Monday, November 30, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays? November 30, 2009 Edition

Read last week:
- An Unexpected Match by Dana Corbit
- His Christmas Bride by Dana Corbit
- Green by Ted Dekker
- Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick and Frances Wilkinson
- An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
- Healing the Boss's Heart by Valerie Hanson
- Marrying Minister Right by Annie Jones
- Rekindled Hearts by Brenda Minton
- The Matchmaking Pact by Carolyne Aarsen

Read and really need to review:
- Words Unspoken by Elizabeth Musser
- That Certain Spark by Cathy Marie Hake

Reading this week:
- The Christmas Glass by Marci Alborghetti
- Essie in Progress by Marjorie Preston
- Raising Rain by Debbie Fuller Thomas
- A Family for Thanksgiving by Patricia Davids
- Jingle Bell Babies by Kathryn Springer
- Guardian of the Flame by T. L. Higley
- Dying to Live by Clive Calver


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Salon November 29, 2009

The Sunday

* I had a great Thanksgiving. Lots of good food and family. :)

* This was a good reading weekend also. I read the first four books in the After the Storm miniseries by Love Inspired. They were good and I am looking forward to reading the last two.

* One month to go before the end of the year. Lots of books to get read and reviewed. I am feeling a little overwhelmed.

* My favorite TV show is ending next Friday. Monk the series finale is Friday December 4. I am really depressed about it but looking forward to seeing how they tie up the loose ends. I have started reading the books based off the show and will let yall know what I think about them.

* I hope everyone has a great week back to work and reading time. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business by Lynda Resnick (Review)

From the website:

POM Wonderful. FIJI Water. Teleflora. The Franklin Mint. Lynda Resnick’s marketing triumphs read like an encyclopedia of branding. She is the smartest and hardest-working marketing brain in the business-the kind of marketer who can sell “ice sculptures to Eskimos.” But her brilliant ideas aren’t simply the result of random inspiration; they’re the products of a systematic approach to marketing that any company-large or small-can adapt to achieve success. In RUBIES IN THE ORCHARD, she divulges her secrets for creating some of the world’s most memorable and iconic brands, and the bull’s-eye strategies to sell them.

Lynda believes that every company can find “rubies in the orchard”, elements of intrinsic value that consumers will desire. Here, she shows how every successful marketing campaign begins with uncovering these hidden gems, and communicating their value honestly and transparently to the consumer.

Through Lynda’s behind-the-scenes narrative, we learn the secrets of her extraordinary successes, including POM Wonderful-the wildly popular 100% pomegranate juice that created an entirely new product category out of a fickle and obscure fruit-and FIJI Water, a fledgling brand she transformed into the #1 premium bottled water in America, with sales that have increased 300% since 2004.

A born marketer, Lynda shares tales from a remarkable life, from opening her own ad agency at age nineteen to the time she famously overpaid for Jackie Kennedy’s pearls at auction, then transformed her “mistake” into tens of millions of dollars in sales for the Franklin Mint. Here for the first time, she reveals her commonsense method of breaking through marketplace clutter and consumer cynicism, and creating blockbuster brands with true staying power.

My Review:

I found this to be an interesting and informative book. It seems to be heavy on the autobiography part and light on the marketing advice. What marketing advice is in the book sounds great. I am not in the marketing profession but she shows real life examples of how she made it work super successfully. The main point is finding the rubies or intrinsic values for that company and truly believing in the product. She promotes thinking inside the box. I liked reading the background information on the different companies she worked on like POM, Fiji Water, Telefora, and Franklin Mint. My favorite of her companies is probably POM Wonderful. The pomegranate was an overlooked wonder fruit before her company developed it. We now know its nutritional and flavor possibilities. She also touches on "green" issues like packaging and carbon footprints. This is a quick but light read. Not everybody will like it though particularly because of the focus on her and her personal achievements comes off as a self promotional. I did not let it bother me but it is up to the individual reader to see past it if they can and find the rubies. :)
Thank you to Janna at POM Wonderful for my review copy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Green by Ted Dekker (Review)

Book Description

At Last . . . The Circle Reborn

The story of how Thomas Hunter first entered the Black Forest and forever changed our history began at a time when armies were gathered for a final battle in the valley of Migdon. Green is a story of love, betrayal, and sweeping reversals set within the apocalypse. It is the beginning: the truth behind a saga that has captured the imagination of more than a million readers with the Books of History Chronicles.

But even more, Green brings full meaning to the Circle Series as a whole, reading as both prequel to Black and sequel to White, completing a full circle. This is Book Zero, the Circle Reborn, both the beginning and the end. The preferred starting point for new readers . . . and the perfect climax for the countless fans who’ve experienced Black, Red, and White.

