Saturday, October 31, 2009

Don't Forget to Enter My Giveaways--Sticky Post

Don't forget to enter my giveaways!
Can God Be Trusted by Father Thomas Williams. Winner will be selected on All Saints Day
Cheating Death by Sanjay Gupta, MD. Winner will be selected on Halloween.
Permission Slips by Sherri Shepherd. Winner will be selected November 10.

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.

No real "Catholic" posts from me this week, but I invite you to poke around a little while you are here, I did review a few books. This mom will especially refer you to a picture of my youngest, who won the costume contest at school. Oh, and don't forget to enter my giveaway for Can God Be Trusted. I'll draw a winner sometime after 6 p.m. tomorrow. You have to go there to enter, but if you participate in Sunday Snippets, you meet a requirement to enter. You can enter weekly, so get your entries in! Hatchette likes to give these books away!

Thanks for participating, and have a great week!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Winner!

Tonite was Trunk n Treat at my youngest's school. Even though it rained, turning it into "collect candy at decorated tables", a good time was had by all. For a costume, I planned to send her to the large box of dress-up clothes to assemble some sort of princess or dancer garb. However, when we got home from school this afternoon, she went into the room she shares with her sister and put on her sister's candy corn witch costume. Her sister had planned to purchase the teen version, but when she got to Party City, all that was left was the adult version. My husband asked her what the difference was, and she replied "This one is shorter, I'll have to wear leggins under it. Smart girl. My teen daughter looked cute when she wore it for a Girl Scout party Monday nite, even with leggins, but when the little one came out in it this afternoon, was was adoreable.

The bag in which it came showed the model wearing very high heeled black shoes, so my little one thought SHE should have high heeled shoes. She wore my sensible black work shoes, which for her WERE high heels. Lots of folks tonite said that the shoes made that costume. Well, something must have "made" it because she won the costume contest and won a pumpkin full of candy (like she didn't collect enough in her own pumpkin, right?).

I have to admit, I think she's pretty special.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bear Portraits: My Review

I'm used to taking babies to the photographer to have portraits made, but the only bears I've tried it with have been teddy bears. In Bear Portraits, Jill Greenberg photographed "working" bears in a variety of poses and captured some expressions that almost make them look human. Scattered throughout the book are short quotes about bears from sources as diverse as Swedish proverbs and Homer Simpson. This book should be a winner tomorrow with my daughter's kindergarten class--they are having Teddy Bear Tea and all the kids get to bring Teddy Bears to school. Now they can look at pictures of real bears, though the settings are not real. These are obviously studio portraits. Still, for a bear lover, this would be a beautiful gift.

About the Author:

Jill Greenberg regularly shoots advertising and celebrity portrait photography for such clients as Dreamworks, Sony Pictures, HBO, Bacardi, Rolling Stone, Time and Newsweek. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and began her career in New York City. Jill now resides in Los Angeles with her husband Robert and children.

Thanks to Hatchette for sending me a complimentary review copy.

To Purchase from Amazon: Bear Portraits

My Review: One Hundred Butterflies

Pretty isn't it? One Hundred Butterflies is a beautiful photo book filled with pictures guessed it, butterflies and moths. The are all photographed on a black background, which really makes their colors "pop". What I found really interesting is now different some of them look on the top and on the bottom. Each photo is labeled with the name of the butterfly or moth as well as where it lives. Scattered through the book are a few literary quotes about butterflies and the center has a three page excerpt from Cecil's Books of Natural History, a 1881 book. My five year old enjoyed looking at it, and she had an audience over her shoulder while she did. I think everyone is fascinated by these beautiful insects.

To order from Amazon: One Hundred Butterflies

About Author
Harold Feinstein's distinguished career in photography began in 1950, when Edward Steichen purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and exhibited it frequently during his tenure there. Feinstein's photographs have also been exhibited by and represented in the collections of the International Center of Photography, the George Eastman House, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Musie d'Art Moderne in Paris. His work has appeared in such periodicals as Life, Audubon, Connoisseur, and Popular Photography. He is the author of 100 Flowers, Foliage, The Infinite Rose, and The Infinite Tulip. Feinstein lives in Merrimac, Massachusetts.

Thanks to Hatchette for providing me a complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jack Daniel's Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook by Lynne Tolley and Pat Mitchamore: My Review

I like cookbooks, but find they are often divided into two types: 1) "Kitchen Porn"--those with pretty pictures of fantastic food that are utterly impractical for the average family or 2) Basic cookbooks filled with the kind of food real people cook, but not many pretty pictures. Jack Daniel's Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook is one that transcends those categories. It is an attractive, photo-filled book with recipes that real people actually make. However, most of the photos are of the people and places in Tennessee, not of the food in the book. There are chapters on Drinks, Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Vegetables, Breads, Entrees, Outdoor Cooking, Desserts and Cakes & Pies. Given the name of the book, it should come as no surprise that many of the recipes contain Jack Daniel's whiskey; however not all do.

In general the recipes are short and contain ingredients found in most kitchens. I'll share two with you--one with Jack, the other without.

Mashed Potato Casserole (page 71):

6 medium potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400. Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain and mash. Add onion, sour cream and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into greased 1.5 quart casserole. Sprinkle with bread crumbs dot with butter. Bake until brown.

Pineapple a la Jack Daniel (page 36)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Jack Daniel's Whiskey
2 fresh pineapples, cut into cubes

Bring sugar and water to boil, simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Add Jack Daniels Whiskey. Pour over pineapple cubes and chill for a few hours in the refrigerator.

I can hardly wait to start cooking some of this food!

Thanks to the Thomas Nelson Book Review Program for providing a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

To purchase from Amazon: Jack Daniel's Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook

Thomas Nelson Product Page

Note: The cover of my book does not look like that shown above; mine resembles the Jack Daniel's label.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Wildcard: Double Cross

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:

Double Cross

B&H Books (October 1, 2009)

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


James David Jordan is a business attorney in Texas and was named by the Dallas Business Journal as one of the most influential leaders in that legal community. He holds a journalism degree from the University
of Missouri as well as a law degree and MBA from the University of Illinois and lives with his wife and two children in the Dallas suburbs.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447547
ISBN-13: 978-0805447545


The day my mother came back into my life began with a low December fog and a suicide. Mom was not responsible for the fog.

I hadn’t seen her for twenty years, and the idea that she might show up at my door was the farthest thing from my mind on a Thursday morning, a few weeks before Christmas, when the music alarm practically blasted me off my bed. With the Foo Fighters wailing in my ear, I burrowed into my pillow and tried to wrap it around my head. I rolled onto my side and slapped the snooze bar, but smacked the plastic so hard that it snapped in two, locking in another minute and a half of throbbing base before I could yank the cord from the wall socket. It wasn’t until my toes touched the hardwood floor and curled up against the cold that I remembered why I was waking up at five-forty-five in the first place. Kacey Mason and I were meeting Elise Hovden at eight o’clock in a suburb northwest of Dallas. We would give her one chance to explain why

nearly half a million dollars was missing from Simon Mason World Ministries. If she couldn’t, our next stop would be the Dallas police.

