Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CFBA Tour: Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Scraps of Evidence
Abingdon Press (January 21, 2014)
by
Barbara Cameron


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Word from the author:

CBD, CBA, and ECPA bestselling author of 35 books (including new series upcoming for Abingdon Press in 2011/2012) including fiction and non-fiction books for Abingdon Press, Thomas Nelson, Harlequin, and other publishers.

I sold three films to HBO/Cinemax and am the first winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.

My two novellas won the 2nd and 3rd place in the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest from the Faith, Love, and Hope chapter of RWA. Both were finalists for the novella category of the Carol Award of the American Christian Writers Award (ACFW).

ABOUT THE BOOK

Tess has taken some ribbing from her fellow officer, Logan, for her quilting hobby. He finds it hard to align the brisk professional officer he patrols with during the day with the one who quilts in her off-time. Besides, he’s been trying to get to know her better and he’d like to be seeing her during those few nights a week she spends with her quilting guild. Then one afternoon Tess and Logan visit her aunt in the nursing home, and the woman acts agitated when Tess covers her with the story quilt. Aunt Susan is attempting to communicate a message to them about Tess’s uncle. There’s a story behind this quilt, they realize, one that may lead them to a serial killer. Will they have a chance to have a future together, or will the killer choose Tess for his next victim before they find him?

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

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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Calling by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Review)



Twenty-year-old Bethany Schrock is restless. Her love life has derailed, her faith hangs by a thread, and she is spending the incredibly hot summer days wading through a lifetime’s accumulation of junk at the home of five ancient Amish sisters. About the only thing that holds her interest is the spirited and dangerously handsome Jimmy Fisher–and he seems bent on irritating her to no end.

When the sly old sisters and a guest at the Inn get Bethany involved in running the local soup kitchen and starting a community garden, she suddenly finds herself wondering, Shootfire! How did that happen? Despite her newfound purposefulness, a gnawing emptiness about a childhood mystery continues to plague her. Encouraged by Jimmy Fisher, she will seek out the answers she craves–and uncover a shocking secret that will break her heart, heal it, and point her to love.



I GIVE THIS BOOK:
1 star1 star


MY THOUGHTS:
After reading The Letters , book one in the Inn at Eagle Hill series, I didn't have high hopes for this book. It was slightly better than the first one but I think that's only because I knew who almost all the characters were - in the first book I was lost for the first several chapters.

I like how the book is told from several points of view, but that's about all I really liked.

There were so many times when things were repeated, in a different way, within a couple paragraphs that it very much got on my nerves. I found it annoying when something was mentioned by one of the characters and then shortly thereafter (usually within the same setting, same people) was repeated, as if stated for the first time. That seemed to happen quite often.

For a book that takes place with people from the Old Order Amish I was surprised when on several occasions it was made to sound as if everyone had a phone right near them. I know there are phone shanties, but it didn't sound like that was what they were using a lot of the time.

I've heard some say that this book could be a stand-alone but I completely disagree. The story may shift the main perspective to a different character, in this case Bethany, but it still is moving forward from the previous one and adding on to it. There's a back story to the series, how Rose's husband's investment firm went bankrupt and the ramifications of that, so if you were to jump in with The Calling I think a lot of that would be missed.

To me this series is one that you'd read if you want something light when you don't have much time to read and are constantly having to put the book down, as so many things are repeated.

I may read the next book in this series when it releases but it's not on the top of my list to do so.

***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!



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Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen (Review)




Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.



I GIVE THIS BOOK:
1 star1-1/2 stars


MY THOUGHTS:
I have read and greatly enjoyed all of Julie Klassen's previous books and had been awaiting the release of The Dancing Master for almost a year. So I was slightly disappointed when I started the story and found that I didn't like either of the main characters, at all!

Julia was a selfish, spoiled girl who seemed to derive pleasure from defying and vexing her mother. She was such a flirt too! I was honestly rooting against her for so much of the book and that's never good.

Alec was too much of a dandy for my tastes. He cared so much about his appearance that it got on my nerves. If he got one smudge on anything the whole outfit had to change.

Now I did love many of the secondary characters: The Allens, Desmond, Lady Amelia, Mrs. Tickle, and Mr. Barlow. However, my love of them didn't increase my enjoyment of the book that much, since almost every scene they're in, the main characters are in as well.

