Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart


Britt and Bella love living near the beach. But the normal fun in the sun doesn't compare to the wonder of discovering a nesting sea turtle. When the girls learn that the sea turtle and her eggs could be in danger from a sand sweeper machine, they try their best to protect their new turtle friend. Standing up to rude workers and showing courage beyond their years comes naturally to the girls as they find a reason to be brave.

Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart is a delightful children's book. I loved the friendship and courage of Britt and Bella. The story is engaging and the illustrations by Samantha Bell are soft, yet colorful. The message about the importance of protecting these beautiful sea creatures is certainly worthy of attention. Included at the end of the book is a list of information about sea turtles that I found interesting. The information complements the story and can provide a launching point for discussion with older children.

Sea Turtle Summer is recommended for ages 6 to 9, but I think children as young as 3 or 4 would enjoy the story and illustrations.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free as part of the PumpUpYourBook Blog Tour. 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, January 24, 2012

Firethorn by Ronie Kendig


Falsely accused of murder and locked in a maximum security penitentiary, Griffin Riddell doesn't expect to be broken out of prison by cute blonde, Kazi Faron. In a whirlwind of action Griffin follows Kazi who claims to be reassembling the Nightshade team. Danger and adventure surround Griffin and Kazi as they attempt to rescue the other team members. They are forced to trust each other with their lives, but will they trust each other with their hearts?

Firethorn, the fourth book in the Disgarded Heroes Series by Ronie Kendig, can be read as a stand-alone novel, but I recommend reading the books in order. Griffin's character was especially enjoyable for me. He had a unique, somewhat unpredictable personality that was intriguing. The storyline hooked me from the beginning, as is common for action/suspense novels. Underlying themes about trusting in God and the importance of loyalty added depth to the story. Having recently read Wolfsbane, the third book in the series, I definitely had some high expectations for Firethorn. I was slightly disappointed as I thought Wolfsbane was better, but overall it is still a very good read and I would recommend it an anyone looking for Christian suspense/romance book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this 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: Firethorn

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (2012)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

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

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

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

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




Product Details:


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



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


       To all American military heroes

      At home and abroad,

      Those who have gone before

      and those serving today—

      THANK YOU!

      Because of you, we are FREE!


RECON CREED
Realizing it is my choice and my choice alone to be a Reconnaissance Marine, I accept all challenges involved with this profession. Forever shall I strive to maintain the tremendous reputation of those who went before me.
Exceeding beyond the limitations set down by others shall be my goal. Sacrificing personal comforts and dedicating myself to the completion of the reconnaissance mission shall be my life. Physical fitness, mental attitude, and high ethics—The title of Recon Marine is my honor.
Conquering all obstacles, both large and small, I shall never quit. To quit, to surrender, to give up is to fail. To be a Recon Marine is to surpass failure; To overcome, to adapt and to do whatever it takes to complete the mission.
On the battlefield, as in all areas of life, I shall stand tall above the competition. Through professional pride, integrity, and teamwork, I shall be the example for all Marines to emulate.
Never shall I forget the principles I accepted to become a Recon Marine. Honor, Perseverance, Spirit, and Heart.
A Recon Marine can speak without saying a word and achieve what others can only imagine.
Swift, Silent, Deadly 


