Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giveaway | Rescue by Candy Gibbs

It sounded old when my parents said it.  It sounds old when I say it.  But it's still true.  The world is a different place than when I was growing up.  It is a harder, colder and more dangerous environment.  The challenges of raising our children, particularly young adults, in this caustic culture can often seem overwhelming and insurmountable.  But it doesn't have to be.

Everyone, even Christian parents, assume there must be trials, conflict, rebellion and drama through the teen years.  Most anyone will tell you it is not a job for the weak and if we merely survive it then we should count ourselves lucky.  But I disagree.  With two grown children and two teenagers in the family, I am here to tell you this is not inevitable stage of child rearing.  With the right foundation and some good tools this season in our parenthood need not be a war zone and in fact can be a time of great blessing. 

Allen and I have safely seen two of our children through the teen years and have two more there right now.  Our teen years have been full of fun and laughter as we purpose to tie heartstrings with our young adults whom we count as our very best friends.  Granted we have a few more kids to get to the other side... and there is no telling what might happen between now and then...  Just the same, because our adult children equal the total number of kids in most families... and because I spend countless hours counseling parents on these issues...  I feel  I can speak with a little bit of authority.  To date, we have never faced any of what is considered "normal" or "typical" teenage behavior.  We have skipped the drama, hysterics, rebellion, mouthy attitude, eye rolling, etc.  In fact, we have managed to get our kids to adulthood without any scars on either side.  Indeed, we count both our grown daughters as well adjusted, happy adults who spend their lives fully committed to serving the Lord and ministering to those around them.  They are in high demand as workers, babysitters, mentors and friends.  This makes me think others agree with our assessment. 

How did that happen?  Well, it wasn't by accident!

I get so annoyed when people meet our kids and say, "You are so lucky you got good kids."  There is no luck to it.  My kids are imperfect sinners just like your kids.  Another annoying statement is, "You must be saints to raise such good kids."  Wrong again.  Allen and I are sinners just like the rest of the parents out there.  And yet another popular comment, "Well, God sure blessed you."  Well, that's true.  He has blessed us immensely.   But guess what, he's blessed us all who have a child to raise for His glory.  We didn't get an extra helping of blessing that happens to make our kids better than any other children. 

Nope, there is nothing amazing or special or particularly blessed about us, our kids or our family that makes our young people turn out the way they do.  The magic is in the fact that we decided early on, as God entrusted these children to us, we would fully and completely dedicate our lives to raising them.  We were certain we would not allow the schools or government to do the job for us.  Nor would we would hand the baton off to the church, babysitters or anyone other than ourselves.  We asserted we would not let any of our authority or responsibility be usurped by individual or any organization. 

We knew it was the two of us who would be completely and fully held accountable for whatever became of these lives and as such we set out to intentionally raise them for the Lord.  We made decisions about what our life would look like.  And we never accepted what anyone said would or should happen.  We never believed that anything had to look any one way or that any behavior or outcome was normal or inevitable outside of what the Lord has laid out in His word. 

We never wanted adult children who were mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious and therefor my toddlers were not permitted to be mouthy, disrespectful or rebellious.  And because my young children were not allowed to behave in such ways and I don't believe well adjusted adults behave in such ways we certainly did not accept the idea that all of a sudden our children would start carrying on in such ways simply because they entered the "teen" years. 

We didn't want adult children who couldn't hold a job therefore we started teaching our children to work, and to love work and to love responsibility and take it seriously from the time they could crawl.  Since that was expected of our preschoolers and that's what we hoped for our children when they are adults we didn't accept socks lying on the floor or chores left undone in the teen years simply because some worldly expectation said it was "normal" for teenagers to behave in such ways.

That's intentional parenting.

Add to that well established lines of communication and by the time our children were faced with the time of transitioning from a parent's authority to independence and autonomy the hard part was already done. 

An important key to intentional parenting in this very difficult environment is to have your tool box stocked leave no move or decision to chance.  No!  Parenting is not a task which should be undertaken by the seat of your pants.  But rather with a humble spirit, a prayerful heart and a plan in hand. 

For those who  are looking for a good resource to help create a plan or make some of these hard decisions I am thrilled to introduce a new book by Candy Gibbs, Executive Director of a major Crisis Pregnancy Center in Amarillo, TX called CareNet Pregnancy Center. She has an amazing story of redemption.


In Rescue Raising Teens in a Drowning Culture, Mrs. Gibbs shares much hard earned insight gained from her own trials, helping her children through some hard times and from her work with families and young adults.  Candy uses the analogy of a Coast Guard Rescue swimmer to depict the tumultuous culture, our drowning young people and the parents who are trying to rescue them.
Together with a team of young adults the author addresses some of the toughest issues facing young people today from dating, drugs and homosexuality to abortion and higher education.  On every page you will find personal accounts and concrete suggestions to help parents win the hearts of their teens and help them safely through the difficult decisions and transitions which come with the journey into adulthood.  For those who have fallen into hard times there is good information to help your child through the consequences of bad decisions to rise victorious in a society that seeks to destroy.

