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“but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”― Jane Austen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Giveaway & FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ Dawn of the Golden Promise by BJ Hoff

My Review

BJ Hoff has woven an engrossing story of friends, Morgan, Michael and Nora. Encompassing the heartbreaking period of the Irish Potato famine and the immigrants coming to America, we follow friends Michael and Nora through their separate travels, imprisonment aboard ship, their disillusionment and the terrible living conditions once they reach America. Still in Ireland is Morgan Fitzgerald, an impressive Irishman that stayed and the sorrows and victories he experiences there.

With so much depth and emotion in each book it is not possible for me to separate them and just focus on this one. They are such integral parts of each other. By far, this series is one of the finest written in this time period. The historical detail abounds in a richness so apparent that you'll feel the raw emotions, invision the rotting potatoes, smell the city slums and see faith lived out in each of these remarkable characters lives. And faith they do posess. Some stronger than others but isn't that so true of each of us.


This is the last book in the Emerald Ballad Series (which I have read) so I don't feel it is a stand alone novel. To get the full effect of the story I recommend you start with the first book Song of the Silent Harp and progress through each of their lives with them until you come to this beautiful ending of a poignant journey.


Leave a comment if you are interested in winning my review copy. Drawing will be Sept 6th. US Only!!! Let me know in your comment how you follow my blog and I will give you an extra entry.


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:

 

 

BJ Hoff




and the book:


 

Dawn of the Golden Promise


Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)


***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers 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 the fifth and concluding volume of her bestselling The Emerald Ballad Series, BJ Hoff brings the exciting Irish-American historical drama to a climax with all the passion and power readers have come to expect from her.

The saga finds Morgan Fitzgerald adapting to life in a wheelchair as a result of an assailant’s bullet to his spine. Meanwhile, his wife, Finola, must face the dark memories and guarded secrets of her past. In New York City, policeman Michael Burke is caught in a conflict between his faith and his determination to bring a dangerous enemy to justice.

This unforgettable series began with the promise of an epic love story and an inspiring journey of faith. The finale delivers on that promise.

About This Series: BJ Hoff’s Emerald Ballad series was one of the most memorable series published in the 1990s. With combined sales of 300,000 copies, these beloved books found a place in the hearts of BJ’s many fans. Now redesigned and freshly covered the saga is available again to a new generation of readers—and BJ’s many new fans due to her highly successful Amish series, The Riverhaven Years—The Emerald Ballad series will once again find an enthusiastic audience.

 

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736927964

ISBN-13: 978-0736927963

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

 


Dark Terror

For hope will expire

As the terror draws nigher,

And, with it, the Shame…

James Clarence Mangan (1803–1849)

Near the coast of Portugal

Late June 1850

A little before midnight, Rook Mooney left his card game and went on deck. The starless night sky churned with low-hanging clouds, and although the wind was only beginning to blow up, Mooney knew the storm would be on them within the hour.

He hated sea storms at night, especially the ones that came up all of a sudden. The Atlantic was bad-tempered and unpredictable; she could turn vicious as a wounded witch without warning. Even the most seasoned sailor never took her for granted, and many a callow youth had been turned away from the sea forever by a particularly savage gale.

Had it not been for the brewing storm, Mooney would have been glad for the wind. Lisbon had been sultry, too warm for his liking. He was ready for Ireland’s mild skies.

Hunched over the rail, he stared into the darkness. Although they were another night closer to Ireland, his mood was nearly as black as the sky. He had thought to see Dublin long before now, but instead he had spent three months in a filthy Tangier cell for breaking an innkeeper’s skull.

The darkness deep within him rose up and began to spread. It was her fault. The Innocent. His hands tightened on the rail, his mouth twisting at the memory of her. All these months—more than a year now—and he still couldn’t get her out of his mind. She was like a fire in his brain, boiling in him, tormenting him, driving him half mad.

Nothing had gone right for him since that night at Gemma’s Place. He spent his days with a drumming headache, his nights in a fog of whiskey and fever. His temper was a powder keg, ignited by the smallest spark. Even women were no good for him now. He could scarcely bear the sight of the used, worn-out strumpets who haunted the foreign ports. They all seemed dirty after her. Her, with her ivory skin and golden hair and fine clean scent.

Like some shadowy, infernal sea siren, she seemed to call to him. He was never free of her, could find no peace from her.

His grip on the rail increased. Soon, in only a few days now, they would reach Dublin. He would go back to Gemma’s Place. This time he wouldn’t go so easy on her. This time when he was finished with her, he would put an end to her witchery. He’d snuff out her life…and be free.

All at once rain drenched him. Waves churned up like rolling dunes, pitching the ship as if it were a flimsy child’s toy. Angry and relentless, the gale whipped the deck. Salt from the sea mixed with the rain, burning Mooney’s eyes and stinging his skin as the downpour slashed his face.

He swore into the raging night, anchoring himself to the rail. He felt no terror of the storm, only a feral kind of elation, as if the wildness of the wind had stirred a dark, waiting beast somewhere in the depths of his being.

Drogheda

The small cottage in the field seemed to sway in the wind. Frank Cassidy resisted the urge to duck his head against the thunder that shook the walls and the fierce lightning that streaked outside the window.

After months of following a maze of wrong turns, Cassidy could scarcely believe that he now sat across from the one person who might finally bring his search to an end. It had been a long, frustrating quest, and up until now a futile one. But tonight, in this small, barren cottage outside the old city where Black Cromwell had unleashed his obscene rage, his hopes were rising by the moment.

Friendship had motivated him to undertake the search for Finola Fitzgerald’s past, but nothing more than the unwillingness to disappoint Morgan had kept him going. He owed his old friend a great deal—indeed, he would have done most anything the Fitzgerald had asked of him. But in recent months he had wondered more than once if this entire venture might not end in total defeat. Every road he had taken led only to failure. Every clue he had followed proved worthless.

Until now.

The possibility of finding his answers in Drogheda had first occurred to Cassidy months ago. A Dublin street musician’s vague remark about an unsolved murder in the ancient city—a tragic mystery involving a young girl—had fired his interest and sent him on his way that same week.

According to the musician, a woman named Sally Kelly and her son Peter were likely to have information about the incident. Cassidy had wasted several days in Drogheda trying to locate the pair, only to discover that they had gone north some years past.

He started on to Cavan, eventually traveling as far west as Roscommon, but found no trace, not even a hint, of the Kellys. He started back to Drogheda, discouraged and uncertain about what to do next. To his astonishment, a casual conversation with a tinker on the road revealed that a youth named Peter Kelly had taken up a small tenant farm just outside the old city only weeks before.

Now, sitting across from the lad himself, Cassidy could barely contain his excitement. Even the brief, fragmented story he had managed to glean so far told him that this time he would not leave Drogheda empty-handed.

“If only you could have talked with me mum before she passed on,” Peter Kelly was saying. “She more than likely could have told you all you want to know. There’s so much I can’t remember, don’t you see.”

Kelly was a strapping young man, with shirt sleeves rolled over muscled arms. His face was sunburned and freckled, his rusty hair crisp with tight curls.

“Still, I’d be grateful to hear what you do remember,” Cassidy told him. “Anything at all.”

Dipping one hand into the crock on the table, Kelly retrieved a small potato, still in its jacket, and began to peel it with his thumbnail. Motioning toward the crock, he indicated that Cassidy should help himself.

For a short time they sat in silence, perched on stools at the deal table eating their potatoes. The cottage was old, with but one room and a rough-hewn fireplace. Boxes pegged to the wall held crockery and plates. A straw mattress was draped with a frayed brown blanket. There were no other furnishings.

Peter Kelly had a friendly, honest face and intelligent eyes. “I don’t mind telling you what I recall,” he said, “but I fear it isn’t much. ’ Twas a good seven years ago, or more. I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven at the time, if that.”

“And your mother was employed as cook?” prompted Cassidy.

The youth nodded. “Aye, she had been in service for Mr. Moran since I was but a wee wane. It was just the two of us. Me da had already passed on long before then.”

“Tell me about Moran,” Cassidy prompted. “Was he a wealthy man?”

