortunately, it seemed to last all of about 15 seconds. He said, “Yep. Okay. See ya,” and then hung up the phone.

“You’ll excuse me, won’t you, Callie?” he asked smoothly, slipping the phone back into his pocket.

“Of course.”

I held the ice bucket toward him, but he didn’t take it.

“Um, could you bring that ice out to Winnie?” he asked. “I need to get something from the garage.”

Without waiting for a reply, he turned and walked down the hall. I stood there for a moment, knowing I couldn’t do as he had requested without taking a step outside myself. Instead, I passed the bucket off to someone else who was heading that way. As the door fell shut behind him, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket. I moved away from the crowd and went into the empty dining room. Holding my breath, I whipped out my phone, pushed the button, and looked at the screen. As expected, it was a text from the captain: Our guy just turned into the driveway. Give it about two minutes and then take a peek in the garage.

Okay, I texted back.

I then pocketed my phone, glanced at my watch, and waited, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest. For an absurd moment, I wondered if there was any hidden firepower here, if perhaps Skipper and Winnie kept a Colt .45 tucked in the nearest flowerpot or something. Just because their crimes of theft were of a nonviolent nature didn’t mean they didn’t know how to defend themselves when push came to shove. As it was about to.

At one minute, forty-three seconds, I heard my name called from the other room. I looked through the doorway to see Clement just coming down the stairs on the other side of the kitchen. Clement, who could be in the line of fire if things went down in a nasty way. Clement, who was heading toward me with a genial smile, eager to start a chat just when it was time for me to move.

“I need a favor!” I said urgently, walking forward to meet him. “I can’t find my contact lens. I’m afraid it came out in the bathroom. Do you think you could go back up and look for me? Check all over the floor, the sink, you know.”

“Well, I’ll try, Callie,” he said, nodding his head, the tightly curled gray hair a sharp contrast to his brown skin. “But my eyesight’s not so good myself. Come up and we’ll look for it together.”

I glanced at my watch. Two and a half minutes.

“You go on up,” I said. “I’ll be there in just a bit.”


“And, listen, if you can’t find it, at least stay there and guard the door until I get there. I don’t want someone else stepping on it and breaking it.”

“All right.”

He dutifully trudged back up the stairs as I slipped from the kitchen, walking toward the long side hall Skipper had gone down less than three minutes before. I reached the door of the garage at the end, put my hand on the knob, and turned it.

The door swung open to reveal Skipper and another man lifting boxes into the open trunk of a black Cadillac. Both men looked up to see me, their faces about as guilty as two boys caught dipping their fingers in the peanut butter.

In a way, that’s exactly what they were doing.

The men recovered quickly. Both put the boxes into the trunk, but the man I didn’t know turned and stepped away where I couldn’t see his face. Skipper, on the other hand, took a step toward me, putting on a wide, fake smile.

“Can I help you, Callie?” he asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was looking for some more soda. Maybe root beer?”

“There’s nothing like that out here,” he replied. “Try the pantry, off the kitchen.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, returning his fake smile before stepping back out of the garage and pulling the door shut.

I turned on my heel and walked up the hall with my heartbeat pounding loudly in my head. Despite the chatter and confusion around me, I made straight for the French doors, opened them, and stepped outside. This was my signal to the police who were in hiding on the other side of the hedge, watching the party, waiting to pounce. Once on the patio, I simply kept walking through the loud music, heading around the pool and toward the backyard.

“Callie, can I help you with something?” I heard Winnie call after me.

Suddenly, before I could reply, there were shouts and screams and the sight of at least 20 police officers descending on the partygoers on the patio. I heard the words “freeze” and “raid” and “you have the right to remain silent.” Once I finally turned around and looked at the scene, all I could do was pray that Clement was safe, that the cops had apprehended the men in the garage before anyone could do anything stupid.

I waited at the back of the yard until I saw the captain come to the kitchen door and give the “all clear” signal to the cops outside. Breathing a great big sigh of relief, I headed toward the house, allowing myself to be herded into the corner of the patio where they were sorting everyone out. Counting heads, I realized they had managed to nab almost every single person who was on the list of those who had either stolen food or accepted food they knew was stolen. The cops didn’t single me out but merely pointed me in the direction of the innocent parties, the few standing near the garden shed who hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on.

Eventually, Clement was sent out from the house to join us. I gave him a big hug, certainly much bigger than our seemingly casual acquaintance would allow. Obviously shaken, he hugged me back even tighter.

When the police told us we were free to leave, I stuck with Clement, offering to take him home. In somewhat of a daze, he accepted that offer. Sitting in the passenger seat of my rental car, he stared blankly ahead as I drove toward his house and gently tried to explain all that he had just seen.

By the time we reached his house, he was still quite shaken. He invited me inside and I accepted, eager to see him safely delivered into the arms of his wife.

She wasn’t home, however, so I insisted that he call one of his children, perhaps Trey, since I knew he lived right down the street and could be here in a matter of minutes. While we waited, I heated some water on the stove for tea and essentially made myself at home in the kitchen. The house was small but tidy, and everything was easy to find in the neatly organized cabinets. As the water began to bubble on the stove, Clement took a seat at the table, silent, his expression blank. As I was setting his tea in front of him, Trey burst through the door, concern evident on his face.