Some of my favorite points in Rescue was when Candy was sharing about the importance of communication.  I feel as if most people are missing the boat when it comes to communication and all kinds of relationships are hurting because of it.  In no other relationship is communication more important than when trying to reach and guide the hearts of our young people.  Mrs. Gibbs says,

"Communication isn't easy... Yet, communicating in any circumstance-having the nerve to stand face to face with another and take time out of our busy lives to address what is going on in this relationship, says, 'I love you enough.  You matter to me.' "   

I had a big old aha moment on the topic of homosexuality and the Christian.  Even though I believe this is a choice people make, not just the way God creates people, it is still something that must be addressed by Christians.    Candy offered the perspective that all Christians are called to sexual purity.  In it's simplest form that means not having sexual relations outside of the guidelines God has laid out for marriage.  To the heterosexual that means we do not have sex if we choose to remain single.  For the homosexual that means since God has defined marriage as one man and one woman they can not be married and therefore must choose a life of abstinence.

Candy Gibbs
One more area I found delightful and which I believe can be helpful to many parents was creative ways to communicate with our young people.  Top on the list was inviting your teen to have nachos at 2 am and taking turns writing to each other in a journal.  This were ideas I could really relate to.  Allen and I have often shared how we never missed a night's sleep with our newborns.  They were always trained to sleep through the night from day one.  However, since our kids entered the teen years we never get any sleep.  It's not, as many parents share, because they are out until all hours of the night.  Nor is it because we are up arguing or worrying over what trouble our kids are into.  It is simply this, they want to talk.  And usually about the time we are ready to go to sleep.  And they want to hang out with us.  Which we LOVE.  But that means sacrificing a lot of sleep.  And, that typically means some kind of junk food.  Because our three oldest are young ladies this time in our house is called girl time.  Only now some of our young guys want in on the deal.   And Addison is usually there.  I imagine we will have to come up with a new name soon.     It is not uncommon for me or one of the kids to get an email or text from other young people saying they wished they were at our house for girl time tonight or asking what we are eating for girl time.  Parents, your kids want and need this time as much as you do.  Make it happen.

You can check out Candy's blog and ministry at her blog.  And you can buy Rescue at Amazon

Thanks to Candy Gibbs and Brigette at the Fedd Agency for giving me an opportunity to review Rescue.  The publisher has given me an extra copy to offer to my readers.  If you would like a chance to win Rescue leave a comment with some thoughts on raising young people.  Advice from your parents, advice from raising your own young people, a trial you have faced, maybe some thoughts on what you think is the greatest difficulty you will face when your children reach the teen years, or an anecdote from your teen years or when your kids were teenagers.  Drawing will be Friday November 21st. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester

Shortly before Addison was born, one of the publishers I review for sent me a copy of Steven Manchester's Novel, Goodnight, Brian.  This was an entertaining and inspiring story of a child with a disability whose life was touched and changed by the love of his family.  A few short weeks later our Addison was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.  There were many dark and gloomy diagnosis and prognosis in those first few days.  We cried a lot as we considered all the horrible things we were being told.  And then one evening, when Addison was a few days old, I was crying and trying to feed him and the words of Steven's book came back to me.  I was encouraged and inspired as I determined "won't" and "can't" are not going to be part of Addison's existent.  I was sure from that moment on God sent Goodnight, Brian to prepare us for the journey we were going to walk with Henry. 
A few days later I got an email from Steven asking me to review his soon to be released book, The Rocking chair.  When I wrote Mr. Manchester back I had to tell him what his novel had meant to us.  Steven wrote back asking if he could use Addison as a character in the novel he was currently working on.  Pressed Pennies arrived in the mail the first week of March. 
These days I scarcely have time to read a book.  In fact, I have completely abandoned reviews for the time being. When I do read, it has something to do with therapy or down syndrome.  For all those months now Pressed Pennies has been calling me from the top of my summer vacation reading stack under the night table.  Once or twice I picked it up and read a page or two before feeling guilty and putting it away.  
But now school is finished.  Summer is here.  And I have given myself off.  No research.  No obligatory reading.  A lovely 3 month sabbatical to read just what I want.  With the Memorial Day weekend kick off to summer I pulled Pressed Pennies out with no guilt and spent three lovely afternoons in the hammock lost in the world of Rick, Abby, Paige and Addison "Henry". 
As Steven has demonstrated time and again, in Pressed Pennies we see his gift for defining the vulnerability and strength of human relationships in a way which touches your heart and inspires you to find a life you want to reach out to.  This was a fun love story of how God takes us from the rubble of life to restore love and redeem the time.  As someone who was in Abby's very place a long time ago, this was a fun read and a good chance to remember all God has done in my life. 
As an added bonus, it was neat to see how Steven would develop the character of "Henry".  I intend to ask him if he had already written Henry or if the character was developed after he "met" our precious son.  Regardless, I could clearly see the character of Henry as our Henry in ten years. 
There were two neat things that jumped right out to me about Henry and Pressed Pennies.  Before publication, Steven sent me a passage where Henry was first introduced to the story.  There was a note which said, "I hope you don't mind me making him a Red Sox fan."  Well, first we chuckled because we've always been Yankee fans.  For those of you who don't follow much baseball, Yankee Fans and Red Sox fans are pretty big rivals.  But there was more to it than that.  Unbeknownst to Steven, or most anyone, Addison's name came from Addison Park, which is now known as Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs.  
The other thing which stuck out at me was that riding a bicycle is a key element for the character of Henry.  One of our specific prayers since Addison was a newborn was for him to one day ride a bicycle.  It is estimated that only about 5% of people with Down Syndrome ever learn to ride a bicycle.  This seems like a trivial thing and it is certainly something most parents take for granted.  However, as we contemplated what we needed to do to help our Henry gain independence (even less people with Down Syndrome ever pass the test to become licensed drivers) we knew this was something very important to us.  In fact, our family, and specifically Kaitlin, have put a lot of time and effort into raising money to bring Camp I Can Shine to our area to teach children with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike this summer.   
Whenever my mom read a good book she would say it was like eating peanuts.  You know, you have to keep popping more and more in your mouth because one is never enough. And when the bowl is empty you are kind of bummed.  That is the perfect description for Steven Manchester's books.
Pressed Pennies is a fun, easy going story perfect for a breezy summer afternoon.  Get your copy at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle Instant Download.  
(Please note:  There are two listings for Pressed Pennies at Amazon.com.  The link I have included is the book I am reviewing here.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Raising Henry by Rachel Adams

When we received Henry's diagnosis of Down Syndrome I started searching for books on the topic.  I was certainly immersing myself in therapy and teaching books.  But I wanted something more.  I wanted to read about real people, their struggles and their victories.  Of course, my first stop was my favorite book store, Amazon.com.  I typed Down Syndrome into the search bar.  After clicking on a few items here and there I arrived at a book entitled Raising Henry:  A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery.  Of course this caught my eye right away because it was about Down Syndrome and a boy named Henry.  My excitement quickly turned to disappointment as I realized this book was not yet released.  I added it to my wish list and completely forgot all about it.  Until Emma presented me with a present.

In the meantime, I have compiled a huge library of books on the topic.  But quite frankly, they are all more than a little disappointing.  Oh, I might have gleaned a little something from here or there but overall when I am finished reading these books I feel 1- discouraged 2- overwhelmed 3- angry.  Truly, it seems like one book after another is about moms who can't make up their minds.  On one hand they tell us how we should choose life for people with Down Syndrome.  While on the other hand they are telling us how horrible everything is.  I reviewed one book last year in which a mother wrote of the horrid image doctors gave of down syndrome and how terrible the stance of the medical field is.  But interwoven with her daughters biography was her own story of alcoholism and severe depression that resulted from raising a child with down syndrome.  I have never been able to reconcile those two ideas.  And I admit that is probably in large part due to the fact that I am not a merciful person.  In all things I believe there is a point where you get up, brush yourself off and move on... no matter what the circumstances may be.  Is this easy?  No.  But you do it.

At any rate, while reading these sorts of stories I always end up asking myself the same question.  How can the world view Down Syndrome in a positive light when the books written by the mothers of people with down syndrome are so full of dread?  I am not saying there are not difficult things to face in T21, that's what trials are, duh.  I am saying we need to deal less with the negative and more with the positive.  We need to put a positive, and yet honest, foot forward for the world to see.

Rachel Adam's and Family
And that is what Rachel Adams book, Raising Henry:  A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability and Discovery does.  Ms. Adams is completely transparent.  She openly shares her emotions and thought processes in her journey of Ds.  She shares her honest emotions, not in a "pity party this is what I thought and this is what you should think" sort of way but rather in a self evaluating, growing, changing and learning way.  She uses the sum of her life experiences as a professor, writer, literary critic and mother to consider her positions on disability, abortion, early intervention and life raising a son with down syndrome.  Rachel is not afraid to say she doesn't know what the right answer is or even what I thought was the answer is indeed wrong.  As I was reading Raising Henry, there were times when I could sense Rachel working and weeding through things to figure out where she herself stood.