Since Simon Mason’s murder earlier that year, I’d been living in his house with Kacey, his twenty-year-old daughter. I had promised to watch out for her if anything happened to him. It wasn’t a sacrifice. By that time Kacey and I were already so close that we finished each other’s sentences. I needed her as much as she needed me.

I slid my feet into my slippers and padded down the hall toward Kacey’s door. Chill bumps spread down my thighs in a wave, and I wished I’d worn my flannel pajama bottoms to bed under my Texas Rangers baseball jersey. Rather than turning back to my room to grab my robe, I decided to gut it out. I bent over and gave my legs a rub, but I knew they wouldn’t be warm again until I was standing next to the space heater in the bathroom.

I pressed my ear to Kacey’s door. The shower was humming. Of course she was awake. Had there ever been a more responsible college kid? Sometimes I wished she would let things go,

do something wild. For her, that would probably mean not flossing before going to bed. If hyper-responsibility got her through the day, I supposed it was fine with me. After all, she was a markedly better person than I had been at her age.

By the time I met her father I was twenty-nine, and thanks to a decade of too much alcohol and too many useless men, I was dropping like a rock. But Simon Mason caught me and held me

in place for a while, just long enough to give me hope. Then he did what he had to do, and he died for it. Some things are more important than living. He and Dad both taught me that. So now I was changing. To be accurate, I would say I was a work in progress. I hadn’t had a drink since before Simon died, and I’d sworn off men completely, albeit temporarily. Frankly, the latter was not much of a sacrifice. It wasn’t as if a crowd of guys had been beating a path to my door. I simply figured there was no use getting back into men until I was confident the drinking was under control. One thing I had demonstrated repeatedly in my life was that drinking and men just didn’t go together—at least not for me.

As for Kacey, after everything she’d been through, it was amazing she hadn’t folded herself into a fetal ball and quit the world for a while. Instead, she just kept plugging along, putting one foot in front of the other. I was content to step gingerly behind her, my toes sinking into her footprints. She was a good person to follow. She had something I’d never been known for: Kacey had character.

I shook my head. I was not going to start the day by kicking myself. I’d done enough of that. Besides, I no longer thought I had to be perfect. If a good man like Simon Mason could mess

things up and find a way to go on, then so could I. Even in his world—a much more spiritual one than mine—perfection was not required. He made a point of teaching me that.

I closed my eyes and pictured Simon: his shiny bald head, his leanly muscled chest, his brilliant, warming smile. As I thought of that smile, I smiled, too, but it didn’t last long. Within seconds the muscles tightened in my neck. I massaged my temples and tried to clear my thoughts. Soon, though, I was pressing my fingers so hard into my scalp that pain radiated from behind my eyes.

If only he had listened. But he couldn’t. He wanted to die. No matter how much he denied it, we both knew it was true. After what he had done, he couldn’t live with himself. So he found the only available escape hatch. He went to preach in a place where his death was nearly certain.

I lowered my hands and clenched them, then caught myself and relaxed. This was no good. It was too late. Not this morning, Taylor. You’re not going to think about Simon today. I took a deep breath and ran my fingers back through my hair, straightening the auburn waves for an instant before they sprang stubbornly back into place. Today’s worries are enough for today. That was the mantra of the alcohol recovery program at Simon’s church. It was from the Bible, but I couldn’t say where. To be honest, I didn’t pay attention as closely as I should. Regardless of origin, it was a philosophy that had worked for my drinking—at least so far. Maybe it had broader application: Focus on the task at hand and let yesterday and tomorrow take care of themselves.

At the moment, the first priority was to get the coffee going. I started down the hall.

When I turned the corner into the kitchen, I could see that Kacey had already been there. The coffee maker light was on, illuminating a wedge of countertop next to the refrigerator. In the red glow of the tiny bulb, the machine chugged and puffed like a miniature locomotive. Two stainless steel decanters with screw-on plastic lids waited next to the ceramic coffee jar, and

the smell of strong, black coffee drifted across the room. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and pictured the cheese Danish we would pick up at the corner bakery on our way out of our neighborhood. That was plenty of incentive to get moving. I headed back down the hall.

When I reached the bathroom I flipped on the light, closed the door, and hit the switch on the floor heater. I positioned it so it blew directly on my legs. Within a minute the chill bumps were retreating. I braced my hands on the edge of the sink, leaned forward, and squinted into the mirror. Glaring back at me was a message I had written in red lipstick the night before: Start the coffee!

I wiped the words off with a hand towel and peered into the mirror again. A tangled strand of hair dangled in front of one eye. I pushed it away, blinked hard, and studied my face. No lines, no bags, no creases—no runs, no hits, no errors, as Dad used to say. I was beginning to believe the whole clean living thing. Zero liquor and a good night’s sleep worked like a tonic for the skin.

It was tough to stay on the wagon after Simon’s death. I had never been an every-day drinker. My problem was binge drinking. With all that had happened during the past six months, the temptations had been frequent and strong, but I was gradually getting used to life on the dry side of a bourbon bottle. There was much to be said for routine. Maybe that’s why dogs are so happy when they’re on a schedule. When everything happens the same way and at the same time each day, there’s not much room for angst.

On second thought, the dog analogy didn’t thrill me. I pulled the Rangers jersey over my head, tossed it on the floor, and turned to look in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Standing in nothing but my bikini panties, I rocked onto the toes of one foot, then the other. My long legs were still lean and athletic. Fitness was something Dad had always emphasized—fitness and self-defense. There were times when I had hated him for it, but now I was glad for the benefits. It would be years before I had to worry about really showing age. I might have lived harder than most twenty-nine year olds, but I could still turn heads in a crowded room. No, the dog analogy was not appropriate. I had plenty of issues, but I was no dog. At least not yet.

I turned on the water and cupped my hands beneath the faucet. It was time to wake up and plan what we would say to Elise. After splashing my face and patting it with a towel, I turned around, leaned back against the countertop, and crossed my arms. I caught a whiff of the lavender cologne I’d taken to spraying on my wrists before bed. The Internet said it would soothe me into peaceful slumber. For fifty dollars an ounce, it should have brought me warm milk and rocked me to sleep. I tried to recall how I’d slept the past few nights, then caught myself. I was just looking for ways to waste time. I needed to focus. The issue at hand was Elise.

Simon informed me about the missing money just before he left for Beirut. His former accountant, Brandon, had confronted him about it, thinking that Simon had been skimming. Simon wanted someone to know that he hadn’t done it, someone who could tell Kacey that her dad was not a thief. That’s why he told me. In case he didn’t come back. And as the whole world knew, he didn’t come back.

