Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review Blog Party

This looked like fun, so I joined in. Why don't you?
CymLowell
Pick a review you want to share with folks who don't usually read your blog and enter it! Click on the button to go to the host blog.

Banned Books Week

I've noticed that several bookbloggers on my list of regular reads are talking about Banned Books Week this week, so I assume someone somewhere has so named this week. Whenever I hear a brouhaha about banned books it reminds me of a "kiddie lit" (literature for children) class I took in college. The instructor struck me as the basic socially liberal college professor who did not have and probably never would have children of her own. She devoted at least one class period to discussing the evils of censorship. Shortly thereafter she was, to make a point, telling us a story about some friends of hers. The father was an art professor at the college, Mom was a SAHM before that term was coined (1981 or so) and the child was about five or six. Mom was in the school library and noticed a set of career books for young children--something along the lines of "You Can Be a _______" with different books for different careers. Of course, since they were for very young children the books were illustrated. The problem with this set was that all the doctors, lawyers, business executives and the like were men, whereas the nurses, secretaries and waitresses were women. My instructor noted with obvious approval, speaking about the mom "She got those removed from the school library".

At that point, I asked "Isn't that censorship?" and after thinking about it for a second, like it had never occurred to her, she had to admit that it was. Unfortunately the class was not filled with students who liked to think and argue so the discussion never went any further.

Obviously no library can contain every book. Someone has to decide whether to purchase book A or book B, and once the library owns a book someone has to decide whether it has outlived its usefulness. No teacher can require that students read every book printed; she or he has to decide which book(s) the class will read.

What is censorship? What is selection? Little Black Sambo was called "inappropriate" in my kiddie lit book. I don't know how many school libraries still carry it; though given that statement I was surprised to find that my local public library does have a large number of copies throughout the system. If I write a children's book about the evils of mixing with people of other races and the obvious inferiority of those of African descent, or about how horrible a person Mary's mother is because she is divorced, or how Steve has two dads, and that means his dads are horrible sinners (but that Steve still needs to love them) what is the chance that my book is going to end up in the average public library? What if I write a book about how awful the neighbors are to Tawanda and Jim who just moved in, all because she is Black and he is White? How about a book about how Susie is better off now that her mother, Mary, had the courage to leave that awful husband of hers, or about how Steve's family is different because he has two dads and no mom, but that in some ways all families are alike, because they are all made of people who love you. Somehow I think I'd find more libraries to buy the second set of books than the first, yet the ideas promoted in the first set are ideas held by at least a segment of our society.

There always seems to be an uproar when parents ask that books be removed from school libraries or from class reading lists. Those opposed to removing the book decry censorship; after all, the books were selected for a reason. As a parent (a parent BTW who prefers to guide her kids toward certain books rather than forbidding them to read others) it is my job to raise my kids. It is my job to form their faith and morals. Part of that is trying for form a culture that supports those morals. A teacher who uses and is positive about a book that supports lifestyles I consider immoral is undermining my authority--it doesn't matter whether I promote racial harmony and equality and the book you are teaching glorifies segregation and White Supremacy or whether I support segregation and White supremacy and you are teaching the kids that integration is a moral good.

All too often I see those who want to limit access to certain books, or remove books from required reading lists, characterized as intellectually limited and/or overprotective. Before you rush to judge such people, consider how you would react if your children were exposed to or required to study a book that put a positive spin on something you found morally repugnant? If "Heather Has Two Mommies" is ok, is "Heather's Mom is Sexually Immmoral" ?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog Tour and Review: A Slow Burn



A few months ago I read and reviewed Mary Demuth's Daisy Chain. I enjoyed the book but found it heavy and dark. I have to say the same about the second book in the trilogy, A Slow Burn (Defiance Texas Trilogy, Book 2)

A Slow Burn picks up where Daisy Chain leaves us. Daisy is dead; but who killed her? While there are some elements of a murder mystery, mostly this is the story of redeeming love. Hixon is the illegitimate son of a White woman and a Black man. His mom never loved him, and moved from man to man until she died, at which time she left her property to her sorority, not to him. He was "adopted" my Murial, a white widow whose husband had been an arch-segregationist. At the beginning of this book Murial is dying of cancer, and tells Hixon to marry Daisy's mother. Daisy's mother, Emory, who Hixon calls Missy (Miss E), was also an unloved child. She is now a drug addict and dealing with the guilt of losing a child, a child she never loved as she should have.

I'd call the ending of this book more hopeful than happy. We still don't know who killed Daisy, or why.

Hixon's faith is the main reason he acts as he does toward Emory. He wants her to know the love of Jesus, a love than can make up for other loves that are lacking. Still, it is obvious that accepting Jesus hasn't made his life a bed of roses.

If you are looking for a well-written book, this is one. If you are looking for a light happy read, this is not. If overt Christianity in a book bothers you, this is defintely not the book for you, but this book isn't preachy; it teaches by showing. It is the second book in a trilogy but does stand alone reasonably. However, having grown attached to Daisy in the first book and to her mother in this one, I don't like having to wait until book three to learn who dunnit.

Book Info:
A Slow Burn
By Mary DeMuth
Zondervan
ISBN - 0310278376
368 Pages
PUB DATE: October 2009

To Purchase from Amazon.com: A Slow Burn (Defiance Texas Trilogy, Book 2)

Publisher's webpage

First Wildcard: Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah

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:


Three Weddings & a Bar Mitvah

David C. Cook (2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Melody Carlson has published more than one hundred books for adults, children, and teens, with many on best-seller lists. Several books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Gold Medallion and the RITA Award. She and her husband live in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and have two grown sons.

Visit the author's website.

Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah, by Melody Carlson from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 1589191080
ISBN-13: 9781589191082

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Megan Abernathy


“Okay, then, how does the second Saturday in June look?” Anna asked her housemates.


Megan frowned down at her date book spread open on the dining room table. She and Anna had been trying to nail a date for Lelani and Gil's wedding. Megan had already been the spoiler of the first weekend of June, but she'd already promised her mom that she'd go to a family reunion in Washington. Now it seemed she was about to mess things up again. “I'm sorry,” she said, “but I promised Marcus I'd go to his sister's wedding. It's been scheduled for almost a year now, and it's the second Saturday too. But maybe I can get out of it.”


Lelani just shook her head as she quietly rocked Emma in her arms, pacing back and forth between the living room and dining room. The baby was teething and fussy and overdue for her afternoon nap. Megan wasn't sure if Lelani's frustrated expression was a result of wedding planning or her baby's mood.


“Is it possible you could do both weddings in one day?” Anna asked Megan.


“That might work.” Megan picked up her datebook and followed Lelani into the living room, where she continued to rock Emma.


“Or we could look at the third weekend in June,” Anna called from the dining room.


“Shhh.” Megan held a forefinger over her lips to signal Anna that Emma was finally about to nod off. Megan waited and watched as Emma's eyes fluttered closed and Lelani gently eased the limp baby down into the playpen set up in a corner of the living room. Lelani pushed a dark lock of hair away from Emma's forehead, tucked a fuzzy pink blanket over her, then finally stood up straight and sighed.


“Looks like she's down for the count,” Megan whispered.


Lelani nodded. “Now, where were we with dates?”


“If you still want to go with the second Saturday,” Megan spoke quietly, “Anna just suggested that it might be possible for me to attend two weddings in one day.”


