Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fall TV

This past week has been crazy. Our internet is having major issues which causes me major stress.

I can't believe that Fall TV starts this week! I can't believe that tomorrow I'll get another scandalicious episode of Gossip Girl to enjoy! I wish it actually felt like fall. It's still going over 100 here, and killing me.

Fringe starts in a week as well! I'm really looking forward to that show.

What shows are you looking forward to most this year?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Active Blog

I have a few new readers and I thought I'd share with you some of the other stuff I have going on at this blog.

I love to read obviously and have two reading related challenges.

The first is my Read One Book Challenge inspired by the fact that 53% of Americans didn't read a single book last year. You can read about this challenge and sign up for it here.

I also am hosting the LOST Books Challenge. I absolutely LOVE Lost. I can't wait for it to come back. By the way, if you are participating in this challenge the next Mr. Linky for reviews will be up on September 20th. You can read all about the Lost Books Challenge here.

But the truth is I love story in all of it's manifestations and I've missed several key movies in my life...so I am hosting the Couch Potato Challenge. So far, it's just me and the awesome Vader's Mom and she's way ahead of me, but I tell you what...if five more people sign up for this challenge before Friday the 5th, I'll give one lucky participant a season of Veronica Mars. Read about it here and sign up!

Finally, there are still a few days left to enter one of these giveaways!
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
Daughters of Boston Giveaway
Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Inside the Reader's Studio

Deena at A Peek at My Bookshelf tagged me for this fun meme that was started by Rebecca at The Book Lady's Blog. You should check out both of their blogs if you haven't already...they are both BBAW participants and cool people!

In the spirit of continuing my “getting to know you” theme from last week, I thought I’d borrow this questionnaire from my good buddy James Lipton (love him!) at Inside the Actors Studio and try to get a fun little meme started at the same time. So, I’ll answer the questions and then tag three of my blogging buddies, who will then tag three more, and well…you see how it goes.

What is your favorite word?
What? Just one? Without doubt hope.

What is your least favorite word?
Um, pretty much any racial slur.

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
Other creation. Either God's creation..nature, or other people's beautiful and moving creation. Um, like a gorgeously written book with a true and hopeful story or a fine piece of music.

What sound or noise do you love?
Rain. Oh my gosh I never hear it in Southern California!

What sound or noise do you hate?
Bare feet shuffling on the carpet. I don't know why, but it gives me chills.

What is your favorite curse word?
erm, crud?

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I think it would be fun to write for television.

What profession would you not like to do?
Anything related to cleaning. Or executing people. I'd really hate that.

What one book, other than the Bible, do you read again and again for inspiration? (added by ME!) (I think that me is Deena)
I rarely re-read books.

If (Which I'm changing to BECAUSE Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Well done my good and faithful servant.

Tag yourself if you want to play along..I'm so behind on google reader due to BBAW that I have no idea who has already been tagged!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Interview with Julie Lessman, Part 2

I'm bringing you the second part of my interview with Julie Lessman author of A Passion Redeemed now. For one extra entry into the contest, leave a comment on this post. For three more entries, subscribe to Julie's newsletter! You can find the info on subscribing at the end of this interview. If you subscribe, shoot me an email at mypalamyATgmailDOTcom by Sunday at 5 p.m. PST with the email address you used. Julie will be verifying that you subscribed! :) (or tell me if you are already subscribed)

Which character do you relate to more? Charity or Faith?

Oh-oh … probably Charity, because I’m pretty much a pistol just like her. But both characters reflect my personality a lot. Faith, the sister heroine of A Passion Most Pure, is my spiritual self and mirrors the intimate relationship I have with God. Like Faith, I talk and pray to Him as naturally as if He is my best friend (and He is!), but I also get angry with Him too. You might say that Faith and I are emotionally engaged with the God of the Universe—we laugh with Him, tear up at His goodness to us, and worship Him with all of our hearts.

