Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mailbox Monday

I've definitely made an effort to slow down the package arrivals. This week brought me three books: A Cousin's Prayer for a First Wildcard Tour, which I've already reviewed, Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah, also for a FWC Tour and, via Bookmooch, Debbie Macomber's A Cedar Cove Christmas. What did the mail bring you this week? Stop by Marcia's blog, The Printed Page to see what other folks are getting.

While you are here, enter my giveaway for Cult Insanity, and check out my current posts. Have a great week.

From My Reader

Let's see what goodies are lurking on my Google Reader today:
A blog titled The Religion Teacher had a couple of articles on Catholic schools: Reinventing Catholic Schools and How many Students are Enrolled in Catholic Schools?

Ms. Bookish has her weekly list of book giveaways. Brimful Curiosities has her list of kids' book giveaways.

Make Use Of gives lots of sites where you can get coupons or discount codes.

Make Use Of has links to several flashcard creators. They also have Seven Things to Do When You are Bored. If you get hungry, they have a post about a meal planning website.

I think I'm going to order this for my five year old.

I love pancakes and Joy has recipes.

If you hurry, there is still time to enter giveaways over at Booking with Bingo

Finally, Sarah tells us what she learned on her sabbatical this summer.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cult Insanity: Review and Giveaway

What is life like in a polygamous community? If you want the answer to that question, you want to read Cult Insanity, written by a woman who lived in a polygamous marriage for twenty-eight years, during which she gave birth to thirteen kids. She traces her life from when she was first married through all sorts of violence by the leader of her community. She writes of women driven insane and men who believed they were the prophets of God and above the law.

Hatchette is allowing me to give away five copies of this book. It is subject to the usual Hatchette conditions: US or Canada only, no PO boxes. For your first entry, leave me a comment with your email address. For a second entry, leave me a link to your favorite blog that isn't yours. For a third entry, follow me, and leave me a comment saying you are. For a fourth entry, blog about this contest. For a fifth entry, comment on one of my other posts, and then comment here telling me on which post you left a comment. I'll draw a winner September 21.

A Cousin's Prayer: My Review

The first thing I do when I go to write a book review is to go to Amazon and create the image link above. When I do that, I get to see the sales rank of the book. A Cousin's Prayer had a sales rank of 1511 when I checked. If I understand correctly, that means that only 1511 books sold by Amazon recently sold more copies recently. Considering that some of the books I have read recently have had sales ranks over 100,000, it appears this is one of the most popular books I've read recently.

A Cousin's Prayer is about Katie Miller, an Amish young woman who lives in Indiana. Before this book started, her boyfriend was killed in a van accident. The two of them, along with some friends, were going out-of-town in a van they rented for the day. A bee got in the van, she screamed, the driver looked at her, lost control of the van, and the accident happened. In the same accident, her cousin's fiancee lost his leg and another cousin lost her hearing. Needless to say, she is carrying a lot of guilt and anxiety. Her parents sent her to stay with her grandparents in Florida after the accident. This book starts when they return for her to be an attendant in the wedding of the cousin whose fiancee lost his leg. She starts having anxiety attacks. This story follows her as well as her cousin. Katie is still in love with her dead boyfriend, but starts to have feelings for Freeman, a man she has known since childhood. However, a newcomer to the community has set her cap for Freeman. Who will win his heart?

I've read quite a few of Wanda Brunstetter's books. I read her White Christmas Pie about a year ago. I like Brunstetter's stories, and if you like stories about the Amish, I think you'll like this one too. However, I find her writing to be weak, and I don't really know how to explain why I feel that way. In short, if you are one of those people who will read anything about the Amish, this book should be fine; if not, I'd pass. First Wildcard will tour this book September 28; check back then to read the first chapter.

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 are joining us for the first time, welcome. If you want a weekly reminder to post, please join our yahoo group. You'll only get one email per week.

This week I'd like to call your attention to two of my posts. I reviewed a great book for Eucharistic Adoration, and I'd like to thank the Catholic Company for sending it to me. Speaking of The Catholic Company, they have a website: As the name implies, it is about the Rosary. It not only allows you to purchase all sorts of rosaries as well as books, gifts, audio recordings it also includes articles about the rosary, some of which are written by Sarah, a frequent contributor to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. The URL had been owned by a porn outfit but they let it expire and the Catholic Company bought it. Let's support them in this endeavor.

The other post I'd like to call to your attention is a review/reflection on a book written by an Evangelical about kids leaving the church. I guess some problems are the same on both sides of the street.

I've reviewed a few novels this week, and invite you to look around now that you are here. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week.

Catholic Company Book Review: Fire of God's Love 120 Reflections on the Eucharist

I'd like to thank the Catholic Company for allowing me to review Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist by Mike Aquilina. The book has gone with me to Adoration the last couple of weeks. As the name indicates, it includes 120 short reflections on the mass and/or the Eucharist. Since these reflections were not written for this book by one author, but rather, were written by a variety of saints, Popes, and writers I think it is likely that everyone can find something that appeals to him or her. Those quoted include Maria Montessori, Scott Hahn, Pope Benedict XIV, St. John Chrysostom, Cardinal Avery Dulles and more. The book includes a bibliography so that you can read the source material, if desired. The quotes encourage and challenge, comfort and urge you forward. I'd like to leave you with one:
  • Lose Yourself
    He who comes to Communion loses himself in God, as a drop of water in the ocean. They can be no more separated.
    ---Saint John Vianney

Friday, August 28, 2009

First Wildcard: The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love

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:

Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)


RITA Award–winning Beth Pattillo combines her love of knitting and books in her engaging Sweetgum series. An ordained minister in the Christian Church, Pattillo served churches in Missouri and Tennessee before founding Faith Leader, a spiritual leadership development program. Pattillo is the married mother of two children. She lives and laughs in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073952
ISBN-13: 978-1400073955



Every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah’s Café on the town square. In the past, she would have eaten the diet plate—cottage cheese and a peach half—in solitary splendor. Then she would have returned to her job running the library, just as she’d done for the last forty years.

On this humid September morning, though, Eugenie was meeting someone for lunch—her new husband, Rev. Paul Carson, pastor of the Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie smiled at the thought of Paul waiting for her at the café. They might both be gray haired and near retirement, but happiness was happiness, no matter what age you found it.

Eugenie entered the square from the southeast corner. The Antebellum courthouse anchored the middle, while Kendall’s Department Store occupied the east side to her right. She walked along the south side of the square, past Callahan’s Hardware, the drugstore, and the movie theater, and crossed the street to the café. The good citizens of Sweetgum were already arriving at Tallulah’s for lunch. But Eugenie passed the café, heading up the western side of the square. She had a brief errand to do before she met her husband. Two doors down, she could see the sign for Munden’s Five-and-Dime. Her business there shouldn’t take long.

Before she reached Munden’s, a familiar figure emerged from one of the shops and blocked the sidewalk.