“That's a lot to ask of you,” Lelani said as they returned to the dining room, where Anna and Kendall were waiting expectantly with the calendar in the middle of the table and opened to June.


Megan shrugged as she pulled out a chair. “It's your wedding, Lelani. You should have it the way you want it. I just want to help.”


Anna pointed to the second Saturday. “Okay, this is the date in question. Is it doable or not?”


Lelani sat down and sighed. “I'm willing to schedule my wedding so that it's not a conflict with the other one. I mean, if it can even be done. Mostly I just wanted to wait until I finished spring term.”


“What time is Marcus's sister's wedding?” asked Anna.


“I'm not positive, but I think he said it was in the evening.” She reached for her phone.


“And you want a sunset wedding,” Kendall reminded Lelani.


“That's true.” Anna nodded.


“But I also want Megan to be there,” Lelani pointed out.


“That would be helpful, since she's your maid of honor,” said Anna.


Megan tried not to bristle at the tone of Anna's voice. She knew that Anna had been put a little out of sorts by Lelani's choice--especially considering that Anna was the sister of the groom--but to be fair, Megan was a lot closer to Lelani than Anna was. And at least they were all going to be in the wedding.


“Let me ask Marcus about the time,” Megan said as she pressed his speed-dial number and waited. “Hey, Marcus,” she said when he finally answered. “We're having a scheduling problem here. Do you know what time Hannah's wedding is going to be?”


“In the evening, I think,” Marcus said. “Do you need the exact time?”


“No, that's good enough.” Megan gave Lelani a disappointed look. “I'll talk to you later, okay?”


“You're not thinking of bailing on me, are you?” He sounded genuinely worried.


“No, but we're trying to pin down a time and date for Lelani.”


“It's just that I really want my family to meet you, Megan. I mean all of my family. And I want you to meet them too.”


“I know, and I plan to go with you.”


“Thanks. So, I'll see you around six thirty tonight?”


“That's right.” Megan told him good-bye, then turned to Lelani with a sigh. “I'm sorry,” she told her. “That wedding's at night too. Maybe I should blow off my family reunion so that you--”


“No.” Anna pointed to the calendar. “I just realized that the first Saturday in June is also my mother's birthday.”


“So?” Kendall shrugged. “What's wrong with that?”


Megan laughed. “Think about it, Kendall, how would you like to share your wedding anniversary with your mother-in-law's birthday?”


Kendall grinned. “Oh, yeah. Maybe not.”


“How about a Sunday wedding?” suggested Megan.


“Sunday?” Lelani's brow creased slightly as she weighed this.


“Sunday might make it easier to book the location,” Kendall said. “I mean, since most weddings are usually on Saturdays, and June is a pretty busy wedding month.”


“That's true,” agreed Megan.


“And you gotta admit that this is short notice for planning a wedding,” added Kendall. “Some people say you should start planning your wedding a whole year ahead of time.”


“Marcus's sister has been planning her wedding for more than a year,” Megan admitted. “Marcus says that Hannah is going to be a candidate for the Bridezillas show if she doesn't lighten up.”


They all laughed.


“Well, there's no way Gil and I are going to spend a year planning a wedding.” Lelani shook her head. “That's fine for some people, but we're more interested in our marriage than we are in our wedding.”


“I hear you.” Kendall laughed and patted her slightly rounded belly. She was in her fifth month of the pregnancy. They all knew that she and her Maui man, Killiki, were corresponding regularly, but despite Kendall's high hopes there'd been no proposal.


“I really don't see why it should take a year to plan a wedding,” Megan admitted. “I think that's just the wedding industry's way of lining their pockets.”


“So how much planning time do you have now anyway?” Kendall asked Lelani. “Like three months?”


“Not even.” Lelani flipped the calendar pages back. “It's barely two now.”


“Which is why we need to nail this date today,” Megan said. “Even though it's a small wedding--”


“And that remains to be seen,” Anna reminded her. “My mother's list keeps growing and growing and growing.”


“I still think it might be easier to just elope,” Lelani reminded them. “I told Gil that I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.”


“Yes, that would be brilliant.” Anna firmly shook her head. “You can just imagine how absolutely thrilled Mom would be about that little idea.”


Lelani smiled. “I actually thought she'd be relieved.”


“That might've been true a few months ago. But Mom's changing.” Anna poked Lelani in the arm. “In fact, I'm starting to feel jealous. I think she likes you better than me now.”


Lelani giggled. “In your dreams, Anna. Your mother just puts up with me so she can have access to Emma.”


They all laughed about that. Everyone knew that Mrs. Mendez was crazy about her soon-to-be granddaughter. Already she'd bought Emma all kinds of clothes and toys and seemed totally intent on spoiling the child rotten.


“Speaking of Emma”--Kendall shook her finger--“Mrs. Mendez is certain that she's supposed to have her on Monday. But I thought it was my day.”


“I'm not sure,” Lelani admitted. “But I'll call and find out.”


“And while you've got Granny on the line,” continued Kendall, “tell her that I do know how to change diapers properly. One more diaper lecture and I might just tape a Pamper over that big mouth of hers. Sheesh!”


They all laughed again. Since coming home from Maui, Kendall had been complaining about how Mrs. Mendez always seemed to find fault with Kendall's childcare abilities. In fact, Mrs. Mendez had spent the first week “teaching” Kendall the “proper” way to do almost everything.


To be fair, Megan didn't blame the older woman. Megan had been a little worried about Kendall too. But to everyone's surprise, Kendall turned out to be rather maternal. Whether it had to do with her own pregnancy or a hidden talent, Megan couldn't decide, but Kendall's skill had been a huge relief.


“Now, back to the wedding date,” said Lelani.


“Yes,” agreed Megan. “What about earlier on Saturday?”


“Oh, no,” Anna said. “I just remembered that I promised Edmond I'd go to his brother's bar mitzvah on that same day--I think it's in the morning.”


Lelani groaned.


“Edmond's brother?” Megan frowned. “I thought he was an only child. And since when is he Jewish?”


“Remember, his mom remarried,” Anna told her. “And Philip Goldstein, her new husband, is Jewish, and he has a son named Ben whose bar mitzvah is that Saturday.” She sighed. “I'm sorry, Lelani.”


“So Saturday morning is kaput,” Megan said.


“And Lelani wanted a sunset wedding anyway,” Anna repeated.


“So why can't you have a sunset wedding on Sunday?” Kendall suggested.


“That's an idea.” Megan turned back to Lelani. “What do you think?”


Lelani nodded. “I think that could work.”


“And here's another idea!” Anna exclaimed. “If the wedding was on Sunday night, you could probably have the reception in the restaurant afterward. I'm guessing it would be late by the time the wedding was over, and Sunday's not exactly a busy night.”


Lelani looked hopeful. “Do you think your parents would mind?”


“Mind? Are you kidding? That's what my mother lives for.”


“But we still don't have a place picked for the wedding,” Megan said.


“I have several outdoor locations in mind. I'll start checking on them tomorrow.”


“We'll have to pray that it doesn't rain.” Megan penned 'Lelani and Gil's Wedding' in her date book, then closed it.


“Should there be a backup plan?” asked Anna. “I'm sure my parents could have the wedding at their house.”


“Or here,” suggested Kendall. “You can use this house if you want.”


Anna frowned. “It's kind of small, don't you think?”