I loved the cover from the first time I saw it and after reading the story I loved it even more. It was great how it is an exact scene from the book. Her outfit is described as follows:
The woman then help her on with a soft green evening gown with embroidered flowers, ribbon sash, and short puffed sleeves. Her cameo necklace and long kid gloves completed the ensemble.
I think it's just a perfect cover!

I thought the whole reason behind the town not allowing dancing for so long was very silly, and a bit of a stretch, but that on the whole wasn't that big of a deal.

If you have read and loved Julie Klassen's previous books, you'll more than likely still want to read The Dancing Master. However if you have seen many people rave about Julie's books and are thinking of reading one, I would suggest you start elsewhere. My favorites of hers are Lady of Milkweed ManorThe Apothecary's DaughterThe Maid of Fairbourne Hall, and The Tutor's Daughter.

***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!

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cloud Seeders by James Zerndt (Review & 1st Chapter Reveal)




Serve Your Country, Conserve Your Water, Observe Your Neighbor. 

This is the slogan of the Sustainability Unit and of a country gone eco-hysterical. After nearly twelve months without rain and the hinges of the world barely still oiled, Thomas and his younger brother, Dustin, set out across a drought-ridden landscape in search of answers. What they discover along the way will change their lives, and their country, forever.



I GIVE THIS BOOK:
1 star1 star1 star1 star


MY THOUGHTS:
I was immediately drawn into the story, which is always a great thing, and was fully expecting to love the book. However, several things made me not...but I'll get to those in a moment.

The world this author has built was fantastic! It was a very believable scenario and that made the story all the more terrifying.

The affection between the brothers was great, but at times it seemed that the younger brother's age changed drastically. He's 9 years old and when the story first starts out he treated like you would expect someone to treat a 9 year old. However by mid-story he was acting and being treated like an adult, at one point his brother even calls him an adult (but he's still only 9!). I'm sorry but I found this hard to believe. I don't care how grownup or mature a child behaves they are still a child.

I don't believe there is going to be a sequel so I would have liked there to have been a little more to the story, as I felt the ending was kind of abrupt and left me hanging. If there's going to be a sequel I would have added another star to my rating as then the ending would have made me want to read the next book, but as it stands I feel like it was missing something. Just learned there's going to be a sequel so I've adjusted my rating and think that the ending is great - definitely makes me want to read the next book.

The poems between chapters were confusing, but that may be more because I don't care for poetry and honestly don't understand it the way a lot of others are able to.

There was more language than I expected there to be, as this is a young adult novel, and there were also quite a few sexual innuendos which were a little shocking - not what I was expecting. However, I guess since it's told from a young man's POV that's something I probably should have expected. This alone doesn't affect my rating and I'm just mentioning it if this is something that would bother you too.

All in all, it was a good read and one I would recommend if you enjoy Dystopian novels.

***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: 268 pages
  • Published: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1478209151
  • ISBN-13: 978-1478209157
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Available to purchase at Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)