Kelly took another bite of potato and shrugged. “Not wealthy and not poor,” he said. “He had an apothecary, but he also acted as a physician of sorts. His father before him left the business and the property. The land was fine, but not exceedingly large. There were some small crops and a few trees—and a lake.”

“And Moran himself? What sort of a man was he?”

Again the lad shrugged. “I recall he was an elderly gentleman. All alone, except for the daughter. His wife died in childbirth, I believe. As best I remember, he treated Mum and me fine.” He paused. “Mum said Mr. Moran doted on the daughter.”

“You mentioned the day of the shooting,” Cassidy urged. “I’d be grateful if you’d tell me about it.”

Peter Kelly licked his fingers before reaching for another potato. “I recall it was a warm day. Spring or summer it must have been, for the trees were in leaf and the sun was bright. I was in the woods when I heard all the commotion. I wasn’t supposed to go in the woods at all,” he explained, glancing up, “for Mum was always fearful of the place. But I played there every chance I got, all the same.”

Rubbing his big hands on his trouser legs, he went on. “But didn’t I go flying out of there fast enough when I heard the screaming? Took off as if the devil himself was after me, I did.”

Cassidy leaned forward, his muscles tensed. “What screaming would that have been?”

“Why, it sounded for all the world like a mountain cat in a trap! ’ Twas too far away for me to see, but I could tell the ruckus was coming from near the lake, at the far end of the property. I took off running for the house.”

He glanced at Cassidy, his expression slightly shamefaced. “I was but a lad,” he muttered. “All I could think of was to get away from the terrible screaming without me mum finding out I’d been playing in the woods again. She was a stern woman.”

“So you saw nothing at all?”

The boy shook his head, and Cassidy felt a shroud of familiar disappointment settle over him. Still, he wasn’t about to give up. “And what happened then, lad?”

“Mum hauled me into the kitchen, then went for Mr. Moran. He told us to stay put while he went to investigate.” He paused. “I saw a pistol in his hand, and I remember me mum was shaking something fierce. We heard the shots not long after Mr. Moran left the house with the gun.”

Cassidy’s interest piqued. He leaned forward. “Shots, did you say?”

Kelly nodded. “Mr. Moran was shot and killed that day.” After a moment he added, “Everyone said it was the teacher who murdered him.”

Curbing his impatience, Cassidy knotted his hands. “What teacher, Peter?”

Young Kelly scratched his head. “Why, I can’t recall his name—it’s been so long—but I do remember he was a Frenchman. Mr. Moran was determined his daughter would be educated, you see, and not in no hedge school, either. He hired the Frenchman as a tutor, and to coach her in the voice lessons. She was musical, you know.”

Cassidy’s mind raced. “This teacher—he lived with the family, did he?”

“He did. It seems to me he had a room upstairs in the house.”

“But what reason would he have had to shoot James Moran?”

Peter Kelly met Cassidy’s eyes across the table. “The story went that Mr. Moran must have been trying to save his daughter from the man’s advances, but the Frenchman got the best of him. Mr. Moran was elderly, mind, and would have been no match for the teacher.”

As Cassidy struggled to piece together what Kelly had told him, the youth went on. “I’m afraid I don’t know much else, sir. Only that Mr. Moran died from the shooting, and the daughter disappeared.”

Cassidy looked at him. “Disappeared?”

“She was never seen after that day,” said Kelly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Mum went looking for her after she found Mr. Moran dead, but there wasn’t a trace of her, not a trace. Nothing but her tin whistle, which they found lying near the lake. No, they never found her nor the Frenchman.” He drew in a long breath, adding, “Mum always said she didn’t believe they tried any too hard, either.”

Cassidy frowned. “Why would she think that?”

Peter Kelly twisted his mouth. “The police didn’t care all that much, don’t you see. The Morans weren’t important enough for them to bother with, Mum said. They didn’t know where to look, so they simply pretended to search.”

Cassidy drummed his finger on the table. “Could the girl simply have run off with the Frenchman, do you think?”

The other shook his head forcefully. “No, sir, I’m certain it was nothing of the sort. Mum was convinced the Frenchman had done something terrible to the lass, and that was why Mr. Moran went after him. But Mr. Moran, he was that frail; a younger man would outmatch him easy enough, she said. Mum was convinced until the day she died that the Frenchman murdered Mr. Moran and then ran off.”

Cassidy rubbed his chin. “But that doesn’t account for the girl,” he said, thinking aloud. “What of her?”

“It pained me mum to think so, but she always believed the Frenchman took the lass with him.”

“Abducted her, d’you mean?”

Peter nodded. “Aye, and perhaps murdered her as well.” He seemed to reminisce for a moment. “Mum never liked that Frenchman, you see. Not a bit. He gave himself airs, she said, and had a devious eye.”

Cassidy’s every instinct proclaimed that at last he had found what he was searching for, but he had been thwarted too many times not to be cautious. Getting to his feet, he untied the pouch at his waist and withdrew the small portrait Morgan had sent him some months past.

He unfolded it, then handed it to Peter Kelly. “Would this be the girl?” he asked, his pulse pounding like the thunder outside. “Would the Moran lass resemble this portrait today, do you think?”

As Kelly studied the portrait, his eyes widened. “Why, ’tis her,” he said, nodding slowly. “Sure, ’tis Miss Finola herself.”

Cassidy stared at him. “Finola?” he said, his voice cracking. “That was her name—Finola?    ”

“It was indeed,” the lad said. “And didn’t it suit her well, at that? Tall and lovely, she was, and several years older than myself. Wee lad that I was, I thought her an enchanted creature. A princess…with golden hair.”

A wave of exhilaration swept over Cassidy. He had all he could do not to shout. According to Morgan, the one thing Finola Fitzgerald had seemed to remember about her past was her given name.

“You’re quite sure, lad?” he said, his voice none too steady. “It’s been many a year since you last saw the lass, after all.”

Kelly nodded, still studying the portrait. “ ’ Tis her. Sure, and she’s a woman grown, but a face is not easily forgotten, no matter the years.”

“Now that is the truth,” agreed Cassidy, smiling at the boy.

“Is she found then, sir, after all this time?” Kelly asked, returning the portrait to Cassidy.

Still smiling, Cassidy stared at the portrait. “Aye, lad,” he said after a moment, his voice hoarse with excitement. “She is found. She is safe, and a married woman now.”

“Ah…thanks be to God!” said Peter Kelly.

“Indeed,” Cassidy echoed. “Thanks be to God.”

Nelson Hall, Dublin

For the second time in a week, Finola’s screams pierced the late night silence of the bedroom. Instantly awake, Morgan reached for her, then stopped. He had learned not to touch her until she was fully awake and had recognized him.

“Finola?” Leaning over her, he repeated her name softly. “Finola, ’tis Morgan. You’re dreaming, macushla. You are safe. Safe with me.”

Her body was rigid, her arms crossed in front of her face as if to ward off an attack. She thrashed, moaning and sobbing, her eyes still closed.

Outside, thunder rumbled in the distance and the lightning flared halfheartedly, then strengthened. As if sensing the approaching storm, Finola gave a startled cry.

Morgan continued to soothe her with his voice, speaking softly in the Irish. It was all he could do not to gather her in his arms. But when the nightmare had first begun, months ago, he had made the mistake of trying to rouse her from it. She had gone after him like a wild thing, pummeling him with her fists, scraping his face with her nails as she fought him off.

Whatever went on in that dark, secret place of the dream must be an encounter of such dread, such horror, as to temporarily seize her sanity. The Finola trapped in that nightmare world was not in the least like the gentle, soft-voiced Finola he knew as his wife. In the throes of the dream she was a woman bound, terrorized by something too hideous to be endured.

No matter how he ached to rescue her, he could do nothing…nothing but wait.

In the netherworld of the dream, Finola stood in a dark and windswept cavern.

Seized by terror, she cupped her hands over her ears to shut out the howling of the wind.

The wind. She knew it was coming for her, could hear the angry, thunderous roar, feel the trembling of the ground beneath her feet as the storm raced toward her.

Faster now…a fury of a wind, gathering speed as it came, raging and swooping down upon her like a terrible bird of prey, gathering momentum as it hurled toward her…closing in, seizing her.