Elise was the obvious person for the board of directors to choose to wind up the business of Simon’s ministry. She had been his top assistant for years. When I told Kacey about the missing money, though, she bypassed Elise and went directly to the board to demand an audit—impressive gumption for a twenty year old. It didn’t take the auditors long to confirm that Simon had nothing to do with the missing money.

The accountants concluded that the board had assigned the cat to clean the birdcage. Elise had set up dummy vendor accounts at banks around the country in a classic embezzlement scam. Simon’s ministries had major construction projects going, and Elise issued bogus contractor invoices to Simon

Mason World Ministries from fake businesses with P.O. box addresses that she controlled. When the ministry mailed the payments, she picked up the checks from the post office boxes and deposited them in the bank accounts. Who knows where the money went from there?

The ministry had grown so quickly during the years before Simon’s death—and Simon was so trusting—that controls were lax. When the invoices came in, the payables department

paid them without question. By now the money was probably stuffed under a mattress in some tropical paradise. That was another thing I intended to pursue with Elise. She had developed a great tan.

Before I stepped into the shower, I wrapped myself in a towel and went back into the bedroom. I pulled my Sig Sauer .357 out of my purse and checked the magazine. It was full. I slipped the pistol into the inside pocket of my purse. Elise didn’t strike me as the type to get violent, but people did weird things when backed into a corner. If I’d learned anything during my time in the Secret Service, it was to hope for the best—and prepare for the worst.
Click here to read my review.

Mailbox Monday

Well, I spent another week keeping the mailman (and UPS man) in business. I got two children's books from the authors, via Bostick:
Jack's Dreams Come To Life is a cute book about animals. My review is here.

The Laceyville Monkeys is another children's book. I really liked it, and I think my five year old did too. We'll have to see how often it gets re-read. Here is my review.

Sanctuary is a love story set during the Balkan war in the late 1990's.

I like cookbooks and I love chocolate. Is it any wonder that I wanted this one? Hatchette must have realized it, because somehow I ended up with two. Since I did, keep an eye out for a giveaway.

I was lucky enough to win The Smart One and the Pretty One
on My Guilty Pleasures.

Stop by Marica's to see what everyone else got.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheating Death: My Review

Cheating Death is an easy to read, fascinating book that looks at how doctors are blurring the line between death and life, sometimes to restore life in cases that seemed hopeless. Sanjay Gupta, as you probably know, is a neurosurgeon and a medical correspondent for CNN. He writes in a way that makes it clear he is knowledgeable, but also makes his knowledge clear to lay people. He tells us about research that has shown that cooling the body can make it more resistant to loss of oxygenation--and gives stories of people helped by this technique. He discusses fetal surgery, telling not only how some has saved lives, but also giving time to someone who cautions against forgetting the mothers. He gives us some idea of how the research pipeline functions--from basic science, to small animal tests to large animal tests, and lets us see that what looks promising does not always work. Gupta even has a section about near death experiences and the research done about them.

I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy. If you'd like to read this book, you have until October 31 to enter my giveaway.

My Review: When Everything Changed

I loved this book!

From the Publisher:
Picking up where her previous successful, and highly lauded book, America's Women, left off, Gail Collins recounts the sea change women have experienced since 1960. A comprehensive mix of oral history and Collins's keen research, this is the definitive book about five crucial decades of progress, told with the down-to-earth, amusing, and agenda-free tone this beloved New York Times columnist is known for. The interviews with women who have lived through these transformative years include an advertising executive in the 60s who was not allowed to attend board meetings that took place in the all-male dining room; and an airline stewardess who remembered being required to bend over to light her passengers' cigars on the men-only 'Executive Flight' from New York to Chicago. We, too, may have forgotten the enormous strides made by women since 1960--and the rare setbacks. "Hell yes, we have a quota [7%]" said a medical school dean in 1961. "We do keep women out, when we can." At a pre-graduation party atBarnard , "they handed corsages to the girls who were engaged and lemons to those who weren't." In 1960, two-thirds of women 18-60 surveyed by Gallupdidn't approve of the idea of a female president. Until 1972, no woman ran in the Boston Marathon, the year when Title IX passed, requiring parity for boys and girls in school athletic programs (and also the year after Nixon vetoed the childcare legislation passed by congress). What happened during the past fifty years--a period that led to the first woman's winning a Presidential Primary--and why? The cataclysmic change in the lives of American women is a story Gail Collins seems to have been born to tell.

My Review: As I said, I loved this book. I was well written, with lots of stories of individual women that gave a personal touch to what could have been a dry history book. Being at the tail end of the baby boom, I'm of an age to remember most of what she wrote about. I found it interesting that she said something I've written before--that at least part of the women's movement happened because of the recession of the 1970's. Basically, it got to the point that in order to main the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed (or wanted), American families sent Mom to work. Since it wasn't something she was going to be doing for a short time before she had kids, or part time afterwards, Mom wanted to have a meaningful job, with a good paycheck. The book also pointed out that working moms had long been important to the economy of this country; it is just that most of them had been lower-class women working low-paid jobs. In addressing current times, Collins points out that many highly-educated fast-track women are opting to cut back once they have children and that some of those who fought the battles of the '70s and '80s feel betrayed but this. This is a book I'm going to encourage my daughter to read. To paraphrase an old commercial that is discussed in the book, "We've come a long way baby"

About the author: Gail Collins was the Editorial Page Editor for the New York Times from 2001-2007--the first woman to have held that position.

Message from the Author:
Dear Readers,
I've always felt that reading history was more rewarding when you knew what kind of food the people involved in the great events ate, and whether they had comfortable shoes. If you can put human faces (and feet) on historical figures, they seem less like actors walking through a prescripted pageant. It's easier to appreciate that these folks had no idea how the story was going to work out.So when I wrote WHEN EVERYTHING CHANGED, besides interviewing the movers and shakers of women's history in America over the last 50 years, I talked to a lot of average women as well --- about how their lives, their clothes, their housework, their dating rituals and their career expectations had evolved since 1960. There were lots of surprises, down to the number of little girls who had their Barbies going all the way with Ken. Ken has been way more of a stud than I ever imagined. It's always knocked me out to think that I lived through a change in the way the world regards women that had been waiting to happen for thousands of years. But now, I'm reminded of it in new ways. On the way to work this morning, I crossed my legs in the subway and suddenly thought: pants - we got pants! And whenever I pull laundry out of the drier I remember the 80-year-old woman in Cincinnati who told me that no matter how hard she tried, when she was a young housewife she could never manage to get a shirt ironed in less than 12 minutes. I'll save the shoe discussion for another day.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Review: Permission Slips

Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break is a breezy chat with a girlfriend who realizes that life isn't over at 40, that we all make mistakes and that it is ok to take care of yourself. Sherri Shepherd, if you are like me, and didn't already know, is a co-host of The View, a TV show that features several other women including Barbara Walters. Born in Chicago in the late 1960's, she was conceived out of wedlock, but her parents soon married. When she was a child, her mother (and at her mother's insistance, her father) became Jehovah's witnesses. After fighting their way through her childhood, Shepard's parents divorced when she was in high school,and her mother moved Sherri and her sisters to California. After high school, Shepard got a job as a legal secretary, and eventually started doing stand-up comedy on the side. Eventually she was able to make show business a full-time job.