“I think it's sweet of Kendall to offer.” Lelani smiled at Kendall.


“I can imagine a bride coming down those stairs,” Kendall nodded toward the staircase. “I mean, if it was a small wedding.”


“I'll keep it in mind,” Lelani told her. “And your parents' house too.”


“It might be tricky getting a church reserved on a Sunday night,” Megan looked at the clock. “And speaking of that, I better get ready. Marcus is picking me up for the evening service in about fifteen minutes.” She turned back to Lelani. “Don't worry. I've got my to-do list and I'll start checking on some of this stuff tomorrow. My mom will want to help with the flowers.”


“And my aunt wants to make the cake,” Anna reminded them.


“Sounds like you're in good hands,” Kendall sad a bit wistfully. “I wonder how it would go if I was planning my wedding.”


“You'd be in good hands too,” Lelani assured her.


“Now, let's start going over that guest list,” Anna said as Megan stood up. “The sooner we get it finished, the less chance my mother will have of adding to it.” Megan was relieved that Anna had offered to handle the invitations. She could have them printed at the publishing company for a fraction of the price that a regular printer would charge, and hopefully she'd get them sent out in the next couple of weeks.


As Megan changed from her weekend sweats into something presentable, she wondered what would happen with Lelani's parents when it was time for the big event. Although her dad had promised to come and was already committed to paying Lelani's tuition to finish med school, Lelani's mom was still giving Lelani the cold shoulder. Make that the ice shoulder. For a woman who lived in the tropics, Mrs. Porter was about as chilly as they come. Still, Lelani had friends to lean on. Maybe that was better than family at times.


“Your prince is here,” Kendall called into Megan's room.


“Thanks.” Megan was looking for her other loafer and thinking it was time to organize her closet again. “Tell him I'm coming.”


When Megan came out, Marcus was in the dining room, chatting with her housemates like one of the family. He was teasing Anna for having her hair in curlers, then joking with Kendall about whether her Maui man had called her today.


“Not yet,” Kendall told him with a little frown. “But don't forget the time-zone thing. It's earlier there.”


“Speaking of time zones,” Lelani said to Marcus. “Did I hear you're actually thinking about going to Africa?”


Marcus grinned and nodded. “Yeah, Greg Mercer, this guy at our church, is trying to put together a mission trip to Zambia. I might go too.”


“Wow, that's a long ways away.” Kendall turned to Megan. “How do you feel about that?”


Megan shrugged as she pulled on her denim jacket. “I think it's cool.”


“Are you coming with us to church tonight, Kendall?” Marcus asked. “Greg is going to show a video about Zambia.”


“Sorry to miss that,” Kendall told him. “But Killiki is supposed to call.”


“Ready to roll?” Megan nodded up to the clock.


He grinned at her. “Yep.” But before they went out, he turned around. “That is, unless anyone else wants to come tonight.”


Lelani and Anna thanked him but said they had plans. Even so, Megan was glad he'd asked. It was nice when Kendall came with them occasionally. And Lelani had come once too. Really, it seemed that God was at work at 86 Bloomberg Place. Things had changed a lot since last fall.


“So are you nervous?” Marcus asked as he drove toward the city.


“Nervous?” Megan frowned. “About church?”


“No. The big interview.”


Megan slapped her forehead. “Wow, I temporarily forgot. We were so obsessed with Lelani's wedding today, trying to make lists, plan everything, and settle the date … I put the interview totally out of my mind.”


“Hopefully, it won't be out of your mind by Monday.”


“No, of course not.”


“So … are you nervous?”


Megan considered this. It would be her first interview for a teaching job. And it was a little unsettling. “The truth is, I don't think I have a chance at the job,” she admitted. “And, yes, I'm nervous. Thanks for reminding me.”


“Sorry. Why don't you think you'll get the job?”


“Because I don't have any actual teaching experience.” She wanted to add duh, but thought it sounded a little juvenile.


“Everyone has to start somewhere.”


“But starting in middle school, just a couple of months before the school year ends? Don't you think they'll want someone who knows what they're doing?”


“Unless they want someone who's enthusiastic and energetic and smart and creative and who likes kids and had lots of great new ideas and--”


“Wow, any chance you could do the interview in my place?”


“Cross-dress and pretend I'm you?”


She laughed. “Funny.”


“Just have confidence, Megan. Believe in yourself and make them believe too. You'd be great as a middle-school teacher.”


“What makes you so sure?”


“Because I remember middle school.”


“And?”


“And most of my teachers were old and dull and boring.”


“That's sad.”


“And I would've loved having someone like you for a teacher.”


“Really?”


He chuckled. “Yeah. If I was thirteen, I'd probably sit right in the front row and think about how hot you were, and then I'd start fantasizing about--”


“Marcus Barrett, you're pathetic.” Just the same, she laughed.


“What can I say? I'm just a normal, warm-blooded, American kid.”


“Give me a break!” She punched him in the arm.


“Is that your phone?” he asked as he was parking outside of the church.


“Oh, yeah, a good reminder to turn it off.” She pulled it out to see it was Kendall. Megan hoped nothing was wrong. “Hey, Kendall,” she said as Marcus set the parking brake. “What's up?”


“Guess what?” shrieked Kendall.


“I have no idea what, but it sounds like good news.” She stepped out of the car.


“Killiki just called.”


“That's nice.”


“And he asked me to marry him!”


Megan raised her eyebrows and looked at Marcus as he came around to meet her. “And you said yes?”


“Of course! Do you think I'm crazy?”


“No. Not at all. Congratulations, Kendall. I mean, I guess that's what you say.”


“So now we have two weddings to plan.”


Megan blinked. She walked with Marcus toward the church entry. “Oh, yeah, I guess we do.”


“And I'm getting married in June too!”


“That's great, Kendall. I'm really, really happy for you. And Killiki seems like a great guy.”


“He is! Anyway, we just looked at the calendar again. And we finally figured that I should just get married the same day as Lelani, only I'll get married in the morning. That way we'll all be able to go to both weddings.”


“Wow, the same day?”


“Otherwise, you'll be at your reunion or Marcus's sister's wedding. Or Anna will be at the bar mitzvah. Or Lelani and Gil will be on their honeymoon.”


“Oh, that's right.”


“And I want all of you there!”


“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”


“It'll be busy, but fun.”


“Definitely.” Then Megan thanked Kendall for telling her, and they said good-bye. Megan closed her phone and just shook her head. “Wow.”


“Kendall's getting married?” asked Marcus as he held the church door open for her.


“Yes. Can you believe it?”


“Good for her.”


“And her wedding will be the same weekend as your sister's and the same day as Lelani's.”


Marcus held up three fingers and wore a perplexed expression. “Three weddings in one weekend? That's crazy.”


“Yep.” Megan nodded. “Three weddings and a bar mitzvah.”


“Huh?” Marcus looked confused, but they were in the sanctuary, and Megan knew she'd have to explain later.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



Click here for my review.

Mailbox Monday

Thanks to Marcia for hosting this weekly meme. Go to The Printed Page to see what others got this week.
Hi, and welcome to my blog. The mailman was good to me this week.
Their future is as wide open as the Montana sky.

Juliana Brady is alone in an 1890s Montana mining town, with few prospects for making a living. But she is determined not to be dependent on the charity of others.