Chapter 1
The Shack
      “It’s sad, really.” Marshall “The Kid” Vaughn trudged away from the thumping rotors of the helo that had deposited them back at the Shack, his pack almost dragging the ground. “Ya don’t realize how much a person adds until he’s gone.”
      “Legend’s not gone.” Max “Frogman” Jacobs hoisted his rucksack into a better group, his mind locked on Sydney and their two sons waiting for him at home. Poor woman had to be going out of her mind with two of his Mini-Me’s running around.
      “Yeah.” John “Squirt” Dighton hit the light breaker, then waited for the six-man team to clear the door. “He’s just temporarily detained.”
      Lights sizzled and popped to life. Groaning bounced off the grimy windows as he hauled the door closed, locked it, then started toward the showers.
      The Kid grunted. “Forty-years-to-life temporary.”
      In the locker room, a depressive gloom hung over the team. They’d been on countless missions, hit just about every terrain and environment imaginable, but none had taken the toll the last couple had. And there was one reason—they were down a man. Griffin “Legend” Riddell. If Max could write the playbook, they wouldn’t do another mission without the guy. But with the man in federal prison for murdering a congressman, it’d be a long wait.
      It was quiet. Too quiet. Max looked around the Spartan room. Walls of lockers, most unused. A few benches. A giant once-white bin for dirty duds. And the team. Six men, now. All very skilled. Good men. Even the one missing. Every man here knew Legend had been set up—he didn’t murder that congressman. But nobody could prove it. The evidence was damning. Justice—injustice was more like it—came swiftly. Lambert, ever the puppeteer, couldn’t pull the right strings to get Legend off.
      “I’m heading up to visit him tomorrow. Anyone game?” Colton “Cowboy” Neeley slumped on a bench and ran a hand over his short, dark hair. His blue eyes probed the group.
      “Nah, man. I’ve got a date,” the Kid said.
      Squirt beaned him with a towel. “What girl would go out with you, mate?”
      The Kid snapped the terry cloth back at the former Navy SEAL. “Your sister.”
      Squirt froze. His jaw went slack. Then his eyes darkened.
      Laughing, Canyon “Midas” Metcalfe rose to his feet from the corner. “You just proved his point by thinking your sister would actually go out with him.”
      Squirt swallowed, his face drained of color. “I introduced them at a New Year’s party.”
      Midas laughed harder. “Your mistake, mate.
      Shuffling closer, Squirt pointed a finger at the Kid. “I swear, you touch her, I’ll shove a fist full of witchety grubs down your gullet.”
      “Give me credit, dude.” The Kid raised his hands. “I’m a gentleman.”
      Max grunted. “Right.” As he strode around the lockers to the shower well, he heard more threats and much more laughter from the Kid. Max shook his head. Would the Kid ever grow up, learn when to leave things alone?
      As he tossed his oily, grimy duds on the bench, Max paused, thinking maybe he should send his report to Lambert now so he wouldn’t have to mess with it tomorrow. The mission had been simple enough, a snatch-n-grab of an Iranian doctor. It’d been nice and clean, in and out. The report wouldn’t take long. Then he could shower, bug out, and know he had the whole weekend with Syd and the boys.
      Max jogged up the iron stairs, which creaked and groaned beneath his weight. Down the hall to the right. He punched in the code and entered the secure hub, the door hissing shut behind him. The most high-tech part of this dump-of-a-warehouse.
      Shouts drew his attention to the blinds. He jabbed two fingers between a couple and spread them to peeked down into the main area. Squirt and the Kid raced into the bay and back the way they came. Squirt looked ready to kill. The Kid’s face revealed his fear. Max shook his head again. Man, he wanted Griffin back. The guy seemed to bring balance to the team. Badly needed balance.
      Max powered up the computer. Hand propped on the warped wood, he waited for the system to boot.
      More shouts. Loud thuds.
      He pinched the bridge of his nose. Would they never—?
      Tat-a-tat! Tat-tat-a-tat!
      Instinct drove Max to his knee at the sound of gunfire. He scrambled to the window. Through the slanted blinds, he peered down into the slab of cement. His brain wouldn’t assemble what he saw. Gunmen. A dozen or more. Rushing into the Shack from the parking bay. Moving swiftly, as if. . .
