Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jessica by Laura DeLuca (Spotlight)

Wilbur was used to going to his college formals alone. He thought the Halloween Ball would be no different. He’s amazed when a beautiful girl in a Victorian costume displays an interest in him and even more amazed to find himself alone with her on one of the campus nature trails.

What Wilbur doesn’t realize is that another woman has her eye on him too. The White Lady returns every Halloween to take revenge on the men of the campus for her brutal murder. She has chosen Wilbur as her next victim.

**The first chapter of Laura DeLuca's new book, Morrigan (Release Date October 31, 2012), is also included with this short story**


Author Bio:
Laura “Luna” DeLuca lives at the beautiful Jersey shore with her husband and four children. In addition to writing fiction, Laura is also the sole author of a popular review blog called New Age Mama. She is an active member of her local pagan community, and has been studying Wicca for close to eight years. She is the author of four young adult novels including: Destiny, Destiny Unveiled, Phantom, and Morrigan and has many other works in progress.




Excerpt:
Wilbur thought he was going to collapse when Jessica wrapped one arm around his waist. He could feel her fingers, soft as silk, touching the nape of his neck with her other hand, and it made his flesh tingle. She even went so far as to lay her head on his shoulder. Her hair brushed against his cheek and the fresh, flowery scent made his vision blur. At first he thought it was just his allergies, but then the whole room and all the people in it seemed to change. The woman all wore full lacy gowns with their hair piled up in fancy up dos, while the men waltzed beside them in tailored suits with long tails and top hats. Even the music had changed from the typical sappy love song to a classical ballad played by a string quartet. He swore he saw the musicians in the corner; their bows sliding effortlessly over the strings of their instruments while their fingers pulsated in perfect vibrato. Even the floor under their feet had changed from the faded gymnasium floor, marked with the lines and circles of the basketball court, to hand laid tile in intricate patterns reminiscent of a Victorian ballroom.

As they circled the dance floor in an oddly quickened pace, the faces of the dancers started to transform even more. The beautiful nineteenth century ballroom aged and decayed, as did the men and women that surrounded him. Grotesque monsters with bloated skin and empty eyes dragged their decaying limbs in slow motion. Wilbur watched them with growing horror, almost forgetting about the girl in his arms. The monsters noticed the stranger among them. They reached for him with fingers green from rot. Catching his breath in fear, Wilbur pulled away from Jessica and very nearly stumbled to the ground.

Buy Link:




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CFBA Tour: Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Beyond the Storm
Abingdon Press (October 2012)
by
Carolyn Zane


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Author of 35 books, wife, mother and yes…hot (flasher) lives with her fabulous husband, Matt and their 5 children and 3 dogs in the scenic Willamette Valley in Oregon. When asked to describe her family, Carolyn likens her crowd to the Brangelia Bunch saying modestly, “Only we’re better looking.” Right now,Carolyn is back in the saddle with her new title: Beyond The Storm, coming out in October 2012! In the mean time, be sure to catch her on the critically acclaimed TOOHOTMAMAS Blog where Carolyn and Wendy tackle Marriage, motherhood and menopause: How to do all three and stay out of prison! They are hilarious! You'll wet yourself, guaranteed! Visit them at: www.toohotmamas.wordpress.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
After a tornado rips through her town, store owner Abigail comes across a piece of fabric from a wedding dress among the devastation. Abigail is moved to start collecting other swatches of fabric she finds – her neighbor’s kitchen curtains, a man’s necktie, a dog’s bed – which she stashes in shopping bags. As she pursues her seemingly absurd quest, horrible realities spark the question, “What kind of a God would allow such tragedy?” 

As she struggles to reconcile her right to happiness amidst the destruction, Abigail begins piecing together a patchwork quilt from the salvaged fabric in hopes it will bring some peace. But a new relationship with Justin, a contractor, may require too much of her fragile heart.  Will her pain and questions of faith give way to the courage to love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Beyond the Storm, go HERE.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

CFBA Tour: Accidentally Amish by Olivia Newport

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Accidentally Amish
Barbour Books (October 1, 2012)
by
Olivia Newport


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A Word From The Author:

I’m imagining you. You walk past as I water my front flowerbeds and we wave. You check the time as we both stand in a long line at the grocery store. You sit in front of me in church. I’m at my table in the coffee shop and you’re at yours.

We may smile politely and move on with our separate lives. Or one of us may speak, a simple invitation to conversation, and the words flow between us.

Here the adventure begins. When we meet someone new, we never know where it might lead.

I’ve been married for over thirty years and have two twenty-something kids. We live in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where the day lilies in my back yard grow as tall as I am. (No short jokes, please.)

Not every piece of my life is pretty, though. Some days I want to throw out whole chunks. But I am living each day looking for the grace of God to me, in me, and through me. Having your companionship along the way will help uncover a lot of great stories.