Black and fierce, it seemed alive as it dragged her closer…closer into its eye, as if trying to swallow her whole. As she struggled to break free, she heard in the farthest recesses of the darkness a strange, indefinable sound, a sound of sorrow, as if all the trees in the universe were sighing their grief.

She tried to run but was held captive by the force of the wind. It pounded her, squeezing the breath from her, dragging her into a darkness so dense it filled her eyes, her mouth, her lungs…oh, dear Jesus, it was crushing her…crushing her to nothing—

Finola sat straight up in bed, as if propelled by some raw force of terror. She gasped, as always, fighting for her breath.

Soaked in perspiration, Finola stared at Morgan, her gaze filled with horror.

Still he did not touch her. “You are safe, Finola aroon. ’      Twas only a bad dream. You are here with me.”

She put a hand to her throat and opened her mouth as if to speak, but made no sound. Finally…finally, she made a small whimper, like that of a frightened animal sprung free from a trap.

At last Morgan saw a glint of recognition. Finola moaned, then sagged into his waiting arms.

Stroking her hair, Morgan held her, crooning to her as he would a frightened child. “There’s nothing to harm you, my treasure. Nothing at all.”

“Hold me…hold me…”

Tightening his arms about her still more, he began to rock her gently back and forth. “Shhh, now, macushla…everything is well. You are safe.”

He felt her shudder against him, and he went on, lulling her with his voice, stroking her hair until at last he felt her grow still. “Was it the same as before?” he asked.

Her head nodded against his chest.

He knew it might be hours before she would be able to sleep again. So great was the dream’s terror that she dreaded closing her eyes afterward. Sometimes she lay awake until dawn.

Her description of the nightmare never failed to chill Morgan. It had begun not long after their first physical union. Although he could scarcely bring himself to face the possibility, he could not help but wonder if their intimacy, though postponed, might not somehow be responsible.

At the outer fringes of his mind lurked a growing dread that by marrying her and taking her into his bed, he had somehow invoked the nightmare. He prayed it was not so, but if it continued, he would eventually have to admit his fear to Finola. They would have to speak of it.

But not yet. Not tonight. Tonight he would simply hold her until she no longer trembled, until she no longer clung to him as if he alone could banish the horror.

Unwilling to forsake the comforting warmth of Morgan’s embrace, Finola lay, unmoving. Gradually she felt her own pulse slow to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. “I’m sorry I woke you,” she whispered.

He silenced her with a finger on her lips. “There is nothing to be sorry for. Hush, now, and let me hold you.”

Something was coming. Something dark. Something cold and dark and sinister…

Thunder boomed like distant cannon, and Finola shivered. Wrapped safely in Morgan’s arms, she struggled to resist the dark weight of foreboding that threatened to smother her.

It was always like this after the nightmare, as if the black wind in the dream still hovered oppressively near, waiting to overtake her after she was fully awake. Sometimes hours passed before she could completely banish the nightmare’s terror.

Were it not for the safe wall of Morgan’s presence to soothe and shield her, she thought she might go mad in the aftermath of the horror. But always he was there, his sturdy arms and quiet voice her stronghold of protection. Her haven.

“Better now, macushla   ?” he murmured against her hair.

Finola nodded, and he gently eased her back against the pillows, settling her snugly beside him, her head on his shoulder.

“Try to sleep,” he said, brushing a kiss over the top of her head. “Nothing will hurt you this night. Nothing will ever hurt you again, I promise you.”

Finola closed her eyes and forced herself to lie still. She knew Morgan would not allow himself to sleep until she did, so after a few moments she pretended to drift off; in a short while, she heard his breathing grow even and shallow.

After he fell asleep, she lay staring at the window, trying not to jump when lightning streaked and sliced the night. She hugged her arms to herself as the thunder groaned. In the shelter of Morgan’s embrace, it was almost possible to believe that he was right, that nothing would hurt her ever again. She knew that with the first light of the morning, the nightmare would seem far distant, almost as if it had never happened.

But just as surely, she knew night would come again, and with the night would come the dream, with its dark wind and evil hidden somewhere deep within.

After a long time, Finola began to doze. But just as she sank toward the edge of unconsciousness, the wind shrieked. Like the sudden convulsion of a wren’s wings, panic shook her and she jolted awake.

Feeling irrationally exposed and vulnerable, she listened to the storm play out its fury. Thunder hammered with such force that the great house seemed to shudder and groan, while the wind went howling as if demanding entrance.

Again she closed her eyes, this time to pray.


 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Coming Soon...




Book Review ~ Missing in Mexico by Stuart Gustafson





My Review

In his first mystery, Stuart Gustafson uses his intimate knowledge of Los Cabos , Mexico to take us in search of a young girl gone missing at the airport on her way home from vacation. Sarah's parents hire Stan, who is a private investigator, to find her. Being an avid reader of mystery/suspense books I'm usually pretty good at figuring out the big "secret" but I was actually surprised by the eventual reason for Sarah's disappearance. I do like high level suspense in my books and this one is more of a light mystery. That being said, I know many will enjoy it just for that reason alone. If you are a travel enthusiast and have been to Los Cabos you will certainly recognize the many landmarks that are mentioned throughout the book. Visualizing the beauty and panorama of the area that Stuart so masterfully described, I just had to Google Los Cabos and see what I was missing in Mexico!

I'd like to thank the author for sending me a review copy. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. No other compensation was received.


Book Details:
Publisher: AITE Publishing
Published: May 2011
Genre: Mystery Tourism
Website:Missing In Mexico

Blurb:
Sarah Johnson is a 19-year college freshman who, along with her roommate Mary, spent an extra week in Los Cabos, Mexico after a family vacation over the Christmas break. Unexpectedly, Sarah's not on the plane back to Seattle, and her parents hire Stan, a seasoned Private Investigator, to locate her. Even with local help and some promising leads in the town of San Jose del Cabo, he's unable to find her, and he returns to Seattle to inform the parents. Months later he receives a mysterious letter from someone who says she can help him locate Sarah, and he jumps on the next plane to Los Cabos. Will this be the lucky break he needs to find her? Or will she remain missing -- Missing in Mexico?

Excerpt:


Chapter One/Uno

Flight # 1476 from Los Cabos to Seattle

Saturday, January 5th

The voice over the intercom system announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we trust you had a good time in Los Cabos, but it’s now time for us to take you back to the States. The cabin doors have been closed, and Alaska Airlines flight 1476 with nonstop service to Seattle-Tacoma is ready for departure.”
“Hey, wait. Sarah’s not here; we can’t leave without her,” the girl in seat 14A yelled in a frightened voice. Mary reached up and pushed the flight attendant call button even as the flight attendant was already headed toward her seat. “We can’t leave yet; Sarah’s still down there,” Mary continued, now reaching the point of hysteria.
“Please calm down, miss. Everyone’s already onboard. You can look for yourself,” the flight attendant said in a calm voice as she pointed to the window.
“What do you mean everyone’s onboard? Sarah’s not here; she should be sitting right here!” Mary pulled her tearing eyes away from the empty seat and looked out and saw that the boarding ramps had been pulled away from the airplane, but what she didn’t see scared her. How come Sarah’s not out there, running in a panic toward the plane? “Where’s Sarah? She was just there with me. Where is she? Don’t leave; Sarah’s missing!” Mary cried out as tears began flowing down her cheeks.
The annoyed passengers felt a jolt as the plane was being pushed back. They were ready for their flight home from Los Cabos. But Sarah wasn’t on board; she’s missing – Missing in Mexico.

familia (fă•mĭl’•ē•ă) – family. Hay cuatro personas en mi familia. There are four persons in my family.




Author Info:

Stuart Gustafson began writing in earnest after taking early retirement from the corporate world in 2007. His professional life involved travel and so it was natural for him to want to continue traveling once he didn't have to travel as a job. Now when he travels, it's for fun; it's for pleasure; it's to see new places in the world. The way he has chosen to combine his love of travel and writing is to write mystery novels set in exciting locations around the world where he likes to go.

