Monday, October 31, 2011

From Ashes to Honor by Loree Lough


Loree Lough is a new author for me, and I was really excited when I read about her new First Responders series. For some reason I really like books about modern-day "heroes" . . . doctors, paramedics, firemen, policemen.

The first book in this new series, From Ashes to Honor, pays tribute to first responders at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Loree tells a great story that features Austin (a police officer turned EMT) and Mercy (a policy psychiatrist turned high school guidance counselor). They each have their own trauma associated with 9/11 and moved to Baltimore to escape the constant reminders of living in New York City. When they see each other again, sparks begin to fly and they must determine if they can overcome their differences and the past in order to secure a future together.

Loree weaves together an intricate plot that not only features the two primary characters but works in a great cast of supporting characters. The storylines are realistic and packed with emotion. I loved Loree's writing style and the way that she taught biblical principles while she was telling a story . . . and managed to do so without being preachy.

I will say that I was totally shocked . . . and disappointed . . . with the ending of the book. Every book doesn't have to end the way that I want it to. However, after 300+ pages, the book just stopped. The ending was so abrupt, I thought for sure I had missed something or that Austin's and Mercy's story would be continued in another book. That does not seem to be the case, though. I just felt a bit . . . cheated. After investing that much time with the characters, I felt like they (and I) deserved a bit more thought and care in the resolution. Upon further thought, it seemed that as some of the other plot lines ended as thoroughly as I would have wanted either.

All of that to say . . . the first 300 pages were fantastic. The ending was just a little weak. I will definitely give Loree Lough a second chance with the second book in the First Responders series.

I received a free copy from Abingdon Press and Net Galley in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
If he had only answered that last phone call from the World Trade Center . . .

Minutes before two jumbo jets changed U.S. history, New York police officer Austin Finley ignored the call from his brother, who’d been bugging him for days. Trying to live with his one regret causes hatred and bitterness to consume Austin, and when counselor Mercy Samara recommends desk duty, Austin resigns. Haunted by her own memories of 9/11, Mercy takes a job as a school counselor in Baltimore. When Austin, now an EMT, responds to an emergency at Mercy’s school, both are stunned and wary. Finally their common—and painful—memories turn suspicion into friendship, then romance.

But hard questions linger: Can they truly move beyond their past harsh judgments and harsh words? Will their past finally bring them closer or—as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 draws near—drive them farther apart?

About the Author
With more than 3,000,000 copies of her books in circulation, Loree has 82 books (fiction and non-fiction for kids and adults; one novel optioned for a TV movie; more books slated for release between now and 2013), 68 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Over the years, her stories have earned hundreds of industry and "Readers' Choice" awards and 4- and 5-star reviews. She splits her time between a tiny home in the Baltimore suburbs and an even tinier cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, and shares both with her real-life hero Larry, who rarely complains, even when she adds yet another item to her vast collection of "wolf stuff."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hook, Line & Sinker by Susan May Warren


My first introduction to Susan May Warren came through her Deep Haven series. Excellent! She just released Hook, Line & Sinker, a novella which is a prequel to the series.

Since I haven't read the entire series, I wasn't familiar with these characters. However, I really enjoyed a brief (only 40 pages!) peek into the history behind some of the characters in Deep Haven. I loved reading Ross and Abigail's story and seeing how God helped them work through their past. Warren did a great job getting my curiosity up about their background and then reveal the reasons for the tension between them. My only complaint is that the book just wasn't long enough (40 pages). I think 100 pages would be the perfect length for a novella, and the extra pages would have allowed a bit more depth to both the characters and the story.

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
The annual Deep Haven fishing contest draws professional and amateur anglers from across the country, but this year, Ross Springer is determined to win the top cash prize. In fact, he has no choice. It’s his last chance to leave a lasting legacy at Bethel College. He just never imagined his fundraising scheme would hook Abigail Cushman, the grad student who reminds him of all they’d had—and lost—every time she glances his way.

Abigail Cushman may not know the difference between a bass and a trout, but how hard can it be to catch a fish? She’s a quick learner, and she’s certain her smarts can net her a win over Ross Springer, the handsome charmer she’s tried to forget since grief tore them apart.

In the ultimate showdown between brains and heart, will Ross and Abby reel in more than they bargained for? 

About the Author
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press.  A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.  A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!.  She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Webb Hart


I finished Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Webb Hart this morning . . . just in time to post my review. (Grin.)

Jackson and Mary Lynn both grew up in small town South Carolina. Their families were poor and both have regrets about the things that they missed out on growing up. When they married, they determined that their children would not want for anything. Their three daughters are in nearly every extra-curricular activity known to man, and Jackson and Mary Lynn have finally broken into high society in Charleston with invitations pending to join some of the most prestigious social clubs. However, Mary Lynn feels like there must be something more. When Jackson begins reading The Message Bible and questions everything about his beliefs of God, the family's world is turned upside down. Nothing is off the table.

Beth Webb Hart is a gifted writer who easily and quickly pulled me into the story. She wrote this story from three different perspectives (Jackson's, Mary Lynn's, and Catherine's - their oldest daughter) which allowed me to fully understand the thoughts and feelings of all parties. The level of detail that she put into the story gave me such a great picture of Charleston . . . almost as if I'd been there. I can definitely imagine the streets and neighborhood where the family lived.

It seems that the majority of novels I've read recently center around a conflict between two individuals - mostly a man and a woman who will eventually overcome their problems and fall in love. In Sunrise on the Battery, however, the conflict was really between the family (mainly Jackson) and God. It was unlike anything I'd read before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also loved how the author portrayed a couple who had been married for nearly twenty years but were still in love with each other. They had everything they could have ever wanted . . . except God. Again, this is so different than a lot of what I've read. I loved the picture of a healthy, loving marriage relationship.

I will say that there were a couple of things that I wish had been more clear in the story. First, it was never really made clear if Mary Lynn was a Christian. She prayed for her husband, she attended a women's prayer group at church, and she went to church on Christmas Eve. But I wish that there would have been a greater emphasis on Mary Lynn's relationship with the Lord . . . whatever that was. Also, I wish the author would have laid out a clear, concise explanation of what the gospel is. There is much mention of sharing the gospel, and parts of the gospel are discussed, but it could be easily misunderstood if a reader didn't already know what the gospel was. I think people could (mistakenly) walk away thinking that warm fuzzies, baptism, making grand gestures, or logically evaluating the Bible are what results in a person's salvation. The author did not directly state any of these things, but the lack of a full explanation of the gospel could lead to these misunderstandings.

Beth Webb Hart also mentions that she got the idea for the premise of this book after reading Radical by David Platt. I think she wrote a great book . . . however, (for me) she didn't really address a lot of the issues raised in Radical. I think she got the family started on the right path, but didn't really carry the story out as far as it could have (should have?) gone. Perhaps if Jackson had discovered faith earlier in the book, it would have allowed more time to really flesh out these ideas.

Overall, though, I really did enjoy this book. Jackson's his zeal and enthusiasm for going "all in" once he became a Christian was challenging. There were times that I shook my head at the way he went about things, but the author left me feeling like the family was really working to figure out what this new Christian life was supposed to look like.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and The B&B Media Group in exchange for my fair and honest review.

For more information about the book and a sneak preview, check out this post.

Blog Tour: Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist


Deeanne Gist has done it again. I fell in love with the passionate, independent Georgie Gail as she tries to change the community and resist any possibility of falling in love. Luke Palmer is equally intriguing, and I loved getting to know him! The historical themes were intriguing - particularly the developments related to the telephone system in town. While I'm not crazy about animals and sometimes found the quest to save the songbirds annoying (sorry!), Georgie's quirky personality overrode my dislike for the birds. Love on the Line is the perfect blend of romance, history, and suspense and will keep you hooked from the very first page!

Don't just take my word for it, though. Check out what everyone else is saying! And don't forget about the contest going on through Nov. 8!

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity and Bethany House in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
It's a battle of wills ... and love is on the line!

Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man's world . . . which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He's a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

About the Author
Deeanne Gist--known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee --has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary romances. Add to this three RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you've got one recipe for success.

She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/DeesCircle.

Sound good enough to buy? (It is!) Get your copy today!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's Freebies

There are just a few new free e-books this week. Enjoy!


One Imperfect Christmas
by Myra Johnson

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she's allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves-most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she's one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit's end. Nothing he's done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa's adolescent rebellion isn't helping matters. As Daniel's hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.


The Lord Is My Shepherd
by Debbie Viguie

Cindy's church is getting ready to celebrate Easter, and Jeremiah's Temple is preparing for Passover when Cindy literally stumbles over the body of an unknown man lying dead in the sanctuary. The church was locked, and a bloody cross necklace on the floor seems to be the only clue. The killer is likely a member of the congregation, but there are hints that similar deaths have happened in the past. Are Cindy and Jeremiah dealing with a serial killer? They have to unravel the clues before Easter Sunday arrives and more people die. Cindy and Jeremiah come from two different worlds, even though they work right next door to each other. Cindy is a strong Christian who lives a normal but somewhat dull life, working as a church secretary. Jeremiah is a Reformed rabbi with a mysterious past full of danger and excitement. But one eventful Easter/Passover week, the two find themselves working together to solve a murder and stop a serial killer from striking again. Solving the mystery should put an end to their alliance, but the church secretary and the rabbi quickly find themselves enmeshed in another mystery. Soon the two form a friendly alliance and friendship, exploring personal history and faith and growing closer with each passing adventure. Despite their differences Cindy and Jeremiah find a lot of common ground.