Josh McBride is trying to scrape up a living from his sheep herd while he builds his ranch. But when he discovers some rare stones on his property, he's tempted by the prospect of fast money.

When their paths cross, Juliana and Josh must make a choice--the world's riches and promises, or the eternal value of love. This book is for a Revell blog tour October 18.

Emory Chance needs to find who killed her daughter Daisy and unravel the mystery behind a sickening premonition—a man with a snake tattoo. The second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, A Slow Burn (the first was
Daisy Chain, which I reviewed here) is a suspenseful story about courageous love, the power of forgiveness, and the bonds that never break. This is for a blog tour September 28-October 3.



Double Cross continues the story of Taylor Pasbury, a heroic young woman introduced in James David Jordan's novel, Forsaken which I reviewed here.

Raised by a father who was a former Special Forces officer, Taylor is beautiful and brilliant and knows how to take care of herself. But she is haunted by her past and the sacrifice her father made to save her from a brutal rape when she was seventeen. After a controversial stint in the Secret Service, she has become the most prominent private security specialist in America. When she discovers the body of a former client's top assistant, all the evidence points to embezzlement and suicide. But Taylor has no way of knowing that her mother, who ran out when Taylor was nine, is about to reappea
r and lead her down a twisting path of danger and deceit. It's a road that won't end until they reach the spot where Taylor's father died - where Taylor learns that some sacrifices can never be earned. First Wildcard will tour this book October 12 and you can read my review here.


Seaside Letters is a romance I got from the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers program.
Here is my review.

Amish Peace: My Review



Have you ever wondered why the Amish choose to live as they do? In some ways they seem to be a contradiction. They eschew higher education, but use modern medicine. They won't own a motor vehicle, but will ride in one. Why do they choose to accept what they do, and forgo what they do? What is their goal?

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World
attempts to answer those type of questions, and to get its readers to reflect on how they can incorporate some of the same philosophy into their lives without having to become Amish (something the author indicates the Amish do not encourage). In a nutshell, the Amish lifestyle is based on the good of the community, rather than the good of the individual. Their rules are designed to draw the community together and to keep it close, both physically and emotionally. Further, the sense of peace the people exude comes from accepting life as it comes as the will of God, and forgiving others.

Chapters are only a few pages long and usually include an anecdote about an Amish person to make the point. They end with a section titled "Reflections on Simplicity" which try to apply Amish ways to our modern life. One suggestion was that if you didn't have enough time, give up watching TV and the computer and see if that gives you more time.

Suzanne Woods Fisher's family belonged to faith community somewhat similar to the Amish, and she paints a very favorable picture of the Amish. The book is an easy read, but can provide fodder for deeper reflection if desired. Obviously the Amish are a Christian sect, and this book is written from a Christian perspective. While some of the reflections make sense strictly from a "be a better person and live a good life" perspective, many are overtly Christian.

I enjoyed the book and thank the folks at Revell books for sending it to me for this blog tour. For more information about the book and the Amish, join the author, Suzanne Woods Fisher at a Facebook party September 28 (that's today) from 3-5 p.m. Central time. To participate you will need an active account on Facebook and you will need to be a friend of Suzanne Woods Fisher. Click here for more information.
To purchase from Amazon:Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World
Publisher's Webpage

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Double Cross: My Review


Having enjoyed Forsaken, the first book about Taylor Pasbury, I jumped at the chance to review James Jordan's second book about this hot-shot security agent. Here is what the publisher has to say about the book:

Raised by a father who was a former Special Forces officer, Taylor is beautiful and brilliant and knows how to take care of herself. But she is haunted by her past and the sacrifice her father made to save her from a brutal rape when she was seventeen. After a controversial stint in the Secret Service, she has become the most prominent private security specialist in America. When she discovers the body of a former client's top assistant, all the evidence points to embezzlement and suicide. But Taylor has no way of knowing that her mother, who ran out when Taylor was nine, is about to reappear and lead her down a twisting path of danger and deceit. It's a road that won't end until they reach the spot where Taylor's father died - where Taylor learns that some sacrifices can never be earned.

Even though thrillers aren't usually my thing, this book held my interest and I really enjoyed it. The characters (especially Taylor's mother and stepfather) were quirky and well-developed. The resolution was not predictable yet was not far-fetched either.

The book is Christian fiction but for most of the book you wouldn't know it. However, toward the end, Taylor does some reflecting and the Christian message is in there, very overtly.

As I noted, it is the second book in a series, but it isn't necessary to read the first one to enjoy this one; the little back story you need is provided. While this book had a very satisfactory resolution, something was left hanging enough that I believe another book may be on its way. I hope so.

First Wildcard will be touring this book in October. Check back to read the first chapter.
To Purchase from Amazon: Double Cross: A Novel

Review: Seaside Letters


Thanks to the Thomas Nelson Book Blogger Review Program for a funny, sweet and serious romance, Seaside Letters The hero, Tucker, meets the heroine, Sabrina but she won't let anyone get close to her emotionally as she has just been dumped by her fiancee in favor of the cousin with whom she grew up. He suggests she post something to an internet message board, and when she does, he emails her using a screen name. She responds, not knowing it is him, using a screen name. He knows it is her; she doesn't know it is him until he sends a photo. She is falling in love with him, but doesn't want him to know it is her--but she doesn't want to give up the relationship either. She emails him a photo of another cousin. Then he hires her to help him find this woman with whom he is in love. Next, the cousin whose photo she sent him shows up.

In some ways the book is a comedy; it is funny watching Sabrina try to figure out how to hold on to Tucker without letting him know who she is, while we know he already knows.

The author explains at the end of the book that in her romances she tries to show the love of Christ through the love of her characters. In this book Tucker pursues Sabrina even though he knows her faults; he loves her more than she loves herself.

The book is Christian fiction, though for most of the book you wouldn't know it--except that it is a clean romance. I enjoyed it and think that most people who enjoy clean romances will like this one.

Author, Denise Hunter's webpage
Book Preview
Seaside Letters""">To Purchase from Amazon

Blog Tour and Review: The Potluck Catering Club--A Taste of Fame


A Taste of Fame, the latest of the Potluck books, features the ladies from Colorado taking on New York City as contestants on a reality show that pits catering companies against each other with the now-familiar format of the TV audience calling in to vote on which teams continue and which teams don't.

I've read and reviewed some of the authors' other books:
The Potluck Club, Trouble's Brewing and Things Left Unspoken. Like those books, A Taste of Fame is far more about the characters than about the plot, which came out just about like I thought it would. This is series fiction, and unfortunately, it shows. I missed a book or two along the way and there were some things that happened that I just didn't completely understand because I missed the backstory. It wasn't that the story didn't make sense; rather it was the feeling that I'd understand some motivations and behaviors better if I knew what happened in the past. I guess they are planning at least one more book because, though this one had a satisfying ending, threads were left hanging.

As with the other Potluck Club books, I'd recommend it to those who like Debbie
Macomber's yarn shop books, or her Cedar Cove books. It is Christian fiction, which in this case means the characters pray together at crucial moments and that they plan to donate the prize money to their church. However, the prayers aren't long or preachy so I think even someone not inclined toward Christianity could enjoy this book, if they like light fiction about relationships among a group of women.