His debut mystery novel Missing in Mexico is set in San Jose del Cabo at the tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, a charming location where he has spent 2-6 weeks each year for the past eight years. This is how Stuart researches his books, by immersing himself into the culture of the area, and getting to know the people and their charm. The best compliment Stuart has received was at a local event in San Jose del Cabo and some of the residents told him that Missing in Mexico was indeed about their town and would he please consider writing another book about San Jose or at least about Cabo.

His second mystery novel, set in Sydney, NSW, Australia, is already underway, and Stuart took five trips to Sydney in 2010 to conduct research of the area to once again ensure that the book, even though it's a fictional mystery novel, would still contain authentic details. Publication date for that book is set for early 2012.

Stuart has been married for thirty-seven years to Darlene and they have one daughter and one son. Stuart and Darlene live in Boise, Idaho.

Connect With Stuart:
Facebook: Facebook
Twitter: Twitter

To purchase a copy click here.

For a listing of Tour Participants click here.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Partners in Crime Book Tour...

I'm participating in The Partners in Crime virtual book tour for a debut novel, Missing in Mexico by Stuart Gustafson over at Stuff & Nonsense II, my book blog. I'll have a review up on Monday. You'll be able to click here to read my review.






Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mini Album Inspiration

I found the coolest site with a whole bunch of mini album tutorials! I need to make a couple of these for some new babies and this site is just the inspiration I need...





Here's a link to their blog - Scrapbook-Crazy!

Check it out and get inspired to make a mini album this week or over the weekend!



Here's a few of photos of some I have made in the past.










A few more links to find some creative inspiration for more than just minis!



Two Peas in a Bucket 



The Art of Scrapbooking



Stampin' Pretty



I LOVE the blogs in Europe, especially Russia! They have some of the MOST beautiful creations. Even though most are not in English it can be translated through Google so don't be afraid to go and take a look around.






В творческом полете...



http://zagadochnaya.blogspot.com/



http://nika-mydream.blogspot.com/






♥ Have fun creating something beautiful ♥

FIRST Wild Card Tour - A Young Man's Guide to Making Right Choices by Jim George

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:



A Young Man's Guide to Making Right Choices

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Jim George and his wife, Elizabeth George, are Christian authors and speakers. Jim, author of A Husband After God’s Own Heart (a Gold Medallion finalist) and The Bare Bones Bible Handbook, has MDiv and ThM degrees from Talbot Theological Seminary. He has served in various pastoral roles for 25 years and on The Master’s Seminary staff for ten years. Jim and Elizabeth have two married daughters and are grandparents.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Guiding a young man toward making right choices will equip him to think carefully about his decisions, assuring a more fulfilling and successful life. Help boys to gain the skills they need for facing all life’s challenges.



In this book, Jim George focuses on all the high points of a young man’s life—the things that matter most. Teen guys will learn…




  • why prayer and Bible reading are so essential


  • what makes for the best kinds of friendships


  • how school and social skills contribute to a strong future


  • how to stand strong against temptation and peer pressure


  • what contributes to healthy and biblical perspectives on dating and purity


Young men will enjoy Jim’s balance of biblical insight, personal anecdotes, and candid forthrightness. And they’ll gain the skills they need for making right choices in response to all the challenges that come their way.




Product Details:


List Price: $10.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736930256

ISBN-13: 978-0736930253


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Making the Right Choices


Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.  —  Joshua 24:15

Jason, a typical teen guy, was suddenly jolted out of a deep sleep by the clamor of trash cans being rolled to the street curb. At first he was mad, wondering,     Just who do they think they are making all that racket so early in the morning? Don’t they know a busy guy needs his sleep? Then a second wave of adrenalin hit, this time with fear, as Jason rolled over and looked out his window. Oh, no!   That’s Dad doing my chores…again!   I’m really in for it this time!


What time was it anyway?   Jason thought as he looked at his alarm clock. Oh, no, I’m late  —  way late! Did I forget to set my alarm?   He had planned to get up early to finish his English paper, which was due today! Drat and double drat! There were a lot of things he had planned to do last night — finish his English essay, work ahead on his history paper, maybe catch up on his Bible-reading schedule for his church youth group, and finally get around to writing a thank-you note to his aunt for the birthday money she sent several months ago. (That was his mom’s Number One assignment for last night, and he had thought to himself,   No worries; it’s waited this long. Maybe tonight, right?   On and on…and on…Jason’s “Things I Meant to Do” list went.


But Jason had ended up getting a little sidetracked. And why not? The money his aunt gave him had been well spent…on a new DS game. Well, one challenge level led to another, and before long Jason had battled the “forces of evil” so long on his game (a full hour past the bedtime curfew his parents had sent) that his mom had forcefully interrupted and made him end his simulated life-and-death struggles and turn out his light.




Life Is Full of Choices


Jason had begun his evening with great intentions of making right choices. But something pulled him away from those good intentions. And in the end — actually, the next morning — he began to suffer a landslide of consequences due to those bad choices.


As the section title says above, life is full of choices. And the funny thing about choices is that sometimes the same exact choice might be bad for one guy but okay for another. Take, for example, the simple choice of breakfast food. Jason’s friend Marty is trying to make the basketball team. He’s a great shot, but he has a problem keeping his weight down, so he needs to be more disciplined about what he eats. Eating several bowls of a certain cereal each morning with lots of milk and sugar would be a huge caloric problem for Marty, but it wouldn’t be a problem for Jason because he’s as thin as a rail!


Do you realize your choices for each day begin at the end of the previous day, when you decide what time you need to get up and then set your alarm? And the next big choice is actually getting up when you hear the alarm clock…which then leads to getting dressed, doing your chores, eating breakfast, and getting to school on time. Your choices continue right on through your day and include doing your homework and being a good family member when you get home, until you set the alarm again at the end of the day.


Yes, life is full of choices. Someone said it well:


My life is not made by the dreams I dream but by the choices I make.1




Choices Through the Rearview Mirror


You’ve probably been to a camp or retreat or youth meeting where there was a “guys’ sharing time,” a time when those who were brave enough recounted some of the choices they made in their past. It’s as if they’re looking at their past in a rearview mirror. (If you drive, you know all about looking into the rearview mirror to see what’s going on behind you, and if you don’t drive, you will one day!) Now, the guys who shared were no longer living back in their past, but they could still see, remember, and taste the consequences of their choices — both the good and the bad. Their sharing may have included phrases like…


I wandered off the path…


I became like the prodigal son…


I fell away from the Lord…


I got sidetracked in sin…


I lost my first love…


I strayed from the truth…


I made some wrong decisions…


I went off the deep end…


I got in with the wrong crowd…


I’ve sat in on a few of these sharing sessions myself, and I couldn’t help but wonder, What happened? How does someone wander off the path, lose their first love for Jesus, stray from the truth, fall off the deep end, or get involved with the wrong crowd?


Well, we both know what happened, don’t we? Somehow, at some time, for some reason, a wrong choice was made. Maybe it was just a little lie. Just a little shading of what’s right. Just a little bending of a rule. Eventually, as this happens again and again, there comes a day when making wrong choices became all too easy. And it’s usually not until then that a guy realizes his life has become a mess.


Checking Out God’s Word


It’s one thing to read a book written by an author about a subject, but it’s quite another to read the Book — the Bible — written by the Author of all things, God Himself. In this book, I’ll share a lot of thoughts and tips with you. Most of them are things I’ve learned over the years. I’ll pass them on to you as a young man who’s in the process of making decisions that will shape your future. But the things you should definitely make sure you take to heart and pay the most attention to are the things God Himself tells you in His Word, His Book, the Bible.


When you get to this section in each chapter — entitled “Checking Out God’s Word” — you’ll find a number of Bible verses. I’ve included the text of the verses for you so you can read them without having to grab your Bible. I also invite you to mark up the verses and make notes. You don’t have to do that if you prefer not to. But don’t hesitate to circle certain words and underline things you want to remember. Put a question mark beside anything you wonder about or want to know more about. You can even draw in the margins. I’ve tried to leave enough space for you to write out your thoughts about what God is saying. Do whatever will help you understand the verses and make them your own. (And of course, it would be a good idea at some time to look up the verses in your Bible.) Here we go, from God’s Word to you.