And where she stands is rarely where I stand.  For example, the Adams family live in the world of Academia in Manhattan.  Her husband is a lawyer and she a professor at Columbia University.  Where all of life is about choice and personal decision.  They are surrounded by the intellectually elite.  There is no room left for God or imperfection.  Rachel boldly speaks of how she arrived at this realization when her second son was diagnosed with down syndrome.  She seems to have a conflict with these beliefs which permeate every corner of her life, and yet she continues to choose to live in that world.  A world that questions how she, someone with multiple PHD's, could possibly forgo prenatal testing and risk her life being hampered by a child with a disability.

One of the contradictions that struck me was Rachel's stance on abortion.  Early in the book she shares the story of her sister's decision to abort her baby prenatally diagnosed with Trisomy 13.  She shares the ongoing haunting dreams of the nephew she never knew because of this choice.  She explains how she once believed abortion was the answer to children with down syndrome and her how she now realizes this was a mistaken position.  She works endlessly to educate the world and make it a better place for people with disability.  And yet she still clearly states women should have the choice to abort the unborn for any reason.  
This confounds me.  And yet, I am encouraged as I see Rachel taking the lessons she has learned from Henry and using the inroads she has gained through this world so foreign to me to enact positive change in the medical field and world of higher education and to change the way the world views people with disabilities.
Rachel and Henry Adams
But that is not all.  Ms. Adams shares a wealth of information surrounding the history of individuals with disabilities covering laws, education, medical care and the history of institutionalization and mainstreaming.  While she shares a lot of details and specifics, it is not too technical to read in the mountains on a snowy afternoon.  She speaks clearly in layman's terms in such a way to educate the parent with a new diagnosis but not to overwhelm or confuse.

Woven throughout the book are anecdotes of life with Rachel, Henry and his big brother Noah.  And this is probably my favorite part.  Not only does Henry Adams look an awful lot like my Henry, but he seems like someone I would like to know.  As different as Rachel and I seem, it is through the stories of her life with Henry, such as her persistence in making him a gluten free cake, that I am reminded we are both mothers with the same hopes and dreams for our children.  

Congratulation, Rachel, on writing the first book about life with Down Syndrome that is everything I hoped it would be.  Part memoir, part instruction manual, and part encyclopedia Raising Henry is a great read for anyone who wants to know more about down syndrome, or loves someone with down syndrome, or loves to read a memoir or just wants to gawk at the beautiful baby on the cover.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Vicar's Wife by Katherine Swartz

Click here to buy on Amazon.com
What do a modern New-York working mother and a young woman from Cambridge have in common? Well, they've both acclimated to living the same vicarage, in the middle of nowhere. Both Jane (modern era) and Alice (circa 1930's) find themselves alone and unhappy. Jane's decided to re-paint the centuries-old pantry, and comes across a shopping list, supposed to be written by Alice James, a previous resident, the local vicar's wife. As the tales of Alice's life unfold, Jane forms a strange attachment to this woman she's never met, and learns a few life-lessons along the way.

3 of 5 ***

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hot Buttons, the Bullying & Image editions, by Nicole O'Dell

Click here to buy on Amazon.com
 Ms. O'Dell, in this series of books, encourages parents to not only face head on the issues that arise with adolescence, but to intentionally open conversations and resolve the issues that face modern teens and pre-teens before they crop up. She clearly discusses the big, taboo questions from "How do you feel about how you look?" to "Have you ever looked down on someone because of their looks or abilities?".

The first part of the book tells us the importance of pro-active, open communication and why it is important to each of these topics. This section is interlaced with testimonies from the author's life, and real-life responses of teens.

The next section is the work manual, the hands-on guide to communicating clearly, which Nicole calls "pressing the hot buttons."
This section is filled with thought provoking questions and how to answer the answers. One key she always emphisizes, is to never, ever, react to what your teen says, but to act. This shows respect for their opinions and keeps communications open--the result being a teenager who is respectful of what you have to to say and is willing, wanting, waiting (thank you Mr. Doolittle), to communicate with you. If the lines of conversation stay open and clear, you eliminate a lot of the issues caused by frustration. 

These are not easy questions, and a lot of thought and massive amounts of prayer should go along with the recommended exercises.

As for recommendations, these are great books for parents (for whom they were intended) or for teachers, counselors, and youth leaders.

There are several titles in this series: 

Hot Buttons: the 30-Day Challenge
The Bullying Edition
The Dating Edition
The Drug Edition
The Image Edition
The Internet Edition
The Sexuality Edition

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Preacher's Wife by Brandi Boddie

Christmas is in full swing at home, and everyday life has been all but forgotten! Sorry this is a bit late, catching up now.

This book was sweet and uplifting, with a theme of redemption and forgiveness.