Harsh Pink: Color Me Burned
by Melody Carlson

After moving from Boston with her mom, Reagan Mercer is just trying to fit in at her new high school. After winning a coveted spot on the cheerleading squad, she accidentally bumps popularity poster child Kendra Farnsworth from the lineup and makes a new A-list enemy. So much for blending in. Life at home isn't much better as Reagan struggles to deal with her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

Things begin to look up after Kendra decides to play nice and make Reagan a part of her elite crew. But Reagan finds that acceptance has a steep price, as her new friends make life miserable for anyone who gets in their way. And after a tragic accident and party gone too far, can Reagan still make the right choice?

These free e-books can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook.com, or wherever e-books are sold.

1105 Yakima Street by Debbie Macomber

Oops! This review is WAY past due. Sorry for my tardiness!


If you aren't familiar with Debbie Macomber, I highly recommend that you check her out! I've read several of her novels and have thoroughly enjoyed them all! Most recently I read 1105 Yakima Street. Without realizing it, I started on the ELEVENTH book in the series. While I did enjoy this book, I would definitely suggest you read the first ten books in the series first . . . as that will probably help you follow the story (and the characters) a bit better.

One of the things that I like best about Macomber is her ability to tell you a story that seems so realistic. Her characters have real problems and they deal with them in realistic ways. Everything doesn't just wrap up neat and tidy because we all love our happy endings. At times there are real, deep struggles that won't just magically disappear because the book ends. Macomber writes with a depth of emotion that is rare to find in fiction.

I also appreciate the way that Debbie writes romance in a secular market in such a tasteful way. I have no idea if she is a Christ-follower or not, but the romance in her novels is tasteful and not offensive. Intimate relationships between married couples are portrayed as special, while intimacy out of wedlock has consequences. I truly appreciate this!

You should definitely check out the Cedar Cove series (but start at the beginning!). I also have enjoyed several books in her Blossom Street series. These are delightful books that will leave you wanting more!

I received a free e-galley of this book from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
Dear Reader,
You've probably heard that my wife has left me. Rachel's pregnant, and she says she can't handle the stress in our household anymore. My thirteen-year-old daughter, Jolene, is jealous of her. Maybe it's my fault. As a widower I spoiled her—

Jolene was reading over my shoulder just now and says that's not true. She claims Rachel ruined everything. But that's not true. The real question is: How can I get my wife back? I don't even know where she is. She's not with Teri Polgar or any of her other friends from the salon. The other question is…when will Jolene grow up and stop acting like such a brat?

Of course, I'm not the only one in town with problems. Linc Wyse's father-in-law is trying to destroy his business. And you know Charlotte Rhodes? Seems she's becoming forgetful, and the family's worried about her and Ben. Lots of other stuff going on—but Rachel is better at keeping up with it than I am.
If you have any idea where my wife is, give me a call. Please.

Bruce Peyton

About the Author
With more than 140 million copies of her books in print, Debbie Macomber is one of today's most popular authors.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author is best known for her ability to create compelling characters and bring their stories to life in her books. Drawing on her own experiences and observations, Debbie writes heartwarming tales about small-town life, home and family, enduring friendships and women who knit. Every book features the delightful sense of humor for which readers around the world clamor. Not bad for a woman who is dyslexic and didn't learn to read until she was in the fifth grade.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Along Wooded Paths by Tricia Goyer


In Along Wooded Paths Tricia Goyer picks up right where she left off in Beside Still Waters. Goyer weaves a beautiful story about Marianna and her family. Marianna is torn between the Amish man she always thought she would marry and the Englisch man who is teaching her about a personal relationship with God. As she draws closer to God and her family, she becomes more confused than ever.

This series is different than any other "Amish fiction" I've read. The focus is more on each characters' relationship with God than on the Amish way of life. Through writing the Sommer family's story, Goyer really reveals that being Amish is merely a way of life, and a relationship with Christ is still of utmost importance. I also liked the way that she wrote about the Amish and the Englisch inter-mingling in the community and how they taught each other by living together.

While not generally a huge fan of Amish fiction, I love this series and look forward to the final installment so I can see how everything works out.

Note: If you missed out on the first book in the series, you will definitely need to go back and read from the beginning, as this book literally picks up where the first left off. (Check out my review of Beside Still Waters.)

I received a free copy of this book from B&H Books in exchange for my fair and honest review.




About the Book
All she wanted was a simple Amish life . . . But now Marianna Sommer finds herself depending on Englisch neighbors. Although proud of living apart from the world, she and her newly relocated Amish family have discovered that life in the remote mountains of Montana requires working together.

As Marianna begins helping those different from herself—and receiving their help—her heart contemplates two directions. She’s torn between the Amish man from Indiana whom she has long planned on marrying and the friendly Englischer who models a closer walk with God than she’s ever seen before.

Who should have young Marianna’s heart? What is God asking her to sacrifice? Her traditions? Her community? The answer is found along the wooded paths.

About the Author
Tricia Goyer is an acclaimed and prolific writer, publishing hundreds of articles in national magazines including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family while authoring more than twenty-five fiction and nonfiction books combined. Among those are 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award winners Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. She has also written books on marriage and parenting and contributed notes to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Tricia lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Quarter for a Kiss by Mindy Starns Clark

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

MY THOUGHTS:
I first discovered Mindy Starns Clark's Million Dollar Mysteries series several years ago - when they were first released. Somehow along the way, though, I missed out on the final two books in the series. Thankfully, though, A Quarter for a Kiss came my way, and I absolutely loved it!

This series is reminiscent of the Nancy Drew mysteries that I grew up loving. Just the perfect amount of mystery and a smidge (or more!) of tasteful romance thrown in. I love this genre of mystery stories (if there are genres within mysteries). It's good, old-fashioned sleuthing / detective work.

I absolutely loved Callie's character and found myself wishing we could be friends. She seriously has the coolest job - investigating charities so that she can give them money! Clark weaves together an intriguing plot that keeps you guessing as to what will come next.  The way Callie seems to just "stumble" into trouble makes her endearing and kept me rooting for her to solve the mystery until the very end.

If you haven't read the previous books in the series, you'll have no trouble picking up here. However, my guess is that you will want to go back and read the rest! I highly recommend this entire series and can't wait to read the conclusion!

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
With a touch of romance and a strong heroine, A Quarter for a Kiss offers more of the fast-paced and suspenseful inspirational writing found in A Penny for Your Thoughts, Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels, and A Dime a Dozen. In this fourth book of the Million Dollar Mysteries, Mindy Starns Clark weaves another tale of mystery and God’s touch on the lives of those who seek Him.

As a young widow, Callie Webber finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her growing romance with her employer, Tom Bennett. When their friend and mentor, Eli Gold, is shot, the search for answers as to who and why leads Tom and Callie to the beautiful Virgin Islands. There they face a sinister enemy among the ruins of an old sugar plantation—an enemy who’s willing to do anything to keep his identity secret and the past deeply buried.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright. Visit the author's website.



Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929592
ISBN-13: 978-0736929592

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Come on, Callie,” Tom urged. “You can do it. You know how.”

Ignoring the burning in my calves, I kept my gaze on Tom, who had reached the top of the wall almost effortlessly and now waited there for me to join him.

“There’s a grip at two o’clock, up from your right hand about six inches,” he guided, speaking in the low, soothing tones I teasingly called his “rock climbing” voice. Glad for that voice now, I released my handhold and reached upward, my fingers easily finding and grasping the tiny ledge. “Now your foot,” he said. “Slow and easy. You’re almost there.”

As I went I concentrated on all I had learned about rock climbing in the last few weeks. It was Tom’s passion, and we had spent a number of hours practicing on a real rock face while he taught me the basic tricks and techniques. Now we were in an indoor gym, on a simulated rock wall, climbing much higher than we had ever gone in our practice runs. And though I was wearing a safety harness that was roped to the ceiling, that didn’t make it any easier or any less scary—particularly where the wall actually bent outward, pitching me at a difficult angle.

“You are one step away, Cal,” he said, excitement evident in his voice. “Most of the people won’t make it half this far.”

With a final burst of daring, I slid my toes against the next hold and straightened my knees, rising high enough to touch the ceiling at the top of the wall.

“You did it!” Tom cried, and only then did I allow myself to smile and then to laugh.

“I did do it!” I echoed, slapping a high five with Tom and feeling the rush of pleasure and relief he said he experienced every time he finished a challenging climb. Of course, to him “challenging” meant the Red Rocks of Nevada or Half Dome in Yosemite. For me, a big wall in a rock-climbing gym was a pretty good start.