      They know the layout.
      Max darted to the door and jerked it open. He sprinted down the hall toward the stairs. As his boot hit steel, he froze. A shadow emerged. Floated into the hall.
      Too late.
      Max jerked back. Pressed his spine against the wall.
      By the showers, the Kid looked up. Max signaled to him. Then made his best and loudest Nightshade whistle, hoping it would penetrate the building, give the men warning to take cover.
      The Kid threw himself back into the locker room.
      Men swarmed the corner. One looked to his left, one right. His weapon slowly rose as he traced the stairs with his M16.
      Max leapt backward into the darkness and into office. He closed the door. As the lock clicked, darkness dropped like an anchor over the entire building. Behind him, a glow screamed his location. The monitor!
      Max spun. Lunged across the desk. Stabbed the power button. And paused with his hand still near the monitor. If someone was coming after them. . .accessing this computer. . .
      On his knees, Max yanked the cords free. With the box, he moved to the window and reassessed the parking bay. Another van with a half-dozen men with AK-47s. They streamed into the warehouse.
      Max’s gut wound into a dozen knots. They were screwed.
      Think! Hand on the door, he considered going back downstairs. But that would get him captured. Killed. Yet he’d rather be with his guys than running like a chicken.
      No, not running. Considering options, gaining the advantage. Planning. The invasion force was armed to the teeth. They knew who they were coming after. They’d brought weapons. And those guys moved with precision. Swift, deadly precision.
      Though Nightshade had a stellar ops record, perhaps they had finally met their match. Still. . .two to one? Nightshade had faced worse.
      A large black Suburban screeched to a halt in the middle of the parking bay. Two men emerged, both wearing trench coats.
      Max cursed his luck to be up here, away from his gear, his weapons. Up here, without firepower. Thus, powerless.
      Okay, enough. He was going down there. He eased the door open and slid across the hall. Bathed in darkness, he crouched at edge of the landing, using the wall for cover. A dozen men so far, rushing here and there. Quick, quiet chatter between the men.
      A smirk slid into Max’s face. His team had taken cover and these goons couldn’t find them. If he could just get a weapon. . .
      “Can’t find them.”
      “They’re here. I saw them go in,” the man nearest the SUV shouted. “Find them! Lights!”
      Light rushed through the building as headlamps from the vehicles stabbed the dusty, damp building. Max yanked back, out of sight. He needed to get down there, defend his men. His boot hit the landing.
      Shouts erupted. A shot bounced off the steel rafters, taunting as it echoed through the Shack. Stilled, Max waited. More shouts. The sound of a scuffle. The half-dozen men waiting by the SUV lifted their weapons to the ready.
      The locker room door swung open. A man walked backward, his AK-47 aimed at a large form filling the doorway. Cowboy. Arms raised, dressed only in his jeans, he stalked forward. Someone shoved him from behind, which barely moved the big lug.
      Spine pressed against the wood, Max peered down into the bay.
      “You move one wrong muscle,” the one in front of Cowboy growled, “and so help me God, I’ll kill you.”
      “No you won’t.” Cowboy lowered his hands. “If you wanted me dead, I wouldn’t be out here.”
      Ride ’em, Cowboy.
      From the side entrance to the showers, three men dragged a shouting, cursing Kid into the bay. Max smirked that it took three tangos to wrangle the Kid.
      Hand clenched, Max’s mind went into overdrive. What could he do? God. . .I need. . .something. What could he pray for? Intercepting the team was impossible. Twelve, fifteen armed tangos against one unarmed man?
      He latched on to the hope that they’d only found Cowboy and the Kid. No Midas, Squirt, or Aladdin. Good. Maybe they could regroup and—
      A man flew through the bay door from the showers and landed with a thud a yard from the others. Midas flipped over, scissored his legs, and swept the thug off his feet. The Kid seized the confusion to attack the men guarding him. And impressively. With a hard right, he dropped the first and used that weapon to disable the second.