Thanks for stopping by my site, where conversations and adventures begin with a click. I hope we’ll run into each other often.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Escape the helter-skelter of the modern culture and join software creator Annie Friesen, hiding at the home of an Amishman. With her high-tech career in jeopardy, Annie runs from fast-paced Colorado Springs—and straight into the hospitality of San Luis Valley’s Amish community. There she meets cabinetmaker Rufus Beiler, and the more time she spends with him, the more attracted she becomes. When Annie finds she shares a common ancestor with Rufus, she feels both cultures colliding within her. But is her love for Rufus strong enough for her to give up the only life she’s ever known?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Accidentally Amish, go HERE.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CFBA Tour: No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
No Safe Harbor
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
by
Elizabeth Ludwig


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elizabeth Ludwig is an award-winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. Her first novel, Where the Truth Lies, which she co-authored with Janelle Mowery, earned her the 2008 IWA Writer of the Year honors. This book was followed in 2009 by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” part of a Christmas anthology collection called Christmas Homecoming, also from Barbour Publishing.

In 2010, her first full-length historical novel Love Finds You in Calico, California earned Four Stars from the Romantic Times. Books two and three of Elizabeth’s mystery series, Died in the Wool (Barbour Publishing) and Inn Plain Sight (Spyglass Lane), respectively, released in 2011.

Coming in 2012 is Elizabeth’s newest historical series from Bethany House Publishers. No Safe Harbor, the first book in the Edge of Freedom Series, will release in October, with two more books following in 2013 and 2014.

Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoyed a wide readership in its first full year, with more than 17,000 visitors in 2011. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Thrill of Romantic Suspense Meets the Romance of 1800s America

Lured by a handful of scribbled words across a faded letter, Cara Hamilton sets off from 1896 Ireland on a quest to find the brother she'd thought dead. Her search lands her in America, amidst a houseful of strangers and one man who claims to be a friend--Rourke Walsh.

Despite her brother's warning, Cara decides to trust Rourke and reveals the truth about her purpose in America. But he is not who he claims to be, and as rumors begin to circulate about an underground group of dangerous revolutionaries, Cara's desperation grows. Her questions lead her ever closer to her brother, but they also bring her closer to destruction as Rourke's true intentions come to light.

If you would like to read the first chapter of No Safe Harbor, go HERE.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Touched by an Angel by Jonathan Morris (Review)

'The past is like a foreign country. Nice to visit, but you really wouldn’t want to live there.'

In 2003, Rebecca Whitaker died in a road accident. Her husband Mark is still grieving. Then he receives a battered envelope, posted eight years ago, containing a set of instructions and a letter with a simple message: "You can save her."

Later that night, while picking up a takeaway, Mark glances at a security monitor - to see himself, standing in the restaurant in grainy black and white. And behind him there's a stone statue of an angel. Covering its eyes, as though weeping... except, when Mark turns, there's nothing there. As Mark is given the chance to save Rebecca, it's up to the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to save the world. Because this time the Weeping Angels are using history itself as a weapon...

A thrilling, all-new adventure featuring the Doctor, Amy, and Rory, as played by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill in the spectacular hit series from BBC Television.

I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
One of my favorite Doctor Who episodes is Blink, the Weeping Angels are the show's scariest villains, so when I saw this book I was really excited to read it! The Doctor, Amy and Rory all came across as themselves and I could easily visualize each of the actors saying the things in the book. I laughed several times with the things the Doctor said and did - I could picture Matt Smith doing those things and it was HILARIOUS!!! The ending was a bit dull, but overall the story moved along at a great pace and kept my attention throughout. I would definitely recommend this book to any Doctor Who fan - it was very enjoyable!

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!


BOOK DETAILS:
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House UK (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849902348
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849902342
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Available to purchase at: Amazon/ Barnes & Noble


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Friday, October 19, 2012

Mother of Pearl by Kellie Coated Gilbert (Review & Interview)

Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected job as the high school counselor in her close-knit community. Without warning, everything unravels when her teenage daughter, Pearl, is betrayed by friends and lashes out.

Nothing prepares this mother for the helplessness that follows when her attempts to steer her daughter back on course fail and Pearl shuts her out...or when she discovers the unthinkable about her nemesis, the football coach.

Emotionally riveting and profoundly moving, Mother of Pearl brings us into the heart of a mother bound by an incredible burden, who ultimately finds she must recognize her own vulnerability and learn to trust in something much bigger.


I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
Mother of Pearl is a great story and it's hard to believe this is the author's debut novel - it is very well written. I was immediately drawn into the story and was able to read it in one sitting. However, a couple of things in the book seemed...off. First, the way Barrie's husband wouldn't listen to anything she had to say about a certain thing she believed happened to her daughter and would get angry at her for even trying to figure it out. Second, when Barrie sees someone she believes is in trouble and wants to help them, again her husband is adamant that she leave it alone and that she didn't see what she knows she saw. I just found this behavior to be strange. I could see him at first wanting to deny the things happened, but to be that insistent that it didn't and that she was completely wrong seemed weird to me. Later on in the story, during a trial, there were several times the defendants were referred to as the plaintiffs - which was kind of confusing to say the least. It is probably because of these things that I felt I couldn't give it a five star rating.