The Israelites made a choice — Joshua, the leader of God’s people, asked them to do exactly what we’ve been talking about — to make a choice. Listen in as Joshua speaks to the people about choosing between serving God and serving false gods. According to the verses below, what choice did Joshua give to the people? And praise God, if you read further in the book of Joshua you will discover that the people made the right choice, choosing to serve God.


Fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).

Lot made a choice — Lot was the nephew of Abraham. Because of the large number of cattle the two men possessed, Abraham asked Lot to choose between two parts of the land. One part was green and with plenty of water — perfect for grazing cattle. The other part was dry hill country and not so perfect. In fact, it was a desert. According to the verses that follow, what was Lot’s choice?


Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered…So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east (Genesis 13:10-11).


Sadly, Lot did not choose wisely. He chose the grassy green pastures — which just happened to be near the two most wicked cities of his day, Sodom and Gomorrah. His choice was based on what looked good. Unfortunately, the consequences of that choice were devastating for Lot and his family.

Joseph made a choice — Joseph was a teenager when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. There, in a strange land, Joseph was all alone without family. In time, his master’s wife flirted with him and wanted him to sin with her. After all, nobody was around, she explained. Who would ever know?


How should Joseph respond? Note his choice and the reason for his choice.


He refused…[and] told her…“How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9).


Joseph chose to live his life God’s way. He honored God. God then honored Joseph’s choice and made him a leader of the land of Egypt and the savior of his family.


Daniel made a choice — Can you imagine being taken prisoner and forcefully moved to a foreign land as a teenager? And once you got there, you were told to turn away from your religious beliefs and to follow instead the ways of those who lived in the pagan land? Well, that’s what happened to Daniel. In the place where he was taken, Daniel was told to eat foods that were forbidden by his Jewish background. What pressure! What did he do?


Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way (Daniel 1:8).


Daniel chose to live life God’s way — not only on this one occasion, but also numerous times during his many years in this foreign land. At every step and every day, God blessed Daniel and promoted him to high positions of leadership.


Things to Remember About Choices


 — Attractive choices sometimes lead to sin.


 — Good choices have positive long-term results.


 — Right choices are sometimes difficult.




Making the Tough Choices




I’m sure you already know your actions are a matter of choice. Sure, some choices are made for you. They are out of your control, and are made by those who are responsible for you…like your parents, your teachers, your coaches, and your youth leaders. But many choices each day — and almost each minute of the day — are yours to make. Do you yet realize that these choices are a matter of your will? You get to decide what you will or won’t do, how you will or won’t act. You make the choices, which means you can’t blame anyone else for what happens next.


As you prepare to make the tough choices, the choices that must be made, can you think of one tough choice you need to make right now? What’s holding you back? Peer pressure? Fear? Pride?


Pray young Solomon’s prayer right now. He asked God, “Give me wisdom and knowledge” and “Give your servant a discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong” (2 Chronicles 1:10 and 1 Kings 3:9). Then make that choice — the one that’s keeping you from living your life God’s way. Make the right choice, however tough it is to do so.




Things to Do Today to Make Right Choices




Read again the section “Choices Through the Rearview Mirror.” Do any of the comments mentioned in the guys’ sharing time fit your life today? If so, talk it over with God. Admit to God any wrong choices you’ve made. Then ask Him for the wisdom to make the right choices starting right now.



Read again Joshua 24:14-15 (see “Checking Out God’s Word”). As you look at your life today, do you think you are making the kind of choice Joshua and the people made, the choice to serve God and God alone? Why or why not? What first right choice will you make to begin choosing to serve God, to live for Him? Is there something you should be doing, but aren’t? Something you know God wants you to do, but you’re not? Be honest. The king and warrior David was brutally honest with God. He asked God to…

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).


As you have already read, choices are a matter of your will. You get to decide what you will or won’t do, how you will or won’t act. Think of two or three things you can do daily that will better prepare you to make right choices. Then, of course, begin doing them.

Guy to Guy




Jot down three things Jason failed to do that started his day down the road to chaos.




What could you tell Jason to do differently tomorrow?




Of all the verses shared in this chapter, which one meant the most to you, and why?




In what ways are you like Jason, and what new choices do you need to start making?


Would You Like to Know More?


Check It Out




Read Proverbs 1:10-19. What warning is given to the young man in verse 10?




What is the advice given to this teen guy in verse 15?




What is the end result for those who make the choice to participate in evil deeds (verse 19)?




It’s your turn to read about Lot’s choice. Read Genesis 13:5-11. How is the situation described that made a decision necessary (verses 5-7)?




What did Abraham propose as a solution (verses 8-9)?




What choice did Lot make, and why (verses 10-11)?




Now quickly scan Genesis 19:12-29. What were some of the results of Lot’s choice?




What choice was made by two brothers in Matthew 4:18-20?




What choice was made in Matthew 9:9?




Have you made this choice, or do you need to? Be sure to think about it.




God’s Guidelines for Making Right Choices




Treat each day as being important. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Admit your need for wisdom…and ask for it!    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)

Work at developing a deep respect for God.    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

Make sure you have a vital relationship with Jesus.    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).

Be willing to pay any price for the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).





God’s Guidelines for

Making Right Choices


Treat each day as being important. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).


Admit your need for wisdom…and ask for it!    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)


Work at developing a deep respect for God.    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).


Make sure you have a vital relationship with Jesus.    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).


Be willing to pay any price for the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).










My Review

Laid out in a short and practical style with plenty of sound advice and Scripture this is a gem of a book, highly apropos for today's young man who is seeking to make the right choices in a world telling him every where he turns to make the wrong ones. Small enough to be carried in a backpack, a young man can pull this out whenever or wherever he happens to be, just in case he needs a substantive reminder during the day or some much needed encouragement at just the right moment. The best part of this book is that it covers God's forgiveness and redemption for the sinner! Our young men need to know that even in their weakest moments, when they fail to make the right choice, what sin they commit is not unforgiveable and that God is the ultimate One to turn to. This book takes you through a week in the life of a teen who makes wrong choices but ultimately makes the right one in the end. Excellent resource for young men!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WINNER of The One Who Waits for Me is...

Faith Oygard



Congratulations! I sent you an email.  

Thanks to all who commented.

Stay tuned for more books to be given away.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Funnies

Home School Co-op Orientation was today, so in honor of the new school year starting...
















Happy New School Year!










FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ Ransome's Quest by Kaye Dacus

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:



Ransome's Quest

(The Ransome Trilogy)


Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kaye Dacus, author of Ransome’s Honor has a BA in English, with a minor in history, and an MA in writing popular fiction. Her love of the Regency era started with Jane Austen. Her passion for literature and for history come together to shape her creative, well-researched, and engaging writing.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:






This engaging end to the Ransome Trilogy is a fast-paced tale of love, faith, and danger on the Caribbean Sea in the early 1800s. Captain William Ransome frantically searches for his kidnapped wife and sister. But who will rescue them when buried secrets emerge and challenge everything they believe?







Product Details:


List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736927557

ISBN-13: 978-0736927550


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:






It is too dangerous.”


William Ransome snapped his cutlass into its scabbard and turned to face his wife. “The longer I delay, the farther away they take Charlotte.”


Dread froze his lungs, his stomach, his heart. Charlotte. His sister. Taken. “If anything happens to her…”


Julia wrapped her arms around her abdomen and leaned against one of the heavy posts at the end of the bed. “Why the message to my father? What has he to do with Charlotte?”


William double-checked the load of his pistol and tucked it under his belt. “Your father has publicly vowed—more than once—to rid the Caribbean of pirates and privateers for good. Charlotte was likely a target of opportunity, not purpose.”


“But if the man’s argument is with my father, it should have been me taken, not Charlotte.”


William could not disagree with her. Nor could he agree, as the very idea of Julia’s being taken by pirates nearly ripped his heart from his chest. “I should have put her on that ship in Barbados returning to England. If I had followed my conscience”—instead of listening to Julia’s and Charlotte’s emotional arguments—“she would have been well out of harm’s way by now.”


They both startled at a knock on the door.


“Come.”


The door opened at his command, revealing Jeremiah. “The horses are ready, Commodore.”


“Very good.” William took up his case and hat and moved toward the door.