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Realms (October 1, 2013)

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


Brandi holds a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law and a BA in political science from Youngstown State University. Her love of writing and research has led her to work that includes case management for the Office of the Attorney General in Washington DC and teaching assignments for elementary and secondary students. When she is not working on a story, Brandi enjoys hiking, fencing, and swing dancing. She loves spending time with her family, which includes a cocker spaniel who aspires to be a food critic.

Visit the author's website.


During the hot, windy summer of 1870 in the burgeoning prairie town of Assurance, Kansas, Marissa Pierce is fed up with her abusive boss. She longs to start a new life and is growing weary of convincing townsfolk that she is most certainly not a prostitute.

Civil War veteran and preacher Rowe Winford arrives in town intent on leaving the tragic memories of his deceased family behind. Although Rowe has no plans to fall in love anytime soon, the plans of God rarely match those of man.

Faced with adversity and rejection from the town and Rowe’s family, can Marissa overcome her past, renew her faith, and experience the life of love that God has planned for her?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Brides of Assurance (Book 1)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616388439
ISBN-13: 978-1616388430


Chapter 1

July 1870, Kansas Plains

What did I get myself into? Rowe Winford carried his three large valises from the passenger train to the station wait area. He had arrived in Claywalk, Kansas, sooner than he expected. Then again, he had been daydreaming the entire trip, from the carriage ride in Richmond, Virginia, all the way west on the tracks of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
So this was to be his new home, away from the war reformations, away from the bittersweet memories of his late wife, Josephine, and their stillborn son. The land seemed to engulf every living thing in its wide-ranging vastness. He felt like a tiny speck upon the face of the green, rolling earth.

“Over here, sir.” A tall, lean man in rugged canvas trousers, work shirt, and Stetson hat waved him over to the other side of the wait area. A small schooner and horse awaited him.

“Welcome to Kansas, Rev’ren.” The man’s white teeth flashed in his tanned face as he grinned. “We wouldn’t have expected you this early if you hadn’t sent that letter. I’m Dustin Sterling.” He stuck out his hand. “My friends call me Dusty. David Charlton sent me to come get you and take you to our lil’ town of Assurance down the road.”

Rowe shook his hand. It was rough with calluses. He guessed him to be a horseman or rancher of sorts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dusty. My name is Rowe Winford, but how did you know I was the new minister?”

He pointed to Rowe’s overcoat and gray trousers. “Clothes don’t get that fancy in these parts. I knew you must be one of them city preachers back East.”


“Yep, I was right.” He picked up Rowe’s valises and hoisted them into the schooner. “Well, you’ll get used to this place soon enough, if you have the mind to.”

Dusty drove him away from the train station. The trip toward the “lil’ town of Assurance down the road” turned out to be more along the lines of sixty minutes. Rowe passed the time taking in the nearly treeless plains and the endless open sky. To his left and right he found himself surrounded in a sea of green grass.

“We just got rain last night, after a dry spell.” Dusty chatted amiably along the way about the land. “You have to watch out for the July wind.”

“Wind? There’s barely a breeze out.” As the words escaped Rowe’s lips, a sudden gust blew in his face. He grabbed hold of his hat before it flew from his head. “Where did that come from?” He coughed as the wind forced air down his throat.

Dusty chuckled. “Some say the devil’s in the wind. That’s how come it knocks you off your feet.”

“Well, as long as we can keep him in the wind and out of town, things should be alright.”

The wiry man cast him a wry glance. “’Fraid you might be getting here too late then, Rev’ren’. The devil’s come and set up shop in Assurance. And, sadly, business is sure boomin’.”

“What do you mean?”

Dusty shook his head. “There’s a saloon run by a businessman named Jason Garth. He can get a man to part with his wallet faster than a rattler strikes your heel. His girls help, with their short skirts and paid services.”

“You mean prostitution.”

Dusty shrugged. “I went to the dancehall before it got bad the last year or so. I haven’t been lately, but you’ll hear things. You’ll get your fill of gossip in Assurance.”

Rowe thought about the people who hired him. “What about the church? Haven’t they tried to put a stop to what the saloon is doing?”

“They grumble mostly. Folks here believe they shouldn’t sully their hands with the things of the world. Much easier to judge from a distance, I suspect, but I’m just a hired worker.”

“Aren’t you also a town citizen?”

He shook his head. “I’m all the way from San Antone. David Charlton hired me to tend his cattle, but I used to drive longhorns up here to the railroad.”

“Well, it sounds like the people of the church don’t want to confront corruption.”

The cowboy gave him another look. “Maybe that’s why they hired you.”

Rowe chewed on the inside of his jaw. His first position as head of a church. An apathetic one, from what Dusty implied. He could prove himself by going after the saloon and its seedy practices, but what would be harder, doing that or convincing the church to get their hands dirty along with him?

“Get thee clothed, heathen woman!” A man yelled down at her from the raised dais of the town square. “Thou art the scourge of this fine land, with your harlot’s garments!” He shook his fists.