I loved Barrie's passion, devotion to her family, especially concerning her daughter, and the fact that she didn't let anybody's doubts and, at times, anger stop her from uncovering the truth about what happened.

Mother of Pearl was an enjoyable read and it is one I would recommend. I am looking forward to future books by this author.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!


BOOK DETAILS:
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (September 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426733437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426733437
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Available to purchase at: Amazon/ Barnes & Noble/ Christian Book/ Abingdon Press

INTERVIEW

Kellie, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a former legal investigator and trial paralegal who worked on many high profile cases, including the Jack-in-the-Box e-coli litigation in the mid-nineties and the largest cattle fraud case in the United States. People are often at their most vulnerable in these tense situations where much is at stake, giving me a unique perspective on the human psyche. Early in my legal career, I recognized there could be value in telling stories about people facing life-changing circumstances.

Currently, I live in Dallas with my husband and an adorable two and a half pound yorkie named Emmie Sweetpea. She keeps my lap warm while I’m writing.

What is a typical day like for you?
I often wake early and spend the first twenty minutes of my day talking with my husband before he leaves for work. Then, I spend some time reading the Bible before heading out for my morning swim. This is where I think through the upcoming scenes and plot points in my current manuscript.

After breakfast, I head directly into my office. My first attention is directed to Facebook and Twitter, connecting with readers and publishing folks. I try to start my actual writing no later than ten in the morning.

I enjoy a quiet, organized place to write with lots of light streaming through the windows. Often I have Pachelbel’s Canon playing and a steaming cup of tea on a coaster next to my Mac computer.

When did you begin writing Mother of Pearl? What inspired it and how much research was involved in writing it?
I write poignant and emotionally compelling stories about women. My stories are about messy lives and eternal hope.

I knew my first novel would focus on mothering and the perils women face in this role, especially during the teen years. I didn’t even know how many things there were to be afraid of until I had my first child. From the moment the nurse placed that tiny infant in my arms, a fierce need to protect bubbled from the deepest part of me.

As a novelist, I asked the question: What would a mother do if suddenly life took a turn and she learned the child she thought she’d protected had fallen into the hands of someone unsafe? And what if she found out too late?

Early, when the inception of this story was still noodling in my brain, I saw a sadly recurring event on the news, the story of a coach who had inappropriately been involved with a teenager. While the cameras honed on the major players, I couldn’t help but wonder if the girl’s mother was standing just out of view.
What was she feeling?

What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
Like many authors, I am an avid reader. Strangely, I never considered a career as a novelist. Instead, I pursued a sensible legal career with predictable income (especially while my boys were in college). But in 2004, I attended my first writing conference and left with an overwhelming feeling that I was always meant to write novels. The experience is hard to describe, but I knew in the deepest part of me I would publish a novel.

So, I lifted an outrageous prayer and asked for the impossible.

What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
My agent urged me to write romance to break into publishing. I did, and the novel sold. But that story was not one that burned in my heart as I wrote. When the publishing house switched directions and pulled back even before we got the contract to sign, the situation was an easy one to let go of.

I am meant to write stories for women that focus on relationships, and the deep places in life. People have many layers, and never more than in family dynamics and hard times. I’m intrigued with the coping mechanisms we employ to fill our empty places. These are the stories of my heart, the ones I was always meant to bring to readers.

Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
When I get stumped, I head out to the pool. Something about floating on my back with my eyes directed to a vast blue sky helps story elements emerge.

Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
I’ve heard it said that a first time novelist always falls in love with her protagonist. I’m not sure this is true, but I love Barrie Graeber. I admire her courage and drive to make things right, despite incredible opposition.

Do you have a favorite quote? If so, what is it and why is it your favorite?
St. Augustine tells my own story with this quote:

“In my deepest wound, I saw your glory and it dazzled me.”

I try to paint that sentiment on every page, but in a subtle manner. I want my books to appeal to all kinds of readers – those who sit on church pews and barstools alike.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? If so, what is it and why is it your favorite?
I don’t have one favorite, but many. That said, I adore Isaiah 40: 11

“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs.”

This verse has special meaning to a gal like me who grew up on a sheep ranch.

What is the best gift you have ever received, do you still have it and who gave it to you?
My husband once gave me an elk tooth ring. You’d just have to know my man to understand that one.
(smiles)

What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet?
Lose enough weight to wear size six jeans again. (more smiles)

If you were stranded on a deserted island, other than basic necessities, what three items would you hope to find in your suitcase to help make your time there more bearable?
These are great questions! A down pillow and two really thick novels.

What are you currently reading?
Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris, Tyndale Publishers

What is your all-time favorite book?
Choosing a favorite book (besides the Bible) is as impossible as choosing a favorite child. If forced to name just one, probably SAME SWEET GIRLS by CASSANDRA KING.

Who is your favorite author?
Ugh…same answer. I love Cassandra King and would run to buy anything she ever releases. Cassandra is Pat Conroy’s wife and his style shows up in her stunning stories about women.

If a TV show was based on your life, what type of TV show would it be (i.e., comedy, drama, suspense, etc.) who would you choose to play the leading character (you), and what would the theme song be? Why?
Goodness sakes, these questions make me dredge deep for answers!