Hazel Emerson. President of the women’s auxiliary at the Sweetgum Christian Church and self-appointed judge and jury of her fellow parishioners.

“Eugenie.” Hazel smiled, but the expression, coupled with her rather prominent eyeteeth, gave her a wolfish look. Hazel was on the heavy side, a bit younger than Eugenie’s own sixty five years, and her hair was dyed an unbecoming shade of mink. Hazel smiled, but there was no pleasantness in it. “Just the person

I wanted to see.”

Eugenie knew better than to let her distaste for the woman show. “Good morning, Hazel,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Distressed, Eugenie. Thoroughly distressed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Eugenie truly was dismayed, but not from worry over Hazel’s discomfort.

“Yes, well, you have the power to calm the waters, ”Hazel said with the same false smile. “In a manner of speaking, at least.”

Since Eugenie’s marriage to Paul only a few weeks before, she’d learned how demanding Hazel could be. The other woman called the parsonage at all hours and appeared in Paul’s office at least once a day. Although Eugenie had known Hazel casually for years, she’d never had to bother with her much. Eugenie couldn’t remember Hazel ever having entered the library.

“How can I help you?” Eugenie said in her best librarian’s voice. She had uttered the phrase countless times over the last forty years and had it down to an art form. Interested but not enmeshed. Solicitous but not overly involved.

“Well, Eugenie, you must know that many people in the church are distressed by your marriage to Paul.”

“Really?” Eugenie kept the pleasant smile on her face and continued to breathe evenly. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh, not me, of course,” Hazel said and pressed a hand to her ample chest. “I’m perfectly delighted. But some people… Well, they have concerns.”

“What concerns would those be?” Eugenie asked with measured calm.

Hazel glanced to the right and to the left, then leaned forward to whisper in a conspiratorial fashion. “Some of them aren’t sure you’re a Christian,” she said. Then she straightened and resumed her normal tone of voice. “As I said, I’m not one of them, but I thought I should tell you. For your own good, but also for Rev. Carson’s.”

“I see.” And Eugenie certainly did, far more than Hazel would guess. Eugenie wasn’t new to small-town gossip. Heaven knew she’d heard her share, and even been the target of some, over the last forty years. She’d known that her marriage to Paul would cause some comments, but she hadn’t expected this blatant response.

“I’m mentioning it because I don’t think it would be difficult to put people’s fears to rest,” Hazel said. Her smug expression needled Eugenie. “I know you’ve been attending worship, and that’s a wonderful start.” Hazel quickly moved from interfering to patronizing. “The women’s auxiliary meets on Tuesday mornings. If you joined us—”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Eugenie answered. She was determined to keep a civil tongue in her head if it killed her. “I have to work.”

“For something this important, I’m sure you could find someone to cover for you.”

Eugenie tightened her grip on her handbag. In an emergency, no doubt she could arrange something. But this wasn’t an emergency. It was manipulation.


“Particularly at this time,” Hazel said, barely stopping for breath. “With all the losses we’ve had in these last few months… Well, our community needs leadership. Our church needs leadership.” She gave Eugenie a meaningful look.

Eugenie paused to consider her words carefully. “It has been a difficult summer,” she began. “Tom Munden’s death was so unexpected, and then to lose Frank Jackson like that. And now, with Nancy St. Clair…”

“So you see why it’s more important than ever that you prove to church members that their pastor hasn’t made a grave mistake.”

“I hardly think that my attending a meeting of the women’s auxiliary will offer much comfort to the grieving.” Nor would it convince anyone of her status as a believer. Those sorts of people weren’t looking for proof. They were looking for Eugenie to grovel for acceptance.

Hazel sniffed. “Don’t be difficult, Eugenie. You’re being unrealistic if you expect people to accept you as a Christian after forty years of never darkening the door of any sanctuary in this town.”

“I’ve always felt that faith is a private matter.” That was the sum of any personal information Eugenie was willing to concede to Hazel. “I prefer to let my actions speak for me.”

“There are rumblings,” Hazel said darkly. “Budget rumblings.”

“What do you mean?”

“People need to have full confidence in their pastor, Eugenie. Otherwise they’re less motivated to support the church financially.”

Eugenie bit her tongue. She couldn’t believe Hazel Emerson was standing here, in the middle of the town square, practicing her own brand of extortion.

“Are you threatening me?” Eugenie asked, incredulous.

Hazel sniffed. “Of course not. Don’t be silly. I’m merely cautioning you. As a Christian and as a friend.”

Eugenie wanted to reply that Hazel didn’t appear to be filling either role very well, but she refrained.

“I’ll take your concerns under advisement,” she said to Hazel with forced pleasantness. “I’m sure you mean them in the kindest possible way.”

“Of course I do. How else would I mean them?”

“How else, indeed?” Eugenie muttered under her breath.

“Well, I won’t keep you.” Hazel nodded. “Have a nice day, Eugenie.”

“You too, Hazel.” The response was automatic and helped Eugenie to cover her true sentiments. She stood in place for a long moment as Hazel moved past her, on her way to stir up trouble in some other quarter, no doubt. Then, with a deep breath, Eugenie forced herself to start moving toward Munden’s Five-and-Dime.

She had known it would be difficult, stepping into this unfamiliar role as a pastor’s wife. Paul had assured her that he had no expectations, that she should do what she felt was right. But Eugenie wondered if he had any idea of the trouble Hazel Emerson was stirring up right under his nose.

True, she hadn’t attended church for forty years. After she and Paul had ended their young romance, she’d blamed God for separating them. If Paul hadn’t felt called to the ministry, if he hadn’t refused to take her with him when he went to seminary, if she hadn’t stubbornly insisted on going with him or ending their relationship…

Last year she and Paul had found each other again, all these decades later, and she’d thought the past behind them. But here it was once more in the person of Hazel Emerson, raising troubling questions. Threatening Paul. Forcing Eugenie to examine issues she’d rather leave unanswered.

As the head of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, Eugenie had taken on responsibility for the well-being of the little group several years before. Since Ruthie Allen, the church secretary, had left for Africa last spring to do volunteer work, the group had experienced a definite void. It was time for an infusion of new blood, and after careful consideration, Eugenie had determined that Maria Munden was just the person the Knit Lit Society needed. What’s more, Maria needed the group too. The recent loss of her father must be quite difficult for her, Eugenie was sure. And so despite having had her feathers ruffled by Hazel Emerson, Eugenie walked into Munden’s Five-and-Dime with a firm purpose.

“Good morning, Maria,” Eugenie called above the whine of the door. For years she’d been after Tom Munden to use a little WD-40 on the hinges, but he had insisted that the noise bothered him less than the idea of a customer entering without him knowing it.

“Eugenie! Hello.” Maria straightened from where she stood slumped over the counter. She had red marks on her forehead from resting her head in her hands, and her nondescript shoulder length brown hair hung on each side of her face in a clump. Eugenie had come at the right time. Maria was in her early thirties, but her father’s death seemed to have aged her ten years.