“I’m not a harlot. I’m just a saloon and dancehall girl.” Words she had repeated all too often.

Marissa Pierce recognized the man as a traveling speaker, clutching his worn Bible to his chest. She hurried along the edge of the main road toward the bank, doing her best to hide her face from the disapproving looks from several of Assurance’s finest and upstanding populace.

They would be right to judge me if I was an evening lady, she thought. I wish they knew the truth.

She walked faster, adjusting her headpiece in a selfconscious attempt to push down the high feathers. Jason Garth, proprietor of the town’s only saloon, sent her out on a last-minute errand while she was getting dressed for the weekly Wednesday Night Revue. The money had to be deposited in the bank before it closed today, he stressed. Well, he could have let her know that earlier, before she changed into the tawdry costume!

More than a few men eyed her in her knee-length ruffled skirt and soft-soled dance boots peeking out from her coat. She knew a number of them as patrons. Those walking with wives, mothers, or another respectable woman had the presence of mind to avert their gazes.

“Have you no shame, lady of the night?” The orator cried in the profession’s flowery prose.

“More than you’ll ever know,” she muttered.

Marissa kept her back straight and face forward, tightly gripping the leather money satchel that held the saloon’s illbegotten earnings. Would that she could put a stop to the corruption and leave the shady establishment today, but soon she would be away from it all. Her saloon contract with Jason was about to end, and she had some money saved for room and board.

She considered her investment in a small share of the general goods store in Claywalk that was up for sale. If she received all the money due her, it would be enough to live off of until she found employment in the nearby town.

A rush of excitement surged through her as she contemplated a new life elsewhere. She would be free, in a respectable position where no one knew of her horrible past.

Marissa slowed her steps as a schooner rolled down the street. A dark-suited man seated atop peered about curiously, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun.

“That must be our new preacher.” Linda Walsh, the town’s young seamstress, walked up beside Marissa. Always eager for conversation, Linda would speak to anyone who stopped to listen, as Marissa had learned since coming back to Assurance a couple years ago. “We weren’t expecting him for another two weeks. I wonder what made him take off from home so fast.”

Marissa groaned at the thought of meeting another preacher. Every preacher she came across had turned her away once they discovered her profession.

She watched the small schooner pull up to the local inn. She recognized the driver Dusty Sterling seated beside the other man. Dusty hopped down and tethered the horses. The man in black stepped onto the dusty curb. His recently polished boots gleamed.

“Fancy one, he is,” Linda continued. “I hear he comes from a city somewhere in Virginia.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“It was in the paper a month ago. Our advertisement for a new preacher was answered from a man back East.”

Marissa focused again on what was in front of her. The traveler indeed looked foreign to the prairie. Not a hint of travel dust stuck to his long, black frock coat and four-inhand necktie, probably changed into just before departing the train. His gray pants were new and expertly tailored. He removed his hat briefly to wipe his brow, and Marissa saw the dark, wavy hair cropped close to his head.

“He doesn’t have a wife or children with him. Such a shame.” Linda clucked her tongue. “He’s a handsome fellow, for certain.”

Marissa agreed with her on that. He must have stood over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a powerful build. The man’s profile was strong and rigid, his square jaw and straight nose a true delight for the eyes. Assurance’s former preacher, Reverend Thomas, did not look like this.

“Would having a wife and children make him a better preacher?”

Linda tossed her a look. “That’s got nothing to do with it. One ought to be settled down at a certain age, wouldn’t you say so? Instead of running wild with the barmen?”

Marissa absorbed the sting of emotional pain. Anything she said in response would not sway Linda or anyone else’s notion that she was just a beer-serving streetwalker. She put on a polite stoic face. “I’m sure the ladies of this town will clamor for his attention. Will you excuse me, Miss Linda? I should be going.”

She left the seamstress just as Dusty carried the new preacher’s valises inside the inn. The preacher moved to follow then stopped short, pausing for Marissa to walk past. Marissa saw his blue eyes widen and take in her entire form, from the feathered hat on her head to the dainty-heeled boots on her feet. By his expression she didn’t know whether he admired or disapproved.

His lips settled into a firm line of what looked to be distaste, and she got her answer.

The preacher hadn’t been there for an hour and already she drew out his scorn. Marissa returned the stare until her image of him blurred with beckoning tears.

He jolted from his perusal. His low, straight brows flicked. “Good day to you, ma’am.” He amiably tipped his hat to her.

She paused, not used to being addressed in that fashion. Kindness was in his greeting, not the sarcasm she normally heard from others. Marissa tilted her head to get a clear look at him. His eyes were friendly, calm deep pools. The rest of his face, with its strong, angular lines, remained cordial.

“Good day,” she replied, hoarse. Awkwardness seized her person. Marissa hastily continued on her way to the bank.