My Review:
This is my first circle book to read. Overall I thought the story was interesting and well written. It felt like I was missing a lot from previous books. There seems to be a debate among the readers of the circle books about whether new readers should start with Green or end with Green. Having read Green and none of the others I wished I would have started with the original first book. I think it would have made more sense for me. The ending in this book confused me also and I wonder if I keep reading the series would it help? I thought the spiritual aspects of the book were amazing. The parallels to our lives now as Christians touched me. This series is described as being a spiritual epic and I would agree. After reading the book I have the desire to dive deeper and be more serious about my faith and to lose the apathy starting to take hold of me. Recommended but start with Black the first book in the series. :)
About the Author
Ted Dekker is the New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty novels. He is known for stories that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil. He has sold 3.6 million books to date and lives in Austin, Texas.
Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson Publishing Company.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand? November 24, 2009 Edition

My new camera is up and running so I have pictures for yall this month. I have tons of reading challenges and personal goals to finish before December 31, 2009. It will be down to the wire on some of it. The above pictures are not all some books will be coming from the library. I know I will not finish all the Steeple Hill Love Inspired and Suspense books so my main goal is to read all the holiday ones. I have the seconds challenge, A to Z, What's in a Name, Holiday, and Decades reading challenge to finish. Heavens to Betsy. This is going to be interesting. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Sunday Salon November 22, 2009

The Sunday

* Overall a good weekend. It went by really quick. Don't they all though.

* I read 3 books this weekend. They are:
- Return Policy by Michael Synder
- Mistletoe and Murder by Florence Case
- How Do I Love Thee? by Nancy Moser

* They were all good. Return Policy is Michael Synder's second novel. I read his first My Name is Russell Fink and loved it last year. I hope to put a review up of this one soon. I did put up a review today of How Do I Love Thee? with giveaway.

* I have a two day work week. I am taking the day before Thanksgiving off and I was already off Thursday and Friday. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I can't wait to eat all the yummy food!

* I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. I will still be around updating. I have several reviews I need to get done this week. I hope everyone finds some reading time in there too. :)

How Do I Love Thee? by Nancy Moser (Review and Giveaway)

***Leave a comment on this post before Sunday December 29 at midnight to be entered to win a copy.***

About the Book:
Elizabeth Barrett is a published poet--and a virtual prisoner in her own home. Blind family loyalty ties her to a tyrannical father who forbids any of his children to marry. Bedridden by chronic illness, she has resigned herself to simply existing. That is, until the letter arrives...
"I love your verses with all my heart," writes Robert Browning, an admiring fellow poet. As friendly correspondence gives way to something more, Elizabeth discovers that Robert's love is not for her poetry alone. Might God grant her more than mere existence? And will she risk defying her father in pursuit of true happiness?
My Review:
This is a wonderful story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning's love story. The first 170 pages focuses on Elizabeth's life before she meets Robert. It is sad and depressing. Her health is bad and her father loves them but is tyrannical and decreed none of his children can get married. Her world becomes her room and her family. Slowly a few visitors are let in. This book starts when she is in her late 30s. It is told in first person Elizabeth's view and the first part is a little hard to get through but it helps the reader see her background. I was interested in the topic so I kept reading and enjoyed the story especially after Robert comes into the picture. I was not familiar with her story beyond the basics. I love some of her love poems she wrote to Robert. The story flows good and is well written. It reads like the time period it is set in and the reader can tell the author has done her research. In the back of the book the author has included a chapter by chapter guide on the facts/fiction in the story. Also at the end are some of Elizabeth's love poems she wrote to Robert. I enjoyed rereading them. She was a very talented poet and I enjoyed this glimpse into her life. Recommended.
About the author:
Nancy Moser is the author of three inspirational humor books and a eighteen novels, including Mozart's Sister, Just Jane, and Time Lottery, a Christy Award winner. She is an inspirational speaker, giving seminars around the country. She has earned a degree in architecture; run a business with her husband; traveled extensively in Europe; and has performed in various theaters, symphonies, and choirs. She and her husband have three grown children and make their home in the Midwest. Read more about her books at
Thank you Bethany House Publishers for my review copy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Winner Piece de Resistance

The winner of Piece de Resistance by Sandra Byrd is ...

Lady Araujo


Thank you to everyone who entered.

Here is your sequence:
Timestamp: 2009-11-21 04:54:43 UTC

100+ Reading Challenge 2010

This will be my third year participating in this challenge. I love it. So far in 2009 I have read 257 books. I will use this post to list my books read by month. I am thinking of setting a goal of 300 books for 2010. We will see. lol :)