The Potluck Club Cookbook: My Review

I have two books on blog tour this week. One is The Potluck Club Cookbook. The bottom line with a cookbook is the recipes. If they aren't good, then the cookbook is useless, no matter how pretty or entertaining. Therefore, My assistant and I will prepare one of them and we'll let you see pictures of the process. Here you see my assistant, ready to start preparing Pasta Pizza Pie.


We put the pasta on to boil and then started cooking the topping.
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After breaking the egg in good Catholic school mom style (leaving at least 75% of the shell intact so that it can be donated to the school fair, where someone with far more time and patience than I have can stuff it with confetti so the kids can buy them to break over each other's heads) and adding the other crust ingredients, my young one gets to stir the crust ingredients.
Here is what the crust looked like before it went into the oven.
After the crust cooked, we added the toppings before baking again.
Here is what it looked like when it came out of the oven the second time


What do you think my big ones think?

My thoughts: I thought this tasted good, but was far more trouble than it was worth. Some of the pasta crust was a little crunchy and the dish would have pretty much tasted the same if I boiled the pasta and served the toppings on top, which would have cut prep time from close to an hour to about 30 minutes.

My kids' thoughts: My son ate it and said it was "okay", but that I shouldn't make it again. My girls picked though the toppings and when they couldn't easily remove what they didn't like, ate the pasta that I boiled but didn't use in the recipe.

Book Review: The Potluck Club Cookbook is filled with church/school cookbook favorites. It even includes the ever famous Elephant Stew that serves 3500 people, and to which you can add two hares if unexpected company arrives (but not many people like hare in their food). The old favorites I recognize include Layered Salad made with, among other things, lettuce, peas and bacon; Pigs in a Blanket made with hot dogs and crescent rolls; Forgotten Chicken and Rice, made with cream of celery soup, rice, and onion soup mix; and Oreo Cookies and Pudding Delight, made with Oreos, cream cheese, Cool Whip and Pistaschio pudding mix. You aren't likely to find a recipe calling for a spice not in your cabinet or a gadget you don't already own. Most have short ingredient lists and are simple to prepare. This isn't gourmet cooking; this is the stuff your kids will eat. There is a crockpot section and plenty of desserts. While it lacks pictures, it does include commentary from the authors not only about the recipes in this book,but also about the Potluck Club characters and books.

Available September 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of bloggers who gather once each week to share out best posts. We are all Catholic and blog at least somewhat about Catholic things; some do so exclusively, others only periodically. All are welcome to participate here.

To join in the fun, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In that post describe and link to any posts you want to share with the rest of us. Also put in a link to this post. Then come back here, and sign Mr. Linky and give us a link to your post. Finally, go visit other people's posts, and leave comments! Some folks who don't post often have asked if they could, rather than creating a special "Sunday Snippets" post, just link their original post to Mr. Linky. That's ok, if your original post includes a link back here; since the idea is to share our posts and readers with each other. Encourage your readers to join us too.


If you want a weekly reminder to post, please subscribe to our yahoogroup.

I have two posts I want to share with you this week. The first is a review of the novel, The Death of a Pope. The second is my "From My Reader" post, which includes a few links to Catholic blog posts.

Friday, September 25, 2009

First Wildcard: A Cowboy Christmas

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:


A Cowboy Christmas

Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


As an award-winning author, Mary Connealy lives on a Nebraska farm with her husband and is the mother of four grown daughters. She writes plays and shorts stories, and is the author of two other novels, Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon. Also an avid blogger, Mary is a GED instructor by day and an author by night. For more information on Mary Connealy, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601453
ISBN-13: 978-1602601451

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A mining camp in Missouri, November, 1879


“You’ll wear that dress, Songbird.” Claude Leveque grabbed Annette Talbot’s arm, lifted her to her toes, and shoved her backward.

Annie tripped over a chair and cried out as it toppled. The chair scraped her legs and back. Her head hit the wall of the tiny, windowless shack, and stars exploded in her eyes.

Stunned by the pain, she hit the floor, and an animal instinct sent her scrambling away from Claude. But there was nowhere to go in the twelve-by-twelve-foot cabin.

Her head cleared enough to tell her there was no escape, so she fought with will and faith. “Never.” Propping herself up on her elbows, she faced him and shouted her defiance. “I will never go out in public in that dress.”

“You’ll sing what I tell you to sing.” Claude, in his polished suit and tidily trimmed hair, looked every inch civilized—or he had, until tonight. Now he strode toward her, eyes shooting furious fire, his face twisted into soul-deep rot and sin.

“I sing as a mission.” Annie tried to press her back through the unyielding log wall. “I sing hymns. That’s the only thing—”

A huge fist closed over the front of her blouse, and Claude lifted her like a rag doll to eye level, but he didn’t strike.

He would. He’d proved that several times over since he’d come here with his disgusting demands.

She braced herself. She’d die first. Claude might not believe that, but he’d know before long.

“So, you’re willing to die for your beliefs, heh?” Claude’s fist tightened on her blouse, cutting off Annie’s air.

“Yes!” She could barely speak, but he heard. He knew.

“Are you willing to watch someone else die, Songbird? Maybe your precious friend, Elva?” He shook her and her head snapped back. “I can always find another piano player.”

“No!” Annie had to save Elva. Somehow. Of course Elva would be threatened. Annie hadn’t had time to think that far.

Elva would never stand for this. Elva would die for her beliefs, too.

A wicked laugh escaped from Claude’s twisted mouth. “She’s easily replaced. But I’ll never”—he shook her viciously—“find another singer like you.”

How had it come to this? God help me. Protect Elva and me.

“My answer is no! Elva wouldn’t play the piano for me if I wore that.” Her eyes went to the slattern’s dress hanging, vivid red, near the door. “She would refuse to play the piano for those vulgar songs.”

“We’ll see, Songbird.” Claude laughed again.

Annie saw the evil in him, the hunger to hurt. He wasn’t just hurting Annie to get his way. He was enjoying it. Her vision dimmed and blurred as she clawed at his strangling fist.

“I’ll go have a talk with your frail old friend and then we’ll see.” He shoved Annie backward, slamming her against the wall.

She hit so hard her knees buckled. What little air she still had was knocked away.

Claude charged out, shutting the door behind him.

Annie heard the sound of a padlock snicking shut as she slumped sideways.

She became aware of her surroundings with no idea how much time had passed. In the falling darkness, she could barely make out blood dripping down the front of her dress. Tears diluted the blood and she wept.

“Do something, idiot! You can’t just sit here crying.”

Annie proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was indeed an idiot by burying her face in her hands and sobbing her heart out. The tears burned. She swiped at them and flinched from the pain in her blackened eye.

Shuddering, she lifted her battered face from her hands and looked at the dress. It seemed to glow in the dim light, as if the very fires of the devil gave it light. Indecent, vivid red silk with black fringe. No bodice worth mentioning, the front hem cut up nearly to the knees. The garment was horrible and disgusting, and Annie’s shudders deepened. She shouted at the walls of the tiny, solidly locked cabin, “I won’t do it!”

Claude had known before he’d asked that Annie would never wear that sinful dress and sing those bawdy songs. Touching gingerly her throbbing, swollen cheek, Annie pulled her hand away and saw blood. Her lip was split, her nose bleeding. She knew Claude’s fists had been more for his own cruel pleasure than any attempt at coercion.

“Beat me to death if you want,” she yelled at the door. “I will never again perform onstage for you!” She felt strong, righteous. Ready to die for her faith.