      Cowboy took a step back and rammed his elbow into the gut of the nearest guard. The gunman bent forward—straight into Cowboy’s meaty fist. The big guy pivoted, slapped the interior of the gunman’s wrist, effectively seizing the weapon and flipping the muzzle around. He fired at the guy.
      Crack!
      In the split second it took for Max to realize the sonic boom that rent the air wasn’t the report of Cowboy’s .45 MEU but of a rifle, Max saw the man in the black trench coat drop to the ground. A circle spread out like a dark halo.
      “Sniper!” someone shouted.
      The dead guy had fallen backward. Most likely shot from the front. Which meant. . . Max’s gaze rose to the rafters. With no light, it’d be the perfect hiding spot. But. . .who? Squirt? Aladdin?
      Crack!
      The man guarding Colton stumbled forward, then went to his knees before hitting the cement.
      The man in the black trench coat nearest the SUV dropped. A pool of blood spilled out.
      “There!” One guard swung and fired his fully automatic at the ceiling. Four others followed suit, firing at the bank of grimy windows on the southeast wall of the building.
      Max followed their direction and watched. Waited, his breath caught at the back of his throat. Cracks and shattering glass blended with the staccato punches of the guns to create a wild cacophony of noise. Max tuned it out, praying whoever—Aladdin or Squirt—wouldn’t be hit.
      But then he saw it. A shift of a shadow. Like someone rolling. . .
      The gunfire petered out as a body plummeted the eight feet to the ground.
      The thud seemed to have supernatural powers as it pounded Max’s chest and pushed him back. Away from the window but not far enough that he lost line of sight.
      Silence dropped on the Shack.
      “Where’s Max Jacobs?”
      As the question streaked through the warehouse, Max registered a red glow in the far corner. Even as he noticed it, he heard a beep. Another. His gaze darted to the source of the noise. Two men were walking the perimeter, their M16s dangling as they raised their arms and pressed something against the supports. Arms lowered and the men stepped back revealing gray bricks with wires.
      Explosives.
      Gotta stop this. Do something. His gaze collided with Cowboy’s. The big lug gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head.
      Max’s nostrils flared as he wrestled with what to do.
      “Where’s Dighton?”
      How do they know our names?
      “Dead,” someone answered.
      Pulled back into the shadows, Max clenched his eyes and bit down on his tongue. Dighton was dead. What about Aladdin—had he survived the fall?
      Sirens wailed in the distance.
      “Load ’em up.”
      “What about Jacobs?”
      “Outta time.” The leader left as the gunmen dragged the team out of the building.
      Stealthily, Max held on to the box and sprinted the length of the hall to the side of the Shack. In the conference room, he plunged toward the window. Craned his neck to peek out. Three vehicles—twin white vans and a black town car.
      The guys were loaded into the van and one into the car.
      The leader shifted, held something out, then it wavered.
      Detonator.
      Max spun around, searching for an out. Doors. Only one way down—the stairs. But they led to the bay, which would be engulfed.
      Windows. Overlooked the dock. The canal. It was January. The water would be brutal cold. His split-second assessment told him no matter what route he took, it’d be deadly. Despite his training, if he didn’t find shelter out of the water once he broke surface, he’d die an ice cube. If he stayed, he’d die a fireball.
      Good thing SEALs are insulated against cold water.
      Max vaulted toward the window, hurtling the computer through the window. The glass shattered as a violent force blasted through the air. It lifted him. Up. . .up. . . Flipped him. Searing pain sliced through his arm. Heat stroked his back and legs. Fire chased him out of the building. Into the night.
      Boom!
      Another wave slammed into him. Threw him backward. Toward the water.
      Something punched his gut. Knocked the breath from his lungs.
      Bright white lit the night. Blinded him. Then—almost instantaneously—black. Pure black. And he was falling. . .down. . .down. . .