This book takes us through the high points in Shepard's life, but uses them to make the point that we need to give ourselves permission to do things that are good for us. One chapter is titled "Permission to Get Better as I Get Older" and talks about her first nightclub trip after her divorce. She talks about not knowing the "language" after 10 years of marriage--was the cable guy trying to hit on her, or not? She tells us about how clothes don't fit the same, and that she finally realized that she couldn't check the 25-35 age range on applications. She notes that she doesn't have the energy the young moms at the playground have. Each vignette is followed by a "permission". The one about the younger moms says "Write yourself a permission slip to slow it down. Redefining forty doesn't mean you have to act thirty.

While I don't believe this book is marketed as "Christian", Shepherd speaks a lot about her faith. As noted above, she was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. She left that church, and God, as a young adult and engaged in a lot of behavior not in keeping with any form of Christianity (or good sense). She found her way back to God and then to a Pentecostal church. She speaks of an ongoing dialogue with God and hearing Him tell her not to do things, or to do others. She also speaks of telling Him "no" and doing it her way.

I enjoyed the book. As women we often spend our lives doing for others, and feeling guilty if we do for ourselves. Our culture says we should be smart, thin, nice, hardworking, available, but we can't always be, and she says we need to accept that, and be ok with it. If this sounds like the book for you, you can enter my giveaway. Click on the link and good luck.

If you'd like to purchase from Amazon:Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break

I'd like to thank the folks at Hatchette for providing a complimentary review copy of this book.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Giveaway: Permission Slips

When it comes to the popular media, I am totally uncool. I don't watch TV except for what I happen to hear because I'm on the computer in the same room. I most certainly do not watch daytime TV and the little of it I've seen has made me say "It's enough to send you to work if for no other reason than to get away from it". When Hatchette offered complimentary review copies of Permission Slips: Every Woman's Guide to Giving Herself a Break I didn't realize the author, Sherri Shepherd was the host of a popular show. My husband saw the book and wondered why I was reading about what that liberal ____ had to say. Oh well.

I've found the book to be both amusing and sad. The writing style is breezy; its like listening to a girlfriend who has been there and done that. Shepherd is the first to say she has made some real mistakes in her life, but so far 9and I haven't finished the book yet) she doesn't seem to have figured out why she did such dumb things. She was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and attended church regularly, but saw her virginity as something to get rid of at 14, not because she was in love, but because she heard sex was great. She went through a series of relationships with men who were real losers.

The book is autobiographical to a point. She tells stories from her life to illustrate her points, and throughout the book tells women to give themselves permission to____. Some of the things she encourages us to give ourselves permission to do include forgiving others, taking naked pictures of yourself (not in a million years thank you, and it has nothing to do with any perceived figure flaws), being blunt, and saying hello to God.

I'm enjoying this book, and thanks to the folks at Hatchette, five of my readers will get to enjoy it too. The usual Hatchette conditions apply: US or Canada only, no PO Boxes. To enter:
  • One entry for leaving a comment with an email address
  • Another entry for leaving a comment with a link to your blog
  • Another entry (up to three) by linking a review you wrote to one I wrote on the same book. Leave me a comment here to say which review you linked to. You can do it via Mr. Linky if he is up on the post, or via comment, if not.
  • Another entry for following or subscribing, tell me if you are new, or just joining us.

Children's Book Review: The Laceyville Monkeys Say the Right Words

The Laceyville Monkeys is a charming, fun to read children's story about three performing monkeys and their owner/trainer. They are in Laceyville for the Big Talent Contest, but upon arriving in town and before heading to the contest, the owner, Hepzibah Mott, takes them to visit her Granny. Hepzibah tells Granny that you have to say the right words to make the monkeys perform. After watching them, Granny decides to pass the monkeys off as her own, since she has heard the words. She sneaks the monkeys out of the house as Hepzibah sleeps and takes them to the contest. When it is their turn, she shouts orders at them, and they don't perform. Hepzibah shows up to save the day by giving the same orders, but saying them nicely, with love.

The story was amusing and written in verse form so it was a lot of fun to read. The book is hardcover and the artwork is well down. The picture on the cover is indicative of the style. The author, Harriett Ruderman, says that this is the first in a series of books about Laceyville, a town her mother used to tell her about when spinning bedtime stories.

I'd like to thank the author, Harriett Ruderman and her publicist for sending me a complimentary review copy of this book.
I'd like to share a bit of it with you, since the way it is written was half the fun, for me:
  • Eva was wearing a tutu of white with pink ballet slippers she looked quite the sight.
  • Sheva's Tuxedo, suspenders and tie gave him a look that was handsome and sly
  • Keva was dressed in red tights and a tank. We wore them well like a star of high rank.

To purchase from Amazon: The Laceyville Monkeys

Children's Book Review: Jack's Dreams Come to Life

Jack's Dreams Come To Life is a cute children's book I recently received from the author for review. Jack is the big dog in the picture. He went out one day and discovered a snake and a turtle and after his fun with them, curled up in his favorite spot and went to sleep. He had a dream where he started of chasing a squirrel, but then the squirrel grew very large and started chasing him. Next, his squeak toys got large and came to life. He was cornered by the duck. He woke up, checked his toy box and found that they were back to their normal size.

My five year old and I read this book together. She enjoyed the pictures but didn't get the dream bit. She did like the pictures of the animals and thought Jack was cute.

The author, Sara Jackson, has a website that includes a downloadable coloring book featuring the outline drawings in the book. The pictures in the book appear to be drawn in pencil or pen and then filled in with water colors; your children could copy her colors and technique or try their own style with the same outline.

I'd like to thank Sara Jackson for sending me a complimentary copy of her book. To purchase a copy on Amazon, click here: Jack's Dreams Come To Life

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First Wildcard: Emmy's Equal

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:

Emmy’s Equal

Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***


Marcia Gruver lives with her husband in Huffman, Texas, and has published various articles, poems, and devotionals. Her novel, Love Never Fails (renamed Chasing Charity), won third place in the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest. Marcia is a member of ACFW, Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW), and The Writers View.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602077
ISBN-13: 978-1602602076


Humble, Texas, August, 1906

The stagnant well appeared bottomless, as dank and murky as a grave. Emmy rested her arms on the cold, jagged stones and leaned to peer into the abyss. Mama’s embroidered lace hankie, shimmering in the meager light, hung from an outcropping of rock about four feet down. Narrowing her eyes, she peered at the spot of white that stood out from the surrounding darkness and heaved a sigh, stirring the fetid air below and raising a noxious odor that took her breath.