Short but muscular, with his father’s coffee-colored skin and deep brown eyes, Trey was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, both of which were covered with spatters of blue.

“We were painting the baby’s room,” he added, sounding breathless, looking from me to his father. “What’s going on?”

Clement didn’t answer, so I introduced myself and tried to explain the situation as best I could. The place where Clement worked, I said, had been busted for fraud and theft. Clement was in the clear, but he had been fairly traumatized by the whole event.

“And who are you, exactly?” Trey asked, looking at me as if this were all my fault. In a way, it was.

“My name is Callie Webber,” I said, carrying over two more cups of tea and taking a seat at the table. “I’m a private investigator.”

Clement turned toward me, his face suddenly registering disbelief rather than shock.

“You’re a what?   ” he asked.

“A private investigator.”

“Since when?”

“Since I was old enough to get certified in the state of Virginia,” I said. “I’m also a lawyer. I work for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation out of Washington, DC.”

Clement shook his head, as if to shake off the confusion. Before he could launch into more questions, I continued.

“I live in Maryland now,” I explained, “and I just came to California to investigate Dinner Time on behalf of my employer. Dinner Time had requested a grant, and it’s my job to verify eligibility.”

“You don’t even live here?” Clement asked me, still incredulous. “You mean you’ve been pretending all week?”

“I’m sorry, Clement,” I said. “Sometimes that’s the only way I can really see what’s going on.”

Trey slid into the seat across from me, ignoring the tea I had put there for him.

“So what happened today?” he asked. “I’m still confused.”

“In the course of the investigation of Dinner Time, I uncovered fraud, theft, tax evasion, distribution of stolen property, you name it. I took that information to the police, only to learn that they already knew about it and that they were very close to making some arrests. We worked together on a sting operation, and today we caught most of the guilty parties red-handed.”

“I can’t believe they were stealing food,” Clement said, shaking his head sadly.

“I always told you there was something slick about that Skipper person,” Trey said to his father. “‘Skipper and Winnie,’ good grief. Sounds like a pair of Barbie dolls.”

“Will Dinner Time have to close down?” Clement asked.

“Probably,” I answered. “Even if someone were to try to keep the place up and running, I doubt it would be able to stay open for very long. Between the bad publicity and the incarcerated principals, I think it’ll soon fold. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” Clement said. “I’m sorry I was so blind, so stupid.”

Trey put a reassuring hand on his father’s arm.

“C’mon, Pop,” he said. “You couldn’t know. You were just doing your job.”

“Oh, yeah, my job,” Clement said. “Guess I’m out of a job now.”

“We’ll find you something,” Trey said. “Maybe Tanisha can get you on over at the grocery store.”

“I liked working at a nonprofit,” Clement said, shaking his head. “I liked feeling that my efforts were making just a little difference in the world.”

I reached into my pocket, grasping the familiar square of paper there. I pulled it out and set it on the table in front of me, still folded in half.

“I’d like to talk to you about that,” I said. “And I’m glad Trey is here, because this would involve him too.”

Both men looked at me, their faces somber.

“In the course of my investigation,” I continued, “I had to check into everybody’s background. Including yours, Clement. Your life story paints a picture of a good man, a steady reliable worker who knows the value of a dollar.”

“That’s my dad,” Trey said suspiciously. “But what are you getting at?”

“Well, I’ve watched you this week reading to the children down at the food bank, Clement. I’ve heard you talk about the benefits of reading, of being read to. I want you to think about starting a charity of your own. Something that lets you go around and give away books and have regular reading times with homeless children.”

“Like a bookmobile?” Clement asked.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Or maybe you could get some space in the recreation center or a homeless shelter or another food bank. Somewhere that you could set up a little reading corner filled with books and beanbag chairs and stuffed animals. It’s not hard to get people to donate children’s books to a charity. You could provide reading times, give the books to the children who seem to want them, encourage their parents to read with them…”

I let my voice trail off, seeing that a spark was lighting up behind Clement’s eyes.

“What do I have to do with this?” Trey asked.

“Your father told me that you’re an accountant,” I said. “Maybe you can help him get started and then keep the books for him.”

“Well, yeah, I could do that.”

“And I understand your sister is a graphic artist? Maybe she could put together some brochures and promotional materials. You’d be surprised how many resources are available, usually right at your own fingertips.”

I looked at Trey and then at Clement, surprised to see the fire quickly fading from the older man’s eyes.

“As good as our intentions may be,” he said, shaking his head, “There’s one thing standing in the way. I can’t afford it.”

I smiled, fingering the square of paper in front of me.

“Well, then let me take it a step further,” I said. “My job allows me a certain amount of leeway with small monetary grants. What would you think if I gave you a check to get started? You could get yourself incorporated as a nonprofit, file for federal tax exemption, and cover your basic start-up costs. Once you’ve got that tax exemption, I would encourage you to fill out a grant application from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation for a much larger amount of money. We believe strongly in what you could accomplish, Clement, and we would like to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

I sat back, thinking that in the two and a half years I had worked for the foundation, this was the first time I had to talk someone into taking our money!

“Still, I don’t see how it would work,” Trey said. “He’d need at least a thousand dollars just to get set up.”

“How does five thousand sound?” I asked, unfolding the check and handing it to them. It was already made out to Clement Jackson, who picked it up and studied it as if it were a ticket to somewhere important. “And, like I said, once you’ve got that tax exemption and your policies and procedures in place, you can apply to us for more. I have a feeling we’ll be very generous as long as you can show you’ve got a good business plan.”