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

      OTHER BOOKS BY RONIE KENDIG

      Nightshade (Discarded Heroes #1)

      Digitalis (Discarded Heroes #2)

      Wolfsbane (Discarded Heroes #3)

© 2011 by Ronie Kendig

ISBN 978-1-60260-0785-9
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

www.barbourbooks.com

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

Printed in the United States of America.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Small Space Organizing by Kathryn Bechen


Just about all houses could use a little better organization and efficiency. In Small Space Organizing, Kathryn Bechen shows the reader how to examine a room's level of function, to creatively arrange areas to be both efficient and inviting, and to optimize each space, no matter how small.  

Small Space Organizing by Kathryn Bechen is a great resource for those of us that need a little extra help in getting/staying organized. One of my favorite things was that as the author went through each room she had long lists of specific ideas for organizing common items in each room. Then at the end of each chapter there was a place for thoughts, notes and ideas. I found the book very helpful, although I did not have time prior to writing this review to actually try out all of the ideas I want to implement. This book is also convenient to use. After you read the first few chapters, you can skip around in the book according to whatever area of your house that you are focusing on at that time. I highly recommend this book as I definitely see myself referring back to it time and time again.

Available January 2012 at your favorite book seller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing, 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."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Love Blooms In Winter by Lori Copeland


The first time Tom Curtis received a letter from Mae Wilkey, he thought it was a prank. The second time a letter arrives with an urgent plea for help to care for a mysterious aunt, Pauline Wilson, who suffers from dementia, he takes it more seriously and journeys to North Dakota to discover the truth. Neither Tom nor his Aunt Pauline can remember being related and the longer he stays to help with her care, the more he is convinced that he isn't related to her. Still, Mae Wilkey is certainly attractive and Aunt Pauline is endearing. When a train wreck leaves Tom stranded in town as overseerer for the railroad track repairs, he finds more love and adventure than he ever expected.

Love Blooms in Winter is the first book in Lori Copeland's Dakota Diaries series. This story was a wonderful reminder to me that God is in control of every situation, even when it seems out of control from the human perspective. Other than the theme about God being in control, the book is a very light and sweet read. The romance between Tom and Mae was predictable, but still enjoyable since Jake's character added in some tension.

Overall, I enjoyed Love Blooms in Winter by Lori Copeland, though I probably will not care to read it again for several years. If you are looking for a sweet romance to entertain you for a few hours, this is a good choice.

Click here to visit the blog tour or read an except from Love Blooms in Winter by Lori Copeland.

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: Love Blooms In Winter

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


  • Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

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

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

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





Product Details:

    • List Price: $13.99
    • Paperback: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0736930191
    • ISBN-13: 978-0736930192


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


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

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter


When Shay Brandenberger wanted to marry Travis McCoy, he left her alone on the courthouse steps to pursue his own dreams. Years later, Shay struggles to raise her daughter and keep her childhood home financially afloat following the death of her husband, Garrett Brandenberger. When Travis McCoy shows up in town, he is the last person Shay wants to spend time with. But when she finds herself accidentally, yet legitimately, married to him, Shay must decide which is riskier: To keep trying to save her home as she has been or to accept Travis' ridiculous proposal to stay married to him for a few months and receive the financial assistance she needs. Could this accidental marriage actually be God's will or just a crazy twist of fate? Is Shay even willing to find out? Read for yourself in The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter.

The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter is the second book in the Big Sky Romance series. I enjoyed revisiting some of the characters of the first book, A Cowboy's Touch. However, The Accidental Bride works well as a stand-alone book if you have not read the first one. While the premise of Shay and Travis' accidental marriage seems highly unlikely to ever happen in real life, the story was so good that I was happy to suspend a little bit of reality in favor of just enjoying the book. Hunter touched on an important theme about trying to win favor with people or God. Though I think this theme could have been brought out a little stronger earlier in the book, it is a challenging and encouraging message for the reader to ponder. Overall, I highly recommend The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter to anyone looking for a sweet romance with a good message.

Click here to visit the blog tour and an excerpt from The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advanced reading copy of 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: The Accidental Bride


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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

 Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)

***Special thanks to  Audra Jennings – The B&B Media Group –  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

Visit the author's website.




SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Shay Brandenberger has built her entire life on the shifting sands of what others think. Constantly seeking the approval of others, she has struggled through a rocky childhood, a failed marriage and single parenthood. Now it looks like she’s losing the ranch that has been in her family for three generations, a surefire way to mark her as a failure in the eyes of the community. When Travis McCoy, the high school sweetheart who very publicly broke her heart fifteen years before, returns to Moose Creek, she is less than pleased. Not only does his re-appearance dredge up a deluge of painful memories, it also reminds everyone in town that it was he who left her, not the other way around. To make matters worse, Shay and Travis are unwittingly paired to play bride and groom in the annual Founder’s Day wedding re-enactment where, much to her chagrin, she discovers he still has the power to take her breath away. 

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595548025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595548023

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The bell above the diner’s door jingled and—despite her most valiant effort—Shay Brandenberger’s eyes darted toward the entry. An unfamiliar couple entered—tourists. She could tell by their khaki Eddie Bauer vests and spanking-new hiking boots. Look out, Yellowstone.

When her heart rate returned to normal, she checked her watch and took a sip of coffee. Five minutes till she met Miss Lucy at the Doll House, forty till she met John Oakley at the bank. What if he said no? What would they do then?

“Mom . . . Earth to Mom . . .” Olivia waved her hand too close to Shay’s face, her brown eyes widening.

“Sorry, hon.” The one bright moment of her Saturday was breakfast with her daughter, and she couldn’t enjoy it for the dread. “What were you saying?”

Olivia set her fork on her pancake-sticky plate and heaved a sigh worthy of her twelve-year-old self. “Never mind.” She bounced across the vinyl bench, her thick brown ponytail swinging. “I’m going to meet Maddy.”

“Right back here at noon,” Shay called, but Olivia was out the door with the flick of her hand.


The diner buzzed with idle chatter. Silverware clattered and scraped, and the savory smell of bacon and fried eggs unsettled her stomach. She took a sip of the strong brew from the fat rim of her mug.

The bell jingled again. I will not look. I will not look. I will not—

The server appeared at her booth, a new girl, and gathered Olivia’s dishes. “On the house today.”

Shay set down her mug, bristling. “Why?”

The woman shrugged. “Boss’s orders,” she said, then made off with the dirty dishes.

From the rectangular kitchen window, Mabel Franklin gave Shay a pointed look.

So Shay had helped the couple with their foal the week before. It was the neighborly thing to do.

Fine. She gave a reluctant smile and a wave. She pulled her wallet from her purse, counted out the tip, and dragged herself from the booth, remembering her daughter’s bouncy exit. Lately her thirty-two years pressed down on her body like a two-ton boulder.

She opened the diner’s door and peeked both ways before exiting the Tin Roof and turning toward the Doll House. She was only checking sidewalk traffic, not hiding. Nope, she wasn’t hiding from anyone. The boardwalks were busy on Saturdays. That was why she hadn’t come to town for two weeks. Why their pantry was emptier than a water trough at high noon.

She hurried three shops down and slipped into the cool, welcoming air of Miss Lucy’s shop.

“ ’Morning, Miss Lucy.”

“ ’Morning, dear.” The elderly woman, in the middle of helping a customer, called over her rounded shoulder, “It’s in the back.” Miss Lucy’s brown eyes were big as buckeyes behind her thick glasses, and her white curls glowed under the spotlights.

“Okeydoke.” Shay forced her feet toward the storeroom.

A musty smell assaulted her as she entered the back room and flipped on the overhead fluorescents. She scanned the boxes of doll parts and skeins of yarn until she found what she was looking for. She approached the box, lifted the lid, and parted the tissue.

The wedding gown had been carefully folded and tucked away. Shay ran her fingers over the delicate lace and pearls. Must’ve been crisp white in its day, but time had cast a long shadow over it. Time had a way of doing that.

Her fingers lingered on the thin fabric. She remembered another time, another dress. A simple white one that hung on her young shoulders, just skimmed the cement of the courthouse steps. The ache that squeezed her heart had faded with time, but it was there all the same. Would it ever go away?