Maria came around the counter. “What can I help you with today?”

“Oh, I’m not here to buy anything,” Eugenie said, and then she was dismayed when disappointment showed in Maria’s eyes. With the superstores of the world creeping closer and closer to Sweetgum, mom-and-pop shops like Munden’s were living on borrowed time. Even if Tom Munden had lived, the inevitable day when the store closed couldn’t have been avoided.

“What did you need then?” Maria’s tone was polite but strained.

“I have an invitation for you.”

“An invitation?”

Eugenie stood a little straighter. “On behalf of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, I’d like to extend an invitation to you to become a part of the group.”

Maria’s brown eyes were blank for a moment, and then they darkened. “The Knit Lit Society?”

“I can’t think of anyone who would be a better fit.” Eugenie paused. “If you don’t know how to knit, one of us can teach you. And I know you enjoy reading.” Maria was one of the most faithful and frequent patrons of the library. “I think you’d appreciate the discussion.”

Maria said nothing.

“If you’d like some time to think—”

“I’ll do it,” Maria said quickly, as if she didn’t want to give herself time to reconsider. “I know how to knit. You won’t have to teach me.”

“Excellent,” Eugenie said, relieved. “Our meeting is this Friday.”

“Do I have to read something by then?” Lines of doubt wrinkled Maria’s forehead beneath the strands of gray that streaked her hair.

Eugenie shook her head. “I haven’t passed out the reading list for this year. This first meeting will be to get us organized.”

Relief eased the tight lines on her face.

“We meet at the church, of course,” Eugenie continued. “Upstairs, in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room. If you’d like, I can drop by here Friday evening and we can walk over together.”

Maria shook her head. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.” She paused, as if collecting her thoughts, then spoke. “I’m not sure why you asked me to join, Eugenie, but I appreciate it.”

“I’m delighted to have you. The others will be as well. ”Mission accomplished, Eugenie shifted her pocketbook to the other arm. “I’d better be going. I’m meeting Paul for lunch at the café.”

Like most of Sweetgum, with the possible exception of Hazel Emerson, Maria smiled at Eugenie’s mention of her new husband. “Tell the preacher I said hello.” Maria moved to open the door for Eugenie. “I’ll see you at the meeting.”

Eugenie lifted her shoulders and nodded with as much equanimity as she could. After years of being the town spinster, playing the newlywed was a novel experience. She hoped she’d become accustomed to it with time—if she didn’t drive away all of Paul’s parishioners first with her heathen ways.

“Have a nice afternoon,” Eugenie said and slipped out the door, glad that at least one thing that morning had gone as planned.

After Eugenie left, Maria Munden halfheartedly swiped her feather duster at the back-to-school display in the front window. Hot sunshine, amplified by the plate glass, made sweat bead on her forehead. What was the point of dusting the same old collection of binders, backpacks, and two-pocket folders? She’d barely seen a customer all day. She turned from the window and looked around at the neat rows of shelving. The five symmetrical aisles had stood in the same place as long as she could remember.

Aisle one, to the far left, held greeting cards, gift-wrap, stationery, office and school supplies. Aisle two, housewares and paper goods. Aisle three, decorative items. Aisle four, cleaning supplies and detergent. Aisle five had always been her favorite, with its games, puzzles, and coloring books. Across the back wall stretched the sewing notions, yarn, and craft supplies. Everything to outfit a household and its members in one small space. The only problem was, no one wanted small anymore. They wanted variety, bulk, and large economy size with a McDonald’s and a credit union. Not quaint and limited, like the old five-and- dime.

From the counter a few feet away, Maria’s cell phone buzzed, and she sighed. She knew without looking at the display who it would be.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Maria, you have to do something about this.” Her mother never acknowledged the greeting but plunged into a voluble litany of complaints that covered everything from the state of the weather to her older sister Daphne’s management of the farm.

“Mom?” Maria tried to interrupt her mother’s diatribe. “Mom? Look, I’m the only one in the store right now. I’ll have to call you back later.”

“Where’s Stephanie? She was supposed to be there at nine.”

“I don’t know where she is. ”Maria’s younger sister, the baby at twenty-five, was AWOL more often than not.

Maria heard the shop door open with a whine of its hinges, not too different from her mother’s tone of voice. She looked up, expecting to see her younger sister. Instead, a tall, dark-haired man entered the store. He took two steps inside, then stopped. His eyes traveled around the rows of shelves, and his lips twisted in an expression of disapproval. The hairs on Maria’s neck stood on end. The stranger saw her, nodded, and then disappeared down the far aisle, but he was so tall that Maria could track his progress as he moved. He came to a stop in front of the office supplies. Someone from out of town, obviously. Probably a traveling salesman who needed paper clips or legal pads. Maybe a couple of blank CDs or a flash drive. Maria had dealt with his type before.

“Bye, Mom,” she said into the phone before clicking it shut. From experience, she knew it would take her mother several moments before she realized Maria was no longer on the other end of the line. Such discoveries never seemed to faze her mother. She would simply look around the room at home and find Daphne so she could continue her rant. Maria tucked the cell phone under the counter and moved across the store toward the stranger. “May I help you?” Upon closer inspection, she could see that his suit was expensive. So were his haircut, his shoes, and his aftershave.

His head turned toward her, and she felt a little catch in her chest. His dark eyes stared down at her as if she were a lesser mortal approaching a demigod.

“I’m looking for a fountain pen,” he said. He turned back toward the shelves of office supplies and studied them as if attempting to decipher a secret code.

A fountain pen? In Sweetgum? He was definitely from out of town.

“I’m afraid we only have ballpoint or gel.” She waved a hand toward the appropriate shelf. “Would one of these do?”

He looked at her again, one eyebrow arched like the vault of a cathedral. “I need a fountain pen.”

Maria took a calming breath. A sale was a sale, and the customer was always right—her father’s two favorite dictums, drummed into her from the day she was tall enough to see over the counter.

“I’m sorry. Our selection is limited, I know. Which way are you headed? I can direct you to the nearest Wal-Mart. You might find one there.”

At her mention of the chain superstore, the man’s mouth turned down as if she’d just insulted him. “No, thank you. That won’t be necessary.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” she said, practically gritting her teeth. She resisted the urge to grab his arm and hustle him out of the store. Today was not the day to try her patience. In two hours, assuming Stephanie showed up, Maria was going to cross the town square to the lawyer’s office and do the unthinkable. At the moment, she didn’t have time for this man and his supercilious attitude toward Sweetgum.

“I need directions,” he said, eyeing her dubiously, as if he thought she might not be up to the task.

“Well, if you’re looking for someplace nearby, I can tell you where you need to go,” she said without a hint of a smile.

He looked away, as if deliberating whether to accept her offer. Honestly, the man might be extraordinarily good-looking—and wealthy, no doubt—but she would be surprised if he had any friends. He had the social skills of a goat.