We repelled down together, my legs still feeling shaky once I was on solid ground.

“That was great,” the teenage staffer said as he helped unhook me from the harness. “And to think you were worried. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Not that high and not indoors,” I said.

“Well, you’re a natural.”

“I had a good teacher,” I replied, glancing at Tom, who was busy removing his own harness. He and I had spent the last three weeks together vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. During that time, we had enjoyed teaching each other our favorite sports—climbing and canoeing—though I liked to tease him that my hobby was the superior one, because one false move with a canoe paddle wouldn’t exactly plunge a person hundreds of feet to their death. Tom had replied that if one were canoeing above Niagara Falls, that wouldn’t exactly be true, now would it?

As the teenager moved on to help the next set of climbers, Tom gave me an encouraging smile.

“Hey, what did you say this is called?” I asked him, pointing at my visibly wobbling knees. “Sewing legs?”

“Sewing-machine legs,” Tom replied. “A common climbing malady. Come on. You need to rest for a bit.”

He bought us two bottles of water from the snack bar, and then we found a quiet corner and sat on a bench there, leaning back against the wall. I felt thoroughly spent, as if I had pushed every single muscle in my body to its very limit.

I sipped on my water, feeling my pulse slowly return to normal, looking around at the activity that surrounded us. Across the giant room, a new group of climbers was being instructed by a guide while about ten more people waited in line for their turn. In the front window was a giant banner that said “Climb for KFK,” and beside the cash register was a table where pledges and donations were being accepted for “Kamps for Kids,” a charity that provided summer camp scholarships to impoverished children. Instead of a walk­athon, they were calling this event a “climbathon.” I liked the idea as well as the whole atmosphere of the place, from the easy joviality of the people waiting in line to the upbeat encouragement of the instructors who were manning the ropes and providing assistance as needed.

“So what’s up, Callie?” Tom asked. “You haven’t been yourself all morning.”

I shrugged.

“Sorry,” I said. “This is my work mode, I guess. You have to remember, we’re not just here to have fun. We’re on the job, so to speak.”

Tom nodded knowingly and then leaned closer and lowered his voice.

“So how does this happen, exactly?” he asked. “Do you just walk up to the people and say, ‘Hi, here’s a big whopping check’?”

I smiled.

“Oh, sure, that’s usually how it goes. I call that my Big Whopping Check speech.”

“Don’t be hard on me,” he said, grinning. “I’ve never done this before.”

I leaned toward him, speaking softly.

“Well, first of all, you have to wait for the proper moment,” I said. “Like just before you’re about to leave.”

“Okay.”

“Second,” I continued, “you have to have the full attention of the correct person. You don’t want to give that whopping check to just anybody.”

“Get the big wig. Got it.”

“Finally, the act of presentation takes a little bit of flair. It’s a huge moment for them. You want to help them enjoy it.”

“I think I understand.”

“You also want to bring them back down to earth a little. I actually do have a short speech I give every time I hand over a grant. I remind the recipient where the money’s coming from and what it’s for. That seems to go over well.”

I felt funny explaining how I did my job to Tom, because he wasn’t just my boyfriend, he was also technically my boss. Though he lived and worked on the other side of the country, far from our actual office, Tom was the kind and generous philanthropist behind the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. I worked for the foundation as the director of research, and basically my job was to investigate nonprofits Tom was interested in and analyze their suitability for grants. If they checked out okay, I then had the pleasure of awarding them grant money. That’s what we were doing here today. For the first time ever, Tom was joining me as I gave a little bit of his money away.

“Hey, Tom! Tom Bennett!” a man cried, interrupting my thoughts.

The fellow bounded toward us, grinning widely. He was tall and wiry, with deep laugh lines in a tanned face, and when he reached us, we stood and the two men shook hands warmly. “You said you might come, but I didn’t believe you.”

“I’m glad I was able to work it out,” Tom replied, smiling.

He introduced his friend as Mitch Heckman, owner of the gym and co-organizer of the event. I told Mitch how impressed I was with the gym and with the climbathon concept.

“Most of the credit goes to my wife,” Mitch said, shaking my hand. “I’m just glad we could use the gym to help out a good cause.”

“Have you raised much?” Tom asked.

“Our goal for today was twenty-five thousand dollars,” Mitch said. “You can see how we’re doing on that poster over there.”

He pointed to a drawing of a mountain with a zero at the bottom, amounts written up the side, and $25,000 at the top. Sadly, it had only been colored in about half of the way up—and the event would be over in another hour or two.

“Of course, we had a pretty big learning curve in putting the whole thing together,” Mitch said. “I’m sure we can make up the difference with some bake sales or car washes or something. We’ll get there eventually. Mai pen rai, huh?”

“Yeah, mai pen rai.”

They chatted for a few minutes more, and then Mitch was called up to the front. After he was gone, Tom explained to me their acquaintance, that they had met a few months ago while mountain climbing—specifically, while scaling the limestone cliffs off of Rai Ley Beach in the Krabi Province of Thailand. Tom had been working hard in Singapore and had taken a weekend off to visit the nearby mountain-climbers’ mecca, where he met Mitch atop one of the peaks after a particularly challenging climb. As the two men rested, they talked, and it turned out that they were both avid climbers and eager to explore an unfrequented jungle crag nearby. Together they had hired a guide and ended up having an incredible day of climbing. Though the two men hadn’t seen each other since, they had been in touch off and on ever since via e-mail.

“What were you saying to each other just now? My pen…”

“Mai pen rai,” Tom replied. “That’s Thai for ‘no problem’ or ‘never mind.’ The guides say it to encourage you while you’re climbing, kind of like ‘you can do it.’ ‘Don’t worry.’ Mai pen rai.”

“Does Mitch know about the foundation?”

“Nope. He thinks I’m just another rock jock.”

“He’s in for a nice surprise, then,” I said. “This is fun, giving a grant to someone who never even applied for one.”

This wasn’t our usual mode for doing business, that was for sure. But this particular charity was so new—and the amount we were donating so relatively small—that the investigation hadn’t been all that complicated. Since KFK had never applied for a grant from us, I hadn’t really had the authority to go in and do an extensive investigation. But they did belong to several good nonprofit watchdog groups, so I had felt confident doing the research from our vacation home in North Carolina, mostly over the internet and on the phone with the foundation’s accounting whiz, Harriet, the day before.

“Anyway, now you’ll finally have the pleasure of making a donation live and in person,” I added. “Something I’ve only been bugging you to do for two years.”

“Almost three years now,” he corrected. “And, yes, I’m hoping this might shut you up for good.”

“Oh, you want me to shut up, do you?” I asked. “What about—”

He silenced me with a finger against my lips, which he allowed to linger there.

“No,” he whispered, gazing a moment at my mouth. “Don’t ever stop talking to me. I want to listen to you forever.”

We looked into each other’s eyes as everything else in the room blurred into the background. My legs shivered again, but not from climbing this time.

“We need to get going,” Tom said gruffly, standing and then helping me to my feet. I squeezed his hand, and then we separated into the men’s and women’s locker areas to get cleaned up.

After a shower I dressed quickly in a pair of black slacks and a soft blue knit shirt. I towel-dried my short hair, combed it out, and took a moment to put on some lipstick and a touch of mascara.

As I looked in the mirror, ready to leave, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. In a few short hours Tom and I would go our separate ways, boarding two different flights to head toward our homes on opposite coasts—him to California and me to Maryland. For three glorious weeks we had done nothing more than shut out the rest of the world and spend time together, but we couldn’t hide out and play forever. Our work and other responsibilities awaited us, and as one week had turned into two and then to three, we had already stretched the length of our available time to the very max. Soon our idyllic vacation together would officially be over, and Tom and I would be back to our long-distance romance as usual.

Slinging my bag onto my shoulder, I decided to take this day moment-by-moment. Despite the difficulty of parting, we still had a job to do. We still had a grant to give out.

I emerged from the locker room to find Tom also showered and dressed, standing nearby and squinting toward the front of the room. He had in his hand a check from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, dated today and made out to the charity, though the amount had been left blank.

“Callie, can you read that figure?” he asked. “I need the exact amount they’ve raised so far.”

I walked a little closer and then came back to report that they were up to $11,043. Quick with numbers, Tom didn’t even hesitate before he filled out the check for $23,957.

“That’s ten thousand more than they need to bring them to their goal,” I said after doing the math in my head, not surprised one bit by his generosity.

“Yeah, but it’s the least we can do, don’t you think?”

He tried to put the check in my hand, but I pushed it back.

“No, you don’t,” I said. “Enjoy the moment.”

Carrying our bags, Tom and I walked to the front of the gym, where his friend Mitch was chatting with a woman that I assumed was his wife. We were introduced, and I liked her firm handshake and the way she looked me directly in the eye. She thanked us for coming and then moved on to speak with someone else.

“We’re going to head out,” Tom said to Mitch, “but I wanted to give you a check first. I talked my company into making a small grant.”