Rowe stared after the brightly costumed woman, not noticing Dusty come from the inn until he stood in front of him, blocking the view.

“Your cabin by the lake is still bein’ cleared. The Charltons will pay for your stay here since they don’t have room at the farmhouse.”

“That’s kind of them, Dusty. Who is that saloon woman? I hoped she didn’t think me impertinent for stepping in her path.”

Dusty squinted in the distance. “Oh, Arrow Missy? She’s a dancer down at Jason’s.”

Dancer. That explained the light-stepping gait. “Why do you call her that?”

“She’s got a sharp tongue and even sharper aim with the drinks. That is, before I stopped going there.” Dusty scratched his chin.

“I think I upset her. She looked sad.” Rowe studied her shrinking form as she went inside the bank. She was a lovely young woman, tall and raven-haired. Her features carried an exotic lilt. He guessed her to be in her early twenties.

If he wasn’t the one who caused her to be upset, then what made the tears brim in her eyes?

“You carrying that last bag in, or you want me to do it?”

Rowe picked up his valise. “I’ve got it, Dusty.” He went inside the inn, glancing one more time in the direction of the bank, his mind still on the melancholy woman with the dancing boots. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Keeper of Reign by Emma Right

When his grandparents disappear, the world changes for young Jules. He's an Elfie, and an heir to a Keeper, each of whom looks after one of the King's books. He's the oldest of five, an unusual number for Elfies. But when even more strange happenings take place, Jules sets out, with friends and siblings in tow, to save the kingdom...if he doesn't get caught by Lord Gehzroulle and his toadies first...

Emma Right originally wrote these stories to her five home-schooled children. For great family reading that's fun, packed truths of basic Christianity and action, and yet isn't too-scary for the "little ones", read this. The stories cover such subjects as betrayal, seeking truth and forgiveness. Well written to hold the attention of the big people and the little people. A good family read-aloud.

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:

 Emma Rightt an imprint of Telemachus Press (May 19, 2013)

***Special thanks to Emma Right for sending me a review copy.***


Emma Right is a happy wife and homeschool mother of five living in the Pacific West Coast of the USA. Besides running a busy home, and looking after their five pets, which includes two cats, two bunnies and a Long-haired dachshund, she also writes stories for her children. She loves the Lord and His Word deeply, and when she doesn't have her nose in a book, she is telling her kids to get theirs in one.

Right worked as a copywriter for two major advertising agencies and won several awards, including the prestigious Clio Award for her ads, before she settled down to have children.

Visit Emma Right at her home site and blog for tips and ideas about books, homeschooling, bible devotions, and author helps of various sorts: http://www.emmaright.com

and follow her on facebook emma.right.author and "like" her fan page at http://www.facebook.com/keeperofreign


Books written in blood. Most are lost, their Keepers with them. A curse that befell a people. A Kingdom with no King. Life couldn’t get more harrowing for the Elfies, a blend of Elves and Fairies. Or for sixteen-year-old Jules Blaze. Or could it?

For Jules, the heir of a Keeper, no less, suspects his family hides a forgotten secret. It was bad enough that his people, the Elfies of Reign, triggered a curse which reduced the entire inhabitants to a mere inch centuries ago. All because of one Keeper who failed his purpose. Even the King’s Ancient Books, did not help ward off that anathema.

Now, Gehzurolle, the evil lord, and his armies of Scorpents, seem bent on destroying Jules and his family. Why? Gehzurolle’s agents hunt for Jules as he journeys into enemy land to find the truth. Truth that could save him and his family, and possibly even reverse the age-long curse. Provided Jules doesn't get himself killed first.

Product Details:
List Price: $17.99
Paperback: 340 pages
Publisher: Emma Rightt an imprint of Telemachus Press (May 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1939337690
ISBN-13: 978-1939337696