The two men looked at each other and grinned, and not for the first time I wished my boss, Tom, the philanthropist behind all J.O.S.H.U.A. grants, could be here to witness their joy. Tom was half a world away right now, and though later I would recount this entire scene for him over the phone, it still made me sad that he wasn’t here experiencing it for himself.

Then again, he never was. Tom always donated anonymously through the foundation and then enjoyed the moment of presentation vicariously through me. I was happy to recreate every word, every detail, but I had never understood why he chose to remain so removed from the whole process.

Of course, he and I talked frequently during every investigation, and in fact it was the time we spent on the phone that had allowed us to become friends and then eventually something much more than friends. Four months ago, after several years of a phone-only relationship, Tom and I had finally been able to meet face-to-face.

At the time, he had been out of the country for his work, but he had surprised me by flying back to the States and showing up at my home. We had spent exactly 12 hours together—12 amazing hours that I had relived again and again in my memories ever since—and then he had to leave, returning to Singapore and the urgent business that awaited him.

Now, four months later, Tom was still in Singapore, though his business there was quickly drawing to a close and soon he would be coming home for good. His home was in California and mine was in Maryland, but our plan was to meet somewhere between the two in exactly seven days at some quiet place where we would finally, finally be able to spend some real quality time together—time getting to know each other even better, time exploring the possibilities of a relationship that had gone from friendship to something much more in the space of one 12-hour visit. I was already counting the minutes until we could be together again, knowing that once he returned, a new chapter in my life would begin in earnest. Tom was handling the logistics of our reunion, and my primary concern was to wrap up my next investigation by the following Sunday, because I didn’t want work or anything else to detract from the time we were going to spend together.

Clement spoke, snapping me out of my thoughts and back to the moment at hand.

“I’ve been praying for something like this for quite a while,” he was saying, looking at his son, and I realized there were tears in his eyes. “For so long,” he repeated, blinking. “I didn’t think the Lord was hearing me. But He was. Because He sent me an angel.”

I held up one hand to stop him, emotion surging in my heart as well.

“Now, don’t—”

“I’m not kidding, girl. You are an angel. A very generous angel.”

“So you’ll take the money and start your own charity?” I asked.

“Oh, thank You, Lord,” he said, grinning up toward the ceiling. Then he looked back at me. “Yes, Callie. Yes. Most definitely yes.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman

Despite the fact that Emma Malloy's husband is an abusive drunk who lives in another country, she is determined to remain faithful to her marriage vows and live a life pleasing to God. In the years since she left Dublin, the pain of her past has faded and she has experienced the fulfillment of becoming who God wants her to be. When her best friend's brother, Sean O'Connor, begins working under Emma's management, camraderie and attraction threaten her resolve to remain unattached to any man. Will God use these feelings to open her heart to something more? Or is any relationship with Sean O'Connor doomed to fail?

Julie Lessman could not have chosen a more appropriate title for this story than A Heart Revealed. Lessman's writing was excellent and I loved how she weaved the stories of so many different characters together to create a beautiful story. Inside the authentic characters and engaging plot, a stirring theme reminiscient of Isaiah 61 is embedded. As the story progresses we see mending of the brokenhearted, freedom for those bound by the past, comfort for those who mourn, the exchange of beauty for ashes, joy in place of mourning, and the garment of praise substituted for the spirit of heaviness.

As the second book in the Winds of Change series, A Heart Revealed had plenty of background information and I didn't feel that I was missing anything vital. The few unexplained tidbits were actually an effective teaser that made me want to read the other books. Personally, I loved the story, but I want to give fair warning: there are some spicy (but not erotic) romance scenes and the characters subscribe to Catholicism. A Heart Revealed was not only entertaining, but also uplifting. I recommend it to all fans of Christian romance.

Click here to read an excerpt from A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman.

Available September 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. 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, October 7, 2011

Maggie's Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley

Maggie Caine thought she knew who she was and where she came from. But after discovering that she was secretly adopted shortly after birth, she feels betrayed by her parents. Desiring to escape the tension and turmoil in her home and her heart, she requests to visit her grandmother in Arkansas. Maggie's father agrees to her petition with the stipulation that her Aunt Georgia and Charles Stanton, her father's young business partner, accompany her. Almost immediately Charles is taken with Georgia and Maggie feels out of place. But as Maggie's trip progresses and truths are revealed, Charles takes more of an interest in Maggie. However, Maggie must first discover who she is and what truly matters to her.

Maggie's Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley was a pleasant surprise to me. I'm not sure what I expected, but I got a book that is worthy of keeping. Maggie's Journey tackles the difficult issue of the natural desire that a person has to know his or her birth parent. Many readers, including myself, will be able to relate to this issue. The characters and plot were very well written. By integrating romance into the fictional plot, Dooley creates a novel that will entertain and touch the heart. I recommend to fans of Christian fiction.

Click here to visit the blog tour or read an excerpt from Maggie's Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher 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."

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Maggie's Journey

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 (October 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Kim Jones | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


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.


A girl who’s been lied to her whole life…

On her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she was adopted. The daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed both by her real parents and by the ones who raised her.