Of course, the way Tom had said it, you’d never know that it was his company, nor his money—nor that he was using “small” as a relative term. Mitch took the folded check without looking at it.

“Listen, buddy, every bit helps. Thank you so much, and thanks for coming.”

The two men shook hands, and then Mitch shook my hand as well. We said goodbye, and Tom and I departed, walking silently through the packed parking lot toward our rental car.

“You were right, Callie,” he said nonchalantly, pressing a button on his key chain to unlock the car. “Giving away the money in person really is kind of fun.”

I was about to reply when we heard Mitch calling Tom’s name. We turned to see the man running toward us, breathless, his eyes filled with disbelief.

“I don’t understand,” he gasped, holding up the check. “This is so much. Is it some kind of joke?”

“No joke, Mitch,” Tom said. “We’re affiliated with the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. That’s a grant.”

“A grant?”

“Yeah, we give them out all the time. Callie, what is it you like to say when you give grants to people?”

I smiled.

“Basically,” I said, going into my spiel, “we want you to know that the best way you can say thanks is to take that money and use it to further your mission. The foundation believes strongly in what you’re trying to accomplish, and we just wanted to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

To my surprise, Mitch’s eyes filled with tears.

“Your generosity leaves me speechless,” he said finally. “Won’t you come back inside? Let me tell my wife. She’ll be so excited. Maybe we can get a picture for the newsletter or the website or something.”

I looked at Tom, but he seemed decidedly uncomfortable.

“Mitch,” I said, “we really prefer to do this in a discreet manner. Just tell Jill that the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation gives the money with love and with God’s blessings. We’d rather not receive any individual recognition.”

Bewildered, he looked back down at the check.

“And you promise this isn’t a joke?” he tried one more time.

“No joke,” Tom laughed. “I give you my word, buddy. It’s for real.”

With a final sincere thanks, Mitch turned and headed back to the building. We stood there and watched until he went inside and the door closed behind him.

On impulse, I turned and threw my arms around Tom’s neck. Startled, after a moment he hugged me back.

“You are such a good man,” I whispered, feeling absolutely, utterly, and completely in love.

He laughed, pulling me in tightly for an embrace.

“Wow,” he replied. “This giving-away-money thing gets better all the time.”

Knowing the clock was ticking closer toward our flight times, we managed to pull apart and get into the car. He started it up and pulled out of the parking lot, driving toward the airport.

We were quiet as we went, both lost in our own thoughts. As we wove our way through traffic, I considered our relationship and the long and winding path my life had taken since my husband’s death. This coming summer would mark four years since Bryan was killed, and in one way it seemed like yesterday, and in another it seemed like decades ago. My husband had been my first true love, the sweetheart I had met at 16 and married at 25. We’d had four wonderful years together as husband and wife, but that had all come crashing to an end that fateful day when we went water-skiing and Bryan was hit by a speedboat. The boat’s driver went to prison for manslaughter, but I also went into a sort of prison myself—a self-imposed prison of mourning, of loneliness.

Only in the last six months had I allowed myself to consider the possibility that there might be life for me beyond my husband’s death. Tom and I had developed a good, strong friendship through our many work-related conversations over the phone, and then, slowly, that friendship had started taking on other dimensions. We finally met in person last fall, when Tom received word that I had been hurt in an investigation and raced halfway around the world to be by my side and make certain I was all right. We had spent a mere 12 hours together—just long enough to begin falling in love—and then we were forced to endure a four-month separation while he went back to Singapore on important business and I healed from my injuries and continued my work with his foundation in the U.S.

Then three weeks ago, in the very heart of spring, we had been joyously reunited. Showing up in a hot air balloon, Tom had swept me away to a gorgeous vacation spot in the North Carolina mountains, where we planned to stay a week or so and give ourselves the opportunity to see if our relationship really could work face-to-face. What we had found was that we were so compatible, so comfortable, and so suddenly and deeply in love that it was nearly impossible to end our vacation and return to our regular lives.

Now, however, our time together had come to an end.

“There’s the car rental return,” Tom said suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. He followed the signs and turned into the lot, but instead of heading straight to the busy rental return area, he veered over to an empty parking spot nestled behind a big truck. He put the car in park but left the motor running.

“Maybe we should say our goodbyes here,” he told me, “instead of out in the middle of the busy airport.”

I nodded, surprised when my eyes suddenly filled with tears. I didn’t want to say goodbye at all. Tom’s cell phone began ringing from his gym bag, but we ignored it.

“Callie, have I told you that the past three weeks have been the happiest weeks of my life?”

The ringing stopped. In the quiet of the car, I held on to his hand, looking deeply into his eyes.

“They have been incredible,” I replied. There were many, many moments we had shared that I would relive in my mind in the coming days. “I don’t know if I have the strength to say goodbye to you or not.”

Tom reached up and smoothed a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Such tenderness was in his gaze that I thought it might break my heart.

“Callie, I have something for you,” he whispered. He started to reach into his pocket, and I swallowed hard, wondering what it could be. Then his phone began to ring again.

“You better see who it is,” I said, sighing. “It might be important.”

By the time he got the phone out from his gym bag, the call had been disconnected. Tom was pressing buttons, trying to see who had called, when my phone started ringing from my purse. I dug it out, surprised to see that the number on my screen matched the number that had just called his.

“Hello?” I asked somewhat hesitantly.

“Callie?” a woman’s voice cried from very far away. “Is that you?”

“This is Callie,” I answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Stella,” the voice said. “Stella Gold.”

I put my hand over the phone and mouthed to Tom, It’s Eli’s wife.

Eli Gold was my mentor, a friend of Tom’s, and the person responsible for bringing the two of us together.

“Stella?” I asked, trying to picture a woman I didn’t know very well at the other end of the line. I had met her the day she married my dear friend Eli, but she and I had not really spoken since, except for those times when I called their house and she had been the one to answer the phone. “What’s up?”

“Oh, Callie, I’m so glad I finally reached you. I need you. I need your help. I need Tom Bennett, also, if you know how to reach him.”

“What is it?” I asked, my heart surging.

“It’s Eli,” she sobbed. “He’s in the hospital.”

“In the hospital?”

“Callie, he’s been shot.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by MizB on her blog Should Be Reading.

It's easy! Just pick up your current read (or one of them!), open to a random page, and choose a couple of sentences on the page to post as a teaser. No spoilers please! Make sure to tell which book you pulled the quote from so others can check it out if they're interested.

I just finished Lethal Remedy by Richard L. Mabry. Wowzers ... it was fantastic.

She screeched to a stop in the parking lot, looked behind her, and saw the rear window was shattered. Glass shards covered the backseat. To her right, a jagged hole marred the front passenger window.

Lethal Remedy
Richard L. Mabry
page 118

Blog Tour: Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson


I wasn't sure what to think of this book when I first picked it up. The copy on the back cover intrigued me, but it started a little slow for me. However, once I got into it, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Camden is alone, out of work, behind on her bills, and can't imagine things turning around anytime soon. She decides to go to the last place she remembers being truly happy - her grandmother's home, Crescent Hill. Upon arriving, she learns that her grandmother has died but left her the house on the verge of being condemned, tons of necessary repairs, and some long-time family mysteries.

This is an incredible story about faith, friendship, belonging, and trusting in God. Dobson introduces an amazing cast of characters - some you'll fall in love with, others will drive you crazy. By the end I found myself not wanting the book to be over. Any chance there will be a sequel?!

Dobson creates a story that is part mystery, part romance. She also does a great job bringing history into a contemporary fiction novel. I actually think lovers of both contemporary fiction and historical fiction will be quite satisfied with this book.

I loved how Dobson tells the story - from multiple points of view. The bulk of the story is told from Camden's point of view, but we also get to hear from Alex, Stephanie, and Jake. At times, I wasn't sure how all of the stories were going to work together - or if they were! - but in the end, she pulled everything together and left me thinking, "WOW!"

Possible SPOILER: In the beginning there were a few allusions to ghosts, which made me nervous that this would turn out to be a "Christian ghost story." However, fear not (if that sort of story offends you), it is not a ghost story.

Great story, Melanie! You made a fan out of me!

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Side Note
I received a lovely email from Melanie over the weekend letting me know that she wouldn't be able to stop by during the blog tour this week because she's helping lead a conference for pastors' wives in Haiti. Will you join me in praying for Melanie and the women who will be attending the conference this week?

Want to check it out for free?!
Refuge on Crescent Hill will be available on Amazon Kindle for FREE beginning on October 31. Don't miss out!

About the Book
Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow but what she finds is an empty mansion 150 years old. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?

When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, Camden wonders what really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town--and her life--forever.