Charity, the sister heroine of Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, is my rebellious and “passionate” self, before I came to the Lord. I was a wild child of the seventies, you know, like so many of us, and pulled many of the shenanigans that Charity pulls on Mitch in book 2. Thank heavens that Jesus got a hold of me (as he does Charity in A Passion Redeemed).

Unfortunately, a lot of women find themselves in situations like Charity's and her friend Emma with abusive men in their lives. What words of hope would you like to share with them?

That God IS “the God of hope” from Romans 15:13, and they should RUN to Him! I firmly believe that when He is our all in all, He will fulfill the rest of this incredible truth in our lives—“Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace as you believe, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you could share one thing with men about women what would it be?

LOL! I’d tell them about my favorite episode of Home Improvement where Tim “the tool man” Taylor holds up a stop sign and tells the audience a man invented it. “How do I know?” Tim asks. “Because it says “stop. If a woman invented it, it would say,” He flips the sign around and it says, “If you really loved me, you would know what to do right now.”

OMIGOSH, how true is that???!!! We women think our guys have a clue about why we are mad or what he needs to say or do, but he doesn’t! He’s a man, wired differently than we are. So I would tell all men that that when their wives or girlfriends are acting a little bit off-kilter, they need to pull her in their arms, tell her they love her and ask her what’s wrong. Of course, not all of them would do that, but oh, wouldn’t it be nice?

Because so much of the book was set in Ireland, I missed spending time with the other members of the O'Connor family. Will we see more of them in the next book?

Are you kidding?? I LOVE these people, so you will definitely see more of the O’Connors in book 3, A Passion Redeemed. When I fall in love with a hero and heroine in book 1 of a series, and they are rarely mentioned in the next book or only appear in a cameo role, I am MAJORLY BUMMED! So when I decided to write this series, I promised myself there would be plenty of Faith, Charity, Collin, Mitch, Marcy and Patrick in ALL three books!

Well, as you can imagine, by the time I got to book 3, I not only had to come up with a great plot for the hero and heroine, but great sub-stories for each of the couples from books 1 and 2 as well. And, so far, the main consensus from my editor, agent, writer friends and family is that book 3 is their favorite book in this series. So hopefully my readers will enjoy it too! It comes out May 2009 … and, yes, I know how far away that is!!! Groan!

I'm dying of impatience for the next book...can we have a little hint? A tease? Please?

You bet! Here’s the blurb I have on my Web site:



Elizabeth O’Connor is the little sister John always longed for. With a fire for God in his belly, he has been her spiritual mentor since she was thirteen, sharing her love of literature and her thirst for God. But when his gangly protégé blossoms into a beautiful young woman bent on loving him, he refuses to act on the attraction he feels. His past won’t let him go there. Unfortunately, “Lizzie” won’t let him go anywhere else … until his dark and shocking secrets push her away.

What books have you read recently that impacted you?

Without question, Mary Connealy’s Calico Canyon is funny and touching and packs a spiritual punch that took me by surprise. I am currently reading An Irishwoman’s Tale by Patti Lacy, and although I am not usually a women’s fiction fan, this book has mesmerized me with its vivid imagery and haunting story. Both books are wonderfully well written. (note from Amy...can't wait to read An Irishwoman's Tale!)

Would you like to share a final message with your readers?

Just that I want to thank them—and you, Amy—for the incredible support and encouragement I have received. I don’t take that lightly. I feel a connection with every reader who contacts me, which they can do through my Web site at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter, in which I feature book giveaways. Finally, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog of which I am a part that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/.

Field Report

It's quite possible you enjoy writing as I do, and have considered taking your writing to the next step. There's a new website out there, that will help you see what others think about your writing style...it's called Field Report.

The Basic Idea behind this site is that you write about personal experiences (your field reports on life) and submit them for review to the site. Your post will be reviewed by other users who will rate it. Each month, one field report will be chosen in each of 21 categories for a prize of 1,000 dollars! So really it's a fun way to get some feedback on your writing/blogging with possible monetary compensation. There's a grand prize you can aim for as well of 250,000 dollars.