I’d be a drama with Meryl Streep playing the lead (if she would go with television) and the theme song would likely be the old hymn “IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL” (That, or maybe WILD THING by the
1960’s English band called the Troggs).

There you have it. You’ve pulled my deepest secret into the open…..I’m a wild girl, saved by grace, who still tends to live on the edge.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I read. I golf. I cook (recipes from those fancy magazines with ingredients difficult to pronounce). But by far, my favorite pastime is playing with my nearly two-year-old grandson. He’s a delight. The little guy can’t yet say GRAMMIE so he just calls me “guh.”

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Both, depending on the day.

What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
I don’t watch a lot of television or movies, but I really enjoy Parenthood on television. The family dynamics are intriguing. Recently, I slipped out and saw the new Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones movie about a mid-life couple struggling to renew their love. The film was called HOPE SPRINGS and I loved it!

If you could spend the day with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional - excluding Jesus, family, and friends), who would you choose and how would you spend the day?
Oh fun! If I can choose someone imaginary, I’d sit down with my protagonist, Barrie Graeber, and ask her if I told her story well.

If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
I’d definitely go back to the day before my Dad died. I’d sit with him, reminisce our stories and make sure I told him AGAIN how much I loved him.

Or, maybe I’d go back and tell my Gram I published a novel. That would tickle her so. She used to read to me for hours, holding the books with arthritic hands and telling me I could be anything I wanted.

What are you currently working on?
A story about three sisters who are looking for love in all the wrong places. Why is it women so often try to fill their broken places with men?

Where can people connect with you online?
www.kelliecoatesgilbert.com
on Facebook and on Twitter (links on the website)

Thank you so much Kellie for being on Hardcover Feedback!
Thank YOU! These questions were way outside what I’ve been asked in earlier interviews. Very fun!



Check out the other stops in this tour HERE.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

CFBA Tour: Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Against the Tide
Bethany House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
by
Elizabeth Camden


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A Word from Elizabeth:

I am a college librarian in central Florida by day, but by night I can be found pounding out inspirational historical novels the moment the sun goes down. I love writing books about fiercely intelligent people who are confronted with profound challenges. As a rather introverted person, I have found that writing is the best way for me to share my faith and a sense of resilience with others.

I married relatively late in life, which turned out to be an odd kind of blessing. I had gotten very good at leading a solo life, and although I was not particularly content being alone, I had become reconciled to it. Most importantly, it taught me never to take my husband for granted. I give daily thanks for the blessing of being able to share a life with my favorite person on the planet.

As for who I am? I love old Hitchcock films, the hour before sunset, a long, sweaty run through the Florida countryside, and a glass of good wine. After spending my entire adult life on a college campus (either as a student or a librarian) I have finally been able to pursue my ultimate goal of writing professionally.


ABOUT THE BOOK:
Love and Lives are Threatened in Camden's Latest Offering

As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she's finally carved out a perfect life for herself--a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or "Bane," a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.

Just as Bane's charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia's part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Against the Tide, go HERE.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Christmas at Holly Hill by Martha Rogers

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:

Realms (September 4, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martha Rogers’s novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional. Martha and her husband are active members of First Baptist Church.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Can Clayton Barlow prove he has changed his ways in time for Christmas?

It is October 1898, and Clayton Barlow has just returned home after serving time in prison for his part in a bank robbery. His family welcomes him, but the townspeople are skeptical. Bored with life in the small town but determined to make a new start, he goes to work with his father, hoping to regain the town’s trust.

Clayton recognizes the schoolteacher at the Prairie Grove School as his childhood friend, Merry Lee Warner, and old feelings surface. Still, he doubts that he could ever get a woman like Merry to love him.

As the townspeople prepare for Christmas, their suspicions about Clayton lead to trouble. Will the trusting heart of an unlikely new friend be enough to restore Clayton’s relationships with his neighbors and reunite him with God and Merry?



Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388374
ISBN-13: 978-1616388379



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prairie Grove, Kansas, October 1898 

Home for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Clay’s heart pumped blood through his veins at a

frantic pace. After serving five years for his part in a bank robbery, he’d be home for his two favorite holidays. The question looming in his soul was whether he’d be welcomed by anyone other than his parents.

The train hissed and steamed its way into the station with a blast of the whistle as Clay peered through the window. When the cars came to a screeching stop, he remained in his seat, fear gripping his heart. The conductor stopped in the aisle.

“Son, this is your stop. Time to get off.”

Clay willed himself to stand and make his way down the aisle. No one would be here to greet him since no one knew he’d be on the train. He’d planned it all as a surprise, espe- cially for his mother. He stepped to the platform, gripping the handle of the small bag containing all his worldly possessions. Around him the trees wore their best fall colors in welcome, and as Clay made his way to the street in front of the depot, he drank in the sight he’d seen only in his dreams for the past five years.