Maggie longs for a place where she belongs. But her mother’s constant criticism and reminders that she doesn’t fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing have already created tension in their home. With the discovery of the family secret, all sense of her identity is lost.

When Maggie asks to visit her grandmother in Arkansas, her father agrees on the condition that she take her Aunt Georgia as a chaperone and his young partner, Charles Stanton, as protection on the journey. Will she discover who she really is and, more importantly, what truly matters most in life?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616383585
ISBN-13: 978-1616383589

September 1885

Seattle, Washington Territory

Margaret Lenora Caine sat in the library of their mansion on Beacon Hill. Because of the view of Puget Sound, which she loved, she had the brocade draperies pulled back to let the early September sunshine bathe the room with warmth. Basking in the bright light, Maggie concentrated on the sketch pad balanced on her lap. After leaning back to get the full effect of the drawing, she reached a finger to smudge the shadows between the folds of the skirt. With a neckline that revealed the shoulders, but still maintained complete modesty, this dress was her best design so far, one she planned to have Mrs. Murdock create in that dreamy, shimmery green material that came in the last shipment from China. Maggie knew silk was usually a summer fabric, but with it woven into a heavier brocade satin, it would be just right for her eighteenth birthday party. And with a few changes to the design, she could have another dress created as well.

Once again she leaned forward and drew a furbelow around the hem, shading it carefully to show depth. The added weight of the extra fabric would help the skirt maintain its shape, providing a pleasing silhouette at any ball. She pictured herself wearing the beautiful green dress, whirling in the arms of her partner, whoever he was. Maybe someone like Charles Stanton, since she’d admired him for several years, and he was so handsome.
“Margaret, what are you doing?”

The harsh question broke Maggie’s concentration. The charcoal in her hand slipped, slashing an ugly smear across the sketch. She glanced at her mother standing in the doorway, her arms crossed over her bosom. Maggie heaved a sigh loud enough to reach the entrance, and her mother’s eyebrows arched so quickly Maggie wanted to laugh . . . almost, but she didn’t dare add to whatever was bothering Mother now. Her stomach began to churn, a thoroughly uncomfortable sensation. Lately, everything she did put Mother in a bad mood. She searched her mind for whatever could have set her off this time. She came up with nothing, so she pasted a smile across her face.

“I’m sketching.” She tried for a firm tone but wasn’t sure it came across that way.
“You don’t have time for that right now.” Florence Caine hurried across the Persian wool carpet and stared down at her. “We have too much to do before your party.”

Of course her mother was right, but Maggie thought she could take a few minutes to get the new design on paper while it was fresh in her mind. She glanced toward the mantel clock. Oh, no. Her few minutes had turned into over two hours. She’d lost herself in drawing designs again. No wonder Mother was exasperated. She jumped up from the burgundy wing-back chair. “I didn’t realize it was so late. I’m sorry, Mother.”
Florence Caine took the sketch pad from her hand and studied the drawing with a critical eye. “That’s a different design.”

Maggie couldn’t tell if she liked the dress or not, but it didn’t matter. Designing was in Maggie’s blood. Her grandmother was a dressmaker who came up with her own designs instead of using those in Godey’s Lady’s Book or Harper’s Bazar. And, according to Mother’s sister, she never even looked at a Butterick pattern. Aunt Georgia had told her often enough about all the society women who wouldn’t let anyone but Agatha Carter make their clothing. They

knew they wouldn’t be meeting anyone else wearing the exact same thing when they attended social events in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not for the first time, Maggie wished she could talk to her grandmother at least once.
With the news about people being able to converse across long distances with something called the telephone, someday she might talk to her that way. But Maggie wanted a face-to-face meeting. Knowing another dress designer would keep her from feeling like such a misfit. Mother kept reminding her that she didn’t really fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing in Seattle. At least, Daddy let her do what she wanted to. She didn’t know what she’d do without him to offset Mother’s insistence, which was becoming more and more harsh.

According to Aunt Georgia, the business Grandmother Carter started was still going strong, even though her grandmother had to be over sixty years old. Maggie planned to go visit her relatives in Arkansas, so she could tour the company. She hoped her journey would happen before she was too late to actually meet Agatha Carter. Her deepest desire was to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, since she had inherited her talents.

The sound of ripping tore through her thoughts. Aghast, she turned to catch her mother decimating her sketch. She lunged toward the paper, trying to save it, but Mother held the sketch just out of her reach.

“What are you doing?” Tears clogged her throat, but she struggled to hide them.
Dribbling the tiny pieces into the ornate wastepaper basket beside the mahogany desk, her mother looked up at her. “Just throwing it away. You had already ruined it anyway.”

Anger sliced through Maggie’s heart, leaving a jagged trail of pain. She still wanted to keep the sketch. She could use it while she created another. Her plan was to ask her father to help her surprise Mother. The design would set off her mother’s tall stature and still youthful figure. She planned to ask him for a length of the special blue satin brocade that would bring out the color of Mother’s eyes. The dress would make Mother the envy of most of her friends when

the winter social season started in a couple of months. Now she’d have to begin the drawing all over again. So many hours of work and her dreams torn to shreds.
“Darling.” That syrupy tone Mother used when she was trying to make a point grated on Maggie’s nerves. “When are you going to grow up and forget about your little pictures of dresses?” Little pictures of dresses? The words almost shredded the rest of Maggie’s control. She gripped her hands into fists and twisted them inside the folds of her full skirt.
They’d had this discussion too many times already. She gritted her teeth, but it didn’t help. In a few days she would be eighteen, old enough to make decisions for herself—whether her mother agreed or not.