The hinges on the door whined again. Maria looked over her shoulder to see another man entering the shop.

“James!” The second man grinned when he caught sight of the stranger at Maria’s side. “You disappeared.” The newcomer was as fair as the first was dark. “We’re late.”

“Yes,” the stranger replied with a continued lack of charm.

“But I needed a pen. ”He snatched a two-pack of ballpoints from the shelf and extended them toward Maria. “I’ll take these.”

Maria bit the inside of her lip and took the package from his hand. “I’ll ring you up at the counter.” She whirled on one heel and walked, spine rigid, to the front of the store.

“Hi.” The second man greeted her with cheery casualness. “Great store. I haven’t seen anything like this in years.”

It was a polite way of saying that Munden’s Five-and-Dime was dated, but Maria appreciated his chivalry. Especially since his friend obviously didn’t have a courteous bone in his body.

“Thank you. ”Maria smiled at him and then stepped behind the counter to ring up the sale on the ancient register. She’d pushed her father for years to computerize their sales—not to mention the inventory—but he’d been perfectly happy with his tried-and-true methods. Unfortunately, while he’d been able to keep track of sales and stock in his head, Maria wasn’t quite so gifted.

The tall man appeared on the other side of the register. “Three dollars and thirty-two cents,” she said, not looking him in the eye.

He reached for his wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. Maria refused to show her frustration. Great. Now he would wipe out all her change, and she’d have to figure out a way to run over to the bank without anyone to watch the store. She completed the transaction and slid the package of pens into a paper bag with the Munden’s logo emblazoned on it.

“Hey, can you recommend a place for lunch?” the blond man asked. He glanced at his watch. “We need a place to eat between meetings.”

“Tallulah’s Café down the block,” Maria said. Even the tall, arrogant stranger wouldn’t be able to find fault with Tallulah’s home cooking. People drove from miles around for her fried chicken, beef stew, and thick, juicy pork chops. “But you might want to go soon. The café gets busy at lunch.”

“Thanks.” His smile could only be described as sunny, and it made Maria feel better. She smiled in response.

“You’re welcome.”

The tall man watched the exchange impassively. Maria hoped he’d be gone from Sweetgum before the sun went down. Big-city folks who came into town dispensing condescension were one of her biggest pet peeves.

“C’mon, James,” the blond man said. “I have a lot of papers to go over.” He nodded toward his friend. “James here thinks I’m crazy to buy so much land in the middle of nowhere.”

Maria froze. It couldn’t be.

“Oh.” She couldn’t think what else to say.

“We’d better go,” the tall man said, glancing at his watch. “Thank you. ”He nodded curtly at Maria, letting her know she’d been dismissed as the inferior creature that she was.

“But I thought you wanted—” Before she could remind him about his request for directions, the two men disappeared out the door, and Maria’s suspicions—not to mention her fears— flooded through her.

She should have put two and two together the moment the first man had walked into the store. A stranger in an expensive suit. In town for a meeting. Looking for a fountain pen to sign things. Normally Maria was good at figuring things out. Like where her father had put the quarterly tax forms and how she and Stephanie could manage the store with just the two of them for employees.

What she hadn’t figured out, though, were the more complex questions. Like how she had come to be a small-town spinster when she hadn’t been aware of time passing. Or how she was going to keep the five-and-dime afloat even as the town’s economy continued to wither on the vine. And she certainly had no idea how she was going to tell her mother and sisters that she, as executrix of her father’s will, was about to sell their farm, and the only home they’d ever known, right out from under them.

“Welcome to Sweetgum,” she said to the empty aisles around her, and then she picked up the feather duster once more.

My review is posted here. This book is also part of a Back-to School tour sponsered by the publisher. The publisher's page regarding this book is here. The short version of the review is that I loved this book.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Already Gone: A Review and More

I'll warn you now that this post is going to ramble, and is not going to be the standard book review. Already Gone is written by a fundamentalist Protestant. He looks at why children raised in "Bible Believing" churches leave, and what can be done both to keep them from leaving and to woo back those who left.

I'm Catholic and one topic often discussed on Catholic blogs is why children leave the Church and what we can do to bring them back. Those on the conservative side of the spectrum generally say that the problem is that these children were never taught about the faith. They complain about weak religious education programs and/or teachers who don't support the Church's teachings. They say that many parishes have lost a sense of the sacred and propose more formality (and better dress) at mass and a return to the use of Latin at mass. They criticize the praise and worship music often used at teen masses and encourage the use of the organ and Gregorian chant. Those on the liberal end say that we need to encourage more liturgical involvement by teens and young adults. Our masses need to be more welcoming. Music needs to be more modern and the Church needs to be more open to the lifestyles of its people. As a middle-of-road parent I am left wonder WHAT I can do to keep my kids in the Church. When this book was offered by First Wildcard, I thought it would be interesting to see what the neighbors had to say about what is evidently a common problem.

For this book, the authors surveyed 1000 young adults who had been raised in what they term "Bible-believing" churches, but who did not currently attend church. They tried to determine how these young adults were alike and different, why they no longer attend church, and if they plan to return. The author's litmus test for "Bible-believing" appeared to be whether the church taught the literal truth of Genesis. He came to the conclusion that these kids were leaving their churches in their minds and hearts long before college. Kids who attended Sunday School regularly were less likely than those who didn't to answer questions such as whether they believed in evolution or whether abortion should be legal in the manner the author considered correct. The survey found that 38% of these unchurched young adults planned to return when they had kids.

The basic conclusions of the authors are that children need to be taught the literal truth of the Bible, especially of Genesis, and that they need to be taught apologetics so they can intellegently refute the messages they are getting at school and in other places that promote evolution. Further, they state that parents can't depend on Sunday Schools to pass on the faith--they have to do it. Interestingly they found it made no difference whether the kids attended public school, private schools or were homeschooled. They say that pastors have to firmly preach about Genesis and make preaching the Word the center of their services (rather than music as is now the fashion in some circles).

I don't claim any great expertise nor have I done the research these folks have done. To me, it seems that part of what they are saying makes sense--if kids aren't taught the truth (however you define "truth") there is little reason to stay with a church that claims to have it, especially if that church's teachings are unpopular in the culture (like the authors' beliefs in the literal truth of Genesis or the Catholic teachings on sexuality). If a church is little more than a neighborhood social club there is little reason IMO to make attendance a priority. On the other hand, this book studied a very distinct set of people--those raised in a particular type of church who now no longer attend any church. I'd be curious how the data would look if you surveyed 1000 random young adults who are not now regular churchgoers. What is their background as far as churchgoing? Are certain denominations or styles of churches that do a better (or worse) job of retaining their youth? Are there certain denominations or styles of churches that tend to make churchgoers out of their youth--but whose youth often choose other types of churches?