She pushed up her sleeves and blasted a droopy blonde ringlet from her eyes with a frustrated puff of air. There was no help for it—at the risk of certain death, she had to retrieve that handkerchief.

A figure loomed, drawing alongside her with a grunt.

She jumped, and her heart shot past her throat. Chest pounding, she wasted a glare on the dark profile, noticing for the first time a scatter of lines around his eyes and tiny gray curlicues in his sideburns.

“Nash! I nearly leapt over the side.” She swatted his arm. “I’ve asked you to stop sneaking up on me. I’ve a good mind to fit you with a cowbell.”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest, as deep as the chasm. “I didn’t go to scare you, Miss Emmy.” He bent his lanky body so far she feared he’d tumble headfirst into the never-ending shaft. “Say, what we looking for inside this hole?”

“We’re not looking for anything. I’ve already found it.” Emmy clutched his shirtsleeve and pulled him away. “Go fetch me a lantern, and be quick about it.” She tucked her chin in the direction of the palomino pony languishing under a nearby oak, nibbling at the circle of high grass around the trunk. “Take Trouble. He’ll be quicker than walking.”

Nash frowned and rubbed the knuckles of one hand along his temple, as if an ache had sprung up there. “What you need a lantern for, with the sun up and shining the past five hours? There’s plenty of light to see.”

She braced herself and pointed. “Not down there.”

Nash’s sleepy eyes flew open. His startled gaze bounced along her finger to the circular wall of weathered stones. “Down there?” He took a cautious step back. “What’s in this sour old pit that might concern you?”

Emmy swallowed hard. She could trust Nash with anything but dreaded his reaction all the same. “It’s. . .one of mama’s hankies.” She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head.

His shoulders eased, and he ambled over to gaze inside. “Is that all?”

If only it were. Emmy risked a peek at him. “You don’t understand.”

He winced as if she’d spoken a bad omen. “Uh, uh. Not from her good batch? Them she’s always cackling about?”

Emmy cringed and nodded.

The delicate, lacy linens held an uncommon depth of meaning for Emmy’s mama. Hand embroidered in Germany by her grandmother then brought to the Americas and placed in Mama’s hope chest, they represented heart, hearth, and homeland to Magdalena Dane. In equal measure, they represented distress, discontent, and discord to her only daughter, because the bothersome bits of cloth seemed determined to cause Emmy grief.

Nash’s stunned expression hardened into an accusing glare. “Why, Miss Emmy? Why you done brought about such misery? You ain’t s’posed to touch ’em, and you know it.” His graying brows fluttered up and down, like two moths bent on escape. “There’s scarce few left, and your mama blames you for them what’s missing.”

She moaned and flapped her hands. “I didn’t mean to take the silly thing. It was warm when I rode out this morning. I knew I’d likely sweat, so I snagged a hankie from the clothesline. I never looked at it until a few minutes ago. That’s how this terrible mishap came about. I held it up as I rode, staring in disbelief. Trouble was galloping across the yard when the wind caught it and. . .” She motioned behind her. “The willful rag drifted down the well before I could stop the horse and chase after it.”

Emmy lowered her eyes then peered up at him through her lashes. “None of this is my fault, Nash. Papa should’ve covered this smelly cistern months ago, and those wretched handkerchiefs have a mind of their own.”

The hint of a smile played around Nash’s lips. “If so, they harbor a mighty poor opinion of you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him.

Wagging his head, he rested the back of his hand on his side. “In all my years of working for your family, of all the fits I’ve seen your mama pitch, the worst have been over the loss of them fancy scraps of cloth.” He shuddered. “Miss Emmy, I’d be mighty grateful if you’d wait and break the news to her after I leave for the day. She gon’ be powerful upset.”

Emmy held up and wiggled a finger. “On the contrary. I won’t be upsetting Mama.”

“How you figure that?”

“Because there’s no need to tell her.”

Nash propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other. “Missy, I thought you was done telling lies and scheming. Don’t forget you’re a saint of God now.”

A saint of God. Yes, she was, through no fault of her own. Like Elijah’s fiery chariot, God had swirled into Emmy’s life in a weak moment and delivered her from herself. Not that she minded His day-to-day presence. In fact, she rather enjoyed the peace He brought. It was during times of temptation when she found the constant stirring in her heart to do the right thing a bit of a bother. Yet no wonder, really. In the past, she’d had precious little practice in doing the right thing.

She blinked up at Nash. “I have no plans to lie, and I won’t need to scheme. We’re simply going to return great-grandmother’s hankie to Mama’s clothesline, washed, rinsed, and fresh as a newborn calf.”

Nash stared then shook his head. “No ma’am. You jus’ forget about what we gon’ do. Question is how are you gon’ pull it off?”

“I’ll show you.” She shooed him with her hands. “Run fetch that lantern like I asked and leave the rest to me.”

Still shaking his head, Nash mounted Trouble and laid in his heels. The horse bolted the short distance across the yard to the well-kept shed tucked behind Emmy’s two-story house. With a furtive glance toward the porch, Nash eased the door open and slipped inside.

While she waited, Emmy watched a rowdy band of crows swarm Nash’s cornfield. The black bandits bickered and pecked for position before settling in for a meal, oblivious to the mop-headed stick Nash had dressed in a ragged shirt and floppy hat and then shoved in the ground. She dared not call his attention to the culprits or he’d bluster after them, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill, leaving her to cope alone with her pressing dilemma.

She jerked her gaze from the birds when Nash rode up and slid off Trouble to the ground, a lighted lantern in his hand.

Handing over the light with a flourish, he lowered one brow and pinned her with a squinty look. “Here’s what you asked for. Jus’ be sure to leave me plumb out of the story when you go explaining yourself to your mama.”

He turned to go, but Emmy caught hold of his shirttail. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

Nash covered his ears and reeled away. “Don’t tell me no mo’. I ain’t seen nothing, and I ain’t heard nothing. If anybody needs me, I’ll be feeding the chickens.”

Emmy aimed a haughty laugh at his back. “It’s too late for that. You’re in up to your hat, and it’s no less punishment than you deserve for sneaking about all the time.”

Nash dug in his heels and stood facing the grove of loblolly pine at the edge of the yard, his body stiff as a post.

Repentant, she softened her voice to a plea. “I’m sorry, Nash. I had no call to utter such a thing. It’s just. . .I can’t do this without you.”