Then she thought of Elva. Annie’s elderly accompanist was maybe, right now, being punished because Annie hadn’t fallen in line.

Claude’s cruel threats rang in her ears even with him gone.

For all her utter commitment to refusing the Leveques and singing only her beloved hymns, how could Annie watch Elva be hurt? Could Annie stand on principle while Elva was beaten?

The welts on Annie’s arm, in the perfect shape of Claude Leveque’s viselike hand, along with Annie’s swollen eye and bleeding lip, proved the hateful man knew how to inflict pain. He’d proved he had no compunction in hurting a helpless woman.

Noise outside her prison brought Annie to her feet. He was coming back! Annie was sick to think what the couple would do to the elderly woman who had spent her older years worshipping God with music.

Sick with fear that they’d force Annie to watch Elva being battered, Annie clenched her fists and prayed. God would never agree that Annie should wear that tart’s dress, sing vile, suggestive songs, and flash her legs for drunken men.

But Elva!

Please, Lord, guide me though this dark valley.

A key rattled in the doorway.

Annie braced herself. If she could get past Claude, she would run, find Elva, and get away. Go somewhere, somehow. Throw herself on the mercy of the men in this logging camp—the very ones Claude said would pay to see that dreadful harlot’s gown.

The wooden door of the secluded, one-room shack swung hard and crashed against the wall. Elva fell onto her knees, clutching her chest. “You have to run!” Elva, eyes wild with terror, lifted her head. Annie saw Elva’s face was battered; a cut on her cheek bled freely.

Expecting Claude and Blanche to be right behind the gray-haired woman, Annie rushed forward and dropped to Elva’s side. “Elva, what did they do to you?”

“I heard. . .I heard Claude making plans, awful plans for you. He caught me eavesdropping. He thought he’d knocked me cold, but I lay still and waited until he left. He’d hung the key on a nail, and I stole it and slipped away to set you free.” Elva staggered to her feet, every breath echoed with pain. She stretched out a shaking hand, and Annie saw Elva’s black velvet reticule. The one the sweet pianist, who made Annie’s voice sound as pretty as a meadowlark, carried always. “There’s money. All I’ve saved.” Elva coughed, cutting off her words. She breathed as if it hurt. “T–Take it and go. There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town. Enough.” Coughing broke her voice again and Elva’s knees wobbled. She clung tight to Annie. “Enough for one train ticket.”

Annie realized what Elva was saying. “No, I won’t leave you.”

“It’s my heart.” Elva sagged sideways, clutching her chest. Annie couldn’t hold her dead weight, slight though Elva was. They both lowered to the floor. “When Claude landed his first blow, I felt my heart give out. Oh, Annie, the things he threatened for you. The evil, ugly words from a serpent’s mouth. My precious girl. Run. You must run.”

“I won’t leave you. They’ll kill you, Elva.”

“No. My heart. I’ve felt it coming for months and tonight’s the end. They can’t harm me anymore.”

“Elva, don’t talk like that.” Tears wanted to fall, but Annie had no time for such weakness. “You’re all I have!”

“Your father. Go home.”

“He doesn’t want me. You know that.”

Elva’s hand closed over the already bruised place on Annie’s wrist. Elva clearly saw what Annie had already suffered at Claude’s hands. “Go. There’s no time. What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

Annie gasped. Those words could mean only one thing. She glanced at the indecent dress. A harlot’s dress.

“God is calling me home, my beautiful girl. He’s taking me b–because He knows you’d never leave me. God in heaven is rescuing us both. I’ll go home and so will you. I believe that.”

Annie looked into Elva’s eyes, and even now they clouded over.

“Go. Please. It’s my fault you’re in this place. I thought we’d bring the Lord to these people with your beautiful singing. I convinced you to stay when the Leveques took over. If you stay I will have died for nothing, Sw–Sweet Annie.”

Elva’s grip tightened until Annie nearly cried out in pain. Then as quickly as the spasm had come, it was gone.

And so was Elva. She sank, lifeless, to the floor.

Annie saw the very moment Elva’s spirit left her body—a heartbreaking, beautiful moment, because now Elva was beyond pain.

But Annie wasn’t.

“If you stay I will have died for nothing.”

A loud snap of a twig jerked Annie’s head around. She gazed into the nearby woods surrounding the sequestered shack she’d been locked in. The Leveques were coming.

“What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

As if God Himself sent lightning to jolt her, Annie clutched Elva’s reticule, leaped to her feet, and ran.

“There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town.”

Annie gained the cover of the woods and, without looking back, began moving with painstaking silence.

She heard Claude’s shout of rage when he discovered the cabin door ajar.

Poor Elva. No one to bury her. No one to make her funeral a testimony to her life of faith.

Annie hated herself for running away. It was cowardly. There had to be some way to stay and pay proper respect, see to a decent Christian burial. Every decent part of herself said, “Go back. Face this.”

She kept moving. Elva had insisted on it. Common sense confirmed it. God whispered it in her heart to move, hurry, be silent.

Silence was her only weapon and Annie used it. She’d learned silence in the mountains growing up, slipping up on a deer or an elk. Slipping away from a bear or a cougar.

As much as Annie had loved her mountain home, she’d never learned to hunt. Pa fed the family. But she loved the woods and was skilled in their use.

Heading for the trail to town, she was careful to get close enough to not lose her way but stay off to the side.

Not long after she’d started out, she saw Claude storming down the trail toward town. He’d catch the wagon Elva spoke of long before she did. And, she hoped, insist on searching it. Once Claude assured himself that Annie wasn’t there, she’d have her chance.

Annie felt the bite of the cool night air. She heard an owl hoot in the darkness. The rustle of the leaves covered tiny sounds she might make as she eased along. She knew the trail. She knew the night. She knew the woods.

All of it was filled with treachery.




If you reviewed this book, add your link to Mr. Linky!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Wildcard: The Christmas Bowl

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:


The Great Christmas Bowl

Tyndale House Publishers (August 17, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of seventeen novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep’s Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader’s Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (August 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414326785
ISBN-13: 978-1414326788

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I’ve always been a football fan, the kind of woman who could easily find herself parked on the sofa any given Sunday afternoon, rooting for my favorite team. I’ve never been a gambler, never played fantasy football, never followed my team during the hot summer months. I’m a fall-season-until-Super-Bowl-only fan, but die-hard nonetheless. Something about investing my emotions for three hours in the fate of eleven men dressed in purple tights soothes my busy spirit.

Having given birth to three sons, I dreamed I’d have the makings of a starring offensive lineup. My oldest son, Neil, would play quarterback; Brett would be a running back; and my youngest, Kevin, would be a wide receiver. My daughters and I would lead cheers from the stands. My husband, Mike, who had played in our hometown high school and helped bring them to state in his senior year, would help coach. We’d be a football family, training with weights and running in the off-season. We’d plan our vacations around summer practices, and I’d join the booster club, maybe sell raffle tickets, even host the end-of-the-year potluck.

If girls could have played football in our tiny town, I know that Brianna and Amy would have joined the team. They became my cohorts, huddling under stadium blankets and clapping their mittens together as we cheered our high school team to victory.

Alas, Neil joined chess club, and Brett became a lead in the school plays.