Prologue: Beginning

“Sire, you’re running out of blood.” Eleazer’s voice quivered as he addressed the only other occupant in the royal chamber. He tried to veer his eyes from the King’s bruised arm but could not pull his gaze away.
The young King grunted a response, his attention focused on the red words whispering out of his plumed pen.
Glancing at his cupbearer, he said, “I am aware, Eleazer.” His velvet lapels caught the golden gleam flickering from the lanterns hung on the columns and gave it a rich burgundy sheen.
“Perhaps the wine will help?” Eleazer poured scarlet juice into a goblet and held the fluted stem out, his eyes drawn to the highness’ pale wrist. His master’s pallid face sent a shiver up his spine, and a knot of worry formed above Eleazer’s brows. Palm clammy, he set the goblet next to his master’s arm.
The room was dim despite the golden sparkle of the dragonfly lanterns hooked to the four columns of alabaster that flanked the two draped windows. Books, their golden spines atop each other, were stacked on the mahogany table. Copper wires forming two “X”s upon each spine bound the leaves of the magnificent Books.
“The new star,” the King said, “will be birthed tomorrow, so I must finish writing the Sacred Tomes.” He paused and shot Eleazer a smile. “Why don’t you bind this remaining stack? You can include this end page I am finishing later.” He waited for Eleazer to reply, but the servant only stared at the floor. “My instructions are in the Master Books, but you must inform the others to keep the matter to yourselves.”
“I know— Gehzurolle must not find out.”
“More importantly, do not let him deceive you.”
“I promise.”
“You are a most faithful servant—friend, Eleazer. Thank you.”
“It has been my honor, Your Highness. I should thank you.” Eleazer wanted to say more but his throat strangled the words. He swallowed hard a few times and bowed, as a sigh slipped from his lips.
“Do you comprehend my wishes?” The King’s eyes rested on Eleazer’s face.
“Completely.” Eleazer dared not add anything further lest his voice break entirely. His hands busied with the binding of the closing chapters, whilst his master penned the final paragraphs.
All those books yet not a single ink pot on that writing desk, or, on any other furniture in that library. Too soon Eleazer would have to bid his master adieu.  What if he failed the King?
“Master, I wish you didn’t have to d—”
“Don’t start this again, Eleazer — no other way exists. You must trust me. If all of you heed the Words, you will end up better off.” Without looking up, the King said, “Once you’ve completed the binding you must leave me alone. I am almost finished.”
Afraid he might forget the Majesty’s visage, Eleazer’s eyes flitted to the King’s face and drank in the dark brows, the high cheekbones, the soft lips. He opened his mouth to say something, but only shook his head, bowed a fraction, and exited through the double doors.
Alone in the chamber, the King pierced his bruised vein a last time and completed the closing paragraph.


The last thing Jules Blaze thought of before he closed his eyes was how he, how anyone, could undo the curse his people were under. He was in the middle of a dream, a nightmare as far as he was concerned, begging Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Bonnie not to leave, when someone banged on their front door, shaking their entire treehouse.
Who’d be crazy enough to disturb them at this hour? He sat up on his bed and cocked his head. His mother’s soft tread tap-tapped on the wood floor of their treehouse.
“Who’s there?” her muffled voice asked, harsh and whispery from sleep.
The banging stopped.
“Erin, open up.” Mr. Saul’s voice, gruff and loud, jolted the last fog of sleepiness from Jules. He peered over at his brother sleeping noiselessly in the bunk below him, and quietly slipped down the ladder. On tip toe he sneaked to the trap door opening that led down to the living room where Mr. Saul stood dripping from the rain.
“Is everything okay?” Erin said.
“Would I visit now if it were?” Saul said. Then in a gentler voice he added, “I’m sorry. Please, let’s take a seat, Erin.” He nodded at Jules who’d slipped down the pull down ladder to join them. “Jules.”
Jules thought about his father at the war front and swallowed a lump in his throat. Was this why Dad hadn’t sent any word to them for the last months? Because he couldn’t?
Saul held Erin by the arm. He led her to the dining room chairs behind the sofa covered with knitted shawls and afghan throws.
Jules trudged to the window and peered at the branches outside. The arm of the oak tree grew so thick they could easily live in it, although getting up there could be a problem, especially since he was afraid of heights. These days they didn’t even live in stone houses, or even wooden ones, unless living under a tree counted as a wooden home. Elfies lived in trees, or burrowed under rocks, in the forest of Reign.
“Take a seat, Jules.” Mr. Saul locked eyes on him for an instant. “I just received word from the river front patrol—Leroy and Bonnie’s boat capsized in the storm. They’re searching for the bodies, but it doesn’t look good.”
Erin let out a gasp and brought a fist to her mouth. “No!”
“Boat? How can they be sure it was them?” Jules leaned forward in his chair.
“Some of their belongings floated to shore, and I identified the wreck—the pieces drifted to the bank.”
Erin looked at him blankly.
Saul said, again, “The boat…was a wreck.”
“Boat?” Erin said.
“I’d loaned it to them.”
Saul looked at the ceiling. “They’d wanted to get across to Handover.”
“Handover? That’s preposterous. After telling us never to cross the river and saying how dangerous Handover is?” Erin’s voice sounded angry amidst her sobs.
Saul pushed his chair back and stood. He reached into the cloak of his pocket, brought out a few items and laid them on the dining table. “Some things to remember your folks by.” And with that he turned and stalked back out into the dripping night.
Jules stared at his grandpa’s pocket watch, the green felt hat the old man always wore, especially on damp days, and his grandma’s silk scarf she donned when the wind ruffled her snowy white hair. Erin sobbed more violently, and Jules stood behind his mother’s back, leaned over and hugged her trembling shoulders.