The good citizens of Prairie Grove moved about on their way to one place or another, oblivious to his presence. The livery still stood close to the station with the post office nearby, and right next to it a new addition announced itself in gold letters. The telegraph office was now the Prairie Grove Telephone and Telegraph center. His hometown had grown more than he realized.

He spotted the hotel and the Red Garter Saloon a few blocks away, then he breathed deeply of the fresh smell of baking bread drifting from the bakery next to his father’s store. The green and yellow letters on the sign hanging in front welcomed customers to Barlow’s General Store, still the only mercantile in town. A slight breeze

sent the sign swinging with a creak he heard from his position near the depot. Dust whirls danced across the street where he’d once played with other boys his age.

By Christmas those streets would most likely be filled with snow, and snowball fights would be the game of the day at the school. His days at the red clapboard schoolhouse had been some of the happiest of life. He viewed the bell tower of the school at the end of the street and could almost hear the sound of it clanging in his memory.

Doubt lodged in Clay’s throat, but he kept walking to the store. When he stepped through the door, it could well have

been ten years ago when he helped Pa. He inhaled the familiar smells of coal oil, fresh ground coffee, fabric dye, and pepper- mint candy. Nothing had changed.

Then he spotted his ma. He observed her for a minute or two, savoring the sight of her graying hair and slight frame. She didn’t move as fast as she once had, and she stopped to catch her breath after placing some items on a shelf.

From the corner of his eye he saw his father coming from the storeroom. A good five inches shorter than Clay, Pa’s sturdy frame handled the box in his arms with ease. He turned to set the box on the counter, and Clay cringed the moment his father recognized him. The meeting he both dreaded and anticipated had come.

Pa didn’t move from behind the counter. He simply stared for what seemed an eternity but in reality amounted to only seconds. His words barely reached Clay’s ears. “Son, you’ve come home.”

At Clay’s nod his father stepped around the counter and called to Ma. “Cora, our boy is home.”

A can clattered to the floor, and his mother turned with hands to her mouth. She hurried toward him and hugged him. “Thank You, Lord, for bringing him home safe.” Tears glis- tened in her eyes. “I’ve waited and waited for this moment to come.” She reached up and placed her hands on each side of his face then kissed his cheeks.

Heat rose in his face, but Ma’s arms and kisses were the welcome he’d hoped for in the past few days of travel. His arms went around her thin frame. She’d lost a good deal of weight since the last time he’d seen her, and that bothered him more than his earlier observations.

He glanced up at his father. His graying hair had thinned some, and his eyes held both a welcome and uncertainty. Gaining Pa’s trust would take time.

His parents stood in front of him and shook their heads. Pa wrapped his arm around Ma. “We’ve waited a long time for this day. Thank God you made it home.”

Clay didn’t know what God had to do with anything, since it had been Pa who had turned Clay over to the authorities five years ago. The road back would be long and hard, but then that’s no more than he’d expected.

Ma grabbed his hands. “Are you planning on staying here in Prairie Grove with us? You’re not going to get mixed up with those . . . those . . . thieves again, are you?”

Before Clay could answer, Pa added his own sentiments. “If you do decide to stay, I expect you to stay away from them. If you don’t, you won’t be welcome here.”

Clay stiffened but kept his voice neutral. “I understand, Pa, but I’m not going to get mixed up with Karl’s gang again. I would like to stay as long as you’ll have me.”

Or until the townspeople ran him off. Two older women in the corner eyed him and whispered between themselves. The prodigal had returned, but not everyone welcomed him. He nodded to the ladies, who immediately turned their backs. So much for the town’s greeting.

“Of course we want you to live here with us,” Ma said, not even seeming to notice the ladies. “Now let’s go upstairs and get you settled in. I know you’re hungry. You always were, and I have supper almost ready.” She held onto his arm and led him to the stairway up to the living quarters above the store.

A voice calling his name stopped him at the bottom. He odded for his mother to go on up and turned to find an old riend, Jimmy Shanks, grinning from ear to ear. “It is you, Clay Barlow.” The blond-headed young man reached out to grasp Clay’s hand.

“Yeah, it’s me. I decided to come home, Jimmy.” He grasped the outstretched hand and blinked at the strength in the grasp.

“It’s James now, and I’m married to Grace Ann Higgins.” Clay had to chuckle at that revelation. Grace Ann had run

away from Jimmy every time he’d tried to get close.

“So, you finally got Grace Ann’s attention. I’m glad since you always liked her.”

“You’ll have to come out to the house for dinner some night so we can catch up on old times.”

“I’ll think on that, Jimmy . . . James.” Not much to catch up on from his side since he’d been behind prison bars for five years. “And you’d better check with Grace Ann. She might not cotton to having an ex-con at her dinner table.”

James blinked. “Don’t you worry none about that; we’ll always be friends.” He stepped back and picked up his pur- chase. “Had to pick up some coal oil. With the days getting shorter, we need more of it.”

Clay walked with him to the door and stepped outside with James, who shook Clay’s hand once again. “I’m so glad you’re home. This is one Christmas your parents will be glad to celebrate.” With a grin and a salute he stepped down to the street and mounted his horse. “See you around, Clay.”