Julia stepped in front of him, expression imploring. “Please, William, wait until dawn. The roads are treacherous enough in the full light of day. At night…and you do not know where you are going. What good will it do Charlotte if you become lost or…or something else happens to you or the horse? Or what if the pirates have laid a trap and done this to lure you from the safety of the house?”


A mirthless laugh expanded in his throat, but he stifled it. Safety of the house? Was the house safe when the brigands had snatched Charlotte from the porch almost directly outside this very room?


“I am sending Asher with him, Miss Julia,” Jeremiah said. “He knows the roads ’twixt here and Kingston better than anyone I know.”


William tore his gaze away from Julia’s anxious face. “Jeremiah, I am depending on you to protect Mrs. Ransome and ensure no harm comes to her while I am away.”


“I will protect her with my life, sir.”


He stepped around Julia and handed his bag and hat to Jeremiah. “Thank you. I shall join you in a moment.”


As he hoped, Jeremiah understood the dismissal. He gave a slight bow and left the room, closing the door behind him.


William took Julia by the shoulders and directed her to the chaise positioned at the end of their bed. He had to apply more pressure than he liked to make her sit. “You are to stay at Tierra Dulce. You will keep an escort with you at all times. I want armed guards posted near the house.”


She nodded, never blinking or breaking eye contact. “Yes, William.”


“If you hear any word from Charlotte or receive”—his voice caught in his throat—“a ransom demand from the pirate, you will send a messenger to Fort Charles. They will get word to me.”


“Yes, William.”


Heart tearing asunder at the necessity of leaving Julia behind, he bent over and pressed his forehead to hers. “Pray for Charlotte.”


Julia’s hands slid around behind his neck, her fingers twining in his hair. She angled her head and kissed him. “I promise. I will pray for you also, my love.”


He kissed her again and then tore himself away from her embrace. “I must go. I promise I will return—and I will bring Charlotte with me.”


Determined to not look back, he made for the door. He opened it and then hesitated. Without turning around, he said the words he needed to say, just in case they were the last he ever said to his wife. “I love you.”


“I love you, William.” Though softly spoken, her words acted as the command that loosed him from his mooring. He stepped through the door and closed it, leaving her on the other side.


Ned Cochrane paced the drive below the porch steps when William exited the house. He barely spared his former first officer a glance. Intellectually, he knew Ned had done his best, having been taken by surprise and set upon by several men. However, in his heart, he wanted to rail at the younger man for failing to protect Charlotte.


Though a horse was his least favorite mode of transportation, William easily swung himself up into the saddle. Once he was settled—and Ned appeared to be also—William nodded at Asher to lead the way.


Darkness enveloped them. Behind, the light from the house acted as a siren’s call, beckoning him to turn, to look, to regret his decision to leave in the dead of night and wish he had taken Julia’s advice and waited until dawn.


His neck ached from the effort of keeping his face forward instead of giving in to temptation and taking one last look at the house, hoping to catch a final glimpse of Julia.


He focused on the bumpy motion of the animal underneath him. He must leave all thoughts of—all worries about—Julia behind, just as he now left her home behind. Jeremiah had known Julia most of her life. He had been as much of a substitute father for Julia as her father, Admiral Witherington, had been for William.


No, he could not worry about Julia and her safety. Rescuing Charlotte must be his only focus, his only thought.


The monotonous rhythm of the horses’ hooves, at a walk over the dark, deeply rutted dirt roads, along with the necessity of keeping his eyes trained on the light shirt stretched across Asher’s broad back, lulled William into a stupor.


Ahead lay his ship. The thought of boarding Alexandra and getting under sail chipped away at his anxiety. As soon as he was on the water, as soon as he stood on the quarterdeck and issued the command to weigh anchor, he would be that much closer to finding Charlotte and bringing her home.


The road widened, and Ned pulled up beside him.


“You are certain the man did not identify himself?”


“No, sir. He did not give his name. He only said her safety depended on the mercy of a pirate.” Ned’s voice came across flat and hoarse.


“What were you doing out on the porch, alone with her in the dark?” Even as William asked this, he reminded himself Ned was not at fault. But if Charlotte had been inside, perhaps…


“I followed them—Miss Ransome and Winchester—when they went for their walk. I did not trust Mrs. Ransome’s steward to behave honorably.” He paused. “I need not have worried. Char—Miss Ransome handled the situation admirably and dispatched Winchester, and their engagement, with aplomb.”


“Winchester was with you when she was taken? Why did you not tell me this before?”


“No, sir. Miss Ransome dismissed him. He had been gone for…several minutes.”


Could Winchester be involved? Dread sank like a cannonball in William’s gut. Julia already suspected the steward of embezzling money from the plantation. And William had left her there with that man—


“I asked her to marry me.”


If Winchester were involved, and this was a ploy to get William away from Tierra—he yanked the reins. The horse voiced its protest and jerked and swerved, nearly unseating William. “I beg your pardon?”


“After Charlotte broke her engagement with Winchester, we talked about our mutual regard. I proposed marriage to her, and she accepted.” Ned’s words barely rose above the sounds of the horses’ hooves on the hard-packed earth.


From a sinking ship into shark-infested waters. Could Charlotte not have waited even a full day after breaking one engagement before forming another—again, without her family’s knowledge? “And if I refuse my permission?”


“Then we shall wait. We’ll wait until you think I am worthy to marry her, sir.”


Worthy to marry her. William did not have to think hard to remember standing before Julia’s father twelve years ago and saying the same words. Sir Edward had graciously given him—a poor, threadbare lieutenant with no prospects and nothing to recommend him as husband or son-in-law—a father’s blessing for William and Julia to marry based on nothing other than their love for each other. William had been the one to deem himself unworthy of her affections, and he had almost lost her forever.


“We shall discuss this after we return Charlotte home.”


“I pray that will be soon, sir.”


“So do I, Ned. So do I.”


Charlotte awoke with a gasp. Wooden planks formed the low ceiling above her. A canvas hammock conformed to her body and swung with the heave and haw of the ocean beneath the ship.


A ship?


Not possible. They had made port, hadn’t they?


She stared at the underside of the deck above, trying to clear the haziness from her brain. Yes. They had made port. Left Alexandra and ridden in carriage across those horrible, rutted roads to Tierra Dulce, Julia’s sugar plantation. The low, sprawling white house with the deep porch that wrapped all the way around and the white draperies billowing through the open windows.


The porch. She blinked rapidly. The porch. At night. In the dark. Henry Winchester and…and Ned.


She bolted upright and then flung her torso over the side of the hammock as her stomach heaved.


Why should she be sick? She hadn’t experienced a moment of seasickness on the crossing from England to Jamaica. She climbed out of the hammock, skirt and petticoats hindering her progress until she hoisted them above her knees, and made for the small table with a glass and pitcher.


Wan light from the stern windows sparkled through the glass, revealing a residue of white powder in the bottom of it. She set the glass back on the stand. Last night the pirate had made her drink from the glass, and then everything had gone hazy. But before that…


She buried her face in her hands. Being torn away from Ned. She prayed they had not killed him. She’d heard no gunshot, but as their raid had been one of stealth, they would more likely have used a blade to end Ned’s life.


A sob ripped at her throat, but she forced it to stay contained. She would not give the pirates the satisfaction of seeing her upset. And she must, and would, find a means of escape.


Thirst got the better of her, and she lifted the china pitcher of water and rinsed her mouth before drinking deeply the brackish liquid. She then turned and surveyed the cabin. Obviously the pirate captain’s quarters. Though smaller than Ned’s aboard Audacious, which was in turn smaller than William’s aboard Alexandra, the room was neatly kept, with serviceable furnishings, whitewashed walls and ceiling, and plain floors. Nothing to exhibit the extravagance or wealth she’d expected to see in a pirate’s private lair.


The desk. Perhaps something there would tell her more about her captor. She crossed to it, rather surprised by the empty work surface. No stacks of the papers or books like the ones resting on William’s or Ned’s worktables. Her fingers itched to open the drawer under the desktop and the small doors and drawers along the high back of it, but Mama had taught her better than that.