First Chapter:
 Serve Your Country, Conserve Your Water, Observe Your Neighbor

Our Mom tended to be philosophical when she played Would You Rather.
Thomas, would you rather be thunder or lightning? Snow or fire? A question mark or period? Red or yellow?
            Dad never played. He even refused to answer the easy questions like would you rather kiss Marilyn Monroe or Madonna? He’d shake his head, smile at Mom, but always claim he just liked to listen.
            I still play my own version with Dustin even though I’m eighteen now, and it’s been over a year since we’ve seen our parents.
            “Would you rather I kick your butt or you hurry it up?” I say, and Dustin stops to ponder this before realizing I’m not kidding.
            “Hurry it up?”
            “Move,” I say, and he does.   
He has to.
I’m all he has now.
            It’s seven a.m. and we’ve got four hours of water-patrol ahead of us. While Dustin gets dressed, I toss his used body-wipe in the bin and head outside to wait.
At least he’s stopped asking to take showers.
There’s that anyway.
When he finally comes out of the house, Dustin’s wearing the state-mandated dust mask with his Officer of Sustainability jacket zipped up to his nose. The logo, a big drop of blue water wearing hand-cuffs, covers his entire nine-year-old torso.   
            “Let’s do this,” he says and struts off ahead of me, ticket book at the ready.
            Normally I’d be doing this on my own, but it’s summer, so Dustin’s helping out, earning his badge. Nearly twelve months now and no rain. And the year before we had a whopping two inches. Just enough to keep the hinges of the world oiled.
We walk, without incident, for a solid hour before being heckled by a Leftover sitting on a cardboard box. There’s a liter of brown-colored water at his feet. Leftovers are what most people call them. The government’s official name for them is “The Internally Displaced.”
            “Hey, I think I hear somebody watering their lawn! You guys better go arrest them!”
Even from this distance, I can see his lips are cracked and torn. Dustin has his pen out before the guy finishes his sentence.
“Forget it,” I say, grabbing Dustin by the collar before he can cross the street.
            “But he’s worth at least 50 water points.”
            Water points: an incentive plan cooked up by the powers that be. For every 1000 water points, you get a 5- gallon drum of fresh water.
            “We’ve got plenty without him, D. This isn’t a game.”
            “What if Mom and Dad don’t come back? What if they stop giving us their rations? Then what?”
            “Then we get by like everybody else.”
            Dustin tucks his ticket book back inside his jacket, sticks the pen behind his ear and contents himself by taking a long, unnecessary drink. Then he wipes his mouth on his sleeve and says, “When are they coming back anyway?”
            “When Dad finishes his research and figures this mess out. We’ve gone through this how many times now?”
            “A million.”
            “C’mon,” I say. “Let’s go find some electricity-bandits. That’ll make you feel better.”
We pass by a few abandoned stores, the insides all gutted long ago. One has a banner pasted over whatever the old name was.
The Water Barter.
At least they tried.
We walk off the main road, down a few side streets, straight into the middle of nowhere and see a boy about Dustin’s age riding a bicycle, his belly just starting to distend. He stops and waves when he sees us, thinks we’re the good guys.
I tell Dustin to throw him a bottle of water and Dustin just looks at me like do-I-have-to, but he does it anyway. We watch the kid pump toward the bottle, his spindly legs coming to life. When he picks the water up, he waves it in the air in thanks, then goes back to pedaling more dust.
I keep an eye on Dustin, see if he’s registered the fact that the kid could be him if things were different.
But he just seems annoyed.
            It isn’t much longer before we spot some lights peeking out from a curtained basement window. We knock on the door, and, sure enough, the lights go out. A woman, forty something, still wearing her bathrobe, opens the door. She’s got the thirst. It happens when you drink too much recycled water.
Her lips look like two dead worms.
            “Hi, ma’am. We’re with the Sustainability Unit. Would you mind if we came in, took a look around?”
            I know the look she’s giving me. Our dog used to do the same thing after he peed the carpet.
            “Be my guest,” she says. “And who’s this little cutie-pie?”
            She doesn’t know it yet, but she just earned herself an extra ticket. Maybe ten.
“This is Cadet Dustin,” I say and give her a look she interprets perfectly.
            “Oh, you’ll have to forgive me. It’s just that I haven’t seen such a handsome cadet before.”
            Dustin, having none of it, says, “The basement?”