She stood as tall as her tiny frame would allow her. “Those aren’t just ‘little drawings,’ Mother. I am going to be a dress designer.” The icy disdain shooting from her mother’s eyes made Maggie cringe inside, but she stood her ground.

“Margaret Lenora Caine, I am tired of these conversations. You will not become a working girl.” Mother huffed out a very unladylike deep breath. “You don’t need to. Your father has worked hard to provide a very good living for the three of us. I will not listen to any more of this nonsense.”
Maggie had heard that phrase often enough, and she never liked it. Mother swept from the room as if she had the answer to everything, but she didn’t. Not for Maggie. And her sketches were not nonsense.

She tried to remember the last time she pleased her mother. Had she ever really?
Her hair was too curly and hard to tame into a proper style. And the hue was too red. Maggie wouldn’t stay out of the sun to prevent freckles from dotting her face. She could come up with a long list of her mother’s complaints if she wanted to take the time. She wasn’t that interested in what was going on among the elite in Seattle. She

had more things to think about than how to catch a husband. Maggie wanted to get married someday. But first she would follow her dream. Become the woman she was created to be. That meant being a dress designer, taking delight in making other women look their best. If it wasn’t for Grandmother Carter, Maggie would think she had been born into the wrong family.

The enticing aroma of gingerbread called her toward the kitchen. Spending time with Mrs. Jorgensen was just what she needed right now. Since she didn’t have any grandparents living close by, their cook and housekeeper substituted quite well in Maggie’s mind. She pushed open the door, wrinkling her nose and sniffing like the bunny in the back garden while she headed across the brick floor toward the cabinet where her older friend worked. “What is that

heavenly smell?”

Mrs. Jorgensen turned with a warm smile. “As if you didn’t already know. You’ve eaten enough of my gingerbread, for sure.”

Pushing white tendrils from her forehead, the woman quickly sliced the spicy concoction and placed a large piece on a saucer while Maggie retrieved the butter from the ice box. Maggie slathered a thick coating on and watched it melt into the hot, brown bread. “Here’s something to drink.” Mrs. Jorgensen set a glass of cold milk on the work table in the middle of the large room.

Maggie hopped up on a tall stool and took a sip, swinging her legs as she had when she was a little girl. Mother would have something else to complain about if she saw her. That’s not ladylike and is most unbecoming. The oft-spoken words rang through Maggie’s mind. But Mother hardly ever came into the kitchen. Mrs. Jorgensen met with

Mother in her sitting room to plan the meals and the day’s work schedule.
“This is the only place in the house where I can just be myself.” Maggie took a bite and let the spices dance along her tongue, savoring the sting of spices mixed with the sweetness of molasses.

“Ja.” The grandmotherly woman patted Maggie’s shoulder. “So tell me what’s bothering you, kära.”
Tears sprang to Maggie’s eyes. “Why doesn’t Mother understand me? She doesn’t even try.”
She licked a drip of butter that started down her finger, then took another bite of the warm gingerbread. Heat from the cook stove made the enormous kitchen feel warm and cozy, instead of the cold formality of most of the house.
Mrs. Jorgensen folded a tea towel into a thick square, then went to the oven and removed another pan of the dessert. “What’s the bee in her bonnet this time?”
Maggie loved to hear the Scandinavian woman’s quaint sayings. “She won’t consider letting me continue to design dresses.”

Maggie sipped her milk, not even being careful not to leave a white mustache on her upper lip. “I’ve drawn them for our seamstress to use for the last five years. As many of them have been for Mother as for me. And she’s enjoyed the way other women exclaimed over the exclusive creations she wore. I don’t understand why she doesn’t want me to continue to develop my artistic abilities.”

“Your father is a very wealthy man, for sure.” The cook’s nod punctuated her statement. “Your dear mother just wants what is best for you.”
“Why does she get to decide what’s best for me?” Maggie felt like stomping her foot, but she refrained. That would be like a child having a tantrum. She would not stoop that far now that she was no longer a child. “Soon I’ll be eighteen. Plenty old enough to make my own decisions.”
“Yah, and you sure have the temper to match all that glorious red hair, älskling.” She clicked her tongue. “Such a waste of energy.” After enjoying the love expressed in Mrs. Jorgensen’s endearment, Maggie slid from the stool and gathered her plate and glass to carry them to the sink. “You’re probably right. I’ll just have to talk to Daddy.”

The door to the hallway swung open. “Talk to me about what?” Her tall father strode into the room,

filling it with a sense of power.

“About my becoming a dress designer.”

A flit of pain crossed his face before he smiled. “A dress designer?” Maggie fisted her hands on her waist. “We’ve discussed this before. I want to go to Arkansas and see about learning more at The House of Agatha Carter.”
Her father came over and gathered her into a loving embrace. “I said I’d think about letting you go. There are many details that would have to be ironed out first. But I didn’t say you couldn’t go.”

Maggie leaned her cheek against his chest, breathing in his familiar spicy scent laced with the fragrance of pipe tobacco. “I know. But Mother won’t let me. Just you wait and see.”