1. Her Forever Cowboy by Debra Clopton
2. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
3. Love Finds You In Holiday, Florida by Sandra Bricker
4. Camp Club Girls and the Mystery at Discovery Lake by Renae Brumbaugh
5. Sydney's DC Discovery by Jean Fischer
6. The Doctor's Perfect Match by Irene Hannon
7. The One Day Way by Chantel Hobbs (Non fiction)
8. This Is Your Brain in Love by Dr. Earl Henslin (Nonfiction)
9. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
10. The Mountain Beyond by Terry Miller (Memoir)
11. The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle by Raeanne Thayne
12. Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux
13. Screen Play by Chris Coppernoll
14. Thicker Than Blood by C. J. Darlington
15. Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery
16. The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher
17. A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley
18. Endless Night by Dana Mentink
19. Jenna's Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater
20. The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
21. Kelly's Chance by Wanda Brunstetter
22. Becca by the Book by Lauren Jensen Walker
23. Angel's Den by Jamie Carie
24. The Simple Life by Thom and Art Rainer (Nonfiction)
25. Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate
26. Third Time's a Charm by Virginia Smith
27. A Valentine's Wish by Betsy St. Amant
28. Twice in a Lifetime by Marta Perry
29. Heart of the Matter by Marta Perry
30. Anything but Normal by Melody Carlson
31. Walking on Broken Glass by Christa Allan
32. On Wings of Love by Kim Watters
33. Double Trouble by Susan May Warren
34. Hometown Promise by Merrillee Whren
35. Smoke Screen by Stephanie Newton
36. A Kiss for Cade by Lori Copeland
37. Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson
38. Days of Gold by Jude Deveraux
39. The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer Allee
40. Devil's Food Cake by Josi Kilpack
41. Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand
42. Anna Meets Her Match by Arlene James
43. A Match Made in Texas by Arlene James
44. The Convenient Marriage by Georgetter Heyer
45. The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard
46. Cowgirl at Heart by Christine Lynxwiler
47. the Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello
48. Out With the In Crowd by Stephanie Morrill
49. Burn by Ted Dekker and Erin Healy
50. My Deadly Valentine by Valerie Hansen and Lynette Eason
51. The Flower of Grass by James E. Robinson
52. Mending Fences by Jenna Mindel
53. Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke
54. Once In A Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis
55. The Country House Courtship by Linore Rose Burkard
56. The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguie
57. A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
58. A Place to Call Home by Kathryn Springer
59. His Texas Bride by Deb Kastner
60. The Pluto Files by Neil DeGrasee Tyson (Nonfiction)
61. Almost Home by Pam Jenoff
62. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
63. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Patillo
64. Katie's Redemption by Patricia Davids
65. The Cowboy's Courtship by Brenda Minton
66. Bayou Betrayal by Robin Carrol
67. Dead Reckoning by Ronie Kendig
68. A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin
69. A Soldier's Promise by Cheryl Wyatt (Reread)
70. A Soldier's Family by Cheryl Wyatt (Reread)
71. Ready Made Family by Cheryl Wyatt
72. A Soldier's Reunion by Cheryl Wyatt
73. Soldier Daddy by Cheryl Wyatt
74. A Soldier's Devotion by Cheryl Wyatt
75. Second Chance Family by Margaret Daley
76. A Case for Love by Kaye Dacus
77. High Plains Bride by Valerie Hanson
78. Heartland Wedding by Renee Ryan
79. Kansas Courtship by Victoria Bylin
80. Dad in Training by Gail Gaymer Martin
81. McKenzie's Montana Mystery by Shari Barr
82. Alexis and the Sacramento Surprise by Erica Rodgers
83. The Hero Next Door by Irene Hannon
84. Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer
85. Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman
86. Rodeo Sweetheart by Betsy St. Amant
87. The Cinderella List by Judy Baer
88. Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd
89. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson
90. Through Thick and Thin by Sandra Byrd
91. Heading Home by Renee Riva
92. Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum
93. Too Close to Home by Lynette Eason
94. A Stranger's Wish by Gayle Roper
95. Never Let Me Go by Erin Healey
96. Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze
97. In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon
98. Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs
99. Hiking Through by Paul V. Stutzman (Non fiction)
100. Winter's Awakening by Shelley Shepard Gray
101. Spring's Renewal by Shelley Shepard Gray
102. No Hope for Gomez! by Graham Parke
103. The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough
May 104. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
105. Love Will Keep Us Together by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
106. Maggie Rose by Sharlene MacLaren
107. It Had to Be You by Janice Thompson
108. Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
109. A Silent Fury by Lynette Eason
110. Witness to Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
111. More Than Great Riches by Jan Washburn
112. Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl and April Henry
113. This Fine Life by Eva Marie Everson
114. A Matter of Character by Robin Lee Hatcher
115. For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (NF)
116. Deadly Disclosures by Julie Cave
117. The Bridegrooms by Allison Pittman
118. So Over My Head by Jenny B. Jones
119. A Daughter's Legacy by Virgina Smith
120. Evidence of Murder by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
121. Steadfast Soldier by Cheryl Wyatt
122. Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton
123. Nowhere, Carolina by Tamara Leigh
124. Abbie Ann by Sharlene MacLaren
125. Hurricanes in Paradise by Denise Hildreth
June126. Green Like God by Jonathan Merrill NF
127. Not a Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols
128. Texas Roads by Cathy Bryant
129. Dying to Live by Clive Calver NF
130. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett NF
131. A Hopeful Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer
132. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
133. Snow Melts in Spring by Deborah Vogts
134. Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts
135. The Six Liter Club by Harry Kraus
136. The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews
137. A Tailor Made Bride by Karen Whitemeyer
138. Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus
139. The Princess by Lori Wick (Reread)
140. I'll Mature When I'm Dead by Dave Barry NF
141. The BabySitters Club The Summer Before by Ann Martin
142. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
143. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork
144. Twin Targets by Marta Perry
145. Killer Headline by Debby Giusti
146. The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen
147. Simple Secrets by Nancy Mehl
148. Sarah's Garden by Kelly Long
149. Tomorrow We Die by Shawn Grady
150. Alanna by Tamora Pierce (Reread)
151. So Over It by Stephanie Morrill
152. Unwilling Warrior by Andrea Boeshaar
153. Motocycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book by Nancy Rue
154. Boyfriends, Burritos, and an Ocean of Trouble by Nancy Rue
155. Cowboy Protector by Margaret Daley
156. Deadly Vows by Shirlee McCoy
157. Fatal Secrets by Barbara Phinney
158. Risky Reunion by Lenora Worth
159. Covert Pursuit by Terri Reed
160. Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand
161. Flashpoint by Stephanie Newton
162. Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon
163. Resurrection in May by Lisa Samson
164. Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck
165. Latte Daze by Erynn Mangum
166. A Hidden Affair by Pam Jenoff
167. In the Hand of the Godess by Tamora Pierce (Reread)
168. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce (Reread)
169. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce (Reread)
170. Ransomed Dreams by Sally John
171. Licensed for Trouble by Susan May Warren
172. Nightshade by Ronie Kendig
173. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
174. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
175. The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi
176. Fatal Loyalty by Sue Duffy
177. Bellwether by Connie Willis
178. Forgotten by Melody Carlson
179. Anna Finch and the Hired Gun by Kathleen Y'Barbo
180. Postcards from a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber
181. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
182. The Guardian's Honor by Marta Perry
183. The Crimson Cipher by Susan Page Davis
184. Life in Defiance by Mary Demuth
185. Shades of Morning by Marlo Schaleskey
186. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
187. TSI:The Gabon Virus by Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore
188. Wedding Cake Wishes by Dana Corbit
189. TSI:The Influenza Bomb by Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore
190. Protective Custody by Lynette Eason
191. Sweet Memories by Lavyrle Spencer
192. Tender Vow by Sharlene MacLaren
193. The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews
194. Amish Proverbs by Suzanne Woods Fisher
195. Bride in Training by Gail Gaymer Martin
196. Baby Makes a Match by Arlene James
197. Love Me Tender by Janice Hanna
198. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore
199. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
200. Love Finds a Home by Kathryn Springer
201. The Bridge of Peace by Cindy Woodsmall
202. Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad
203. Autumn's Promise by Shelley Shepard Gray
204. The Black Madonna by Davis Bunn
205. Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker
206. Petra by T. L. Higley
207. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman
208. A Very Private Grave by Donna Fletcher Crow
209. Listen by Rene Gutteridge
210. Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart
211. A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin
212. Judgment Day by Wanda Dyson
213. The Mayan Apocalypse by Mark Hitchock and Alton Gansky
214. Goodness Gracious Green by Judy Christie
215. The House on Malcolm Street by Leisha Kelly
216. The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
217. Within My Heart by Tamara Alexander
218. Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn
219. While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin
220. Don't Look Back by Lynette Eason
221. Emily's Chance by Sharon Gillenwater
222. Lydia's Charm by Wanda Brunstetter
223. Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace
224. Betsy In Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace
225. Betsy Was a Junior by Maud Hart Lovelace
226. Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace
227. Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace
228. This Time for Keeps by Jenna Mills
229. The Portrait by Hazel Statham
230. Calling the Shots by Ellen Hartman
231. The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson
232. Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
233. The Lightkeeper's Bride by Colleen Coble
234. Divine Appointments by Charlene Baumbich
235. Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace
236. Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio by Annalisa Daughtry
237. An Honest Love by Kathleen Fuller
238. Anna's Return by Marta Perry
239. Winter's Awakening by Shelley Shepard Gray
240. Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman
241. Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace
242. The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
243. I'll Be Home for Christmas by Julie Cannon
244. Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck
245. Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita Paul
246. Holiday Havoc by Terri Reed and Stephanie Newton
247. Yuletide Cowboy by Debra Clopton
248. Mistletoe Prayers by Marta Perry and Betsy St. Amant
249. Winter Reunion by Roxanne Rustand
250. His Holiday Bride by Jillian Hart
251. Their First Noel by Annie Jones
252. Jingle Bell Blessings by Bonnie K. Winn
253. Yuletide Defender by Sandra Robbins
254. The Christmas Rescue by Laura Scott