If he’d stayed good friends with Jimmy instead of getting mixed up with Karl, things would have been much different. Still, the warm welcome from his old friend and the greeting from his parents lightened the load in Clay’s heart.

If Pa would have him, Clay wanted to work again in the tore. Being locked up with bad food, hard cots, little sunshine, and no privacy motivated him to stay out of trouble. He’d had a lot of time to think in prison, and one thing remained sure and steadfast. Clayton Barlow would not end up behind bars ever again.

Merry Warner stepped onto the boardwalk up the street from the school where she taught. The wonderful aroma of cin- namon stopped her in front of the bakery. Cinnamon buns for breakfast in the morning would make up for her being late this afternoon. She hurried up to the counter where Mr. Brooks placed fresh pies into the case. On second thought, two pecan pies for supper tonight would be even better.

She grinned at the baker, who reminded her of the pictures she’d seen of Santa Claus, right down to the white beard and rosy cheeks. “I’ll have two of those pecan pies. I’m sure Mama will appreciate them for supper tonight.”

“Good choice, Miss Warner. We had a good crop of pecans this year, so Mrs. Brooks is busy with recipes using the nuts.” Mr. Brooks placed each pie in a paper bag then tied the top closed with string. “There, that should make them easier to carry.”

She plunked several coins onto the counter and picked up her purchase. “I hope she makes some of that pumpkin bread for the holidays.”

Mr. Brooks laughed. “Oh, she will. I’m sure of that. You have a nice evening now, and tell your ma I said hello.”

Merry nodded and hurried out to be on her way. She

stopped short when she spotted a man standing in front of the eneral store next door. A gasp escaped her lips, and her heart skipped a beat. He looked just like Clay Barlow, but Clay was in prison. Surely she would have heard if he had come home.

He turned, and his gaze locked with hers. Recognition shot through her with streaks of delight that dissipated almost as soon as they began. No one but Clay had eyes so dark a brown that they penetrated to her very soul.

How could Clay be out of prison already? Then she counted and realized five years had indeed passed since he’d gone away. When Grandma Collins had said she needed Mama and Papa to come back and take care of the orphanage at Holly Hill, Merry’s heart had been torn apart. She loved Barton Creek and wanted to stay there, but the memory of her years in Prairie Grove beckoned for her to return. One of those memories included Clay Barlow and the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him before he got involved with Karl Laramie’s gang.

Shoving aside her misgivings, she gave in to her delight and ran up to hug Clay. “Clay Barlow, it’s been too many years.” Heat filled her face, and she jumped back. She was no longer a sixteen-year-old girl but a young woman who should practice better manners befitting her age.

Clay’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “Merry?”

“Yes. We moved  back to Holly Hill last summer after Grandpa died. I’m so glad you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be here too.” He stepped back. “It . . . it’s nice to see you. I . . . I . . . ” His voice trailed off, and he glanced over her shoulder. Without another word he bolted through the door to the store.

Merry stood with her mouth agape. How rude. Then she urned and saw three women staring at her with disapproval written all over them. Mrs. Pennyfeather, wife of the school superintendent, shook her head and frowned.

Heat rose in Merry’s face again. They’d seen her greeting Clay. No sense in trying to apologize. Mrs. Pennyfeather wouldn’t listen anyway. Merry gathered up her pies and fled up the hill toward Holly Hill Home for Children. Along the way her thoughts whirled. She had never expected to see Clay again, figuring that he’d be too ashamed to come back to his hometown. What could his return mean?

She burst through the door then closed it and braced her- self against the smooth wood. Her heart pounded not only from the long walk but also from seeing Clay again.

Imogene and Eileen raced over to grab her around the waist. The blonde-haired ten-year-old-twins wore matching blue-and-white striped dresses with white pinafores over them.

Eileen eyed the bags in Merry’s hands. “You went by the bakery. What did you bring?” She reached for one of the bags.

Merry held it high. “Not until after supper. Then we’ll have pecan pie.”

Imogene jumped up and down, her pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. “That’s my favorite. Oh, I love you, Merry.” The young girl wrapped her arms about Merry’s waist again.

Emmaline appeared with a stack of silverware in  her hands. “It’s about time you got here. Mama Warner could use your help.”

Merry set the pie bags on a table near the door and unwound Imogene’s arms. “I’m sorry I’m late. I stayed at the school to prepare the lessons for tomorrow. Did you know we have ten different varieties of trees around our school building?”

Emmaline shook her head. “No, and I don’t care right now. Are you going to help me or not?”

“Yes, I’m on my way.” Merry removed her shawl and bonnet then hung them on a hook by the door in the entry hall. She picked up the pies and made her way to the kitchen. Emmaline plunked the silverware onto the table behind Merry. At thir- teen Emmaline had begun to rebel against doing so many chores around the home, but Mama could usually get her to cooperate.

Merry sighed and pushed open the swinging door into the kitchen. She kissed her mother’s plump cheek. “Sorry I’m late. I got detained at school.”