He grasped her by the shoulders and held her away from him. “Maggie, my Maggie, you’ve always been so impatient. I said I’d talk to her when the time is right. You’ll just have to trust me on this.” His eyes bored into hers, and his lips tipped up at the ends. She threw her arms around his waist. “Oh, I do trust you, Daddy.”

“Then be patient.” He kissed the top of her head, probably disturbing the style she’d worked so hard on this morning.

Mrs. Jorgensen stopped slicing the gingerbread and held the knife in front of her. “I thought you weren’t going to be home for lunch, Mr. Caine.”
“I’m not. I’ve only come by to pick up my beautiful wife. We’ll be dining with some friends at the Arlington House hotel downtown.” He gave Maggie another hug and left, presumably to find her mother.

“Would you be wanting another piece of gingerbread, kära?”

Maggie shook her head. “I don’t want to ruin my lunch. I have some things I need to do. Can I come back to eat a little later?” She hoped her father could prevail against Mother’s stubborn stance on the question of a trip to Arkansas.

Mrs. Jorgensen waved her out the door. “You’re probably not very hungry after that gingerbread.”
Maggie went into the library to retrieve her sketch pad, then headed upstairs to her bedroom. She wanted to get the drawing on paper again before she forgot any of the details. She pulled her lacy panels back from the side window and scooted a chair close. With a few deft strokes, she had the main lines of the dress on the thick paper. Then she started filling it in. As each line appeared on the drawing, she felt an echoing movement in her spirit. Deep inside,

she danced through the design as it took shape, much faster than the first time. She was so glad she could recall every detail.

While she drew, her thoughts returned to Grandmother Carter. Everyone said she took after her grandmother . . . everyone except Mother. Why isn’t she happy about my talent?

Maggie wandered through her memories, trying to recapture how it was when she was a little girl. She remembered Mother playing with her when they lived in the smaller, but comfortable house in Oregon City. They didn’t have servants then, but the three of them laughed and enjoyed life together. Then for some reason, her mother had started talking to her father every chance she got about moving to a larger place. Now that Maggie looked back on those memories, she realized that her mother seemed almost frantic to get away from where they lived, as if something were wrong with the town. Maggie never understood why.

She couldn’t have been more than five years old, but some of the events stood out. The hurry to leave town. The long trip. For quite a while after that, she missed playing with her friends. And she didn’t make new ones when they arrived. No other small children lived in the neighborhood. Even when she started school, she stayed to herself. She had been shy as a young girl.
After they moved to Seattle and her father bought one of the empty buildings and opened Caine Emporium, Mother changed. She became more distant, almost cold. She was no longer the laughing woman. If Maggie didn’t know better, she’d think something made Mother bitter. Maybe that was one reason she wanted to design this special dress. To brighten her mother’s life. Bring back the woman who sometimes flashed through her memory at odd times, making her long for the warmth she had luxuriated in as a small child. Finally, the drawing met her approval. Just in time to eat lunch. Maybe this afternoon she could finish the other sketch with the changes to make the dress more appropriate for her mother than herself.

Once again the kitchen welcomed her, and she enjoyed eating there with Mrs. Jorgensen. If Mother had been home, they would have had the meal in the formal dining room, complete with china, crystal, and silver. Such a fuss for an ordinary day.

“Margaret.” Her mother’s voice rose from the foyer below. “I’m home.”
Looking at the names of people she’d placed on the invitation list, Maggie finished writing Charles Stanton’s name and put the pen down. “Coming, Mother.”
She rushed out of her room and stood at the top of the staircase. “Did you want me?”
“Yes, dear. I thought we could get some shopping done this afternoon.” Her mother still wore her gloves and cape.

“Is it cold?”
Mother nodded. “It’s a bit nippy, so wear something warm.” “I’ll get my things.” Maggie hurried back to her room and gathered a light jacket, a handbag, and her gloves. When she arrived in the foyer, Mother stood tapping her foot

impatiently. “I had hoped we could buy most of the things we’ll need today.”
Maggie bit her tongue to keep from reminding her that she wasn’t the one who had frittered away so much of the day. If Mother wanted to go shopping, why didn’t they do it earlier? She could have gone along for the lunch with Daddy. But evidently Mother preferred spending time with Daddy instead of her. She took a deep breath and followed her mother to the coach sitting in front of the house. Mrs. Jorgensen’s son, who was their driver, stood beside the open

door, ready to assist them into the conveyance.

“Erik, please take us by the Emporium.” Mother took hold of his hand as she stepped up into the vehicle.

Maggie followed suit. “Why are we going to the store? Are we going to shop there?”
The door snapped shut, and Erik climbed into the driver’s seat. “I forgot to get money from your father when we were at lunch.” Mother settled her skirts as the coach lurched forward. “I believe your father is signing papers with young Charles Stanton this afternoon. It will be nice to see him again. Did you add him to your guest list?”

Maggie nodded, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. She hadn’t seen Charles since she was about sixteen, but she still remembered the girlish secret infatuation she’d had when she was younger. He’d been so handsome, and kind too. Would he be changed since he’d graduated from university? She would soon find out. She settled back into the carriage seat, suddenly looking forward to the afternoon’s events.

Favorite Posts by Other Bloggers

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:

“It’s time to spread some love beyond the borders of the Book Blogger Hop! This week, we aren’t answering a question. We are spotlighting our fellow bloggers. Find your favorite(s) author interview(s), guest post(s), book review(s), or bookish article(s) that ANOTHER BOOK BLOGGER featured on their site recently and tell us why you love it/them! As an additional challenge, find your favorite one of EACH of the categories above and spotlight all 4 (interview, guest post, review, article).”