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

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 authors are:

and the book:

The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW's Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author's website.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man's Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.

Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.

Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.

Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.

An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.

What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.

This is that story . . .


Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.

He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.

Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.

His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.

Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.

Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.

His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.

Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.

Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.

Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.

Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.

Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.

She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.

She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.

“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.

“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.

He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.

Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.

“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”

Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.

A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.

Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.

A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.

“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.

Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.

Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.

One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.

As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.

Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.

The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.

“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.

With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.

“Don’t shoot!” one cried.

The sound of a police siren split the air.

“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.

The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.

Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”

Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.

Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.

They needed to find cover—

More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.

The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.

Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.

“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”

She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”

“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.

“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.

“But what if—”

“I’ll join you. Now go!”

Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.

I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.

Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .

He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.

“Go,” Suzanne whispered.

“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”

Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.

Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.

Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.

He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.

Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.

With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.

Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.

The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.

Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.

Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.

He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.

Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What The Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

What The Bayou Saw

Kregel Publications (March 24, 2009)


Patti Lacy


Though Patti's only been writing since 2005, she thinks her latest profession of capturing stories on paper (or computer files) will stick awhile.

The Still, Small Voice encouraged Patti to write after a brave Irish friend shared memories of betrayal and her decision to forgive. In 2008, An Irishwoman’s Tale was published by Kregel Publications. Patti’s second novel, What the Bayou Saw, draws on the memories of two young girls who refused to let segregation, a chain link fence, and a brutal rape come between them.

The secrets women keep and why they keep them continue to enliven Patti's gray matter. A third book, My Name is Sheba, has been completed. Patti's WIP, Recapturing Lily, documents a tug-of-war between a Harvard-educated doctor and an American pastor and his wife for a precious child and explores adoption issues, China's "One Child" policy, and both Christian and secular views of sacrifice.