Mama ladled stew into bowls and set them on a tray. “I figured as much. Check the cornbread for me. Supper’s about ready.”

Grandma Collins opened up the bakery sacks. “Pecan pie—now that’s going to make for a good dessert. Thank you, Merry.”

“I figured since I was so late coming home, I might as well contribute something to the meal.” Merry opened the oven door and removed two pans of cornbread. She set them on the counter and reached up to the shelf to grab a plate for serving it. She turned one pan onto the counter then cut it into squares and arranged them on the plate.

“Mama, did you know Clay Barlow came home?”

The ladle stopped, dripping stew back into the pot. Mama stood still for a few seconds, as did Grandma. “No, I didn’t. Has it been five years already?” She shook her head. “Such promise that boy had before he got into so much trouble. Where did you see him?”

“Outside the store. I’m . . . I’m afraid I made a spectacle of myself. I ran up and hugged him because I was so glad to see him back. The problem is, Mrs. Pennyfeather and her friends saw the whole thing. They weren’t too happy about it either.”

Mama laid the spoon aside and reached over to pat Merry’s shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll get over it. How did he seem?”

“I don’t know. Embarrassed to see me, I guess. He didn’t say much.”

Mama nodded sagely. “It’s been seven years since we moved away from Holly Hill and went to Barton Creek. You were only sixteen when you thought you were so in love with him. Being in prison changes a man, so he won’t be that same boy you liked so much back then.”

“I know, Mama. It just seems strange that he would be released and come home not long after we moved back home.” Grandma shook her head. “I don’t know what

happened to that boy. I always liked him. Maybe he’s learned his lesson and will make something of himself yet.”

Papa chose that minute to swing open the back door and enter the kitchen with Henry and Kenny. The boys’ arms were filled with logs for the fire. Papa planted a kiss on Mama’s fore- head then motioned to the boys, who had unloaded their wood into the bin near the stove. “Let’s get washed up and have some of Mama’s stew.”

Merry finished piling the cornbread onto a plate and headed to the dining room with it. More talk with Mama and Grandma about Clay would have to wait until they were alone.

She settled in for dinner with her family. Although none of the children were actually her brothers or sisters, every one of them held that place in her heart after the few months she’d been back here with them. Emmaline and Henry had lived at the orphanage the longest, with Kenny and Robert next, but those two had been babies when her family had left. The rest were new to her, but she’d grown to love them quickly. Each one had their own tale of tragedy and loss.

Papa stood behind his chair and bowed his head to ask the blessing on the meal. Papa never varied his blessing, using the one his pa had taught him growing up. Merry only half listened to the familiar words until Papa took a new turn. “And Father, we ask thy blessings on young Clay Barlow. Guide him on the right path now that he’s served his time and come home. May we act and think kindly toward him. Amen.”

Merry swallowed hard and blinked her eyes. She lifted her gaze to her father’s and saw understanding in their blue depths. Around her the others clamored to know who Clay was and why Papa prayed for him. She bit her lip and bowed her head. No man or boy had claimed her heart like Clay. From the encounter this afternoon, she realized he still pos- sessed a piece of it, and she had no idea what to do with that revelation.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: River of Mercy by BJ Hoff

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 (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 BJ Hoff’s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoff’s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In this third book in the Riverhaven Years trilogy young Gideon Kanagy faces a challenge and an unexpected romance. Meanwhile, Gideon’s sister, Rachel, and the "outsider" Jeremiah Gant add to the drama with their own dilemma and its repercussions for the entire Riverhaven community.






Product Details:

  • List Price: $13.99
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0736924205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0736924207




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


 Prologue 

Too Many Long Nights

I feel like one who treads alone
Some banquet hall, deserted.

Thomas Moore

Amish settlement near Riverhaven, Ohio

November 1856

Rachel Brenneman had always liked to walk by the river at twilight.

There had been a time during the People’s early years at Riverhaven when she gave no thought to walking alone, day or night. After she and Eli were married, the two of them liked to stroll along the bank of the Ohio in the evening, discussing their day, planning the workweek, dreaming of the future. After Eli’s death, however, Rachel no longer went out alone after dark, although sometimes she and her ten-year-old sister, Fannie, took a picnic lunch in the early afternoon and sat watching the fine big boats and smaller vessels that traveled the great Ohio to unknown places.

Now though, venturing away from the community no longer felt safe, even in the middle of the day. In truth, there was nowhere that felt safe, not after the deadly attack on Phoebe Esch and the other troubles recently visited upon the People. At night, especially, Rachel stayed inside, sitting alone in her bedroom with the window scarcely open in deference to the weather, which had recently turned cold.

November was a lonely month. Rachel still loved to listen to the river from insider her home, but the nighttime sounds—the distant lapping of the water, the blast from a boat’s horn, the night creatures in communion with one another—never failed to set off a stirring of remembrance and an ache in her heart. Yet she couldn’t resist sitting there night after night, watching and listening, trying not to let her memories struggle to the surface of her thoughts, trying not to let new hope ignite the ashes of her dreams…

Trying not to think of Jeremiah.