The book was interesting, though from my perspective, too much time was spent discussing the necessity of a literal view of Genesis and why it is important. For the record, I do not believe much of Genesis is literally, historically true.

First Wildcard will tour this book October 15. Check back then to read the first chapter.

Contests to Enter!

Brimful Curiosities is giving away OK GO, a book that combines the repitition kids love with a green message.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blog Tour and Review: The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper gives you two stories for the price of one. No, it isn't one of those volumes which has one story at the front, and another than starts halfway through the book; rather, the two stories in one is a writing technique used by the author, Kathleen Y'Barbo. The heroine of the main story, Eugenia, likes to read what were called "dime novels" at the time this story is set, 1880. Dime novels were cheap, plot-driven stories that utilized the same characters over many books. Eugenia's favorites feature a herione, Mae Winslow, who lives in the wild west. Eugenia is a rich New York socialite who is almost engaged to be married to a rich banker, but she craves adventure. Then, just before she is to leave town to spend the summer with relatives in Boston, her new maid tells her that her (the maid's) sister is to leave for Colorado to act as a governess for a little girl. The sister is not happy about this because she is about to be married and this interferes with her plans. Eugenia concocts a scheme whereby she will go to Colorado in the sister's stead, work as a governess for a month, at which time the then married sister and her husband will come to Colorado and Eugenia will return to New York and her normal life.

As things are known to happen in novels, things don't go quite as planned and Eugenia ends up in Colorado without any of her things except the clothes on her back and some money. She ends up falling in front of (and then for) her employer. Other things happen that are about as improbable as the adventures in the dime novels she loves so much and in the end....

As I said, this book is two stories in one. Each chapter begins with part of a dime novel about Mae Winslow. Since there are no credits given, I assume this is a story written by Y'Barbo in the style of a dime novel, rather than a real example thereof. Then the story of Eugenia continues. While a little distracting at times, it was an interesting way of showing what type of story motivated Eugenia's love of adventure.

The book is Christian fiction, but it is one of those I wouldn't put in that category if asked to classify it. While God gets mentioned a time or two, He isn't the focus of the story. There are no conversion scenes, long prayers or sermons.

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper was a fun read and I thank the publisher for sending me a copy for review.
You can learn more, or purchase the book at the publisher's website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blog Tour and Review: Rose House

Rose House is the story of how Lillian Diamon moves through the grief of losing her husband and children in a car accident to embrace a new life. It is set in the wine country of California. It involves a rose-covered cottage, an artist, a mentally challenged photographer, an estranged sister and a bad guy. Lillian has to both accept and move on from the past. She is aided by the keepers of a bed and breakfast, the aunt and uncle who raised her and her sister after their parents were killed in a fire, and the owner of a winery, which includes a rose-covered cottage that is a monument to her grief.
The book is Christian fiction but on the light end of that spectrum. Going to church is mentioned but we don't get long pages of sermons or prayers on every occassion. Rather, people mention God when it is natural to do so.
I was captivated by the book and really felt for Lillian. Somehow though the bad guy end of this story just didn't seem to fit. I don't quite know how to explain it--there were plenty of clues early on that what ends up happening would happen, it didn't come out of the blue, but I guess I was a lot more interested in who Lillian was and how she dealt with the loss of her family than I was in how her family came to be lost. That's about all I can say without a spoiler. Still, I'd recommend this book.
To learn more about the book, and to read an excerpt, check out the publisher's website.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Visions of America: Football

They say baseball is America's pastime, but when I think of a sport that represents communities, that pulls people together, I always think of football. With only one game a week, and with that game on the weekend, "everyone" goes to or watches the game. Maybe its because I like in a town with no major league baseball team and a relatively new basketball team, but I just don't see the Zephyrs and Hornets discussed like the Saints are. LSU has won championships in lots of sports, but it is those BCS Championship posters I see hanging in offices.

My Review: Aurora of the Northern Lights

From Amazon: A Christmas Rhyme Filled with Magic—and St. Nick, Too!
“Aurora of the Northern Lights could become for a new generation what The Night Before Christmas has been before it: a seasonal classic.” - Greg Elliot, author

Named for the Northern Lights, Aurora faces a woeful plight. To many lands she must roam, searching for her true home. Come along as author Holly Hardin conjures a mystical world of adventure, sprites, and magical charms. After losing her parents, little Aurora sets off on her own. Because she’s different, Aurora finds it difficult to find anyone who will listen to her story, even at Christmas time. As her story continues, Aurora receives special gifts to keep her safe and important clues to find her new home.

Follow the journey as Aurora encounters a host of creatures along the way—including one very famous bearded man. What follows in this beautifully illustrated and delightfully written book is a heartwarming story of a home lost and found—and a Christmas lesson for us all.

What I Liked:
  • Aurora of the Northern Lights is written in iambic pentameter, which makes it lots of fun to read aloud.
  • The illustrations were colorful and well done.
  • It has a happy ending.
What I Don't Like:
  • The book has a general "New Age" feel to it. It starts with a romance between Mistletoe and William. They marry on the solstice. They name their baby Aurora. After her parents die, a witch gives her a crystal charm.
  • A young girl is left alone when her parents die, and no one will take her in. All complain that she is different and should go to her own kind
  • When she gets to the North Pole she meets Santa and his elves, one of whom is her grandmother. Why didn't her grandmother know where she was, and why didn't her grandmother go and get her?

I'd like to thank the author, Holly Hardin, for sending me a review copy of this book. I offered it to my five year old before I read it, but after looking at the cover, she said she didn't want it.

Mailbox Monday

My friend Renee sent me a box that contained:
Lizzy & Fredel, about a couple who survived Hitler's concentration camps.
The Castaways, about a group of couples who gather on Nantucket every year
The Friday Night Knitting Club
and Sweetwater Run about a young woman in Kentucky in 1893.

For upcoming blog tours I got A Taste of Fame, which is the first in the Potluck Club series. Now the ladies have a catering service. The authors have also put together a cookbook, and I have a copy of it. I'm going to be sharing a couple of recipies and letting you see the results.

Thanks to our hostess, Marsha at The Printed Page. Stop by and see what other folks got this week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Blogger Awareness Week

Book Blogger Awareness week is the week of September 14-18. One feature is going to be bloggers inteviewing other bloggers. I drew The Bluestocking Review. I'm in the process of writing up interview questions. Go check out her blog and then come back here and leave a comment with any questions you think I should ask her. I'm really looking forward to getting to know her.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Review: Never the Bride

Never the Bride was a different sort of book. Jessie Stone is 35 and wants to be married. We start the book by joining her at a speed dating session. Speed dating in this book involved speaking to a member of the opposite sex for 8 minutes before moving on to the next one. At the end of the night, each left contact info with the manager, along with the names of the people they wanted to get to know better. None of the guys picked her.