Patti also facilitates writing seminars in schools, libraries, and at conferences and has been called to present her testimony, "All the Broken Pieces," at women's retreats. She also leads a Beth Moore Bible study at her beloved Grace Church.

Patti and her husband Alan, an Illinois State faculty member, live in Normal with their handsome son Thomas, who attends Heartland Community College. On sunny evenings, you can catch the three strolling the streets of Normal with their dog Laura, whom they've dubbed a "Worchestershire Terrier" for her "little dab of this breed, a little dab of that breed.


Segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal assault bound them together. Forever. Thirty-eight years later, Sally, a middle-aged Midwestern instructor, dredges up childhood secrets long buried beneath the waters of a Louisiana bayou in order to help her student, who has also been raped. Fragments of spirituals, gospel songs, and images of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are woven into the story.

The past can't stay buried forever Rising author Patti Lacy's second novel exposes the life of Sally, set amid the shadows of prejudice in Louisiana.

Since leaving her home in the South, Sally Stevens has held the secrets of her past at bay, smothering them in a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her husband, has heard the truth about her childhood.

But when one of her students is violently raped, Sally's memories quickly bubble to the surface unbidden, like a dead body in a bayou. As Sally's story comes to light, the lies she's told begin to catch up with her. And as her web of deceit unravels, she resolves to face the truth at last, whatever the consequences.

If you would like to read the first chapter of What The Bayou Saw, go HERE

Watch the Book Trailer:

Have not read the book yet. It just came in the mail. I hope to have it done by the weekend. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Women Writers Reading Challenge 2010

18th and 19th Women Writers Reading Challenge
Hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews
Minimum 2 books; All of 2010
I am signing up for another challenge to read the classics. I really want to read more of them in 2010.
Read books written by women authors that were written and/or published between 1700 and 1900.
Contemporary historical books set in this time period do not count towards this challenge! The challenge is to encourage you to read some classics.Here is a place where you can get ideas, but be careful, the list includes some authors who won't count. (The site lists authors based on when they were born. So on the 1801-1900 list, for example, you might find women authors who were born in this time but didn't begin writing and publishing their books until the twentieth century.)
Overlaps with other challenges allowed.

Flashback Challenge 2010

Aarti and Kristen are co hosting this great challenge.

The Flashback Challenge will run from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010.

You can sign up for the following levels:

Bookworm - Up to three books

Scholar - Four to six books

Literati - Over six books

Within these levels, we have mini-challenges!

These are:
1. Re-read a favorite book from your childhood
2. Re-read a book assigned to you in high school
3. Re-read a book you loved as an adult

Go here to sign up:
I am going to do the Literati level and read 6 books. I love rereading my favorite books. One of my all time favorites is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 2010 holds many great reading challenges. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Salon November 15, 2009

The Sunday

* I only read two books but they were long so I feel like I accomplished a lot of reading this weekend.

* I finished the long version of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It may be one of my new all time favorites.

* I read The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen and it was really good.
Both books have things that will stay with me.

* I wrote my wrap up post for the Chunkster Reading Challenge. The goal was to read 6 books with 450 or more pages.

* I signed up for a Christmas themed reading challenge. I have several Christmas related books to read in the next two months.

* I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. It is my second favorite Holiday after Fourth of July. :)

* I hope everyone has a great week and plenty of reading time.

Chunkster Challenge 2009 Wrap Up Post

It came down to the wire and I was not sure I would finish but it is done. :)

I signed up for the
*Mor-book-ly Obese - This is for the truly out of control chunkster. For this level of challenge you must commit to 6 or more chunksters OR three tomes of 750 pages or more. You know you want to.....go on and give in to your cravings.

My finished list of books:
1. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (Done)
2. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (Done)
3. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn (Done)
4. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn (Done)

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Done)
6. The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen (Done)

I really did enjoy this challenge and it encouraged me to read books a little longer than what I normally read. I liked all of them. All of them will stay with me in some way. Little Women is probably my favorite. I had only read the Great Illustrated Classics version and I loved the full length version. I have read several Louisa May Alcott books and I look forward to reading more of them. All in all this challenge was a success. I look forward to doing it again next year. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

2009 Holiday Reading Challenge

I have tons of Christmas holiday books to read. This challenge will be perfect to help me finish them. So look for several Christmas book reviews coming up late November and December. I love this button and look forward to seeing it on my sidebar this season. Thank you to Nely for coming up and hosting this challenge. :)

Challenge Requirements:
1- Challenge will start Friday, November 20 and will end Thursday, December 31.
2- You can read anywhere from 1 to 5 books for the challenge and, of course, if you're like me, you are more than welcome to surpass that number.
3- And now, here's the clincher... they must be holiday related books. That's right, the holiday doesn't really matter, but it would be more "jolly" if your choices were Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.
4- The size of the book does not matter, nor does the genre. It is also okay for the book to overlap with other challenges. The only thing I ask is that they are not children's books. YA is okay. And so are re-reads. I for one tend to read the same books every Christmas - they are tradition.
5- To sign up - leave a link back to your challenge post. There will also be a post for review links as well as one for challenge wrap-ups.
6- And.... there will be goodies. That's right, we'll call them presents. At the end of every week that the challenge is running I will choose one winner from the review links and I will allow them to pick a book of their choosing (of course, I will provide a list). Meaning the more books you read, review and link up, the more chances you have at winning a "present".