            I shrug and she leads us down the hallway. On the way, I peek my head into her bathroom, note the illegal tube running from her Recycler into a hole in the tiled floor. She must have just gone because the thing is still agitating, filtering out the urine, turning it into clear drops of water to be used for laundry, dishes, that sort of thing. On the side of the 5-gallon plastic jug, in big black letters, it says:
NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.  
            The basement holds the usual Unforgivables: crude hydroponics, some lettuce, carrots, tomatoes. The government made indoor-gardening illegal last year since it uses up too much electricity. Well, that and people don’t tend to share what they grow inside.
The only real surprise here is the row of flowers.
            “Dragon Lilies were his favorite. My husband’s, I mean,” the woman explains. “He died last year. I share with others when I have enough. Please, you have to understand.”
I want to grab her hand, put my arm around her, sit down and have a nice big salad, eat every last morsel of evidence with her, tell her she has no idea how much I do understand.
            “I still have to write you up for this. They’ll probably just garnish a few liters, put you on water- probation for a year. It won’t be so bad.”
            “Not so bad?” she starts to say, but stops when she notices Dustin scribbling away. 
            “Let me see that,” I say and take the pad from him.
            “Eight Unforgivables,” Dustin says. “And that’s not counting the fan you have on upstairs.”                       
            “Cadet Dustin,” I say. “Could you go outside and check the perimeters, make sure we didn’t miss anything?”
            “Gotcha,” he says and actually goes so far as to hitch up his pants before heading upstairs.
            “I’m already getting by on less than most,” the woman begins, her hand rubbing her neck, the robe parting just a touch. “Isn’t there something we can work out, some sort of community service I could perform?”
            I take a step back, cough some of the color back into my face. “Here,” I say and only hand her two of the tickets. “Just pay these and dismantle the greenhouse, okay?”
            Her eyes go all big and soft and I hurry out of the basement before she can get to me. When me and Dustin head down the street, he eyes me suspiciously.
“How many did you give her?”
            “Eight,” I lie. “Nice work, partner.”
*
            After our shift, Dustin and I get cleaned up for our date with Jerusha. She asked me to bring Dustin along to the Water Rally, said she had a surprise for him afterward. Jerusha’s what we call a Bootlegger: someone who makes un-recycled water and sells it on the black market. Dustin adores her, but I’m a little worried about what’ll happen if he finds out about her hobby.
The Water Rally is supposed to be a formal event, so I go through Dad’s closet, pick out one of his brown tweed numbers, the kind with the patches in the elbows. I’m hoping Jerusha will get a kick out of me looking smart for once.
            When I get downstairs, Dustin’s standing in the middle of the room wearing his old Halloween costume. Tony the Tiger. From his favorite cereal. Back when we still had milk. And cereal.
            “Dustin, what the...?”
            “You said get dressed up.”
            “I meant wear something nice.”
            “This is nice. Wait, no, it’s GRRRR--”
            “Stop. Where’s your I.D.?”
            We were told to wear our badges on a lanyard. For security reasons. Dustin pulls up his tail. His badge is taped to Tony’s sphincter.
            “Wonderful. I’m sure Sarge will love that.”
            When we get to the party, there are giant banners hanging everywhere with slogans written in giant green letters.
WATER IS A STATE OF MIND! YOU REIGN!
Dustin’s costume, it turns out, is a big hit. One of the officials even comes over, shakes both our hands, says that maybe next year they’ll have a real costume party.
Dustin jumps up and down at this, claps his paws and growls, “That’s GRRRRREEEAAAT!”
            The guy eats it up.
            We stop by a few of the demonstration tables as we make our way to the buffet stations, not wanting to appear in too big of a hurry. There are pamphlets about new Recyclers, some with a focus on women’s needs. They’re pink and smoother looking than the clunky one we have at home.
            Next is a booth on how to police your neighborhood and turn in Violators: Serve, Conserve, Observe. Basically, it’s teaching regular citizens how to do our job. Free video cameras are available from the government if they want to set up surveillance on a suspect neighbor. There’s even a poster of a man brandishing a knife, a dead garden hose in his other hand.
Like a trophy photo.
Give me a break.
We move on, eventually finding Jerusha hovering around the buffet they have set up. There’s shrimp. Well, not real shrimp. Shrimp-flavored soyfu or something. Jerusha looks amazing, dressed in a black one-piece that stops just above her knees.