Two miniatures hanging above the desk caught her eye. One showed a woman, probably a few years older than Charlotte, with dark hair and angular features. Too plain to be called pretty, but not ugly either. The green backdrop of the second painting contrasted vividly with the reddish-brown hair of a pretty girl and matched her vibrant green eyes.


Mahogany hair and green eyes—just like Julia. Why would a pirate have a portrait of Julia hanging in his cabin? But, she corrected herself, the painting was of a girl no older than thirteen or fourteen. Surely the resemblance to Julia was merely coincidental.


“She was lovely, was she not?”


Charlotte gasped and whirled. A dark-haired man dressed in a blue coat that resembled a commodore’s or admiral’s—complete with prodigious amounts of gold braid about the cuffs, collar, and lapels—stood in the doorway of the cabin.


He tossed a bicorne hat—also similar to a navy officer’s—onto the oblong table in the middle of the cabin, clasped his hands behind his back, and sauntered toward her, his eyes on the portrait.


“What do you want with me?”


“I am sorry for the manner of your coming here, Miss…?” He cocked one eyebrow at her.


“Ransome. Charlotte Ransome. My brother is Commodore William Ransome. He will hunt you down. And when he finds you—”


“When he finds me,” the pirate said, sighing, “I am certain the encounter shall be quite violent and bloody. Is that what you were going to say?”


Charlotte ground her teeth together. The man stood there, serene as a vicar on the Sabbath, acting as if they stood in a drawing room in Liverpool discussing the weather. “What do you want with me?”


“With you? Nothing.” He flicked an invisible speck of dust from the oval frame. “My business is with her.”


“With her?” Charlotte nodded toward the painting. “Is that…?”


“Julia Witherington—or Julia Ransome, as I have lately learned. Empress of the Tierra Dulce sugar empire.”


The strange lilt in his voice when he said Julia’s name sent a chill down Charlotte’s spine. “Yes, she is married. To my brother.”


“The famous Commodore Ransome.” The pirate turned and ambled toward the dining table. “His reputation precedes him.”


Worry riddled Charlotte at the pirate’s lack of worry over the thought of William’s hunting him down and blowing him and his crew out of the water. After Charlotte escaped, naturally.


“You were not part of my plan, little Charlotte Ransome.” He turned, leaned against the edge of the table, and crossed his arms. The coat pulled across his broad chest and muscular shoulders. A lock of dark hair fell over his forehead, softening the way his heavy black brows hooded his eyes. His nose had been aquiline once, but now it sported a bump about halfway down from whence the rest of the appendage angled slightly to his left. A scar stretched across his forehead and down into his left eyebrow. On first sight he could have passed for Spanish, but his accent marked him as an Englishman.


If he weren’t a no-good, dastardly, cowardly, kidnapping pirate, she might consider him handsome.


“Did you kill him?” The question squeezed past her throat unbidden.


“Him?”


“Ned—Captain Cochrane. The man with me on the porch.” She schooled her emotions as best she could, pretending the man standing before her was none other than Kent, her nemesis during her days aboard Audacious as a midshipman.


“If he is dead, it is through no work of me or my men. We do not kill for sport, only for defense.”


“Ha!” The mirthless laugh popped out before she could stop it. “Morality from a pirate? Someone who spends his life pillaging and thieving and destroying and killing and…and…” Heat flooded her face.


“And?” The pirate stood and stalked toward her, an odd gleam in his dark eyes. “And ravishing young women? Is that what you were going to say?”


Charlotte backed away, right into the edge of the desk. She gripped it hard. “N-no.”


The pirate leaned over her, hands on either side of her atop the desk, trapping her. “Do not try to lie to me, little Charlotte Ransome. You have no talent for it.”


Stays digging into her waist, she bent as far back as she could. “Yes, then. Ravishing.” Not that he would get a chance to ravish her. A fork. A penknife. Anything with a sharp edge or point. Once she had something like that in her possession, she would be able to defend herself against him.


Up close, the pirate’s brown eyes held chips of gold and green. A hint of dark whiskers lay just beneath the skin of his jaw and above his upper lip.


He blinked when someone knocked on the door but didn’t move. “Come!”


“Captain, Lau and Declan are back.”


“Very good. I shall meet with them in the wheelhouse momentarily to hear their report. Dismissed.”


Charlotte wanted to cry out to stop the other man from leaving, but she knew she deluded herself. She was no safer with any man on this ship than with their captain.


Would Ned still want her—even be able to look at her—after the pirates were finished with her?


“What’s this?” The pirate reached up and touched Charlotte’s cheek. “Tears?”


She shook her head, more to dislodge his hand than in denial.


With another sigh he straightened and then handed her a handkerchief. “Calm yourself, Miss Ransome. I have no intention of ravishing you. Nor of allowing anyone else to ravish you. While you are aboard my ship, you are under my protection.”


He crossed to the table and retrieved his hat. “You, however, must stay to this cabin at all times. Though my men know my rules of conduct, a few of them might give in to the temptation of their baser desires should they see you about on deck.”


Charlotte leaned heavily against the desk. The handkerchief in her hand was of the finest lawn, embroidered white-on-white with a Greek-key design around the edge. She frowned at the bit of cloth. Why would a pirate carry something so delicate?


He settled the bicorne on his dark head, points fore-and-aft, the same way the officers of the Royal Navy wore theirs.


“Who are you?”


He touched the fore tip of the hat and then flourished a bow. “I am called El Salvador, and you are aboard my ship, Vengeance. Welcome to my home, Miss Ransome.”








Short Review
Kaye Dacus has brought the world of piracy and Royal Navy to life within the pages of this book. Being the third book in this series, I think I need to read the first two to get the full effect of what's happening but I must say that even not having read the first two books I have thoroughly enjoyed the exciting escapades of Charlotte. A more indepth review will be posted later.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

GIVEAWAY ~ The One Who Waits for Me by Lori Copeland


I recently reviewed this book here. If you would like an opportunity to win my review copy, please leave a comment on THIS post! US ONLY!!!


I'll announce a winner on Aug 20th, so hurry and get your comments in :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Funnies


In honor of my dental appt today, that I REALLY wish I could avoid...






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*colgate makes these... creepy!


Have a great day in the Lord!

*google images is my source

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~ The One Who Waits for Me by Lori Copeland

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:



The One Who Waits for Me

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:







This new series from bestselling author Lori Copeland, set in North Carolina three months after the Civil War ends, illuminates the gift of hope even in chaos, as the lives of six engaging characters intersect and unfold with the possibility of faith, love, and God’s promise of a future.








Product Details:


List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736930183

ISBN-13: 978-0736930185



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:






Joanie?”


Beth’s sister stirred, coughing.


Beth gently shook Joanie’s shoulder again, and the young woman opened her eyes, confusion shining in their depths.


“Pa?”


“He passed a few minutes ago. Trella will be waiting for us.”


Joanie lifted her wrist to her mouth and smothered sudden sobbing. “I’m scared, Beth.”


“So am I. Dress quickly.”


The young woman slid out of bed, her bare feet touching the dirt-packed floor. Outside, the familiar sound of pond frogs nearly drowned out soft movements, though there was no need to be silent any more. Ma had preceded Pa in death two days ago. Beth and Joanie had been waiting, praying for the hour of Pa’s death to come swiftly. Together, they lifted their father’s silent form and gently carried him out the front door. He was a slight man, easy to carry. Beth’s heart broke as they took him to the shallow grave they had dug the day before. Ma’s fever had taken her swiftly. Pa had held on for as long as he could. Beth could still hear his voice in her ear: “Take care of your sister, little Beth.” He didn’t have to remind her that there was no protection at all now to save either of them from Uncle Walt and his son, Bear. Beth had known all of her life that one day she and Joanie would have to escape this place—a place of misery.


It was her father’s stubborn act that started the situation Beth and Joanie were immersed in. Pa had hid the plantation deed from his brother and refused to tell him where it was. Their land had belonged to a Jornigan for two hundred years, but Walt claimed that because he was the older brother and allowed Pa to live on his land the deed belonged to him. Pa was a proud man and had no respect for his brother, though his family depended on Walt for a roof over their heads and food on their table. For meager wages they worked Walt’s fields, picked his cotton, and suffered his tyranny along with the other workers. Pa took the location of the hidden deed to his grave—almost. Walt probably figured Beth knew where it was because Pa always favored her. And she did, but she would die before she shared the location with her vile uncle.