To sign up go to this blog:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sometimes a Light Surprises by Jamie Langston Turner (Review)

He had drawn the curtains tightly around his soul...could he trust that glimmer of hope quietly beckoning to him?

Ben Buckley has never gotten over the loss of his wife. More bewildering than the mystery surrounding her death is the radical change that occurred in her shortly beforehand--a "conversion," she had called it. Baffled, angry, and still feeling guilty for the way he'd withdrawn from her during those final weeks, Ben now lives behind the protective walls of severed relationships and rigid routines.

An unlikely young woman knocks on the door of his narrow world. Her simple honesty and childlike faith are incomprehensible to him, but in spite of his misgivings Ben finds himself on a journey he never would have begun on his own.

My Review:

This is my first Jamie Langston Turner book so I did not know what to expect. The story moved a little slow in parts and skipped around a little. It was told from 4 characters viewpoints. The four main characters were Ben the widower, Caroline his secretary, Erin his daughter, and Kelly a conservative young christian Ben hired as a designer for his company. The story moves around from all of their first person narratives. There were other characters involved of course. The main plot line is Ben and his dysfunctional family. When his wife died more than 20 years ago he let his mother move in and do the raising so although he was there he really neglected them. It hurt them especially Erin. His daughter Shelly starts trying to get the family together more often and mend things. Ben reluctantly participates. Ben is a very solitary person and he often quotes or explains unusual sayings. It can be a little annoying but I also learned things I did not know. Caroline is a little obsessed with the old murder case of Ben's wife and really has a limited life. Ben hires Kelly to see what she is like because her mother is the one who helped convert his wife to Christianity a few months before she died and caused conflict in their marriage. She turns out to be a little like he expected but in other ways not. Overall this is an enjoyable story. I would be interested in another book featuring the same characters.

Thank you Bethany House Publishers for my review copy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason (Review)

Book Summary:

The life of ten-year-old Zac Sparks changes overnight when his mother is killed by lightning. He's sent to live in Five Corners with his Aunties, two cruel old hags who obviously don't like him. It isn't long before Zac knows something really strange is going on. Five Corners is populated with weird characters--a midget butler, a girl who doesn't speak, a blind balloon seller, and a mysterious singer who is heard but not seen. Then there's the Aunties' father, Dada. Zac's first encounter with Dada is so terrifying he faints dead away.

The one bright spot is Sky Porter, the proprietor of the general store across the street, a friendly soul who encourages Zac--when the Aunties aren't looking--and shows him a kindness that is sadly lacking from his dismal life. But Sky isn't what he seems either, and when Zac learns Sky's amazing secret he realizes, to his dismay, that this wonderful man may have a very dark side as well.

Discovering that Dada is an evil magician who is intent on stealing the ultimate treasure, Zac knows many lives are at stake, including his own. With time running out, he must turn to the one person who might be able to help: Sky Porter. Can Zac trust him?

My Review:
I am not sure really what to write. Overall I thought this was a good story. It was different and interesting.There were definitely parts that made me really uncomfortable though. I suggest parents read at least part of it first before giving it to their older children. I have not read other similar books like Lemony Snicket but other bloggers have compared it to them. Recommended with caution for middle school and up.

The Blue Umbrella, by Mike Mason from David C. Cook on Vimeo.


Not many people are killed by lightning.

Zac’s mother was.

Zachary Sparks, though small for ten years old, had a look perpetual astonishment that made him seem larger than life. His eyes were nearly the biggest part of him, round and wide, and his eyebrows had a natural arch as if held up with invisible strings. His voice was high and excitable and his whole body

seemed full of little springs. Even his hair, fiery red and frizzy, looked as if he was the one hit by lightning. Everything about Zac Sparks was up, up, up.

Until his mother died and everything changed.

Zac lived with his mother beside a golf course. Every day after school he picked up balls from his backyard to sell for fifty cents apiece. He was happy and carefree and his mother was good to him. He had no father. At least, he’d never known his father.

At night, when there were no golfers, Zac’s mother liked to go walking across the wide, rolling lawns of the course. To her it was like a big park. She never met anyone else out there. This was a small town and it was quite safe (except for lightning). She liked being in nature and she loved all kinds of weather, especially weather that had what she called character, the kind you could feel on your skin: wind, cold, hail, pelting rain, thunder, and lightning.

Whenever a good electrical storm happened in the middle of the night, Zac’s mother would wake him up and they’d sit on the veranda listening to the long, almost articulate rumbles and watching the lightning illuminate the great treed corridors of grass. The two wouldn’t say much. They didn’t have to. The sky did the talking for them. Some of Zac’s happiest memories were of sitting up with his mother at night to revel silently in storms.

The irony was that Zac’s mother was killed by something she loved. It happened one night when she went walking in the pouring rain, carrying, as usual, her umbrella. Of course, she knew better than to go walking on a golf course with an umbrella in a thunderstorm. But this was not a thunderstorm. On this night there just happened to be one stray bolt of lightning.

One was all it took. Her crumpled body was found the next morning in the center of a fairway. The canopy of her umbrella had been completely consumed, leaving nothing but the skeletal metal frame.

It was the first day of December, just weeks before Christmas, and Zac Sparks was an orphan.