Jessie is a control freak and is stuck in a job she hates. She also keeps a journal and over the years she has scripted hundreds of romantic proposals. She just wants someone to propose to her--but he has to be the RIGHT someone. Then one day God starts appearing to her, in the flesh--well almost in the flesh. She can see Him; no one else can. He tells her it is time to let go and let Him write the script. Based on what He says, she quits her job and starts a business scripting and producing romantic proposals for guys who just can't figure out how to make the moment special. Still, she wants a guy for her very own. When God tells her she isn't ready yet, she's insulted. Eventually though....

I was expecting some light silly chick-lit with a little religion thrown in; but this book was highly religious. There was some light and silly, like Jessie telling her business partner sister that if they didn't drum up more business, she'd have to use Cover Girl makeup and Wal-Mart hair products, but somehow to me, having regular audible conversations with God takes it out of the silly category. Jessie is like a lot of us, she wants things on her terms, not on God's and in this book, she didn't get what she wanted until she did things His way. Maybe because of the split personality of the book it wasn't one of my favorites though I did enjoy it.

First Wildcard will tour this book September 7. Check back then to read the first chapter.

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 thier 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. Encourge your readers to join us too.

If you are joining us for the first time, welcome. If you want a weekly reminder to post, please join our yahoo group. You'll only get one email per week.

The closest thing to a Catholic post I had this week was a review of a spy novel, Holy Bullet. The novel dealt with the murder of Pope John Paul I and the attempt on the life of John Paul II.

The Great Christmas Bowl: My Review

The Great Christmas Bowl is a cute seasonal novelette about a the mother of four children. Set in a small Minnesota town, it takes place during the youngest child's senior year in high school. It is the only year this son has played football, and just before the playoffs, the team mascot has a heart attack. She is talked into taking his place (which means wearing a trout costume). It is also the year her husband volunteers her to head the church's hospitality ministry, just before the Christmas Tea, the event that has always been done in just the same way. Of course nothing goes the way she plans, and of course, in the end everything works out for the best. The book includes a few paragraphs about Marianne's Bible study regarding hospitality and what it means, but unless you really hate religion, I don't think it is enough to turn you off to the book. This isn't the great American novel but it is a quick amusing read.

First Wildcard will tour this book September 24. Check back then to read the first chapter and learn about the author, Susan May Warren.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: Bon Appetit

This Christian Chick-lit novel is about what you'd expect from the genre--a quick sweet read, with a splash of romance and some religion thrown in. Lexi is from Seattle and works for a French family-owned bakery. They send her to France for a year to study at a famous culinary school, and to work in their bakery there. She leaves behind Dan, an attorney to whom she is beginning to become attached. While in France she becomes close to Phillipe, one of the owning family, and his young daughter. The resolution of that particular part of the plot has to wait until the next book in the series. We follow Lexi through her year of school and learn a little about French baking. The book even includes a few recipes. Besides French cooking, she learns about France and the French. She makes friends and tries to be a good Christian witness to these French folks who, though nominally Catholic, don't really practice any religion. She works her way through John's Gospel in the book and we read a few of her reflections on it, so I'd say that if religion in a book turns you off, there is probably enough of it here to do that.

First Wildcard will be touring the next book in the series, Piece de Resistance, October 5. I'll post the first chapter and author bio then, but will probably get a review of it up this weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In Case You Thought I Only Have One Child

My little one is just that, the youngest. She's had a lot fewer store-bought portraits than I had taken of the big ones, and a lot more snapshots, due to digital cameras. However, I do sometimes take pictures of the big ones. This picture of my older daughter was taken when we were at the Naval Aircraft Museum in Pensacola this summer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

From My Reader

A book I want to read: Kathryn's Fountain,
Mushroom Wild Rice Bake.
Make Use of has more cool stuff including a randomizer, an online source to read magazines, and a place to report bad drivers.
Make Use Of has an article about Lala, a music download service.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New School Year

My little one started kindergarten this year. She's ready to be a Daisy Girl Scout and today we bought the books. I've never worked with kids that young, so this should be an experience. My older daughter is a freshman this year, but at the same school she has attended since sixth grade. This nine weeks she has two teachers she has had before and two who are new to her. Hopefully the study skills class she took this summer made its point. My son said they classified him as a junior. He'll finish in December next year, so that's right (but they sent us senior class stuff all summer--I told him we'd do all that next year). He got his schedule yesterday. They gave him two regular ed classes, adaptive PE and resource this semester and the same (different regular ed classes) next semester. He's ready to be done, but otherwise things went ok.

Trip to the Aquarium

My little one started kindergarten yesterday, along with half her class. The other half started today, and she is off. We went to the aquarium and IMAX and had a nice time.

First Wildcard: Blue Enchantress

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 Blue Enchantress

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)


M.L. Tyndall, a Christy Award Finalist, and best-selling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in Math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601577
ISBN-13: 978-1602601574


The Blue Enchantress by M.L. Tyndall
Chapter 1

St. Kitts, September 1718

“Gentlemen, what will ye offer for this rare treasure of a lady?” The words crashed over Hope Westcott like bilge water. “Why, she’ll make any of ye a fine wife, a cook, a housemaid”—the man gave a lascivious chuckle—“whate’er ye desire.”

“How ’bout someone to warm me bed at night,” one man bellowed, and a cacophony of chortles gurgled through the air.

Hope slammed her eyes shut against the mob of men who pressed on three sides of the tall wooden platform, shoving one another to get a better peek at her. Something crawled over her foot, and she pried her eyes open, keeping her face lowered. A black spider skittered away. Red scrapes and bruises marred her bare feet. When had she lost her satin shoes—the gold braided ones she’d worn to impress Lord Falkland? She couldn’t recall.

“What d’ye say? How much for this fine young lady?” The man grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back. Pain, like a dozen claws, pierced her skull. “She’s a handsome one, to be sure. And these golden locks.” He attempted to slide his fingers through her matted strands, but before becoming hopelessly entangled in them, he jerked his hand free, wrenching out a clump of her hair. Hope winced. “Have ye seen the likes of them?”

Ribald whistles and groans of agreement spewed over her.

“Two shillings,” one man yelled.

Hope dared to glance across the throng amassing before the auction block. A wild sea of lustful eyes sprayed over her. A band of men dressed in garments stained with dirt and sweat bunched toward the front, yelling out bids. Behind them, other men in velvet waistcoats leaned their heads together, no doubt to discuss the value of this recent offering, while studying her as if she were a breeding mare. Slaves knelt in the dirt along the outskirts of the mob, waiting for their masters. Beyond them, a row of wooden buildings stretched in either direction. Brazen women emerged from a tavern and draped themselves over the railings, watching Hope’s predicament with interest. On the street, ladies in modish gowns averted their eyes as they tugged the men on their arms from the sordid scene.

Hope lowered her head. This can’t be happening. I’m dreaming. I am still on the ship. Just a nightmare. Only a nightmare. Humiliation swept over her with an ever-rising dread as the reality of her situation blasted its way through her mind.