My answer: When I read this question, I immediately thought of this article:  Could You Please Beat Me With This Rejection Letter? by Jackie Bouchard (Posted on the Women On Writing Blog).

The article takes a humorous look at the rejection letter -- an unfortunate event that all writers have experienced or will experience in the future.

What about you?

Deliver Me From Evil by Kathi Macias

Though Jonathan and Mara live and work in San Diego, California, their worlds are far apart. As a high school senior in a idyllic middle class family, Jonathan's biggest concern is accepting that baseball won't be his career and that Bible college is the next step in the path of life. Mara's world is filled with physical torture, sexual slavery, and the ever-present threat of death. One night, as Jonathan delivers a pizza to a shady hotel, their worlds intersect in way that changes both of them. Jonathan can't forget the half-naked girls and Mara can't forget the kindness in the mysterious young man's eyes. Torn by a desire to help the girls and a desire to forget the incident, Jonathan engages in a struggle that will eventually draw him to the God he professes to serve. Through circumstances, Jonathan and his family become involved in supporting a local abolitionist movement again sexual slavery. However, drawn by a desire deeper than his own, Jonathan returns to the motel time and again. When the stakes become intensely personal, Jonathan must make a life or death choice to trust the plans of the God who loves not only him, but also every person trapped in sexual slavery.

Due to the difficult issues and gritty content in Deliver Me From Evil by Kathi Macias, the story is not an easy read and I would not recommend it to young readers. That being said, I do recommend it to mature readers. There is nothing overly explicit in the novel, but given that it is about sexual slavery, it does have some descriptive content. Macias' balances the darkness of the topic with light from those who seek its end, preventing the novel from depressing the reader. The characters are believable and well-developed. On a personal note, I cried several times while reading this novel because the characters and their situations gripped my heart.

Deliver Me From Evil addresses how quickly we are to dismiss the idea of sexual slavery in America and then issues a call to the reader to stand against this horrendous evil. The novel's message that sexual slavery does exist and that it's victims are in need of deliverance and healing needs to be heard by all in America. I await the next installment in the series.

Click here to listen to a podcast in which Kathi Macias discusses Deliver Me From Evil and the research that led to its production.

Read the prologue of Deliver Me From Evil at the home page of the blog tour.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free via PumpUpYourBook. 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."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hello, Hollywood! by Janice Thompson

Sometimes it's hard to be funny, even if you have an natural talent for humor. Athena Pappas knows just how important it is to be able to produce humor on demand. As head writer for Stars Collide, a television sitcom with sagging ratings, she is is determinded to introduce a new spark that will put Stars Collide back on the up and up. When Stephen Cosse, a Vegas comedian, is hired on the writing team, Athena's job suddenly seems less secure. Stephen is confident, creative, and handsome. As the attraction and competition escalates between Athena and Stephen, they must relinquish control and combine their efforts in both the plots of Stars Collide and their personal lives. They just might find that sometimes the best things in life are unscripted.

Hello, Hollywood! by Janice Thompson is a lovely contemporary romance and the second book in the Backstage Pass Series. Although it works well as a stand-alone novel, I enjoyed it so much that I plan to go back and read the first book in the series, Stars Collide. Thompson's experience as a screenwriter shows through in the setting and plot of the novel. I felt like I was getting a “backstage pass” into what a screenwriter's life is like. I have to admit that I've never watched the Dick Van Dyke Show, so I didn't quite understand all the references to it, but I enjoyed the scenes, nonetheless. The characters are fun and authentic. The Pappas family was definitely humorous and enjoyable. However, under all the fun and merriment of the outer layer of the novel, Athena, Stephen, and several of the supporting characters have some very serious issues and situations to deal with. The inner layer of depth was what really made this novel successful for me. I recommend Hello, Hollywood! to fans of Christian romance.

Read an excerpt for Hello, Hollywood! by Janice Thompson, here.

Available September 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. 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."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang

Jennifer Lim has always been a good Japanese daughter. But when an abusive ex-boyfriend shows up and her family expects her to just take it, Jenn finds the courage to stand up for herself. Armed with a culinary degree, her newfound freedom, her supportive cousins, and her handsome new friend, Edward, Jenn is determined to follow God's will for her life. Jenn's family members all seem to have their own plans for her life, but as confrontations happen, Jenn finds the strength to press forward to her dreams, her life, and maybe even love.

Weddings and Wasabi is the fourth installment in Camy Tang's Sushi series. The novella works well as a stand-alone and is a short, sweet read. I thought a few of the situations were unlikely, if not unbelieveable, but Jenn's character comes across as genuine. Jenn's search to find God's will was something that I could really relate to. I think more could have been done with some of the characters/situations. For instance, at one point Jenn begins to questions whether or not her ex-boyfriend pushed her or she fell while drunk. Unfortunately, that was never resolved and there are several other ambiguities throughout the story that leave the reader a little unfulfilled.

Overall, I recommend Weddings and Wasabi if you are looking for a light, sweet read to pass the time.

Click here to visit the blog tour and read the first chapter of Weddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free 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."