            “I didn’t know Tony the Tiger was coming!”
            “Next year they’re having a costume party,” Dustin brags. “All because of me.”
            “Too bad it’s not this year. You’d win hands down, kiddo.”
            Dustin wags his tail. “You going to watch the speech with us?”
            “Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Nothing I like better than watching people lie through their teeth.”
            We watch the “hysteria”, as Jerusha calls it, from the nosebleed seats. Everybody else is jostling down below, crowding the main stage like our President’s some kind of rock star. Which, in a way, I guess he is. They even have his face beaming down from a gigantic 4-sided screen set up above the crowd. His beatific eyes about a foot-wide each.
            “How come they get to have a TV?” Dustin wants to know.
            “Because they’re pigs,” Jerusha says and pops a fake shrimp in her mouth.
            “I don’t get it.”
            “Don’t think of it as a TV,” I tell him. “It’s more like a screen. So we can see him better.”
            “Oh,” he says, but I can tell he isn’t buying it.
            If I could have your attention for a moment, please.
            The crowd quiets down, presses closer to the stage.
The first thing I’d like to address are the rumors that there’s been precipitation in California. Unfortunately, that’s a blatant un-truth. Now believe me, there’s nothing more I wish were true. We believe the rumor was started by some of our more unsavory citizens who would like nothing better than to undermine Operation Green. We, as a country, must focus on sustaining our current water economy, working as a whole so we can overcome this greatest environmental challenge of our time. Now who’s with me?
            The crowd erupts. I even start to clap but stop once I notice Jerusha glaring at me.
            “Do you even know why you’re clapping?”
            “Of course, I do,” I say, zero conviction in my voice.
            Thank you, my friends! Thank you! Now, with that nasty bit of business out of the way, let’s get to what you’re all waiting for. The Water Awards!
            More frenzied applause.
I sit on my hands.
            As you know, each month we reward one exceptional citizen with a twenty-gallon supply of pure un-recycled water. This month, for outstanding dedication to the Sustainability Movement, we award Citizen Hugh Penly for the courageous act of turning in his neighbor for washing their electric car. Hugh, are you out there? Come on up here! I want our citizens to see what a true hero looks like!
            An elderly man wearing an old Mariner’s baseball hat emerges from the crowd, makes his way to the podium as the crowd chants, “Hugh! Hugh! Hugh!” When they roll out the five-gallon drums of water, the man nearly breaks down in tears. A fairly moving scene, but one cut short when Jerusha stands up.
            “C’mon, we’re leaving. I can’t stomach this any longer.”
            As we make our exit, we get a few strange looks. Like we’re nuts for leaving just when things are getting good.
Once we get outside Jerusha squats down next to Dustin, and he climbs up without a word.
Piggy-back time.
It’s nice. Something a mother might do.
            “You boys game for a real party? Something that isn’t sanctioned by fascists?”
            I knew there would be something like this. There always is with Jerusha. Probably some lame party with wanna-be Leftovers in scruffy beards, none of them fully weaned off the grid yet but doing everything possible to look like they are.
            “I’m game,” Dustin says and uses his tail like a whip to spur Jerusha on. “Gitty up!”
            “It depends on where the party is,” I say, like the decision hasn’t already been made.
            “Not far. C’mon.”
            Jerusha trots off, Dustin holding onto her black hair like the reins of some magical horse. The streets are deserted, not one car out since nearly everybody in their right mind is at the rally. After about five blocks, Jerusha plops Dustin down on the sidewalk and raps four times on a metal warehouse door.
            A peep hole slides open, then quickly shuts again.
            “I don’t know about this,” I murmur and Jerusha lowers her eyes at me, says, “Of course you don’t know. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” 
            Before I can come up with a response, the door opens and we’re ushered in by a kid in a black suit. It’s ten times more expensive than the hand-me-down I’m wearing.
“Welcome, comrades,” he says and acknowledges Jerusha by kissing her on both cheeks, all European-like. I couldn’t dislike the guy more. “I see you brought some defectors.”
            “Not exactly,” Jerusha says, eyeballing me. “But I’ll vouch for them.”
            “Whatever you say, Jerusha. But they’re your responsibility.”
            Jerusha grabs one of Dustin’s paws. “C’mon. Stick close to me.”
            She leads us through a dark and seemingly empty warehouse until we reach a ladder mounted to a wall.