This all might seem a little overwhelming at first, so I suggest going to the site and checking out the FAQ for more information on how to get started with this fun new project!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson + Giveaway


About the Book: Most of us have no idea where we're going most of the time. Perfect.

"Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or 'the Wild Goose.' The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it's like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….

Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure." --from the introduction

Giveaway: If you have a United States mailing address, I have one copy of this book to give away! Just leave a comment with a way to contact you if you win.

Interview with Julie Lessman Part 1


Julie Lessman is, bar none, the nicest author I've had the opportunity to correspond with and work with. (not that I don't love you all!!!)

She is always so gracious and kind and I was excited that she agreed to another interview to celebrate the release of A Passion Redeemed. Please leave a comment to let you know you appreciate her time and you'll get another entry into the contest. Thank you all!

A Passion Most Pure released to rave reviews (and deservedly so!)...did reader response match or exceed your expectations?

Oh my, definitely exceeded expectations! I mean, when you read a review from a person who said she stayed up late to read it, then got in the tub the next morning to read a few chapters and finished the book—in the tub!—you pretty much don’t believe it. I actually found this tub review (written by a blogger I didn’t even know) via a Google Alert, so you can bet I e-mailed her to see if it was true. She assured me it was quite true and that, yes, she was quite pruned by book’s end!


Another reviewer I didn’t know wrote that she read the book while heating her curling iron, eating her breakfast, at stoplights on the way to work and … are you ready for this?? Under her desk at work during lunch hour, so she wouldn’t be disturbed!! I have to admit, responses like that tickle me to no end!


Some people weren't comfortable or happy with the level of romantic and sexual tension in APMP, how did you deal with these negative reactions as both a writer and a Christian?

Well, after I cry … I pray for God to bless the person who criticizes me, whether that criticism is via review or e-mail. The hardest one for me, however, was my first one-star review on Amazon, which began with the line, “This is simply a horrible book.” I cried all the way home from work on that one, worried sick that somehow I had missed God.


Once I settled down, however, I realized that it was God who led me down this path where I could use my passion for romance to create passion for Him. But trust me, I prayed like the dickens for that reviewer for days after that. And I have every confidence that my prayer of obedience is unleashing God’s mighty blessings in that woman’s life … not to mention mine! :)


A Passion Redeemed is your second book. What is different this time around in preparing and waiting for the release?

Well, I’m a lot less thin-skinned that I was with the first book, which makes it a lot more fun this time around. The bottom line is not everybody is going to like my books, and I’m finally okay with that. And I’m really excited to see what people think of Charity, because I have to admit, I LOVE this character (as I LOVED Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind!)—maybe because she is so wonderfully flawed and needy of love, not unlike I used to be before Christ. In fact my husband, who is currently reading A Passion Redeemed, does not like Charity AT ALL. The poor guy—he doesn’t realize he’s been married to her for over 30 years!! :)


A Passion Redeemed really affected me emotionally. My feelings went all over the place as I read and very fully engaged in each scene. Reading one of your books is an experience for sure! What was the process of writing it like for you emotionally?


Grin. Exactly the same! I am totally engaged with each and every scene I write, laughing one moment, and sobbing my heart out the next. In fact, when I read the final galleys for A Passion Most Pure, I actually went through about twelve Kleenex!


It kind of reminds me of the first scene from the movie, Romancing the Stone, where Kathleen Turner is being chased by desperados in a Western movie, only to have the cowboy hero rescue her and then ride off into the sunset together. The next scene is Kathleen Turner at her keyboard, sobbing her eyes out over the scene she just wrote. Both my daughter and husband thoroughly enjoy mocking me with imitations of me sitting at the computer sobbing and mouthing the words, “It is soooo good!” :)


5) A lot of people really hated Charity after reading APMP. Was this the response you hoped for? Did it have any impact on Charity's story in A Passion Redeemed?