Arms dangling at his sides, he tipped his head toward the sky and whispered something, a prayer no doubt, before turning to face her. “What you want me to do?”

She peppered him with grateful kisses then grabbed his hand. “Come over here.” Hauling him to the gaping cavity, she lowered the lamp. “See? There it is.”

They gazed at the only bright spot in the oppressive gloom, their ability to see inside the shaft made no better by the frail circle of yellow light.

Nash shrugged and drew back from the side. “Too far down. May as well wave it goodbye then go fess up to what you done.”

Emmy gripped his arm. “Nonsense. We can get it out of there.”

“How, short of fishing it out with a cane pole? And I got no hooks.” He scratched his head. “I reckon I could take my hammer and pound a bend in a nail.”

She shook her head. “Too risky. If the hankie slips off it’ll settle to the bottom, and that’ll be the end of it.” She drew a determined breath. “I have a better idea.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose on his forehead, reaching new heights, even for him. “What sort of idea? Harebrained or foolhardy? Them’s the only two kinds you have.”

She swallowed hard and fingered the wooden bucket sitting on the wall. “I’m going to straddle this, and you’ll lower me down to fetch it.”

The shaggy brows bested their last mark. “You cain’t mean it, Miss Emmy.”

“I do so.”

“Then your idea is both harebrained and foolhardy. You must be plain tetched up under them pretty white locks. S’pose that rope snaps in two?”

“Oh, pooh.” She patted the heavy hemp coiled around the crank. “This rope is thick and sound.” She pointed over her shoulder at the horse. “You could lower Trouble down that well.”

He nodded. “Yes’m. That’s exactly what I’d be doing.” He jerked off his weathered hat and dashed it against his leg. “Don’t ask me to put you in that kind of danger. No, missy. I won’t do it. Not for nothing in this wide world.”

Touched, Emmy smiled at the man who’d been like a father to her over the years, far more of a parent than her own papa, who didn’t stay home often enough to have much practice at the role. She took Nash’s hand and squeezed it. “I won’t be in any danger. As long as you’re holding the handle, I know I’ll be safe.” She peered up into his sulky brown eyes. “You know if you don’t help me I’ll just find a way to do it myself. I have to get that hankie.”

He gaped at her. “The silly thing ain’t worth dying for, is it? Your mama has fussed at you before, and you lived to tell the tale. Why is this time so all-fired special?”

She squared around to face him. “I can’t have her angry about anything just now. I’m planning to ask permission to go to St. Louis when Mama travels with Aunt Bertha to South Texas. It’ll be hard enough to convince her as it is. If she gets in a snit, my plan is doomed.”

“Why they going off so far?”

“It’s Aunt Bertha’s idea. Now that she has money, she’s determined to go into the cattle business. She’s bent on learning all she can. Papa knows a very successful rancher down south who’s willing to teach her everything he knows.”

“Cain’t you jus’ stay home?”

“They’ll be gone for a month or better. Mama refuses to leave me here alone for that long, and I’d much prefer going to see Charity.”

Nash smiled and nodded. “ ’Specially with her jus’ done birthing the little one.”

Emmy beamed. “Exactly. I can help Charity bring him home.”

A thrill coursed through her at the thought of seeing Charity and Buddy’s new baby boy. Emmy and Charity were as close as twin sisters, best friends like their mamas had always been. Emmy’s mama and Aunt Bertha had grown up together in Jefferson before moving to Humble.

Last year, a handsome young oilman came to town and found oil on Aunt Bertha’s land. Charity wound up married to him and soon left for St. Louis to meet his parents. When Buddy found out she was expecting, he kept her in the city so she’d be close to good medical care.

Not a day had passed that Emmy didn’t think of Charity and long to see her. She was coming home next month, bringing little Thad to meet the family.

Nash narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t jus’ trying to sneak off to St. Louis to see that oilman friend of Mistah Buddy’s, are you? Don’t think I didn’t see you making eyes at him the whole time that preacher was trying to marry off Miss Charity.”

Emmy whirled. “Who? Mr. Ritter?” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Jerry Ritter was just a passing fancy.”

Nash raised a cynical brow.

“Oh, pooh, Nash! You stop that!” She fiddled the row of tiny buttons on her sleeve. “Besides. . .Aunt Bertha claims Mr. Ritter was recently betrothed to a childhood sweetheart.” She flicked off an insect from the cuff of her blouse and dashed away her humiliation with the same resolve. “Therefore, my desire to be in St. Louis has nothing to do with him. I just need to see Charity. If I get into any more trouble, Mama’s bound to haul me with them to that dreadful desert town instead. If she does, I’ll just dry up along with it and perish. I mean it!”

Grinding the toe of his oversized boot in the dirt, Nash sighed and shifted his weight. “I don’t know, Miss Emmy. . .”

Emmy stifled a grin. She had him. “I’ll be just fine. I promise. Now help me climb up.”

Still mumbling his objections, he offered an elbow to Emmy so she could pull up and sit on the uneven stones. Unfastening the buttoned flap on her split skirt, she swung her legs over and settled on the side, trying hard not to look past her boots. “Turn your head while I sit astride the pail. It won’t look so dainty in this outfit.”

Nash gazed toward the field, obviously too distracted to notice the raiding crows.

Still clinging to his arm, Emmy held her breath and pulled the dangling rope closer, guiding it between her legs. “All right, I’m ready. Lean your weight into the handle. I’m about to push off.”

Nash shifted his gaze to the sky. “Oh, sweet Jesus. Please protect this chil’.”

Holding her breath, she scooted from the edge, squealing when her body spun and dipped about a foot. “Nash! Have you got it?”

“I’ve got it. Stop squirming now. You heavier than you look.”

Emmy forced herself to still, more afraid than she’d expected to be. She felt more than saw the yawning gulf, a great gaping mouth poised to swallow her whole. “Hand me the lantern and then you can lower me. But go slowly, for heaven’s sake.”

She breathed a prayer as she spiraled past the opening and descended. Glancing up, she bit her lip and watched the rope unwind from the wobbly reel, outlined by a circle of light. Misguided but determined white roots that had pushed through cracks in the mortar groped at her, snagging her hem and sleeves. Crisscrossed nets of taught, silky threads offered whispers of resistance before giving way and sticking to the exposed parts of her legs. Emmy held the soft glow of the lamp closer to the side, shuddering when eight-legged bodies skittered in every direction. She gritted her teeth, suppressing a shriek and the urge to order Nash to haul her out of the wide-awake nightmare.

You can do this. Just a little more and you’ll be there. Three more turns and you’ll have Mama’s hankie in your hands. This will all be worth it then.

Exhaling her relief, she drew even with the jutting rock that had caught the precious heirloom. Holding the lantern out of the way, she swayed her body until the motion brought her closer to the wall.