She swallowed hard and tried to drown out the grunts and salacious insults tossed her way by the bartering rabble. Perhaps if she couldn’t hear them, if she couldn’t see them, they would disappear and she would wake up back home, safe in Charles Towne, safe in her bedchamber, safe with her sisters, just like she was before she’d put her trust in a man who betrayed her.

“Egad, man. Two shillings, is it? For this beauty?” The auctioneer spit off to the side. The yellowish glob landed on Hope’s skirt. Her heart felt as though it had liquefied into an equally offensive blob and oozed down beside it.

How did I get here? In her terror, she could not remember. She raised her gaze to the auctioneer. Cold eyes, hard like marbles, met hers, and a sinister grin twisted his lips. He adjusted his tricorn to further shade his chubby face from the burning sun.

“She looks too feeble for any real work,” another man yelled.

The sounds of the crowd dimmed. The men’s fists forged into the air as if pushing through mud. Garbled laughter drained from their yellow-toothed mouths like molasses. Hope’s heart beat slower, and she wished for death.

The gentle lap of waves caressed her ears, their peaceful cadence drawing her away. Tearing her gaze from the nightmarish spectacle, she glanced over her shoulder, past the muscled henchmen who’d escorted her here. Two docks jutted out into a small bay brimming with sparkling turquoise water where several ships rocked back and forth as if shaking their heads at her in pity. Salt and papaya and sun combined in a pleasant aroma that lured her mind away from her present horror.

Her eyes locked upon the glimmering red and gold figurine of Ares at the bow of Lord Falkland’s ship. She blinked back the burning behind her eyes. When she’d boarded it nigh a week past—or was it two weeks—all her hopes and dreams had boarded with her. Somewhere along the way, they had been cast into the depths of the sea. She only wished she had joined them. Although the ship gleamed majestically in the bay, all she had seen of it for weeks had been the four walls of a small cabin below deck.

The roar of the crowd wrenched her mind back to the present and turned her face forward.

“Five shillings.”

“’Tis robbery, and ye know it,” the auctioneer barked. “Where are any of ye clods goin’ t’ find a real lady like this?”

A stream of perspiration raced down Hope’s back as if seeking escape. But there was no escape. She was about to be sold as a slave, a harlot to one of these cruel and prurient taskmasters. A fate worse than death. A fate her sister had fought hard to keep her from. A fate Hope had brought upon herself. Numbness crept over her even as her eyes filled with tears. Oh God. This can’t be happening.

She gazed upward at the blue sky dusted with thick clouds, hoping for some deliverance, some sign that God had not abandoned her.

The men continued to haggle, their voices booming louder and louder, grating over her like the howls of demons.

Her head felt like it had detached from her body and was floating up to join the clouds. Palm trees danced in the light breeze coming off the bay. Their tall trunks and fronds formed an oscillating blur of green and brown. The buildings, the mob, and the whole heinous scene joined the growing mass and began twirling around Hope. Her legs turned to jelly, and she toppled to the platform.

“Get up!” A sharp crack stung her cheek. Two hands like rough rope clamped over her arms and dragged her to her feet. Pain lanced through her right foot where a splinter had found a home. Holding a hand to her stinging face, Hope sobbed.

The henchman released her with a grunt of disgust.

“I told ye she won’t last a week,” one burly man shouted.

“She ain’t good for nothing but to look at.”

Planting a strained grin upon his lips, the auctioneer swatted her rear end. “Aye, but she’s much more stout than she appears, gentlemen.”

Horrified and no longer caring about the repercussions, Hope slapped the man’s face. He raised his fist, and she cowered. The crowd roared its mirth.

“One pound, then,” a tall man sporting a white wig called out. “I could use me a pretty wench.” Withdrawing a handkerchief, he dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead.

Wench. Slave. Hope shook her head, trying to force herself to accept what her mind kept trying to deny. A sudden surge of courage, based on naught but her instinct to survive, stiffened her spine. She thrust out her chin and faced the auctioneer. “I beg your pardon, sir. There’s been a mistake. I am no slave.”

“Indeed?” He cocked one brow and gave her a patronizing smirk.

Hope searched the horde for a sympathetic face—just one. “My name is Miss Hope Westcott,” she shouted. “My father is Admiral Henry Westcott. I live in Charles Towne with my two sisters.”

“And I’m King George,” a farmer howled, slapping his knee.

“My father will pay handsomely for my safe return.” Hope scanned the leering faces. Not one. Not one look of sympathy or belief or kindness. Fear crawled up her throat. She stomped her foot, sending a shard of pain up her leg. “You must believe me,” she sobbed. “I don’t belong here.”

Ignoring the laughter, Hope spotted a purple plume fluttering in the breeze atop a gold-trimmed hat in the distance. “Arthur!” She darted for the stairs but two hands grabbed her from behind and held her in place. “Don’t leave me! Lord Falkland!” She struggled in her captor’s grasp. His grip tightened, sending a throbbing ache across her back.

Swerving about, Lord Falkland tapped his cane into the dirt and tipped the brim of his hat up, but the distance between them forbade Hope a vision of his expression.

“Tell them who I am, Arthur. Please save me!”

He leaned toward the woman beside him and said something, then coughed into his hand. What is he doing? The man who once professed an undying love for Hope, the man who promised to marry her, to love her forever, the man who bore the responsibility for her being here in the first place. How could he stand there and do nothing while she met such a hideous fate?

The elegant lady beside him turned her nose up at Hope, then, threading her arm through Lord Falkland’s, she wheeled him around and pulled him down the road.

Hope watched him leave, and with each step of his cordovan boots, her heart and her very soul sank deeper into the wood of the auction block beneath her feet.

Nothing made any sense. Had the world gone completely mad?

“Two pounds,” a corpulent man in the back roared.

A memory flashed through Hope’s mind as she gazed across the band of men. A vision of African slaves, women and children, being auctioned off in Charles Towne. How many times had she passed by, ignoring them, uncaring, unconcerned by the proceedings?

Was this God’s way of repaying her for her selfishness, her lack of charity?

“Five pounds.”

Disappointed curses rumbled among the men at the front, who had obviously reached their limit of coin.

The auctioneer’s mouth spread wide, greed dripping from its corners. “Five pounds, gentlemen. Do I hear six for this lovely lady?”

A blast of hot air rolled over Hope, stealing her breath. Human sweat, fish, and horse manure filled her nose and saturated her skin. The unforgiving sun beat a hot hammer atop her head until she felt she would ignite into a burning torch at any moment. Indeed, she prayed she would. Better to be reduced to a pile of ashes than endure what the future held for her.

“Six pounds,” a short man with a round belly and stiff brown wig yelled from the back of the mob in a tone that indicated he knew what he was doing and had no intention of losing his prize. Decked in the a fine damask waistcoat, silk breeches, and a gold-chained pocket watch, which he kept snapping open and shut, he exuded wealth and power from his pores.