Uh, actually, yes! You see, I wanted a Scarlett O’Hara antagonist in my book who would evoke a lot of emotion out of my readers, which Charity obviously did. One reader wrote that she loved A Passion Most Pure, but could I do her a favor—slap Charity for her! Another reader said she had this overwhelming desire to see Charity “maimed or killed.”


So when I told my agent and editor that Charity was the heroine for book 2, they were understandably concerned. But I think (or I hope) that A Passion Redeemed begins to help readers fall in love with this deeply wounded young women who has become one of my favorite O’Connors. In fact, if readers are not totally captivated by Charity in book 2, they will definitely fall in love with her in book 3, A Passion Denied, where she is real a hoot that you can’t help but love!


6) Charity is extremely manipulative and uses her beauty to her advantage. She reflects a lot of modern woman in this way very much. What is the most important lesson you hope that young women learn from Charity's story?


Goodness, in today’s amoral society, the most important message I would like to convey is that lust is not love. So many young girls today equate strong sexual feelings with love, so they move in with their boyfriends for a while, get married and then wonder why the marriage doesn’t work. Because although sexual attraction is nice, it doesn’t sustain a marriage and will eventually fade when the marriage does. Not only that, but I truly believe young women cut themselves off from God’s blessings in a relationship when they go against God’s precepts (the Deuteronomy 30 principal that is a major theme in A Passion Most Pure).


I believe this so strongly, in fact, that I drummed it into my kid’s heads from little on. Imagine my joy and shock when my college-age son told me what he said to his roommate, a Christian young man who was sleeping with his Christian girlfriend. “But I thought you loved her?” my son told his friend, and the friend answered, “I do, which is why it’s so hard to stop.” My son’s response? No, because if you really loved her, you’d want God’s best for her instead of cutting off His blessings by giving in to your own lust.


Let me tell you—that was a “proud mom” moment, for sure!

Julie will be back for tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: The Making of Isaac Hunt by Linda Leigh Hargrove and Book Excerpt

My Review: Isaac's grandfather is on his deathbed when he reveals to Isaac to that he's adopted. Isaac is a young man that is already facing identity issues...he's a black man with fair skin and blue eyes.
Determined to learn the truth of his past, Isaac goes to the town of his birth where he realizes most people are willing to let the past stay buried.

This book is a touching exploration of identity, written in mulitple points of view and dealing with racial issues, healing, faith, and suprisingly, there's a bit of suspense and mystery. There are some lovely turns of phrase throughout the book as well.

I really enjoyed this read and find that Isaac's quest to know himself is universal. It's hard not to feel his pain throughout the novel. The Making of Isaac Hunt is a strong effort by Linda Leigh Hargrove. You can visit her blog here.

This is part of FIRST Wild Card Tours.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Prologue

On an ordinary afternoon in late October I discovered the truth about me. Like fire, that single truth stirred a hunger and created a hurt, but in the end it opened the door to a wholeness beyond my wildest dreams. All in all, I don’t regret embracing that truth. I only regret the time I wasted in running from the freedom that came with it.

I was planning to drive to Richmond that Sunday afternoon a few hours ahead of my parents. I told them I wanted to visit old school friends before our Sunday visit to the rest home where granddaddy stayed.

“I know it’s kind of a last minute thing,” I said, hoping it didn’t sound like another one of my lame stories. “But I haven’t seen any of them in a couple years.”

“Oh?” was mom’s response. It had been a long ‘oh’. She had stared at me with those big brown eyes over her half glasses and brought her Eartha Kitt-like voice up a half dozen notches. “Sounds interesting, Isaac,” she added like she expected to be invited along. Then she winked and said, “Give Senator Holloman’s daughter our love.”