But how could she not think of him? How did a woman love a man, even if their love was forbidden, and not see his face in her mind or hear his voice in her ear or remember the imprint of his smile upon her thoughts?

Common sense seemed to tell her it should be easy to put the man out of her head. They couldn’t be alone with each other. They couldn’t even pass the time of day unless they were in the company of others. If they happened to meet by accident, they were expected to separate as quickly as possible.

Yet even with all the rules and restrictions that kept them apart, Jeremiah Gant was still a part of her life. He flowed through her heart and traced the current of her days as surely and completely as the Ohio flowed through the valley, winding its way through the land, coursing through the days and lives of Rachel and the other Plain people.

Lately, there had been talk of leaving. Two years and more of unrest and harassment and threats— even death—had begun to wear on the Riverhaven Amish. It was rumored that talks were taking place among the church leaders, discussions of whether to remain in this once-peaceful valley that had become home to the entire community or to consider moving on.

There was no thought of fighting back, of seeking out the unknown adversaries and taking a stand against them. Even if the People could identify their tormenters, they would not confront them. The Amish were a people of nonresistance. They would not fight, not even to protect their own lives. It wasn’t their way. To strike out at another individual under any circumstances was strictly against the Ordnung, the unwritten but strict code that guided how they were to live.

The only person Rachel had ever known to defy the rule against fighting, even in self-defense, was Eli, her deceased husband. He’d gone against the Amish way when he defended Rachel against those who ambushed them on another November night, now four years gone. He had fought with desperation and all his strength, only to die at the hands of their attackers while allowing Rachel to escape.

She knew it was a grievous sin to have such a thought, but many had been the time she wished she could have died alongside Eli that terrible night rather than live through the grief-hollowed, barren days that followed his death. She had been totally devoted to Eli. Their marriage had been good, for they had been close friends as well as husband and wife. Rachel had thought she could never love another man after losing Eli.

And then Jeremiah Gant had come to Riverhaven, turning her life around, enabling her to love again— only to have that love forbidden. Even though Jeremiah had made it known he would willingly convert to the Amish faith, Bishop Graber refused to grant permission, once again leaving Rachel with a lost love and a broken heart.

Perhaps it would be better if they were to leave Riverhaven…leave the fear and the dread and the pain-filled memories behind.

Leave Jeremiah…

The thought stabbed her heart. Could she really face never seeing him again? Never again hear him say her name in that soft and special way he had of making it as tender as a touch? Never again see the smile that was meant for her alone?

In truth, it wasn’t only Jeremiah she would miss if they were to leave this fertile Ohio valley. She loved the land, the gentle hills, the singing river. She had come here when she was still a child, come from another place that had never truly been home to her. Here in Riverhaven though, she had felt welcome and accepted. At peace. At home.

At least for a time. It was almost as if she had become a part of the land itself. Even the thought of leaving made her sad beyond telling.

She sighed, knowing she should stir and make ready for bed, even though she felt far too restless for sleep. Would this be another of too many nights when her thoughts tormented her, circling like birds of prey, evoking an uneasiness and anxiety that would give her no peace?

Finally she stood, securing the window to ward off the cold, even though she sensed that the chill snaking through her had little to do with the night air. All too familiar with this icy wind of loneliness, she knew there was no warmth that could ease its punishing sting.

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Autumn Winds by Charlotte Hubbard (Review)

The leaves are falling and there’s a chill in the air in Willow Ridge, Missouri, the quaint, quiet Amish town where love, loyalty, and faith in the Old Ways are about to be put to the test …

AUTUMN WINDS

Winds of change are blowing through Willow Ridge, and they’re bringing a stranger to the Sweet Seasons Bakery. At first, widowed Miriam Lantz has misgivings about Ben Hooley, a handsome but rootless traveling blacksmith. But as she gets to know the kind-hearted newcomer, she wonders if his arrival was providential. Perhaps she could find love again—if only there weren’t so many obstacles in the way. With Bishop Knepp relentlessly pursuing her hand in marriage and the fate of her beloved cafĂ© at stake, Miriam must listen to God and her heart to find the happiness she longs for and the love she deserves.

I GIVE THIS BOOK:1 star1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
I am really enjoying this series and am looking forward to reading the next book, though it's kind of sad that I have to wait for it. I liked how this book focused more on Miriam, the mother from the previous book, and not on one of her other daughters. Bishop Knepp drove me crazy in this book, I couldn't believe the way he behaved! There is one thing that annoyed me, (view spoiler). Overall, I would recommend this to fans of Amish fiction, and even though I think the books can be read separately, I would suggest that you read the first book before reading this one as there are key things that are uncovered that are surprising that obviously wouldn't surprise you if you read this one first.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!

BOOK DETAILS:
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Zebra; Original edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420121707
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420121704
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Available to purchase at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Book

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.

Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my new Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.

Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my new Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.

I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.

To find out more about Charlotte, please visit her at www.CharlotteHubbard.com.

Visit her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/charlotte.hubbard1

On Goodreads at: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/53342.Charlotte_Hubbard


Check out the other stops in this tour HERE.


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