Hope’s stomach twisted into a vicious knot, and she clutched her throat to keep from heaving whatever shred of moisture remained in her empty stomach.

The auctioneer gaped at her, obviously shocked she could command such a price. Rumblings overtook the crowd as the short man pushed his way through to claim his prize. The closer he came, the faster Hope’s chest heaved and the lighter her head became. Blood pounded in her ears, drowning out the groans of the mob. No, God. No.

“Do I hear seven?” the auctioneer bellowed. “She’s young and will breed you some fine sons.”

“Just what I’ll be needing.” The man halted at the platform, glanced over the crowd for any possible competitors, then took the stairs to Hope’s right. He halted beside her too close for propriety’s sake and assailed her with the stench of lard and tobacco. A long purple scar crossed his bloated, red face as his eyes grazed over her like a stallion on a breeding mare. Hope shuddered and gasped for a breath of air. Her palms broke out in a sweat, and she rubbed them on her already moist gown.

The auctioneer threw a hand to his hip and gazed over the crowd.

The man squeezed her arms, and Hope snapped from his grasp and took a step back, abhorred at his audacity. He chuckled. “Not much muscle on her, but she’s got pluck.”

He belched, placed his watch back into the fob pocket of his breeches, and removed a leather pouch from his belt. “Six pounds it is.”

The silver tip of a sword hung at his side. If Hope were quick about it, perhaps she could grab it and, with some luck, fight her way out of here. She clenched her teeth. Who was she trying to fool? Where was her pirate sister when she needed her? Surely Faith would know exactly what to do. Yet what did it matter? Hope would rather die trying to escape than become this loathsome man’s slave.

As the man counted out the coins into the auctioneer’s greedy hands, Hope reached for the sword.

Monday, August 17, 2009

From My Reader

Today I have an eclectic group of links for you: recommended Criticker, a movie recommendation site.
To prepare your kids (or yourself) for mass next week, Catholic Mom has series of coloring pages and worksheets.
I've heard there are people who are looking for something to read. While I can't relate, given my large TBR stacks, if you are one of them, MakeUseOf has a post about sites that recommend books.
I emailed my son this site about Tips for Gamers.
Afraid to turn your kids loose on YouTube, but want to let them watch videos online? Check out this Research Buzz article on a video site for kids.
I don't mind paying more to get more, but I hate paying more than I have to for a particular item. If you want to know the cheapest place to download a song, try this site.
I'm not a movie watcher, but if you are, you may like this site where you can search for movies you can watch online.

Mailbox Monday

Marica at the Printed Page hosts this weekly meme where book bloggers tell you what showed up in their mailboxes. Stop by and check out some new (and old) blogs.
The summer deluge of books is starting to slow, which is a good thing since school starts today and my reading time will now be interrupted by reading to my little one and helping the big ones with homework. I got these books this week: Piece de Resistance, which is the third book in a series about a young American woman who becomes a French chef. I have the second, Bon Appetit sitting in my room; guess its time to move it closer to the top of the stack. Piece de Resistance is for a First Wildcard tour. I got two other books via First Wildcard: The Great Christmas Bowl which is about one mother's hilarious quest to serve up the perfect holiday and Cottonwood Whispers which is a sequel to Fireflies in December. The nice folks at Hatchette sent me Cult Insanity which is about polygamists. From the Catholic Company I got Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist, which went with me to adoration Friday nite.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Holy Bullet: My Review

I got my review copy of this book from Goodreads' program. I don't usually read thrillers and spy stories so maybe that's why I don't "get" this book, but I don't. Basically, this is the story of a bunch of spies, intelligence agencies, and operatives, all of whom are working together and apart to make sure what is secret stays secret. There were no real good guys and while I think there was one bad guy on whom everything could be blamed, at the end of the book my general thought was "all that trouble, all those deaths, for THAT?"

I found the book difficult to read. There were chapters set in the present day, some in the 1980's, some in other years. The non-current chapters were generally dated. There were a lot of characters and it was hard to remember who was who and with whom. Perhaps if spy thrillers are a favorite genre for you, your opinion of this book would be different from mine, but I was disappointed in this book. I like things nicely wrapped up--a reason for the mayhem if you would, and I didn't get that.

From Amazon: An international journalist, a war-weary Portuguese veteran, a Muslim with visions of the Virgin MAry, a rogue priest, and members of the world's most pwoerful--and secretive--organizations come together after the suspicous death of Pope John Paul I. A few operatives bold enough to penetrate the Vatican's shadowy inner circle will investigate what went wrong--and try to prevent the popular new pope from meeting the same fate.

In London, journalist Sarah Monteiro is again drawn into the web of international conspiracy, and must reunite--reluctantly--with the mysterious priest/assassin Rafael, and the sinister mastermind known only as JC. Sarah's and Rafael's commitment to truth and justice could prove to be extremely dangerous, for thema nd for John Paul II, especially if they discover the true power behind the papal throne. Author Bio:Luis Miguel Rocha was born in Oporto, Portugal, and worked for many years in London as a television writer and producer.

Blog Tour and Review: The Believer

Somewhere, once upon a time, I happened onto a book about the Shakers, a religious sect that prospered during the 1800's. As was my habit, I then went looking for more information about them (so no, research is not a new interest, the internet has just changed how I do it). I found that the Shakers were an Anabaptist sect founded by an Englishwoman who had suffered through an unhappy marriage and had lost four babies. She believed she was the second coming of Christ and that God had told her that the believers were to live together communally, in celibacy. While they had a formal name, they were known as Shakers (or Shaking Quakers) because of their mode of worship, which was to perform what we'd now probably call line dances to religious music. While never huge, the group grew to several large colonies before it started to decline. One thing for which the Shakers were known was not turning away people in need. One way they grew or replenished their numbers was to take in orphans.

With that as background, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out the end of the story when the cover shows a young man and young woman making eyes at each other. However, the story itself was interesting, and gives what my memory of my long-ago research says is a pretty accurate depiction of Shaker life. Ethan, the hero, was kidnapped by his father from the home where is dying mother left him. He escapes from his father and is found and taken in by the Shakers. He finds a surrogate father in one of the men and sees no reason to leave the life in which he has grown up. Elizabeth, the heroine, seeks out the Shakers as sanctuary when her widowed father dies leaving her with two younger siblings and a very aggressive and unwanted suitor. Her father had told her about some seeds he purchased from the Shakers and had mentioned that they didn't turn anyone away. She and her sister have difficulty adjusting to Shaker life, and Ethan starts questioning it when, for the first time, he feels desire for a woman. The suitor she is trying to avoid is the bad guy in the book and yes, everything works out for the best.

Ann Gabhart does a good job of working Shaker customs and beliefs into the story. She shows the characters as human; some good, some less than so. She points out both the advantages of communal living Shaker-style, and the disadvantages. In short, this may not be the great American novel, but it is an interesting enjoyable easy read.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

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