“Where’s that go?” Dustin asks.
“To the roof. Where else?”
Jerusha turns to me, flicks my lanyard. “You might want to lose that.”
I look down, and, sure enough, my ID is hanging out. Luckily it’s face down, my Water-cop face still hidden.
“Right,” I say and stuff it into my breast pocket.
Dustin bends over, wags his tiger-butt at Jerusha. “What about me?”
            “You’ll be fine, honey. Just don’t go doodie anywhere, okay?”
I pictured hot tubs, naked people drinking illegal beer, multiple Unforgivables, Dustin having a heart attack trying to hand out all the tickets. But when we get on the roof, we find only a small swarm of dancing teenagers.
Dustin leans into Jerusha, whispers, “These aren’t Leftovers, are they?”
            “Leftovers? This isn’t the day after Thanksgiving, honey. These are your neighbors.”
A soft mist falls over the crowd and people start twirling, rubbing the falling water into their clothes. Behind the crowd I see a guy holding a sprinkler. I nudge Dustin, point to the rain-maker, and Dustin’s jaw drops.
            I start to say something, but Jerusha grabs his hand before I can get a word out.
            “It’s supposed to encourage the real thing!” Jerusha shouts, spinning Dustin around under the fake rain. “Wonderful, isn’t it?”
            I nod but can’t help wondering if they’re using Recycled water, drenching everybody in what isn’t even fit to drink. I lean against a railing, watch as some of the dancers run their fingers blissfully through their urine-soaked hair.
            “Wasn’t that amazing?” Jerusha asks when the rain ends. “Cleansing, don’t you think?”
            “Do you know what the punishment is for--?”
            Again, Jerusha doesn’t let me finish. She picks Dustin up, his fur all matted down. “Who cares what sour puss thinks. What does Tony the Tiger think? Fun stuff?”
            “Awesome stuff! What was that thing making all the water come out?”
            If I don’t step in, I can see Dustin bringing this up at headquarters and getting us all in trouble.
“That, Dustin, was an antique. Something from the old days. Something that’s obsolete now.”
            Jerusha squats down beside him as the others make their way back down the ladder. “It’s called a sprinkler, Dustin. People used to place them on their lawns and children would run through them in the summer. Someday, with the help of people like this, we might have them again. Would you like that?”
            Dustin turns to me, says, “Can we get a sprinkler?”
            “No, we cannot. For one, they’re illegal. For two, they’re nearly impossible to find. Besides, what are we going to sprinkle? We don’t have a lawn.”
            “Oh. Yeah.”
By the time we get to Jerusha’s house, it’s dark, her parents long asleep. Her parents think Jerusha’s an angel, living out in the garage so she can remain close to them. The fact that they’re being used as a cover has, I’m sure, never occurred to them.
They’re the opposite of Jerusha: good, obedient, scared citizens.
            “Home illegal home,” she says, waiting for us by the garage.
            “You live out here?” Dustin asks.
            She doesn’t answer, just unlocks the padlock and clean-and-jerks the garage door open. With a flip of a switch, we’re doused in red light. A king-size bed with satin sheets sits in the middle of the garage.
            “Whaddya think?”
            Dustin immediately goes for the bed.
            “What’s up there?” He points to a second story loft with bed sheets hanging from the ceiling. It must be where she hides her paraphernalia, her water-making lab. “Can we go up?”
            “That’s my special place, Dustin. Sorry. Off limits for now.”
            I haven’t turned her in.
There’s my being head-over- heels in love with her, but also the fact that she knows where my mom and dad are. It works out well, a blackmail made in heaven since I can’t imagine being chained to anything sexier than Jerusha.
            “Mind your own business, D,” I say. “Or you won’t get to see the surprise.”  
            “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” he yells, jumping up and down on the bed.
            “First you have to keep a secret,” Jerusha tells him. “Can you do that, Dustin?”
            “I can do that.”
            “I thought so. How about you, Thomas?”
            “I don’t have much choice, do I.”
            “No, I suppose you don’t,” Jerusha says and climbs the ladder to the loft.
            “Do you think she has a sprinkler? Maybe some water pistols?” Dustin asks.
            “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
            “That would be so awesome.”
            “No, it would not,” I say. Water-pistols are a major Unforgivable. “You know we can’t tell anybody about this, right? We’d both get in big, big trouble.”
            Dustin plops down on the bed, says, “Don’t be such a wet rag, Thomas.”
            “You don’t even know what that means.”