Dad gave my hair a once-over, wagged his head, and grunted. “Behave yourself. Your mother and I will meet you outside your granddaddy’s room around two. Don’t go trampling in bothering him before we get there. He needs his rest. You need a haircut. How can you even see to drive?” He screwed up his brown face and went back to rummaging through his briefcase. Making preparations for upcoming meetings at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals took front seat to his concern over his only son’s dishonesty.

Later, I had sat in the Alzheimer’s wing outside my grandfather’s room for over an hour waiting for the woman I had lied for. A single white rose in my lap.

Her name was Rose. She had eyes the color of milk chocolate, skin like the choicest cream, and the pinkest lips. She was real and easy to be with. Every third Sunday for more than three months she’d dodge work at the front desk and meet me on the bench outside granddaddy’s room. We had a special spot in the woods.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the mud colored cinderblock wall and pressed the rose to my lips. Then I placed the rose on the seat beside me and linked my hands behind my head.

Someone was walking toward me. The footsteps were muffled and slow. I kept my eyes closed, faking sleep. The footsteps stopped and someone poked me in the chest.

“Wake up, Isaac,” came the whisper.

Another poke to the chest. “Isaac.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Patterson,” I said without opening my eyes.

He snorted and moved in closer. I felt his warm breath on my cheek. “We’ve been waiting all day, kid.”

He had been eating raw onions again. I coughed. “I’m not doing it anymore. That’s what I told you last time, Mr. Patterson.” I looked up into his blue-gray eyes “It’s over. Remember?”

He stuck out his bottom lip and gave me a squinty-eyed frown.

I shook the hair out of my eyes and looked at him hard. “I’m not doing it anymore.” I waved my arms like an umpire calling a man out. “No more.”

“What do you mean, you’re not doing it no more. Kid, it was your idea.”

“Well, it was a bad idea. And I don’t want to do it anymore. Besides, they know.”

Mr. Patterson sat down beside me and placed his silver cane across his lap. He stroked it with the heel of his hand. His age spots looked like coffee stains on white china. “They don’t know a thing we don’t let them know.”

He looked at me sideways and winked. “You know what I mean, bro.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Little white men with canes should only say the word bro if they want to be laughed at. “They know.” I winked hard and tipped my head toward the surveillance camera down the hall.

“Playing checkers,” he whispered, “That’s all they think we’ve been doing. Nobody has to know it’s anything more.”

The squeak of a wheel cut Mr. Patterson short. He was looking over my shoulder with wide eyes. The scent of cheap aftershave rose around me.

“Yes, Isaac. It’s just a friendly game of checkers,” said the voice behind me.

I turned and nodded to the thin clean-shaven man in a wheelchair. “Good afternoon, Mr. Smith. Getting a little exercise?” I forced a smile. Sweat glistened on the loose skin of his neck. There was a bead of sweat on his upper lip that made his face look dirty. His eyes, as pale as mine, sparkled irony.

He was pulling at his black leather biking gloves. For a few seconds I couldn’t take my eyes off them. That’s when I noticed what he had tucked in the folds of the blanket spread across his legs – an envelope marked I. Hunt.

Mr. Smith finished looking me up and down then nodded back at me. “Mr. Hunt.” Then he gave Mr. Patterson a smile that did nothing to warm the air and barked, “Bye, George Patterson.”

Mr. Patterson stood and gulped. “Afternoon, Mick,” he said and left.

Mr. Smith stared at me some more. I stared back some more.

“You’re quite the young entrepreneur for a shaggy-headed college student, Isaac Ulysses Hunt.” He jerked his head toward my grandfather’s door. “Old Ulysses would be proud.”

I glared at his white face then clenched my teeth and looked away.

He wheeled himself closer to me and lowered his voice. “They don’t know. That note you received came from me.”

I looked at him. He was a thin pasty old man. His Aqua Velva or whatever it was was starting to burn my eyes. The insulated shirt he wore only concentrated the aroma. His blue eyes were set back under a heavy brow with wild salt and pepper eyebrows. He narrowed those eyes and smiled at me. I looked away.