That day and the next were a blur. Even the funeral, on the third day, Zac scarcely remembered—except for the moment when the coffin was being carried outside through the church doors. The weather was unseasonably mild; instead of snow a light drizzle fell. As the coffin moved down the steps and was

loaded into the hearse, the rain turned to sleet, then to hail. Small white pellets of ice filled the air and bounced all around like popcorn—one bounce, then still—as though the ground were alive. The clatter, especially loud on open umbrellas and on the wood of the coffin, was like applause.

Then Zac saw something he’d never seen before: a hailbow. Though he didn’t know to call it that, he knew it was special. It was one of those days when about five kinds of weather were in the sky at once. There were towering clouds, black ones very black and white ones very white and fierce-looking. Between the two the sun came out and brilliantly illuminated the hail. It was like being inside a living diamond. Then the ice wall began to move away and against its glitter he saw the hailbow. It was like a rainbow but pale, almost white, with just the loveliest hint of ghostly hue. The whole scene was so dramatic—huge clouds, falling ice, sunshine, the bow—and in a few minutes it was all over. But it stayed in Zac’s memory, just as if his mind’s eye had snapped a photograph.

After that, everything was swallowed up by the Aunties. Zac didn’t know them; they lived far away in a place called Five Corners. When he first met them at the funeral reception in his home, he began to understand why his mother had never mentioned them. They were horrible.

They were very, very old. Auntie Esmeralda, especially, was so ancient she looked ready to crumble away like a frail piece of lace. Her skin, where not obscured by a thick paste of makeup, was an unnatural, papery white, and she was draped in a long white fur coat. Very tall, she carried a cane, held herself rigid as a ruler, and wore her gray hair long and straight like a girl’s.

As Zac stood bewildered in the midst of the reception crowd, that gray curtain brushed his face and a thin, metallic voice rasped in his ear, “You poor, dear boy. How tragic to lose your mother. And in such a horrid way.” Auntie Esmeralda sounded as if she had a file stuck in her throat, scraping the human warmth off every word. “But don’t you worry. You’re coming home with us, isn’t he, Pris?”

Home with them? Zac’s home was here. With his mother gone, Mrs. Pottinger from next door had been staying with him, just as she had every evening when his mother went walking.

“Dear boy, you have nothing to fear. Your Aunties will take good care of you.” This came from Auntie Pris in a voice two octaves lower than Esmeralda’s. Much shorter than her sister, Pris seemed almost as wide as the other was tall. More than fat, she was big: squarish, broad-shouldered, solid as a stump. In contrast to Esmeralda’s fur, Pris was dressed in a short pink skirt with matching polka-dotted blouse. Perched on top of her blockish head was a pink pillbox hat. Zac was torn between amusement and horror.

Of course, the Aunties were terribly nice to him, hugging him to pieces, patting his extraordinary hair, crooning condolences, and plying him with cookies. Zac hated it all. These strange women were more suffocating than the stiff collar and suit he had to wear.

Sure enough, their tune soon changed. When the reception was over and everyone but the Aunties had left (including even Mrs. Pottinger), they began barking orders: Do this, do that, shut up, stop moping or we’ll give you something to mope about. Finally Zac was sent to his room, where he listened restlessly to a fitful wind that developed into driving rain, horrific lightning, and great claps of thunder exploding like bombs. Amidst this clamor, for some reason the most terrible sound was the occasional tap-tap-tapping of Esmeralda’s cane.

Early the next morning he was roughly awakened as the Aunties, each yanking one of his arms, dragged him from the house and shoved him into the backseat of their big black Cadillac. Throughout that long, stormy day they drove, stopping just once for gas and food. Where did these old women get such energy? It was bizarre—their mysterious vitality combined with an appearance of decrepitude. Throughout the trip

Zac sat silent, dozing or staring out the window, his left leg jiggling in a nervous tic.

Only once did the Aunties speak to him. Esmeralda, who was at the wheel, turned to him and glared. “Zachary”—she spoke his name as if it were a dead rat she held at arm’s length by its tail—“is a ridiculous name. From now on we’ll call you Boy.”

And so they did. But his name wasn’t all Zac lost that day. He’d had no chance to pack any of his belongings or toys—not his giant monkey, nor his collection of soldiers, nor his box of interesting bits of metal. Not even a toothbrush or his army camouflage pajamas. All he had was the suit on his back and a

photograph of his mother that he’d slipped into his pocket.

In this rude fashion was Zachary Sparks uprooted from his childhood home and whisked away to the town of Five Corners to live in a mansion with a plaque by the door that read THE MISSES ESMERALDA AND PRISCILLA HENBOTHER. The Aunties were, it seemed, his only living relatives; there was no one else to take him in. Their house, built of stone—even the floors were marble—had the bleak, dank feel of a castle. No

wonder Auntie Esmeralda always wore furs, though Auntie Pris huffed and puffed about in short sleeves, her bright pink skin glistening with sweat.

The place was loaded with china. Hundreds of figurines occupied coffee tables, glass cabinets, windowsills, every available surface. Zac noted a preponderance of elephants, but there were also large vases, luridly painted plates, baskets of swollen fruit. All were made of the most delicate-looking porcelain, as fragile as they were ugly. How did two such large and ancient ladies manage to navigate this glass jungle without breaking anything? All Zac knew was that it was no place for him.