            Jerusha is standing at the top of the ladder, her black dress replaced by a pair of bulky flannel pajamas.
“Thomas, would you give me a hand with this?”
            She’s holding something wrapped in a white bed sheet. I climb half-way up, help her walk it down.
            “Ready?” she says once we set it on a table, but instead of waiting for an answer, Jerusha whips the sheet off. “Ta-da!”
            “A TV!” Dustin says, standing on the bed again. “Does it work?”
            Major, major Unforgivable.
Anyone caught possessing movies of any kind will automatically be placed in Rehabilitation.
I remember the DVD burnings held on weekends, the bonus water-points handed out for every ten movies burned. No longer would we gorge ourselves on distraction, no longer would we amuse ourselves into submission.
            “Where did you get that thing?” I say, not quite wanting to hear the answer.
            “Here,” she says and hands me an old VCR tape. “Make yourself useful.”
Jerusha drags an old car battery out from under the table, goes about threading the modified cord onto the terminals. It’s one of those old combo TV/VCR deals. As I slide the tape in, Dustin puts his hands on his lap, morphs into good-little-boy. When the images from Star Wars start to fill the twelve-inch screen, Dustin’s mouth doesn’t seem able to close.
            Once Jerusha is satisfied that Dustin is sufficiently hooked, she fluffs a few pillows, gives me a nod toward the loft.
“Dustin, honey, I need to go upstairs with your brother for awhile. Will you be okay down here?”
            “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”
            “Give me two minutes,” Jerusha says and cranks the volume before disappearing up the ladder.
I count out two long minutes in my head, then follow after. When I part the bed sheets at the top of the ladder, Jerusha is standing next to a claw-foot bathtub filled with soapy water, the steam slowly rising, a blue towel wrapped around her.
            “You can’t just--”
            “I can, Thomas. You should know that by now.” She lifts her leg up, the towel opening up along her thighs in a V as she dips her toes in. “When’s the last time you had a real bath?”
            Number One on the list of Unforgivables.
            I can’t speak.
Would you rather watch R2D2 or take a bath with Jerusha?
            “High school,” she says. “Am I right?”
            “Yeah, I think so.”
            “Well, what are you waiting for?”
            “Where’d you get all the water?”
            “Take your clothes off.” Jerusha drops the towel to the floor, starts coming toward me and I back away, worried about Dustin. “We’re just taking a bath, Thomas. What do you think is going to happen?” Her smile widens. “He can’t hear us anyway.”
             I undress, sit down in the tub, barricade my knees against my chest as the water envelopes me like smoke. An entire tub full, hot enough to turn my legs a deep pink.
            “Now relax.” Jerusha takes her hand, tugs at one of my feet so that my leg slides down along her thighs. “That’s better.” Her hair is spread out against the back of the tub like a shiny black fan. I can’t stop staring. “Feels good, wouldn’t you say?”
            “Yeah,” I say, my voice quivering like the surface of the water.
            Jerusha leans forward, places her mouth against my knee, gives it a soft bite. The world pulses and pounds in my ears as she lies back with this pleased look on her face. I close my eyes, listening to the sounds of light sabers and blasters filtering up from below. I stay that way for I don’t know how long, but by the time I open my eyes again, the water’s almost cool.
Jerusha, smiling that illegal smile of hers, says, “I guess that makes you a Violator now, too.” 
            “If Dustin wasn’t here,” I start to say. “I’d violate more than--”
            “Oh God, I forgot about him,” she says and pulls herself out of the water, starts drying herself with one foot on the tub.
When she finishes, she climbs back into her pajamas and heads back down to Dustin. I dry myself with Jerusha’s towel, rub her smell as deeply as I can into my own skin before putting my clothes back on.
I’ve been so preoccupied that I haven’t had time to really look at her water-brewing system. I’ve seen them before, but this one is especially tricked out. There’s a car battery on the floor, jumper cables hooked up to an iron rod that leads to a small skylight in the roof. Aluminum foil covers the bottom of the skylight while plastic tubing drips down like an IV into a barrel. It must have taken her a month to get enough water for just the one bath.
I feel honored almost to the point of tears.
            By the time I make it downstairs, the tape’s sticking out of the VCR and Dustin’s fast asleep on the end of the bed. Jerusha’s already turned the TV off, covered Dustin with a blanket.
That night I fall asleep with my arm around Jerusha, her back arched into my chest as I dream of flash floods, thunder and lightning, showers, tsunamis.