She snatched at the white spot. Instead of soft linen, she felt thick, sticky padding. In place of the crush of a napkin gathered in her palm, there was the unmistakable writhing of something alive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whose Rights?

A big news item this week is the Justice of the Peace in Tangipahoa Parish who refused to marry an inter-racial couple. For the record, I have no objection to inter-racial marriage, but this JP did find it morally objectionable. He refused to marry them, but directed them to someone who would. Now there are calls for his removal from office. My question is: "Where do your rights to do what is lawful end, and my rights not to do what I consider immoral begin?"

I'm not a member of some new strange cult. I don't follow some guy who last week declared himself the authority on all things. I'm a member of and believer in a 2000 year old religion; a religion that has spread throughout the world, a religion that has had a major influence on Western Civilization. That religion says that it is immoral to kill unborn babies, it is immoral to use artificial birth control, it is immoral to have sex outside of marriage and it is immoral to have sex with members of the same gender. Until recently, our society in the US mirrored those beliefs. Abortion was outlawed, or at least limited in most states until 1972; until the 1930's, US laws forbid the spread of birth control information; unwed mothers were socially shunned until recently, and their children had less legal rights than those born inside marriage, and some states still have (or have only recently abrogated) laws on the books forbidding homosexual activities. Now laws or Supreme Court cases have stated that people have a right to do those things. What about my rights not to support them?

Some would say "If you don't believe in abortion, birth control, non-martial sex or homosexual activity, then don't have one, use it, have it or do it". Of course that is an option, but I don't want to support you in your choices to engage in that behavior either. I'll be the first to admit that for me to take a job in an abortion clinic and then say "I don't believe in killing unborn babies, so I'm not going to help do so" is stupid. Much as I disagree with the existence of abortion clinics, their purpose is pretty clear. Planned Parenthood isn't a place for me to work either, since I disagree with their main premise, their reason for existence; but what about a pharmacy? They dispense abortaficient drugs and birth control, but that's generally not their main function. What about a pharmacist's right not to dispense what they consider to be immoral drugs? Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college, used to have a health insurance plan that did not cover contraception or sterilization (and until a few years ago, so did my law firm). The courts have just told them that if they are going to have health insurance, they have to cover what they consider to be immoral acts. Belmont chose to drop health insurance rather than compromise their principles. Should they have had to make that choice? Birth control isn't free; if it is covered by your policy, then you are paying for it, if not for yourself, then for others. Right now there is big push for homosexual marriage. If laws pass allowing it, will civil authorities be required to marry homosexuals, even if they find the behavior morally repugnant?

How do we as a society protect my rights not to participate in or support things I find immoral, even if we allow you to do them?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rosary Links for Kids

Last year I taught third grade religion and kept a blog for my class on which I'd post timely links. One of my posts was on the rosary, and I thought I'd share the links with you.

I know I have two sets of readers (with some overlap)--Catholic bloggers and blog readers and book bloggers and those who read them. For those of you who are not Catholic, let me tell you something about this often misunderstood prayer. Most of us have seen the rosary being said in movies even if we've never held one. It is a string of beads that begins with a crucifix followed by a bead set apart from others, three beads together and then a medal of some sort. Connected to the medal is a circle of beads which consists of five beads set apart from others, and in between them, 10 beads close together. Each set of ten beads is called a decade. In some ways the rosary is a simple prayer, you say the Our Father and Glory Be on the separate beads and the Hail Mary on the ordinary beads. However, that isn't all there is to it. The "meat" of the rosary is meditating on what are called the mysteries--stories from the life of Jesus and Mary. The repeated prayers are there to drown out distractions, to help you focus, kind of like a mantra. You can learn more about the mysteries by following my links.

How do we pray the rosary? Here is how!

Would you like to see pretty pictures showing all the mysteries?

These coloring sheets show many of mysteries of the rosary.

Here are coloring sheets of all the mysteries. Try coloring a sheet a night as you say the prayers for just that mystery.

Here is an interactive rosary. It shows you which bead you are on and how to say the prayer. Give it a try!

How would you like a coloring book of the mysteries of the rosary?

Right to Life Calendars

Isn't he cute? No, he's not mine; I don't know him at all. What I do know is that he is a baby whose mom chose life, not death for him. He and eleven other babies grace the pages of this year's Right to Life Calendar. Each of the first nine months also contains a picture of a baby in-utero, along with a short blurb about the baby's current development. Each month also contains a pro-life quote and a suggestion of something you can do to fight abortion. To order the calendar, which supports Louisiana Right to Life, visit their website. The calendars sell for $5.00 each if you buy 1-99 of them. They are $3.00 if you buy 100 or more. Our Lifeteen group sells them every year.


First Wildcard: Love is a Battlefield

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:

Love is a Battlefield

Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***


Annalisa Daughety lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she works as an event planner. After attending Freed-Hardeman University, where she majored in American Studies, Annalisa worked at Shiloh National Military Park as a park ranger. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves gardening, shopping, and watching sports. For more information, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602604770
ISBN-13: 978-1602604773


If someone had told Kristy O’Neal that the battlefield at Shiloh would see another casualty nearly one hundred and fifty years after the battle ended, she’d have thought they were crazy.

Yet, two weeks ago, one last soldier had been injured on the majestic field. And Kristy had the battle scars to prove it. Admittedly, her wound was emotional, not physical, but she still wondered if the splintered pieces of her heart might be tougher to knit back together than a bullet-shattered bone.

Ready or not, her recovery time was over, so she squared her shoulders and headed back onto the hallowed ground. Never let it be said that Kristy couldn’t soldier up with the best of them. Ranger hat firmly in place and gold badge glinting in the May sunlight, she marched briskly to the visitor center.

“Morning, Kristy.” Ranger Owen Branam stopped putting money in the cash register slots long enough to nod in her direction. “You have a nice trip?” He closed the drawer, finished with his preparations for the day’s visitors.

Nice trip? A cruise spent faking allergies to explain away tears. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

“Lovely.” she managed what she hoped was a convincing smile. “The weather was great.” Scooting past him, she attempted to make it to her office without further questioning.

“Umm. Kristy?”

The apprehension in the older man’s voice made her stop in her tracks. She slowly turned to look back at Owen.

He ran his finger around the neck of his shirt as if he had a little too much starch in the collar. “The chief asked me to have you go straight up to his office when you got in.” He motioned toward the counter. “You can leave your things here. I’ll keep an eye on them while you’re upstairs.”

Only five minutes into her morning and her plan to fly as far under the radar as possible had already gone out the window. So much for the low-key first day back she’d hoped for.

“Thanks, Owen.” Kristy put her hat on the counter and tucked her purse underneath the desk.