Shaking her head, Shay turned back to the task at hand. The gown seemed too pretty, too fragile to disturb.

Oh well. She’d promised.

She pulled it out and draped it over the box, then shimmied from her jeans. When she was down to the bare necessities, she stepped carefully into the gown. She eased it over her narrow hips and slid her arms into the long sleeves. The neckline was modest, the gathered skirt fuller than anything she ever wore. Here in the air-conditioning it was fine, but she would swelter next Saturday.

Leaving the button-up back gaping, she hitched the skirt to the top of her cowboy boots and entered the store.

Miss Lucy was ushering the customer out the door. When she turned, she stopped, her old-lady shoes squeaking on the linoleum. “Land sakes.”

Shay took two steps forward and dropped the skirt. It fell to the floor with a whoosh.

“Fits like a glove,” Miss Lucy said. “And with some low heels it’ll be the perfect length.”

Shay didn’t even own heels. “My boots’ll have to do. Button the back?”

Miss Lucy waddled forward, turned Shay toward a small wall mirror flecked with time, and began working the tiny pearl buttons.

Shay’s breath caught at her image. She forced its release, then frowned. Wedding gowns were bad luck. She’d sworn she’d never wear another. If someone had told her yesterday she’d be wearing this thing today, she’d have said they were one straw short of a bale.

Miss Lucy moved up to the buttons between her shoulders, and Shay lifted her hair. The dress did fit, clinging to her torso like it was made for her, wouldn’t you know. Even the color complemented her olive skin.

Still, there was that whole bad luck thing.

And what would everyone think of Shay Brandenberger wearing this valuable piece of Moose Creek heritage? A white wedding gown, no less. If she didn’t have the approval of her closest friends and neighbors, what did she have? Not much, to her thinking.

She wanted to cut and run. Wanted to shimmy right out of the dress, tuck it into that box in the storeroom, slip back into her Levi’s and plaid button-up, and go back to her ranch where she could hole up for the next six months.

She checked the time and wished Miss Lucy had nimbler fingers. Of all days to do this, a Saturday, when everyone with two legs was in town. And she still had that infernal meeting with John Oakley.

Please, God, I can’t lose our home . . .

“I’m obliged to you, dear. I completely forgot Jessie was going out of town.”

“No problem.”

“Baloney. You’d rather be knee-deep in cow dung.” The woman’s marionette lines at the sides of her mouth deepened.

“It’s one hour of my life.” A pittance, after all Miss Lucy had done for her.

Miss Lucy finished buttoning, and Shay dropped her hair and smoothed the delicate lace at the cuffs.

“Well, bless you for being willing. God is smiling down on you today for your kindness.”

Shay doubted God really cared one way or another. It was her neighbors she worried about.

“Beautiful, just beautiful. You’ll be the talk of the town on Founders Day.”

“No doubt.” Everyone in Moose Creek would be thinking about the last time she’d worn a wedding gown. And the time before that.

Especially the time before that.

Third time’s a charm, Shay thought, the corner of her lip turning up.

“Stop fretting,” Miss Lucy said, squeezing her shoulders. “You look quite fetching, like the gown was made for you. I won’t have to make a single alteration. Why, it fits you better than it ever did Jessie—don’t you tell her I said so.”

Shay tilted her head. Maybe Miss Lucy was right. The dress did make the most of her figure. And she had as much right to wear it as anyone. Maybe more—she was born and raised here, after all. It was just a silly old reenactment anyway. No one cared who the bride and groom were.

The bell jingled as the door opened behind her. She glanced in the mirror, over her shoulder, where a hulking silhouette filled the shop’s doorway. There was something familiar in the set of the man’s broad shoulders, in the slow way he reached up and removed his hat.

The sight of him constricted her rib cage, squeezed the air from her lungs as if she were wearing a corset. But she wasn’t wearing a corset. She was wearing a wedding gown. Just as she had been the last time she’d set eyes on Travis McCoy.