About the Author
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of The Black Cloister; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana; and Together for Good. A former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than eighteen years. She and her family live in Oregon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: At the Throne of Grace by John MacArthur

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Harvest House Publishers; Abridged edition (October 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

MY THOUGHTS:
This book is a collection of over 50 prayers collected from the years of John MacArthur's ministry. These beautiful prayers are based on Scripture and will bring you closer to God. Divided into six sections (Prayers on Worship and the Attributes of God, Prayers on Joy and Longing, Prayers on the Cross and the Gospel, Prayers on Personal Holiness, Prayers on Useful Service, and Prayers on Holy Seasons), there are prayers for nearly any circumstance that you might find yourself in. This is a keeper and will find a special place on my bookshelf where I can read - and pray through - it over and over again throughout the years.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Announcing a special new release from Bible teacher John MacArthur…a select collection of powerful Scripture readings and prayers that inspire heartfelt communion with God and gratitude for all that He is and has done for us.

For more than 40 years, John MacArthur has steadfastly committed himself to the careful and faithful teaching of God’s Word. A key outgrowth of his study of Scripture is the profoundly God-centered prayers that precede his sermons.

John’s prayers are the offerings of a heart that is fully committed to honoring God, proclaiming and obeying His Word, and calling others to do the same. In this book, prayers and Scripture readings from across his years of ministry have been brought together to stir Christians toward more meaningful and edifying communion with God.

This book will guide readers, in the most intimate way possible, before God’s throne of grace…giving them a renewed passion and appreciation for their Lord.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John MacArthur is the pastor–teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California; president of The Master’s College & Seminary; and featured teacher for the Grace to You media ministry. Weekly telecasts and daily radio broadcasts of “Grace to You” are seen and heard by millions worldwide. John has also written several bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, The New Testament Commentary series, Twelve Ordinary Men, and The Truth War. He and his wife, Patricia, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren. Visit the author's website.


Product Details:
List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Abridged edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736938400
ISBN-13: 978-0736938402

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Adoring Our Advocate Unreservedly

1 John 2:1-19

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.


By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.


Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.


The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.


I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.


Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.


Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

Our Gracious God, we thank You for our heavenly Advocate,
Jesus Christ the righteous, whose death on the cross
made propitiation for all our sins—
perfectly satisfying every demand of Your holy justice.
It is He who brought us
out of guilt and into forgiveness,
out of darkness into light,
out of our rebellion and into Your love,
out of death and into life.
He delivered us from this evil world, into Your glorious kingdom.
How we praise You for the wonder of Your love in Jesus Christ!
We thank You for sending Your Son, the Incarnate One,
who was despised, rejected, beaten, mocked, and crucified—
all in order to atone for our sin.

In Him Your love has outloved all other loves.
Your mercy extends beyond comprehension to sinners
with complete and permanent forgiveness of our sins
through faith in Jesus Christ.
We therefore long to love You with a love like Yours.
We know that is not possible, so with the apostle Peter
we plead that You would know our hearts, knowing we truly love You
in spite of what it often looks like.
Our hearts are too much like stone; we ask that
You melt them with Your grace.
Our private lives are too often gated and locked as if we could shut You out
and thereby do what we want.
Help us throw open the door and lose the key! May Your will rule our lives.

We worship You, Father, for Your great love and the gift of Jesus Christ,
Your only-begotten Son, which is to say God the Son.
We praise You, Lord Jesus, for the wondrous gift of salvation
You provided for us.
We adore You, blessed Spirit, for revealing to us the truth of the gospel
and for making our hearts Your dwelling place.
Heavenly Father, in us may Your Son see the fruit of His soul’s anguish and be glad.
Bring us away from all that we falsely trust,
and teach us to rest only in Him.
Never let us be calloused to the astonishing greatness of the gift of salvation.
May we pursue sanctification—ever-increasing holiness—with all our might!

Lord Jesus, Master, Redeemer, Savior, take possession of every part of our lives—
Yours by right through purchase.
Sanctify every faculty.
Fill our hearts with hope.
May we flee the many temptations that relentlessly hound us
and mortify the sins that continually plague us.
May there be no hypocrisy in us.
Help us trust You in the hour of distress.
Protect us when evildoers pursue us.
And deliver us from the evil of this present world.

Dear Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,
we confess that You alone are the giver of every good and perfect gift,
and You have given us so many things,
richly supplying us with things to enjoy.
And we are reminded by the passage we have just read that
the greatest gift of all is Your Son, Jesus Christ,
who sacrificed His very life in order that
we might be freed from sin’s bondage.
Fill our hearts with gratitude, and may our lives
reflect overflowing thankfulness
so that all who see may honor You.
In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy


Erin Healy creates an amazing, intricate story in The Baker's Wife. Audrey and her husband Geoff's world is turned upside down when an their church fires Geoff, the pastor. Dealing with the shame of a personal scandal, trying to hold their family together, moving, and starting a new business, Audrey and Geoff are hanging on by a thread. Life gets even more difficult when Audrey is involved in an accident and the body of the other driver can't be found. The victim's husband - a detective and elder at their former church - comes to their bakery and declares he will hold everyone hostage until Audrey can produce his wife's body. Audrey must rely on a troubled teen and a woman recently released from prison to help her find the victim before her husband and son die.

To say that the plot is detailed is an understatement. However, Healy tells the story in such a way that it kept me flipping pages furiously. The characters are amazingly well-developed. Each character really seems like a real person - with flaws, problems, hopes, dreams. As the drama builds and the pieces fall into place, readers will feel a wide range of emotions as they learn more about each character.

While the story was incredible, there was one thing that I wasn't quite sure how to deal with. Audrey gets these "feelings" and sometimes actual injuries that mimic those of other people. She feels that these are used by God to show her who she should be ministering to. I love the thought of being really in-tune with God and the ministry she has with her bread baking. However, it felt kind of strange in a Christian book. I wasn't sure if these feelings/injuries were psychic-type visions or prophecy or what. I probably wouldn't have felt so strange about it if it was in a secular book. As it is, I just wasn't sure what to think.

Overall, though, I really did enjoy the book and will gladly read another book by Erin Healy.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my fair and honest review.

About the Book
If what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, why is Audrey growing weaker by the day?

When her husband Geoff, a pastor, lost his job after a scandal rocked their congregation, Audrey's never lost faith.

They decide to resurrect a failing bakery as a way to heal family wounds and restore their place in the community.

Running late to the bakery one foggy morning, Audrey strikes a vehicle. Emerging from her car into the fog, she discovers she hit a motor scooter. But there’s no rider in sight. Just blood.

The absence of the driver is a mystery, especially to Sergeant Jack Mansfield, the detective and church member responsible for firing Geoff from his pulpit. The scooter belongs to Jack’s wife, Julie, a teacher at the local high school, who has vanished…like morning fog.

Though there is no evidence to support Jack’s growing suspicion that Audrey and Geoff were involved in Julie’s disappearance, the detective is convinced of their guilt. When he takes the tiny bakery and its patron’s hostage, Audrey must unravel the secret of Julie’s disappearance and her own mysterious suffering before Jack hits his breaking point.

About the Author
Erin Healy is the best-selling co-author of Burn and Kiss (with Ted Dekker) and an award-winning editor for numerous best-selling authors. She has received wide acclaim for her debut solo novels, Never Let You Go and The Promises She Keeps. She and her family live in Colorado. Erin can be contacted through her website erinhealy.com or through Facebook at erinhealybooks.

Deeanne Gist is Hosting a Contest!

Deeanne is thrilled to introduce Georgie and Luke to the word in her latest novel, Love on the Line. To celebrate Deeanne's publisher, Bethany House, is hosting the Love on the Line iPad2 giveaway an Author Chat on Facebook! Enter today and follow the link below to RSVP for Deeanne's rip-roarin' Facebook Party!



One fortunate winner will receive: 
  • A Brand New iPad2 
  • An Autographed Hardback Copy of Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at Deeanne's Author Chat Facebook Party. Deeanne will be wrapping up the Love on the Line celebration by chatting with friends new and old! So grab your copy of Love on the Line (it's okay if you don't have one yet- you might could win one!) and join Deeanne on the evening of November 8th for a rip roaring book chat, a little trivia and lots of giveaways (books, and Amazon, iTunes & Starbucks gift certificates)!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends. Hope to see you on the 8th!

Check back on the 29th for my review!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blog Tour: Deliver Me From Evil by Kathi Macias


Deliver Me From Evil, the first novel in The Freedom Series, is the latest from Kathi Macias. If you like what I call "realistic fiction," you will want to check this one out!

How did you come up with the idea for Deliver Me From Evil and the Freedom series?

It actually came out of a phone conversation with Andrea Mullins, the publisher at New Hope. We were discussing the Extreme Devotion series (about the persecuted Church), which I was still working on at the time, and we began to consider topics for a second series. Andrea was the one who suggested human trafficking, and it really struck a chord with me. The more I researched it and worked on the proposal, the more excited I became about joining forces with others working to abolish modern-day slavery, which is exactly what human trafficking is.

What was your favorite scene to write in Deliver Me From Evil?

This book/series has been the most difficult I’ve ever written, simply because the subject matter is so dark and heavy. More than once I had to walk away and clear my thoughts before moving on from one scene to another. But interspersed between the heartache and tragedy are several lighter scenes (written and incorporated into the book out of necessity), dealing with a pastor’s family and their Bible college-bound son who inadvertently discovers the human trafficking ring and becomes involved in the heroic and dramatic rescue attempt. Any scenes revolving around the absolutely functional and loving life of the Flannery family are my favorites.