As she got to the top of the stairs, an unfamiliar voice called out a greeting to Owen. Twisting around, she peeked over the railing. Wow. A Johnny Depp lookalike was helping Owen straighten the brochures. The second thing she noticed about him, after his movie star resemblance, was the park service uniform he wore. Surely, he wasn’t a new employee. She’d only been gone a few weeks. Things didn’t usually happen that quickly at Shiloh National Military Park.

“Glad to have you back.”

The gruff voice of Chief Ranger Hank Strong made her jump and turn around.

She felt her face grow hot. Had he been watching her ogle Ranger Depp? She cleared her throat.

“Glad to be back.” She followed him into his office and perched on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in front of his desk. Her gaze skimmed over a hodgepodge of furniture, maps, and historical books. None of the furnishings matched, except for Hank’s oversized desk and equally oversized chair that had always reminded her of a king’s throne.

“Good, good.” Hank settled himself behind the desk and peered at her over his round bifocals. “Look, Kristy. There’s no easy way to tell you this.” For a moment, an expression that looked like uncertainty flitted over his weathered face.

Uh-oh. As befitted his name, Hank Strong was always sure of himself. Whatever he was about to say, she wasn’t going to like it.

“I told you before you left on your trip there’d be a job waiting for you when you got back,” Hank paused.

Kristy could tell he was choosing his words carefully.

She nodded. “Yes. And believe me, I’m so grateful.” When she’d turned in her two-week notice, it had felt like she was letting him down, letting the park down. After all, she’d begun working at Shiloh while she was still in college. It was the only place she’d ever worked—or ever wanted to work, for that matter. After her plans had abruptly changed, she’d been relieved when Hank stepped in and told her there was still a place for her at Shiloh.

“Well, there was one thing I didn’t mention.”

“Oh?” Why do his words sound so ominous?

“By the time I found out you weren’t moving and were still available to work, your position had been filled.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Kristy. The paperwork had already gone through. There was nothing that could be done.”

She tried to catch her breath. Knowing she was at least able to come back to work at the park was the only thing that had gotten her through the past two weeks. “But you said. . .” Her voice trailed off as she willed herself not to panic.

“I know. I said I had a position for you. And I do.” He leaned back a little in his chair, visibly relieved to have the bad news off his chest. “You’re welcome to stay on as a seasonal ranger.”

Seasonal? That was where she’d started, nine years earlier, the summer after her freshman year of college. She glanced around, hoping for a paper bag she could breathe into. Of course, what she needed most was a rewind button that would allow her to go back in time and decide not to quit her job. But if she could travel back to the past, knowing what she did now, there wouldn’t have been a reason to leave Shiloh in the first place.

“You want me to be a seasonal?” Kristy’s voice squeaked. “What about my salary?”

A frown drew his bushy brows together. “There’ll be a pay cut. And you’ll move to the office shared by the seasonal staff. In fact, Owen has already put your box of office doodads in there.”

If she hadn’t been so shell-shocked, she probably would’ve laughed at his word for the contents of the box she’d left in her former office weeks earlier. Instead, all she could think was how she’d planned to stop by and pick her things up once the movers arrived. But the moving van had been permanently rerouted.

“You can still live in park housing. I know you’ve already packed most of your things, but Owen said he didn’t think you’d actually moved anything out yet.” He handed her a manila folder. “Your decision, kiddo. We’d love to keep you around. You’re a great park ranger. But I understand if you want to go in a different direction now.”

She took the file from him and glanced at the paperwork inside. The contents of the folder would effectively help to move her back down the career ladder she’d been climbing.

“What happens in September?” The seasonal positions at Shiloh ran from Memorial Day through Labor Day. And since they were only a few days shy of Memorial Day, she figured she should feel lucky there was even a seasonal position still available. They usually filled pretty quickly.

“Well.” He leaned back even farther and pressed his fingertips together. “At that juncture you’ll have a few options. Perhaps a permanent position will open here. Or we can look around at other parks and try to get you a transfer.”

Or I can leave the park service.

He rose to his feet. “If you want to think about it for a day or two, that’s fine.”

She knew Hank well enough to know that giving her time to consider the offer was his way of being sympathetic. Despite her trembling legs, she managed to stand. “Thank you,” she mumbled and scurried for the stairs, her mind spinning like a recently fired cannonball.

A permanent position opening at Shiloh was pretty much out of the question. Most of the rangers planned to stay until retirement age, some of them even longer. And she wasn’t interested in a transfer. This was the park she loved. Kristy had grown up in nearby Savannah, Tennessee, and some of her earliest memories were of the cannons and monuments at Shiloh.

Owen avoided eye contact with her as she descended the stairs.

Thanks a lot, buddy.

He’d obviously known what the meeting was going to be about, but hadn’t had the nerve to give her a warning before she went upstairs. Kristy couldn’t blame him though. No one liked to be the bearer of bad news.

And with her newfound knowledge, the mystery of the unfamiliar ranger was solved. The Johnny Depp lookalike was the ranger who now had her position. Not to mention her office.

She silently gathered her hat and purse from the front desk and took them to the room reserved for seasonal staff. As she passed the office she used to occupy, a fleeting glance told her that Ranger Depp wasn’t inside. The seasonal office, if it could even be called an office, was full of old desks and equipment. Kristy turned on the light and took in the sparsely decorated white walls. It was a far cry from the cheerful yellow she’d painted her former office last year. Thankfully, the other members of the seasonal staff wouldn’t arrive until Monday. At least I should have peace until Memorial Day. She could even move the desks and junk, buy some paint for the walls, and live out the next few days in Pretend Everything’s Okay Land.

Except, eventually, she’d have to face reality.

She flipped on the computer and silently tapped her fingers on the desk as she waited forever for it to boot up.

Can I do this? Can I take a step down in pay and status? Seasonals were at the low end of the totem pole. She remembered those days all too well. Getting assigned the tasks no one else wanted to do and being expected to do them without grumbling. Would they do that to her again? Or would she continue to be treated as permanent staff, despite the demotion?

Demotion. Ouch.

Either way, it wouldn’t be pleasant.

She glanced down at the box of her things on the floor next to the computer, and tears flooded her eyes. Empty picture frames peeked out from the box flaps. The pictures that had once been in them were nowhere in sight. Someone had wanted to spare her feelings today. Either that, or they didn’t want to be stuck with an emotional female to console.

The frames might’ve been without pictures, but Kristy knew what they’d once held. Her heart pounded as she grabbed all three frames and tossed them in the trashcan, taking unexpected pleasure in the sight and sound of shattering glass. A yellow and white wad under a large shard caught her eye. She couldn’t resist carefully fishing it out of the can, even though she knew better.

Kristy unwrinkled the ball and smoothed it out on the old, beat-up desk, running her hand over the creases in the paper. Fancy paper, as Owen called it months ago when he’d first seen it. Her vision blurred with fresh tears, but she didn’t need to read the words to know what they said.

For a long moment, she stared down at the engraved invitation.

To her wedding.
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