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Weddings and Wasabi by Camy Tang

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:

WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Camy Tang for sending me a review copy.***


Camy Tang grew up in Hawaii and now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious mutt, Snickers. She graduated from Stanford University and was a biologist researcher for 9 years, but now she writes full-time. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. On her blog, she ponders knitting, spinning wool, dogs, running, the Never Ending Diet, and other frivolous things. Visit her website at to read short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.

Visit the author's website.


After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work for her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family blowout, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life—a tall, dark, handsome biker, in form-fitting black leather, and Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle—a Harley Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414120591
ISBN-13: 978-1414120591


The goat in the backyard had just eaten tonight’s dinner.

Jennifer Lim stood on her mother’s minuscule back porch and glared at the small brown and white creature polishing off her basil. She would have run shouting at it to leave off her herb garden, except it had already decimated the oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and her precious basil, which had been slated for tonight’s pesto.

Besides, if it bit her, she was peeved enough to bite back.

“Mom!” She stomped back into the house. Thank goodness the pots of her special Malaysian basil were sectioned off in the large garden on the side of the house, protected by a wooden-framed wire gate. Jenn was growing it so that she could make her cousin Trish’s favorite chicken dish for her wedding, which Jenn was catering for her. But everything in her backyard garden was gone. The animal was welcome to the only thing left, the ragged juniper bushes. Were juniper bushes poison? If so, the animal was welcome to them.

“Mom!” Her voice had reached banshee range. “There is a goat—”

“You don’t need to yell.” Mom entered the kitchen, her lipstick bright red from a fresh application and her leather handbag over her arm, obviously ready to leave the house on some errand.

“Since when do we own a goat?”

“Since your cousin Larry brought him over.” She fished through her leather purse. “His name is Pookie.”

Jenn choked on her demand for an explanation, momentarily distracted. “He has a name?”

“He’s a living being. Of course he has a name.” Her mother fluttered eyelashes overloaded with mascara.

“Don’t give me that. You used to love to gross me out with stories of Great-Uncle Hao Chin eating goats back in China.”

Mom sniffed and found the refrigerator fascinating. “That’s your father’s side.”

Jenn swayed as the floor tilted. You are now entering … the Twilight Zone. Her parent had evoked that feeling quite often in the past few weeks. “Where did Larry get a goat and why do we have it now?”

“They were desperate.”

Actually, Jenn could have answered her own question. That goat was in their backyard right now because everyone knew that her mom couldn’t say no to a termite who knocked on the door and asked if it could spend the night.

And outside of physically dropping the goat off at someone’s house—and she didn’t have an animal trailer, so that was out of the question—Jenn wouldn’t be able to get anyone else in the family to agree to take the animal, now that it was here. That meant leaving a goat in a niece’s backyard because no one else wanted to go through the hassle of doing anything about it.

Mom said, “You wouldn’t have me turn away family, would you?”

“Uncle Percy knows, too?”

“No, not Percy.”

“Aunty Glenda?” No way. Even if Larry were thirty-one instead of twenty-one, Aunty would still dictate to her son the color underwear he wore that day—how much more his choice of pet?

“No.” Mom blinked as rapidly as she could with mascara making her short, stiff lashes stick together, almost gluing her eyes shut.

The tiger in Jenn’s ribcage growled. “Mother.” Her fist smacked onto her hip.

“Oh, all right.” Mom rolled her eyes as if she were still a teenager. “It belongs to Larry’s dormmate’s older brother, but really, he’s the nicest young man.” Burgundy lips pulled into what wanted to be a smile, but instead looked hideously desperate.

Jenn tried to count to ten but only got to two. “I know Larry’s a nice young man. If an abundance of immaturity counts as ‘nice’ points.”

“Jenn, really, you’re so intolerant. Just because you’re smart and went to Stanford for grad school …”

The name of her school—and the one dominant memory it brought up—made her neck jerk in a spasm. It had only been for two years, but that was enough. Desperately lonely after spending her undergrad years living with her cousins, Jenn had only formed a few friendships among the other grad students, none of them close. There was only one she’d never forget, although she vowed she would every morning when she got up and saw the scar in the mirror.

“Why. Do we have. A goat.”

“It’s only for a few days—”

“We don’t know a thing about how to take care of—”

“They’re easy—”

“Besides which, this is Cupertino. I’m sure there are city laws—”

“It’ll be gone before anyone notices—”

“Oh, ho, you’re right about that.” Jenn strode toward the phone on the wall. “I’m calling the Humane Society. They’ll take it.” Although they wouldn’t provide a trailer to transport it. How was she going to take the goat anywhere, much less to an animal shelter?

Mom plopped onto a stool and sighed. “That boy was so cute. His name was Brad.”

There went her neck spasming again. But Brad was a common name. She grabbed the phone.

“Such a nice Chinese boy. Related to the Yip family—you know, the ones in Mountain View?”

The phone slipped from her hand and bungee-jumped toward the floor, saved only by the curly cord. She bent to snatch it up, but dizziness shrouded her vision and she had to take a few breaths before straightening up.

“Oh, and he went to Stanford. You two have something in common.” Mom beamed.

No. He wouldn’t.

Yes, he would.

“Brad Yip?”

Mom’s eyes lighted up. “Do you know him?”

Sure, she knew him. Knew the next time he came for his goat she’d ram her chef’s knife, Michael Meyers style, right between his eyes.