The football gene seemed to have eluded even our youngest son. A boy who would rather sit on the sofa moving his thumbs in furious online game playing as his only form of exercise, Kevin didn’t possess even a hint of interest in football. I knew he’d inherited some athleticism, as evidenced by the discarded sports equipment left in his wake over the years: hockey skates, pads, helmet, basketball shoes, a tennis racket, a baseball glove. All abandoned after one season of hopeful use.

The only sport that seemed to take had been soccer. For three years I entered into the world of soccer mom, investing in my own foldout chair and a cooler. Perhaps it was his boundless energy that allowed him to play nearly the entire game, but Kevin had a knack for getting the ball in the net. Too bad our community soccer program ended at sixth grade, because Big Lake might have had its very own star. I’d hoped his interest would transfer to football, the other fall sport, but the old pigskin seemed as interesting to Kevin as cleaning his room.

Meanwhile, Neil, Brett, Brianna, and Amy graduated and moved out of the house, bound for college—most obtaining scholarships, much to the relief of my overworked, underpaid EMT husband. By the time Kevin moved into Neil’s basement teen hangout room, Neil was married and working as a CPA in Milwaukee, Brett was doing commercials in Chicago, Brianna had started graduate school for psychology, and Amy was studying abroad in London.

I worried for Kevin as he approached his senior year, envisioning him taking on a post–high school job at the local Dairy Queen while he honed his gaming skills, waiting for his future to somehow find him in the dark recesses of our basement amid his piled dirty clothing, his unmade bed, and the debris of pizza cartons. How I longed for him to grow up.

So the day he came home from school clutching a medical release form for football in his hand, I wondered if perhaps he had a high fever and needed immediate hospitalization.

“I’ve been thinking of playing for a while,” he said, shrugging. “It’s my last chance.”

Summertime had begun its slide into fall, the northern nights cooling. In two short months, we’d have our first snowfall. As I stared at my son—his stringy blond hair, his muscles that just needed toning, the way his gaze slid away from me and onto the floor—I wondered if he expected me to say no.

I took the pen and signed the form without reading it.

Teenage sons are often difficult to encourage. Instead of erupting into a wild jig of joy in the middle of the kitchen, I took the subtle route. I purchased football cleats and set them by the door to his room. I filled his water bottle every morning, packing it with ice, then slipping it into his backpack. I started baking pot roasts and cutting him the largest piece. I bought Bengay, put it on his pillow. I set vitamins out for him at breakfast.

And sometimes, yes, I snuck up in my SUV and sat at the edge of the field, behind the goalposts, watching practice.

My son had talent. A lot of talent. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Our residence in a small town played to Kevin’s odds, and being bigger and faster than most of his teammates made up for his inability to block. Coach Grant started him at tackle, then moved him to fullback, then, after noting his ability to twist out of a hold (thanks to years of wrestling for the remote control with his brothers), landed him at tailback.

To my silent glee, my son had the moves of Walter Payton and could dance his way up the field, leaping opponents, breaking tackles, and generally restoring my faith in the Wallace family football gene. I couldn’t wait for the season to start. Finally, I had a Big Lake Trout.

I purchased a season pass. A stadium cushion. A foam finger.

I was the first one in the gates on the day of the season opener. Mike stood on the sidelines next to the requisite ambulance, something that I’d always noted but never fully appreciated until now.

He waved to me as I plopped down my cushion, pulled my red and black stadium blanket over my knees, and wrestled out my digital camera, prepared to capture every moment of my son’s magnificent run to victory. Mike had taken Kevin out for dinner the night before for what I hoped would be a pep talk/strategic-planning session. I wasn’t the only one holding tightly to silent hopes.

“You’re here early.”

I looked up from reviewing shots of Brianna’s college graduation to see Bud Finlaysen greeting me from the field. Bundled in orange hunting coveralls as an undergarment, he wore over the top the shiny black and silver costume of the Big Lake Trout team mascot. Bud had served as the Trout since what I assumed was the dawn of time, or at least the game of football, and we needed him like summer needs lemonade. He and his fish costume comprised the entirety of our cheerleading squad. Our cheerleaders had defected three years prior, and despite the efforts of our paltry pep band, we were woefully lacking in sideline team spirit.

Bud held his headpiece under one arm, the gargantuan mouth gaping open. When worn, his face showed through the open mouth, the enormous fishy eyes googling out from atop his head, a spiky dorsal fin running along his back. He’d shove his hands into two front fins that sparkled with shiny silver material. The costume split at the bottom for his black boots, and a tail dragged behind him like a medieval dragon. Once fitted together, the Big Lake Trout towered nearly eight feet tall, although with the tail, it easily measured over ten. Ten feet of aquatic terror.

“I have a son playing tailback,” I said, holding up my camera and taking a shot of Bud. “Gotta get a good seat.”

Bud laughed. I remembered him from the days when I attended Big Lake High. He worked as the school janitor. Even then he seemed ancient, although he must have been only twenty years or so older than I was. Thin, with kind blue eyes and a hunch in his back, he’d drag his yellow mop bucket around the halls singing Christmas carols, even in May.

“Maybe this will be the year they go to state,” he said, pulling on his giant head. “They’ve got some good players.” He gave me a little wink, as if to suggest Kevin might be one of them.

I smiled, but inside I longed for his words to be true.

State champions. The Super Bowl of high school sports. I could barely think the words.

Bud moved up the field, where he stood at the gate, waiting for the team to pour out onto the field. I waved to friends as the stands filled. In a town of 1,300, a Friday night football game is the hot ticket. A coolness nipped the air, spiced with the bouquet of decaying leaves and someone grilling their last steaks of the season.

The band, a motley crew that took up four rows of seats, assembled. I hummed along as they warmed up with the school fight song.

Town grocer Gil Anderson manned the booth behind me and announced the team. I leaped to my feet in a display of disbelief and joy as the Trouts surged out of the school and onto the playing field.

Each player’s hand connected with one of Bud’s fins on the way to the field.

I spotted Kevin right off, big number 33. He looked enormous with his pads. As he stretched, I noted how lean and strong he’d become over the past six weeks of training. I held my breath as he took the sidelines, wishing for a start for him. To my shock, he took the field after the kickoff, just behind the offensive line.

I’ve never been one to hold back when it comes to football. I cheered my lungs out, pretty sure the team needed my sideline coaching. And when Kevin got the ball and ran it in for a touchdown, I pounded Gretchen Gilstrap on the shoulders in front of me. “That’s my son!”

She gave me a good-natured thumbs-up.

We won the game by two touchdowns and a field goal. As Kevin pulled off his helmet and looked for me in the stands, his blond hair sweaty and plastered to his face, I heard Bud’s words again: “Maybe this will be the year they go to state.”

What is it they always say? Be careful what you wish for?

***

“Amazing run on Friday!”

“I didn’t know your son could play football!”

“Kevin has his father’s moves—I remember when Mike took them all the way to state!”

I love my church. I stood in the foyer, receiving accolades for birthing such a stupendous athlete, smiling now and again at Kevin, who was closing up shop at the sound board that he ran every Sunday. Mike had already gone to get the car—his favorite “giddyap and out of church” maneuver. I still had more compliments to gather.

After all, Kevin had been a ten-pound baby. I get some credit.

I worked my way to the fellowship hall to pick up my empty pan. With eighty members, sixty attendees on a good Sunday, we took turns hosting the midmorning coffee break. I had whipped up a batch of my grandmother’s almond coffee cake.