What was the most difficult scene, and why?

There were many difficult scenes in this book due to the subject matter, but the hardest had to be when the main character, 18-year-old Mara, realizes that one of the younger girls is being tortured and killed in an effort to extract information and punish her. Though the actual violence is done offstage, Mara experiences each blow and muffled scream, as does the reader.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If not, how did you catch the writing bug?

Oh yes, I never wanted to be anything else. From the time I discovered the power and allure of words, I was hooked! I was an avid reader before I started kindergarten. A short story I wrote in the third grade was turned into a play for the entire PTA, and I won all sorts of awards for poetry in high school. I even told my then boyfriend (now husband) Al when we were in our early teens that I was going to be a writer one day.

How do you go about writing your fiction books? Which comes first for you, plot, characters, and/or theme?

I usually get what I call “a niggling in my soul,” which eventually emerges into the very basic theme of the book. I hate outlining and writing proposals because I do NOT develop plots or even characters ahead of time. I start with a couple of main characters, a starting and ending point for my story, and just let the rest unfold as I go. I know. We’re not supposed to do it that way, but it works for me, and I so enjoy the surprises as the story develops and my characters take over. So much fun! So long as they don’t try to lead me away from my pre-determined ending. Then I have to reign them back in a bit.

How do you get your ideas for your books?

I have ideas coming out of my ears! I am a seriously addictive idea person. You want ideas? You can have my overflow! My challenge is to figure out which ones are worth pursuing. Not every cute or fun or even meaningful idea that pops into our head is meant to be a book. I pray, think, study, bounce them off people, etc., before committing to moving ahead with one of them. For the most part, however, nearly all my book ideas are, to one degree or another, born out of some moral or social issue that I care about.

How can we find out more about you, The Freedom Series, and other books you are writing?

Please visit my website at KathiMacias.com.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speakers Services.

About the Book
Deliver Me From Evil introduces readers to Mara, an eighteen-year-old girl who has been enslaved for nearly ten years, having been sold by her parents in Mexico and then smuggled across the border into San Diego where she was forced into sexual slavery. Readers will also meet 18-year-old, Bible-college-bound Jonathan and his 16-year-old sister, Leah, whose paths cross Mara’s and who become involved in her dramatic rescue.

Interwoven between the stories of Mara, Jonathan, and Leah is the heartbreaking story of another young woman in captivity in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, whose past life mysteriously connects to the young people in San Diego.

About the Author
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding their Harley.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: A Dime a Dozen by Mindy Starns Clark

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Fast-paced and inspirational, The Million Dollar Mystery series is from bestselling author Mindy Starns Clark.

Attorney Callie Webber investigates nonprofit organizations for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation and awards the best of them grants up to a million dollars. In this series, Callie comes across a mystery she must solve using her skills as a former private investigator. A young widow, Callie finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her relationship with her employer, Tom.

---

In book number three of The Million Dollar Mystery series, Callie suddenly finds herself involved in the life of a young wife and mother whose husband has disappeared…possibly the victim of foul play.

Callie has come to the beautiful Smoky Mountains hoping to award a million-dollar grant to the charity set up in the woman’s late husband’s honor. But in the search for a missing migrant worker, a body is discovered, which puts the grant on hold and her new romance with her mysterious boss in peril. Trusting in God, Callie forges steadily ahead through a mire of clues that lead her deeper and deeper into danger.


MY THOUGHTS:
It has been years since I read this book. However, it was fantastic! I wanted to go ahead and give you a little sneak peek into the series since I'm reading the fourth book in the series now. Check back NEXT Wednesday for my thoughts on A Quarter for a Kiss.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929584
ISBN-13: 978-0736929585

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I’d never been part of a sting before. Sure, I’d blown the whistle on some defrauders in the past, and I had seen more than one person arrested because of felonious deeds I had brought to light. But this time was different. This time the crime was still in the process of being committed. Worse than that, most of the people at this party were involved.

I stood near French doors that led to the patio, holding a soda in my hand and looking out through the glass at the pool sparkling in the cool March afternoon. Behind the pool was a small lawn dotted here and there with ornamental groupings of shrubbery and plants, all surrounded by a high, thick hedge. I knew that a team of cops was on the other side of that hedge, ready to enter from every direction as soon as I gave the signal.

“Callie, would you like a hamburger? Maybe a hot dog?”

My hostess appeared in front of me bearing a platter of raw meat shaped into patties, and I assumed she was on her way back outside to the grill. My eyes focused on the marbled beef, and then at her expectant face. She was the very picture of charm and hospitality. Oh, and theft.

“No, thank you,” I said, forcing a smile. “I’m fine.”

Her hands were full, so I opened the door to let her out. Music poured into the house, compliments of large speakers mounted under the eaves.

“You should come too,” she urged loudly as she handed the platter off to her husband, Skipper. “It’s a gorgeous day.”

“In a while, perhaps,” I said as I let the door fall shut between us. She turned her attention to a group of guests near the pool, and as she worked the crowd I thought, You don’t want me to go outside, Winnie. The last thing you want me to do is go outside.

I glanced at my watch, wondering how much longer this would take. The police had instructed me to wait until all of the elements had fallen into place, and so far that hadn’t happened. The tension was getting to me, so I set my glass on a nearby countertop and made my way through the small crowd in the kitchen to the upstairs bathroom. I needed to be alone, to catch my breath, to make a call.

Once I was locked inside, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number of the police captain. He knew it was me and that I couldn’t say much on my end for fear of being overheard.

“Looks like things are moving along as expected,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Have they brought out the hamburgers yet?”

“Oh, yes. Everything’s in full swing.”

He chuckled into the phone.

“I hope they’re enjoying it while they can,” he said.

“They seem to be.”

“We’re all set on our end. Soon as the guy shows up, we’ll text you.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“You found the garage?” he asked.

“Yep.”

“Empty?”

“Except for the boxes in the freezer.”

“Perfect. Simply perfect. Hang in there, kid. We’re on the homestretch.”

I hung up the phone and slid it into my pocket, wondering if all would go off as planned. There were so many elements coming into play here, and it was important that they close in at the moment when we could nab the greatest number of guilty parties. I shook my head, marveling at the situation I now found myself in. This wasn’t how I usually spent my Saturday afternoons!

As the Director of Research for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, my job was to investigate charitable organizations in order to verify their suitability for a grant. I had come here to get a closer look at Dinner Time, a food bank and soup kitchen for the homeless in a suburb of San Francisco. I had gone “undercover” by posing as a volunteer to get a good look at the organization from the inside. Almost immediately, however, I realized there was something stinky in the sauce. Dinner Time may have been providing food to the homeless, but it was also providing a handy second income to its founders and many of its employees by way of food donations that were ending up in places other than on Dinner Time’s tables.

Even this party was an appalling, blatant display of theft, and, according to my source, they had similar such events every few months. From the chips and hamburgers to the condiments, most of the food being consumed here today had actually been donated to the charity, intended for the poor. Instead, our hosts had simply loaded many of the boxes into their cars and driven the food home for this impromptu party. Any minute now a local food supplier would show up and collect his share of the take, which was waiting for him in the garage. Unbeknownst to any of them, however, much of the donated food this time was marked, from the codes printed on the bottom of the mustard bottles to the labels on the frozen steaks in the freezer.

A knock on the bathroom door startled me from my thoughts.

“Just a minute,” I called, and then I washed my hands in the sink and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. My own image still surprised me sometimes. Four months ago I had gone from having long hair to short, from wearing my hair in a tight chignon at the back of my neck to having just enough length to frame my face and touch at my collar. I liked the new look, both because of the years it seemed to take from my features and the way it worked with my usual attire of suits and dresses. I’d spent this week in more casual clothes, however, and today was no exception. I had on jeans and a lightly knit tan shirt, and I felt I looked the part I was playing—that of a woman interested in some simple volunteer work at the local soup kitchen. Little did they know that I was something much more threatening: an investigator with a mission to ferret out the bad guys in the nonprofit world and bring them all to justice!

I opened the bathroom door and found a familiar face waiting to get in, an employee of Dinner Time named Clement Jackson.

“Oh, hey, Callie,” he said, “I didn’t realize that was you in there.”

“No problem.”

I moved out of the way so that he could pass me and go into the bathroom. As he closed the door behind him, I made my way back downstairs to the kitchen.

Clement was such a dear man, a tireless worker who served full time at the food bank for a salary so low I didn’t know how he managed to make ends meet. He wasn’t aware that I knew his salary rate or anything about him beyond facts he had mentioned to me in casual conversation. He had told me about his lovely wife of 36 years, his five grown children, his eight grandchildren. But the scope of my investigation had included all of the employees and volunteers of Dinner Time, so I also knew his address, his work record, and much more. In the end, he had turned out to be one of only three people connected to the center who apparently weren’t involved in the theft of the food.