By the light of the waning moon the women made short work of placing the corpse in the grave and then filling the hole with dirt. Finished, they stood back and Joanie bowed her head in prayer. “Dear Father, thank You for taking Ma and Pa away from this world. I know they’re with You now, and I promise we won’t cry.” Hot tears streaming down both women’s cheeks belied her words.


Returning to the shanty, Joanie removed her nightshirt and put on boy’s clothes. Dressed in similar denim trousers and a dark shirt, Beth turned and picked up the oil lamp and poured the liquid carefully around the one-room shanty. Yesterday she had packed Ma’s best dishes and quilts and dragged them to the root cellar. It was useless effort. She would never be back here, but she couldn’t bear the thought of fire consuming Ma’s few pretty things. She glanced over her shoulder when the stench of fuel heightened Joanie’s cough. The struggle to breathe had been a constant companion since her younger sister’s birth.


Many nights Beth lay tense and fearful, certain that come light Joanie would be gone. Now that Ma and Pa were dead, Joanie was the one thing left on this earth that held meaning for Beth. She put down the lamp on the table. Walking over to Joanie, she buttoned the last button on her sister’s shirt and tugged her hat brim lower.


“Do you have everything?”


“Yes.”


“Then go outside and wait.”


Nodding, Joanie paused briefly beside the bed where Pa’s tall frame had been earlier. She hesitantly reached out and touched the empty spot. “May you rest in peace, Pa.”


Moonlight shone through the one glass pane facing the south. Beth shook her head. “He was a good man. It’s hard to believe Uncle Walt had the same mother and father.”


Joanie’s breath caught. “Pa was so good and Walt is so…evil.”


“If it were up to me, he would be lying in that grave outside the window, not Pa.”


Beth tried to recall one single time in her life when Walt Jornigan had ever shown an ounce of mercy to anyone. Certainly not to his wife when she was alive. Certainly not to Beth or Joanie. If Joanie was right and there was a God, what would Walt say when he faced Him? She shook the thought aside. She had no compassion for the man or reverence for the God her sister believed in and worshipped.


“We have to go now, Joanie.”


“Yes.” She picked up her Bible from the little table beside the rocking chair and then followed Beth outside the shanty, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Pausing, Joanie bent and succumbed to a coughing spasm. Beth helplessly waited, hoping her sister could make the anticipated trip through the cotton fields. The women had planned for days now to escape if Ma and Pa both passed.


Beth asked gently, “Can you do this?”


Joanie held up a restraining hand. “Just need…a minute.”


Beth wasn’t certain that they could wait long; time was short. Dawn would be breaking soon, and then Walt would discover that Pa had died and the sisters were missing. But they had to leave. Joanie’s asthma was getting worse. Each gasping breath left her drained and hopeless, and Walt refused to let her see a doctor.


When Joanie had mentioned the notice in a discarded Savannah newspaper advertising a piece of land, Beth knew she had to buy the property and provide a home for Joanie. Pa had allowed her and Joanie to keep the wage Uncle Walt paid monthly. Over the years they had saved enough to survive, and the owner was practically giving the small acreage away. They wouldn’t be able to build a permanent structure on their land until she found work, but she and Joanie would own their own place where no one could control them. Beth planned to eventually buy a cow and a few setting hens. At first they could live in a tent—Beth’s eyes roamed the small shanty. It would be better than how they lived now.


Joanie’s spasm passed and she glanced up. “Okay. You…can do it now.”


Beth struck a match.


She glanced at Joanie. The young woman nodded and clutched her Bible to her chest. Beth had found it in one of the cotton picker’s beds after he had moved on and given it to Joanie. Her sister had kept the Bible hidden from sight for fear that Walt would spot it on one of his weekly visits. Beth had known, as Joanie had, that if their uncle had found it he’d have had extra reason to hand out his daily lashing. Joanie kept the deed to their new land between its pages.


After pitching the lighted match into the cabin, Beth quickly closed the heavy door. Stepping to the window, she watched the puddles of kerosene ignite one by one. In just minutes flames were licking the walls and gobbling up the dry tinder. A peculiar sense of relief came over her when she saw tendrils of fire racing through the room, latching onto the front curtain and encompassing the bed.


“Don’t watch.” Joanie slipped her hand into Beth’s. “We have to hurry before Uncle Walt spots the flames.”


Hand in hand, the sisters stepped off the porch, and Beth turned to the mounds of fresh dirt heaped not far from the shanty. Pausing before the fresh graves, she whispered. “I love you both. Rest in peace.”


Joanie had her own goodbyes for their mother. “We don’t want to leave you and Pa here alone, but I know you understand—”


As the flames licked higher, Beth said, “We have to go, Joanie. Don’t look back.”


“I won’t.” Her small hand quivered inside Beth’s. “God has something better for us.”


Beth didn’t answer. She didn’t know whether Ma and Pa were in a good place or not. She didn’t know anything about such things. She just knew they had to run.


The two women dressed in men’s clothing struck off across the cotton fields carrying everything they owned in a small bag. It wasn’t much. A dress for each, clean underclothes, and their nightshirts. Beth had a hairbrush one of the pickers had left behind. She’d kept the treasure well hidden so Walt wouldn’t see it. He’d have taken it from her. He didn’t hold with primping—said combing tangles from one’s hair was a vain act. Finger-picking river-washed hair was all a woman needed.


Fire now raced inside the cabin. By the time Uncle Walt noticed the smoke from the plantation house across the fields, the two sisters would be long gone. No longer would they be under the tyrannical thumb of Walt or Bear Jornigan.


Freedom.


Beth sniffed the night air, thinking she could smell the precious state. Never again would she or Joanie answer to any man. She would run hard and far and find help for Joanie so that she could finally breathe free. In her pocket she fingered the remaining bills she’d taken from the fruit jar in the cabinet. It was all the ready cash Pa and Ma had. They wouldn’t be needing money where they were.


Suddenly there was a sound of a large explosion. Heavy black smoke blanketed the night air. Then another blast.


Kerosene! She’d forgotten the small barrel sitting just outside the back porch.


It was the last sound Beth heard.






My Review

As a southerner and a North Carolinian I can appreciate the flavor of the book. After all, it is set in NC after the Civil War just ended. Folks were disillusioned and despairing of ever having a better life, or of recovering from the devastation that the war caused. My mind kept overlaying scenes from Gone with the Wind and I heard the voices of Scarlett & Rhett and Mellie & Ashley :) But I stepped into the lives of Beth & Joanie Jornigan and Trella, a pregnant slave from their uncles plantation.

Following the death of both their parents, Beth & Joanie seek to escape Walt (their uncle) and Bear ( their cousin) who are abusive toward them and the workers. After an unexpected mishap during their escape plan, the girls are rescued by three soldiers on their way home from the war: Captain Pierce Montgomery, a southerner who fought for the North, 2nd Lt Samuel "Preach" Madison, a soldier for the South and 1st Lt Gray Eagle, a Cherokee and a scout who fought for the South. Needless to say, turmoil ensues for the soldiers because they don't want to be responsible for the women. They just want to get to their respectives homes and have some good old down home cooking and sweet tea. But, after a run in with Walt & Bear, they feel honor bound to get the women to the nearest town and to safety. They end up staying with an Indian tribe near an Abbey full of nuns and what transpires throughout the rest of the book is humorous as well as a journey to faith for Beth, healing for Joanie, and freedom for Trella.

Personally, I thought Beth was rather irritating in her adament hatred of men. Pierce eventually wins her trust and proves to be a pretty good hero. My favorite characters were Joanie and Gray Eagle. Theirs is a sweet and tender love that blossoms. Samuel takes to Trella pretty quick and eventually convinces her she is worthy of love in spite of the abuses she suffered at the hands of her Task Master. Add in the awesome nuns at the Abbey and you have an interesting mix of characters that probably wouldn't have really teamed up together but it was an easy read and enjoyable for the most part.

I was provided a free copy of this book by Harvest House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. No other compensation was received.