From the moment they arrived, the Aunties bombarded him with warnings: “Don’t sit there, Boy … Be careful around that lamp … Do try to keep your leg still …” What was Zac to do? At least the Aunties’ silence in the car had left him to sort through his own thoughts. Now every word they spoke froze him tighter until he felt like one of those awful china figurines, condemned to hold one position forever. He was so nervous that, while trying to avoid a row of plates, he backed into a whatnot (a piece of furniture whose only purpose, he decided, was to hold knickknacks in ambush for boys) and broke a small pink elephant.

“Idiot! What have you done!” screamed Auntie Esmeralda in a voice itself like breaking glass. Auntie Pris, down on all fours to scoop together the fragments, sobbed as though tears might glue the elephant back together. How strange to see this huge woman crying over a trinket! Meanwhile Auntie Esmeralda, tall as a thunderhead, planted herself directly in front of Zac and croaked, “You … you wicked, clumsy imbecile! Go straight to your room.”

Zac didn’t move. He didn’t breathe.

“You heard me, young man. March!”

Still he didn’t move. He’d turned to stone.

“What’s wrong with you?” she demanded.

“Auntie,” he finally managed, “I don’t know where my room is.”

Esmeralda’s pale head on its long, wrinkled neck turned once to the left and then around to the right, like a bird’s, as though examining him with each eye separately. “Well, we’ll soon fix that. Pris, escort this boy to his room. Something tells me he’ll be spending a lot of time there.”

Leaving her precious pile of shattered china, Auntie Pris, with considerable effort, heaved herself to her feet. Drying her eyes with an enormous pink hankie, she growled, “That boy needs a cage, not a room.” Spinning him around with surprising force, and poking him in the back with a finger stiff as a billy club, she marched him out of the parlor, up a broad staircase, and along the hall to a door on the right. There, completely filling the door frame, she panted, “You’d better change your ways, Boy, or you won’t survive long around here.” Thrusting him inside, she shut the door and rattled a key in the lock.

So there he was. The room had a bed, an end table, a wooden chair. Its one window was already claimed by darkness. Though the storm had abated, a wind still blew and tree branches scraped against the pane. Rain drummed steadily.

For a long time Zac sat on the edge of the bed, his mind numb. Eventually he recalled the picture of his mother, still in his suit pocket. He pulled it out, but it was too dark to see and he couldn’t find a light. Cold, he climbed under the thin quilt and lay there, stiff as a corpse. He returned the photograph tohis pocket but kept his hand on it.

And so concluded Zachary Sparks’s first day in Five Corners, the first day of the end of his life. The Aunties might as well have put him in the coffin along with his mother and let the dull rain pound them both into the ground.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

For more about the book see the author's website:

About the Author
Mike Mason is the best-selling, award-winning author of The Mystery of Marriage, The Gospel According to Job, Practicing the Presence of People, and many others. He has an M.A. in English and has studied theology at Regent College. He lives in Langley, BC, Canada, with his wife, Karen.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner (Review)

Book Summary:
Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?

My Review:
Wow. White Picket Fences is one of the best books I have read all year. I read it in one morning/early afternoon. It is a moving make you think wonderfully written novel. I think this is Susan Meissner's best book yet and I have read most of them. It is a contemporary story dealing with family issues and secrets. There is a secondary plot of the Holocaust and a school project that is woven in easily with the main story. I highly recommend it and it is going on my 2009 favorites list. :)

Author Summary:

Susan Meissner cannot remember a time when she wasn’t driven to put her thoughts down on paper. Her novel The Shape of Mercy was a Publishers Weekly pick for best religious fiction of 2008 and a Christian Book Award finalist. Susan and her husband live in Southern California , where he is a pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four grown children.

Thank you WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, for my review copy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher (Review)

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Fit to Be Tied

Zondervan (November 1, 2009)


Robin Lee Hatcher


Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon


Cleo Arlington dresses like a cowboy, is fearless and fun-loving, and can ride, rope, and wrangle a horse as well as any man. In 1916, however, those talents aren’t what most young women aspire to. But Cleo isn’t most women. Twenty-nine years old and single, Cleo loves life on her father’s Idaho ranch. Still, she hopes someday to marry and have children.

Enter Sherwood Statham, an English aristocrat whose father has sentenced him to a year of work in America to “straighten him out.” Sherwood, who expected a desk job at a posh spa, isn’t happy to be stuck on an Idaho ranch. And he has no idea how to handle Cleo, who’s been challenged with transforming this uptight playboy into a down-home cowboy, because he has never encountered a woman succeeding in a “man’s world.”

Just about everything either of them says or does leaves the other, well, fit to be tied. Cleo Arlington knows everything about horses but nothing about men. And though Cleo believes God’s plan for her includes a husband, it couldn’t possibly be Sherwood Statham. Could it?

Their bumpy trot into romance is frustrating, exhilarating, and ultimately heartwarming.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fit to Be Tied , go HERE.

Watch the book video Trailer:

My Review:

I loved this book. It is the second in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs and my favorite so far. It can be read alone but you miss a little history by not reading the first book. It is well written with memorable characters and an interesting plot. Perfect historical romance light on the history. Highly recommended. :)

Classics Club Spin 18

My Classics Club Spin List for August This is a hodgepodge of books left on my list I made in 2017 for the Classics Club. Tomorrow the clu...