I was so glad, because it confirmed what I had felt to be true about him all week, that he was a wonderful person with a true heart for charity. His personal side mission was to collect and distribute free used books to all of the children who came to the food bank and, whenever he had time, to sit and read to them and encourage them to read more for themselves.

“Reading can get you through some mighty tough spots,” I had heard him say more than once this week. “Even if your feet can’t always go somewhere else, your mind sure can.” Poor Clement was going to be stunned when this sting came together, for he believed most people were motivated by the same altruism and good faith he himself possessed.

“Callie, can I get you something to drink?”

This time, Winnie’s husband, Skipper, was playing the host, walking toward me with a newly filled ice bucket.

“No, thanks,” I replied. “My drink’s right over here.”

As if to prove it, I walked to the spot where I had left my soda, picked it up, and swirled the liquid. Skipper’s very presence made me so nervous I didn’t dare speak for fear I would begin to babble. Unfortunately, he persisted.

“How about a little ice then,” he said, using the tongs to load up my drink with ice. Holding my tongue, I watched as he clunked square cubes into the glass I was holding in front of me.

“So what do you think of our weather here in California?” he asked. “Winnie said you just recently moved here, right?”

Actually, I hadn’t told her that. What I had said was that I had never lived in California before, implying, I guess, that I lived here now. It was the kind of half-truth that going undercover necessitated and the very reason I hated playing a role. As a Christian, lying was hard for me to rationalize, even when the ends seemed to justify the means.

“It’s certainly a beautiful day today!” I said, glancing toward the window. I was desperately trying to think of some other sort of socially acceptable patter when I was saved by the bell—or the ring, to be exact, because Skipper’s cell phone began ringing from his hip pocket.

With a smile, he thrust the ice bucket at me, extricated the phone, and turned it on.

“Skipper here,” he said amiably, winking at me as he did so.

Clutching the ice in front of me, I took a step back, wondering if I could seize the moment and get away before his conversation was finished. Unfortunately, it seemed to last all of about 15 seconds. He said, “Yep. Okay. See ya,” and then hung up the phone.

“You’ll excuse me, won’t you, Callie?” he asked smoothly, slipping the phone back into his pocket.

“Of course.”

I held the ice bucket toward him, but he didn’t take it.

“Um, could you bring that ice out to Winnie?” he asked. “I need to get something from the garage.”

Without waiting for a reply, he turned and walked down the hall. I stood there for a moment, knowing I couldn’t do as he had requested without taking a step outside myself. Instead, I passed the bucket off to someone else who was heading that way. As the door fell shut behind him, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket. I moved away from the crowd and went into the empty dining room. Holding my breath, I whipped out my phone, pushed the button, and looked at the screen. As expected, it was a text from the captain: Our guy just turned into the driveway. Give it about two minutes and then take a peek in the garage.

Okay, I texted back.

I then pocketed my phone, glanced at my watch, and waited, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest. For an absurd moment, I wondered if there was any hidden firepower here, if perhaps Skipper and Winnie kept a Colt .45 tucked in the nearest flowerpot or something. Just because their crimes of theft were of a nonviolent nature didn’t mean they didn’t know how to defend themselves when push came to shove. As it was about to.

At one minute, forty-three seconds, I heard my name called from the other room. I looked through the doorway to see Clement just coming down the stairs on the other side of the kitchen. Clement, who could be in the line of fire if things went down in a nasty way. Clement, who was heading toward me with a genial smile, eager to start a chat just when it was time for me to move.

“I need a favor!” I said urgently, walking forward to meet him. “I can’t find my contact lens. I’m afraid it came out in the bathroom. Do you think you could go back up and look for me? Check all over the floor, the sink, you know.”

“Well, I’ll try, Callie,” he said, nodding his head, the tightly curled gray hair a sharp contrast to his brown skin. “But my eyesight’s not so good myself. Come up and we’ll look for it together.”

I glanced at my watch. Two and a half minutes.

“You go on up,” I said. “I’ll be there in just a bit.”

“Okay.”

“And, listen, if you can’t find it, at least stay there and guard the door until I get there. I don’t want someone else stepping on it and breaking it.”

“All right.”

He dutifully trudged back up the stairs as I slipped from the kitchen, walking toward the long side hall Skipper had gone down less than three minutes before. I reached the door of the garage at the end, put my hand on the knob, and turned it.

The door swung open to reveal Skipper and another man lifting boxes into the open trunk of a black Cadillac. Both men looked up to see me, their faces about as guilty as two boys caught dipping their fingers in the peanut butter.

In a way, that’s exactly what they were doing.

The men recovered quickly. Both put the boxes into the trunk, but the man I didn’t know turned and stepped away where I couldn’t see his face. Skipper, on the other hand, took a step toward me, putting on a wide, fake smile.

“Can I help you, Callie?” he asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was looking for some more soda. Maybe root beer?”

“There’s nothing like that out here,” he replied. “Try the pantry, off the kitchen.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, returning his fake smile before stepping back out of the garage and pulling the door shut.

I turned on my heel and walked up the hall with my heartbeat pounding loudly in my head. Despite the chatter and confusion around me, I made straight for the French doors, opened them, and stepped outside. This was my signal to the police who were in hiding on the other side of the hedge, watching the party, waiting to pounce. Once on the patio, I simply kept walking through the loud music, heading around the pool and toward the backyard.

“Callie, can I help you with something?” I heard Winnie call after me.

Suddenly, before I could reply, there were shouts and screams and the sight of at least 20 police officers descending on the partygoers on the patio. I heard the words “freeze” and “raid” and “you have the right to remain silent.” Once I finally turned around and looked at the scene, all I could do was pray that Clement was safe, that the cops had apprehended the men in the garage before anyone could do anything stupid.

I waited at the back of the yard until I saw the captain come to the kitchen door and give the “all clear” signal to the cops outside. Breathing a great big sigh of relief, I headed toward the house, allowing myself to be herded into the corner of the patio where they were sorting everyone out. Counting heads, I realized they had managed to nab almost every single person who was on the list of those who had either stolen food or accepted food they knew was stolen. The cops didn’t single me out but merely pointed me in the direction of the innocent parties, the few standing near the garden shed who hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on.

Eventually, Clement was sent out from the house to join us. I gave him a big hug, certainly much bigger than our seemingly casual acquaintance would allow. Obviously shaken, he hugged me back even tighter.

When the police told us we were free to leave, I stuck with Clement, offering to take him home. In somewhat of a daze, he accepted that offer. Sitting in the passenger seat of my rental car, he stared blankly ahead as I drove toward his house and gently tried to explain all that he had just seen.

By the time we reached his house, he was still quite shaken. He invited me inside and I accepted, eager to see him safely delivered into the arms of his wife.

She wasn’t home, however, so I insisted that he call one of his children, perhaps Trey, since I knew he lived right down the street and could be here in a matter of minutes. While we waited, I heated some water on the stove for tea and essentially made myself at home in the kitchen. The house was small but tidy, and everything was easy to find in the neatly organized cabinets. As the water began to bubble on the stove, Clement took a seat at the table, silent, his expression blank. As I was setting his tea in front of him, Trey burst through the door, concern evident on his face.

“Pop?”

Short but muscular, with his father’s coffee-colored skin and deep brown eyes, Trey was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, both of which were covered with spatters of blue.

“We were painting the baby’s room,” he added, sounding breathless, looking from me to his father. “What’s going on?”

Clement didn’t answer, so I introduced myself and tried to explain the situation as best I could. The place where Clement worked, I said, had been busted for fraud and theft. Clement was in the clear, but he had been fairly traumatized by the whole event.

“And who are you, exactly?” Trey asked, looking at me as if this were all my fault. In a way, it was.

“My name is Callie Webber,” I said, carrying over two more cups of tea and taking a seat at the table. “I’m a private investigator.”

Clement turned toward me, his face suddenly registering disbelief rather than shock.

“You’re a what?” he asked.

“A private investigator.”

“Since when?”

“Since I was old enough to get certified in the state of Virginia,” I said. “I’m also a lawyer. I work for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation out of Washington, DC.”

Clement shook his head, as if to shake off the confusion. Before he could launch into more questions, I continued.

“I live in Maryland now,” I explained, “and I just came to California to investigate Dinner Time on behalf of my employer. Dinner Time had requested a grant, and it’s my job to verify eligibility.”

“You don’t even live here?” Clement asked me, still incredulous. “You mean you’ve been pretending all week?”

“I’m sorry, Clement,” I said. “Sometimes that’s the only way I can really see what’s going on.”

Trey slid into the seat across from me, ignoring the tea I had put there for him.

“So what happened today?” he asked. “I’m still confused.”

“In the course of the investigation of Dinner Time, I uncovered fraud, theft, tax evasion, distribution of stolen property, you name it. I took that information to the police, only to learn that they already knew about it and that they were very close to making some arrests. We worked together on a sting operation, and today we caught most of the guilty parties red-handed.”

“I can’t believe they were stealing food,” Clement said, shaking his head sadly.