Oregon Mourning

The lake’s been electrocuted again,
the mist sizzling
from its bald surface,
the fish all capsizing
while the loons keen.

Soon the cicadas, too,
will throw their voices
across the water
in protest.

i can almost remember how all this used to look,
back before they passed sentence
on all the good things.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Zerndt lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and son. His poetry has appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper, and his fiction has most recently appeared in Gray's Sporting Journal and SWINK magazine. He rarely refers to himself in the third person.

His latest book is the YA scifi, The Cloud Seeders.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Julie Klassen’s “The Dancing Master” giveaway and “All Things Jane” webcast 1/23!

Best-selling author Julie Klassen will be hosting a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a live webcast event (1/23) to celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Dancing Master. Enter and RSVP today!

dancingmaster-400
 
  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 23rd. Winner will be announced at the "All Things Jane (from Austen to Eyre)" Live Webcast Event on January 23rd. Connect with Julie for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Julie will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books, Jane Austen DVDs, fun "Jane" merchandise, and gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of The Dancing Master and join Julie and friends on the evening of January 23rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!



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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Letters by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Review)





Rose Schrock is a plain woman with a simple plan. Determined to find a way to support her family and pay off her late husband's debts, she sets to work to convert the basement of her Amish farmhouse into an inn. While her family, especially her cranky mother-in-law, is unhappy with Rose's big idea, her friend and neighbor, Galen King, supports the decision and he helps with the conversion. As Rose finalizes preparations for visitors, she prays. She asks God to bless each guest who stays at the Inn at Eagle Hill. As the first guest arrives and settles in, Rose is surprised to discover that her entire family is the one who receives the blessings, in the most unexpected ways. And she's even more surprised when that guest decides to play matchmaker for Galen King.

With her signature plot twists combined with gentle Amish romance, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites readers back to Stoney Ridge for fresh stories of simple pleasures despite the complexity of life. Fisher's tale of God's providence and provision will delight her fans and create many new ones. Welcome to the Inn at Eagle Hill.



I GIVE THIS BOOK:
1 star1 star


MY THOUGHTS:
I felt extremely lost when I started this book. There were so many characters and they weren't introduced very well that I thought I had somehow misread and this was a sequel. So it was a struggle to get into the story.

Once I finally worked out who was who it got a little better, but there was a lot of repetitive thoughts and comments that I personally found boring.

I loved how the story was focused on a widow who's in her thirties and her family (mother-in-law, step-children, and her own children). So many Amish books seem to be about young people and their journey to find love, which is nice but can get tiring. The POV switched between several different women, which was nice to get several generations' viewpoints.

I'm planning on reading the second novel, The Calling, and am hoping it will be a more enjoyable read since I'll know who most of the characters are already.

If you love Amish fiction you'll probably enjoy reading The Letters, but if you are looking to get into the genre I would suggest you try a different book.

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


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Sunday, January 12, 2014

No One to Trust (Hidden Identity #1) by Lynette Eason (Review)



Summer Abernathy wakes up one morning to find her husband missing, three men in her home intent on finding him, and the life she's been living based on a lie. Which Kyle Abernathy did she marry? The computer programmer she met in line at the bank? Or the one who was apparently using that image as a cover story?

The search for her husband--and answers--takes Summer ever deeper into a world of organized crime where people are used one moment and discarded the next. And with her deepest relationship of trust already shattered, Summer doesn't know who to believe.





I GIVE THIS BOOK:
1 star1 star1 star

MY THOUGHTS:
When a book is labeled suspense I expect to either be in suspense or to be kept guessing at what/who is behind what's going on in the story. Neither of those things happened with No One to Trust. Overall it was an okay read, but I didn't think it was that suspenseful and I made several guesses early on (around page 60) and was right with every one of them.

That being said, the story wasn't unenjoyable. I thought it was an easy read but at the same time had I not had to finish it within a certain time frame for a review I probably would have set it aside and still wouldn't have finished it. The story just wasn't gripping and I wouldn't have had any trouble not finishing it.

There was a line a character said that I think really explained why I didn't care for this book all that much and it was "I feel like I'm in a Lifetime movie or something.". I almost always find those movies laughable and annoying, and this book did actually remind me of one of them at times, so that's probably part of the reason I didn't care for the book all that much.

Another reason is that I didn't care much for the main character, Summer. I thought she was whiny and very immature. She was constantly doing stupid things, like rushing out of a building when she was told it wasn't safe, and I just didn't like her. Yes, it would be terrible to learn that your husband has lied about who he is, but really all he lied about was his name - almost everything else was just changed a tiny bit, so her behavior was just strange to me.

I really liked David, but he almost seemed too perfect. Being so understanding of Summer's feelings, going out of his way to do things for her, etc. were all great and so sweet of him, but I don't recall ever seeing him get angry...about anything with Summer.

No One to Trust is the first book I've read by Lynette Eason, so if you've read and enjoyed any of her other books you'll probably enjoy this one too. Also if you love romantic suspense and can't get enough of it you'll probably enjoy this more than I did. If someone asked me to recommend a suspense novel this wouldn't be my first choice, but I wouldn't not recommend it either. I think this book is one that's subjective to each person, so many people seemed to have loved this book but I just didn't.

***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.***

“Available January 2014 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

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



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