Pastor Backlund stood by the door, and when I finally reached him, he grinned widely. “Great game, Marianne.”

“Thanks. I’ll tell Kevin you said so.”

“Must be strange to have your youngest be a senior this year.”

I was trying not to think about that, but yes, although I was thrilled to see Kevin move off the sofa and onto the playing field, I was dreading the inevitable quiet that would invade our home next year. I smiled tightly.

“I hope that will leave you more time to get involved at church?” His eyebrow quirked up, as if I’d been somehow delinquent over the past twenty-five years. I was mentally doing the math, summing up just how many years in a row I’d taught Sunday school, when he added, “Would you consider taking on the role of hospitality chairperson?”

“Hey, Mom!” Kevin appeared beside me. “Can I head over to Coach’s for lunch? A bunch of guys are getting together to talk about the game.”

I glanced at him, back to the pastor. “Sure.”

“Perfect,” Kevin said, disappearing out the door.

“Wonderful,” Pastor Backlund said, reaching for his next parishioner.

Mike, now spotting me, leaned on his horn.

I’d have to call the pastor later and politely decline his offer to let me take command of the weekly coffee break, the quarterly potluck, and most importantly, the annual Christmas Tea. The hospitality position came staffed with women decades older than I, who could teach even Martha Stewart a few things about stretching a budget and creating centerpieces. I’d rather lead a camping trip for two hundred toddlers through a mosquito-infested jungle.

“Be back by supper!” I hollered to Kevin as he slid into his friend’s sedan. He didn’t even look back.

I climbed into our SUV next to Mike. His thoughts had already moved on, probably to the training he would attend next weekend. Or maybe just to lunch. We rode home in silence. I noticed how the brilliant greens of the poplar trees had turned brown, the maples to red, the oaks to orange. The wind had already stripped some of the trees naked.

I could admit that my leaves had started to turn. But I wasn’t ready to shed them yet.

I pressed my lips together and silently begged the winter winds to tarry.


Excerpted from The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren. Copyright © 2009 by Susan May Warren. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

From My Reader

Since I have over 400 posts in my reader, I guess now is a good time for a "From My Reader" post. Let's see what's here:
Resource Shelf tells us that Life Magazine Archives are now online.
Frugal Shopping with Julie tells you how to get a year's subscription to Taste of Home for only $4.00.
Other than EWTN, I didn't know there was Catholic TV, but Catholic Mom tells us about a fundraiser for a Catholic TV network
Make Use Of tells us how to search famous museums. They also have a feature about on-line university lectures.
Rich Leonardi has a discussion about Catholic healthcare.
Books & Blogs shares a passage from a book that teaches us to look beyond today, into the future of our family.
Looks like Melody has a new look, and she reviewed a book I'd add to my wishlist except that my TBR stack is already way too big.
Lori at Some of My Favorite Books gave me an award! Thank you!
More cookbooks are about the last thing I need, but this one is full of cookies!
I need to exercise more; I need to pray more. This tells how to combine them. There is also a contest where you can win a copy of the book.
Once a Month cooking can save a lot of time and money, and here a working mom tells how she uses it.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blog Tour: The Great Christmas Bowl



A few weeks ago I reviewed a delighful Christmas novella, The Great Christmas Bowl. Today, I'm going to tell you about some fun the author, Susan May Warren has for all of us.

The Great Christmas Bowl website:
The website features a note from the author, fun updates from Big Lake Gazette, info on how to host your own Great Christmas Bowl Tea to benefit a local ministry or charity and a fun Recipe Exchange contest!

CONTEST: Be a part of the Great Christmas Bowl recipe exchange! Susan loves getting recipes from friends, and sharing the delicious cookies, soups, breads and other fun fixings that go with celebrating the Christmas season. More than that, she loves the crazy stories about favorite Christmases – serious, touching, funny…whatever. Find the recipe contest here:

Will you share your story and recipe with Susan and the readers of the Great Christmas Bowl? She will post your story and recipe on the FRONT PAGE of the Great Christmas Bowl website, and send you a link when it goes up so you can tell all your friends. Then, at the Great Christmas Bowl party (December 5th, 10am, online! Details TBA) she’ll make the entire cookbook available for download!

For every recipe/story you submit (up to 3), you will be entered in a drawing to receive one of SMW’s collections (Noble Legacy, Team Hope, Heirs of Anton, Deep Haven Series, Josey series, or THE ADVANCED COPY of Sons of Thunder – Susie’s brand new epic World War 2 novel, due out in January 2010!)

Go – run, get your recipe, then come back here and click on the link below to share your Christmas memories!

To read what others have to say about the book, check out these blogs:
9/21
Betsy at Writer at Large
Julie at The Surrendered Scribe
Martha at Our Family's Adventures
Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner
Nicole at Gidget Goes Home
Deborah at Comfort Joy
Cathy at Word Vessel

9/22
Melissa at A Weak Rose
Margaret at Creative Madness
Amy at Amy’s Random Thoughts
Mikki at The View From My Beach Chair
Amy at The 160 Acre Woods
Mindy at Ponderings of the Heart

9/23
Stacey at Word Up
Melody at Kids, Cakes, Dishes, Laundry…In That Order
Georgiana at the Crossroads of Faith and Funny
Margaret at The Cappuccino Life
Christa at Christa Allan
Tammy at Grateful in GA
Michelle at From His Heart to Mine

9/24
Sally at Book Critiques
Julie at Mom 2 Ways
Camille at There is a Season
April at Busy Hands, Busy Minds, Busy Feet
Danica at The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite
Kayla at Feet on the Ground


9/25
AnnMarie at More Than Just A Mom
Missy at Incurable Disease of Writing
Stephanie at The Joy Centered Life
Leticia at My Daily Trek
Jill at Christian Work At Home Moms
Sarah at Reborn Butterfly
Jennifer at Rundpinne

9/26
Laura at Lighthouse Academy
Marta at Marta's Meanderings
Kaylea at My Scrappy Life
Diane at Diane’s Place
Andi at Radiant Light
Lisa at Musings


9/28
Lori at Laurel's Reflections
Deborah at Books, Movies and Chinese Food
Kelly at His Helping Hands
Urailak at Living for God
Tammy at Three Different Directions
Christy at Christy's Book Blog


9/29
Erin at Connected to Christ
Jane at Mozi Esmé
Christy at Critty Joy
CeeCee at Book Splurge
Robin at Robin Merril
Rel at Relz Reviewz

9/30
Donna at Write By Faith
Lizzie at A Dusty Frame
Mimi at Mimi's Pixie Corner '
Deena at A Peek at My Bookshelf
Peggy at Sips & Cups Café
Pattie at Fresh Brewed Writer
Amy at My Friend Amy


10/1
Tara at Tara's View on Books
Suzanne at There's No Place Like Home
Pamela at Aunt Pam's Closet
Stephanie at Olive Tree
Lynetta at Open Book
Virginia at Ginny Smith

10/2
Rachelle at Land of My Sojourn
Christi at Christi's Blah, Blah Blog
Revka at Our Family Porch
Christa at Life…One word at a time
Susan at His Morning Glory
Camy at Camy's Loft


10/3
Amy at Girlfriends Get Real
Anna at Vaagen Family
Beth at The Writing Road
Tina at O Joy of My Life
Laura at Laura Willam's Musings


10/27
Lena at A Christian Writer's World

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