“I always told you there was something slick about that Skipper person,” Trey said to his father. “‘Skipper and Winnie,’ good grief. Sounds like a pair of Barbie dolls.”

“Will Dinner Time have to close down?” Clement asked.

“Probably,” I answered. “Even if someone were to try to keep the place up and running, I doubt it would be able to stay open for very long. Between the bad publicity and the incarcerated principals, I think it’ll soon fold. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” Clement said. “I’m sorry I was so blind, so stupid.”

Trey put a reassuring hand on his father’s arm.

“C’mon, Pop,” he said. “You couldn’t know. You were just doing your job.”

“Oh, yeah, my job,” Clement said. “Guess I’m out of a job now.”

“We’ll find you something,” Trey said. “Maybe Tanisha can get you on over at the grocery store.”

“I liked working at a nonprofit,” Clement said, shaking his head. “I liked feeling that my efforts were making just a little difference in the world.”

I reached into my pocket, grasping the familiar square of paper there. I pulled it out and set it on the table in front of me, still folded in half.

“I’d like to talk to you about that,” I said. “And I’m glad Trey is here, because this would involve him too.”

Both men looked at me, their faces somber.

“In the course of my investigation,” I continued, “I had to check into everybody’s background. Including yours, Clement. Your life story paints a picture of a good man, a steady reliable worker who knows the value of a dollar.”

“That’s my dad,” Trey said suspiciously. “But what are you getting at?”

“Well, I’ve watched you this week reading to the children down at the food bank, Clement. I’ve heard you talk about the benefits of reading, of being read to. I want you to think about starting a charity of your own. Something that lets you go around and give away books and have regular reading times with homeless children.”

“Like a bookmobile?” Clement asked.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Or maybe you could get some space in the recreation center or a homeless shelter or another food bank. Somewhere that you could set up a little reading corner filled with books and beanbag chairs and stuffed animals. It’s not hard to get people to donate children’s books to a charity. You could provide reading times, give the books to the children who seem to want them, encourage their parents to read with them…”

I let my voice trail off, seeing that a spark was lighting up behind Clement’s eyes.

“What do I have to do with this?” Trey asked.

“Your father told me that you’re an accountant,” I said. “Maybe you can help him get started and then keep the books for him.”

“Well, yeah, I could do that.”

“And I understand your sister is a graphic artist? Maybe she could put together some brochures and promotional materials. You’d be surprised how many resources are available, usually right at your own fingertips.”

I looked at Trey and then at Clement, surprised to see the fire quickly fading from the older man’s eyes.

“As good as our intentions may be,” he said, shaking his head, “There’s one thing standing in the way. I can’t afford it.”

I smiled, fingering the square of paper in front of me.

“Well, then let me take it a step further,” I said. “My job allows me a certain amount of leeway with small monetary grants. What would you think if I gave you a check to get started? You could get yourself incorporated as a nonprofit, file for federal tax exemption, and cover your basic start-up costs. Once you’ve got that tax exemption, I would encourage you to fill out a grant application from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation for a much larger amount of money. We believe strongly in what you could accomplish, Clement, and we would like to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

I sat back, thinking that in the two and a half years I had worked for the foundation, this was the first time I had to talk someone into taking our money!

“Still, I don’t see how it would work,” Trey said. “He’d need at least a thousand dollars just to get set up.”

“How does five thousand sound?” I asked, unfolding the check and handing it to them. It was already made out to Clement Jackson, who picked it up and studied it as if it were a ticket to somewhere important. “And, like I said, once you’ve got that tax exemption and your policies and procedures in place, you can apply to us for more. I have a feeling we’ll be very generous as long as you can show you’ve got a good business plan.”

The two men looked at each other and grinned, and not for the first time I wished my boss, Tom, the philanthropist behind all J.O.S.H.U.A. grants, could be here to witness their joy. Tom was half a world away right now, and though later I would recount this entire scene for him over the phone, it still made me sad that he wasn’t here experiencing it for himself.

Then again, he never was. Tom always donated anonymously through the foundation and then enjoyed the moment of presentation vicariously through me. I was happy to recreate every word, every detail, but I had never understood why he chose to remain so removed from the whole process.

Of course, he and I talked frequently during every investigation, and in fact it was the time we spent on the phone that had allowed us to become friends and then eventually something much more than friends. Four months ago, after several years of a phone-only relationship, Tom and I had finally been able to meet face-to-face.

At the time, he had been out of the country for his work, but he had surprised me by flying back to the States and showing up at my home. We had spent exactly 12 hours together—12 amazing hours that I had relived again and again in my memories ever since—and then he had to leave, returning to Singapore and the urgent business that awaited him.

Now, four months later, Tom was still in Singapore, though his business there was quickly drawing to a close and soon he would be coming home for good. His home was in California and mine was in Maryland, but our plan was to meet somewhere between the two in exactly seven days at some quiet place where we would finally, finally be able to spend some real quality time together—time getting to know each other even better, time exploring the possibilities of a relationship that had gone from friendship to something much more in the space of one 12-hour visit. I was already counting the minutes until we could be together again, knowing that once he returned, a new chapter in my life would begin in earnest. Tom was handling the logistics of our reunion, and my primary concern was to wrap up my next investigation by the following Sunday, because I didn’t want work or anything else to detract from the time we were going to spend together.

Clement spoke, snapping me out of my thoughts and back to the moment at hand.

“I’ve been praying for something like this for quite a while,” he was saying, looking at his son, and I realized there were tears in his eyes. “For so long,” he repeated, blinking. “I didn’t think the Lord was hearing me. But He was. Because He sent me an angel.”

I held up one hand to stop him, emotion surging in my heart as well.

“Now, don’t—”

“I’m not kidding, girl. You are an angel. A very generous angel.”

“So you’ll take the money and start your own charity?” I asked.

“Oh, thank You, Lord,” he said, grinning up toward the ceiling. Then he looked back at me. “Yes, Callie. Yes. Most definitely yes.”
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Labels

(in)courage (in)mercy 1 star 12 Pearls of Christmas 12 Pearls of Christmas 2012 12 Pearls of Christmas 2013 2 star 2 stars 2.5 stars 2012 Review 3 stars 3.5 stars 4 stars 4.5 stars 5 Minute Friday 5 stars A Year of Weddings Abingdon Press Advent Announcements ARC August Author B-H Books Banned Books Week Barbour Publishing BBAW 2012 beauty Bethany House Blitz Blog Action Day blog hop Blog Mooch Blog Tour Blogaversary Blogging Blogging for Change Blogside Chat Book Blast Book Club Book Trailer Thursday Bout of Books Bout of Books 11.0 Bout of Books 13.0 Bout of Books 7.0 Bout of Books 8.0 Bout of Books 9.0 Brookes Faves celebration Center Street CFBA challenge accepted Character Meet and Greet Charisma Media Children's Christian Speaker Services christianaudio Christmas Christy Awards Clean Sweet community Compassion Compassion Blog Month Contemporary Countdown to Christmas Cover Love Cover Reveal Dani Pettrey David C. Cook Devotion DiAnn Mills DNF Easter Egg Blog Hop End of Summer Read-A-Thon Etsy Events Faith Words Fall Into Reading 2012 FB Chat Fiction FIRST Food Freebies Friday Five Getting To Know You Giveaway Giveaway Hop Glass Road PR goals Grand Finale Great Escapes Guest Blogger Guideposts Books Harlequin Heartwarming Harvest House High Summer Read-A-Thon Historical home goods Hope International Howard Books If the Shoe Fits Influenster Inspired Design Publications Jody Hedlund Jolly VoxBox Just for Fun Kenya Kregel Publications Literacy Read-A-Thon LitFuse Publicity Looking Ahead Love for Books Love Inspired Mailbox Fun Month in Review Moody Publishers Mother of Pearl Mother of Pearl 2013 Movie Music NavPress Net Galley New Hope Publishers New Leaf Publishers New Release Feature Non-Fiction Operation Christmas Child pinterest pray pray for the horn Prism Book Tours Promo Random Random House Random Question RCCleanup read-a-thon Reading Cram reflections Reformation Trust Release Day Retirement Community Revell Review in Haiku River North Road to the Christys Road Trip Romance Samaritan's Purse Sandra Byrd Sandra D Bricker Sandra Leesmith scripture Secret Church shutterfly snacks Snappy Reviews Sneak Peek Spring Break '11 Spring Reading Thing SSMT SSMT 2013 Sterling Summer Lovin' Read-A-Thon summer reading Summerside Press Susan May Warren Suspense Take a Chance on Me Tamera Alexander Tanzania Teaser Tuesday Tens List The B-B Media Group The Story Behind the Story The Travel Bug The Word Thomas Nelson Thursday 3 Top 10 Top Picks Top Ten Tuesday Trailer Tricia Goyer Tyndale House Waiting on Wednesday WaterBrook Multnomah webcast WestBow Press What Are You Reading What's Next Whitaker House WinePress Publishing World Watch List WWW Wednesdays YA Young Adult Zondervan
Powered by Blogger.