“That’s a very nice rose you have.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Want?”

“Yeah. This is where you ask me for that little favor so you can keep my little secret.”

He sighed. “If I wanted to black mail you I would have done it a long time ago. Besides it was kind of interesting watching you operate. Getting all these old white folk to trust you with their money. It beat Bingo and reruns of Diagnosis Murder, that’s for sure. What’d you do with the money?”

I stared at him. That’s for me to know and you to find out. My turn to narrow my eyes and smile.

His smile faded. “Doesn’t matter, I guess. Push me.”

“I’m waiting for someone.”

“Rose? She’s not coming.”

I frowned.

He glanced down the hall past me. “I’ll tell you outside. Just push me, Isaac. Too many eyes here.”

I laid the rose across the back of his headrest and I pushed.

Mr. Smith directed me toward a back entrance and down a wide leaf-littered path to a clearing with stone benches overlooking a small pond. Dry leaves rattled in the breeze. A few squirrels frolicked on a log nearby. I knew the spot well. It felt empty without Rose.

Mr. Smith shifted in his chair and reached under his blanket. He pulled out a half empty bottle of whiskey.

“Here, hold this.”

I took the bottle and sat on the bench beside his chair.

He reached under his blanket again and pulled out two crinkled paper cups. He handed me one and took the bottle back. His clammy white fingers brushed mine. I flinched.

“Hold your cup closer.”

And you’re against me gambling? I almost said. I rolled my eyes and placed the empty cup on the bench beside me.

“I take it you don’t care to drink with me then.”

Mr. Smith shrugged and screwed the cap back on the bottle before tucking it under his blanket again.

“I need to get back. My parents should be here soon.” Upsetting my parents was only a distant thought, I still had Rose on the brain.

“She’s not coming back, Isaac. Rose, I mean.”

“You’re repeating yourself. How do you know that anyway?”

He slumped and looked out over the pond. “Yesterday, Rose and I sat here and we talked about you.”

I frowned at him.

“Rose was my daughter.”

I couldn’t help but gape.

He shrugged and with a smirk said, “She got her mother’s looks.”

Mr. Smith shifted in his chair and gulped the rest of the whiskey in his cup. He poured himself another and continued. “She’s a bright girl most of the time but put her in the same room with a handsome face and a single white rose and she turns into a naïve flighty little thing. I asked her what she knew about you. Your work. Your family. She said she thought you were in finance and came to visit your mother every month.” He looked at me.

I winced. “We haven’t exactly talked about ...”

“She said she thought your mother was the widow Inez Hunt, a white woman that lives across the hall from me.”

I winced again.

“Then she went on and on about you. Your clothes. Your car. Your looks. ‘He has the most exquisite coloring, daddy.’ That’s what she said.”

Exquisite? She was one for strange words.

He shook his head. “That’s when I knew I had to tell her my little secret. Though I knew as soon as I opened my mouth that she’d do the same thing her mother did ten years ago. Leave me.”

He hung his head and stayed quiet for several minutes. He coughed and ran the back of his hand across his top lip. I stood up. Rose was a wash and I didn’t want to hear the rest of what this old white man had to suggest about me. “Mr. Smith, I …”

“You know what passing means, Isaac? Passing for white, I mean.”

A stiff breeze blew between us. I pulled the collar of my pea coat in tighter and leaned over him. “I’m not trying to pass, Mr. Smith.”

He tucked his cup and bottle away and stuffed his hands under the blanket. “My daddy was about like your folks. Real fair. My mother she could have passed. But she didn’t. She was a proud woman. Proud to be black. When I was seventeen, they were both killed in a car accident. Daddy’s brother took me in. I graduated high school. Enlisted Army. Did nine months in Korea. That’s where I was wounded.” He pointed at his legs. “And that’s where I discovered the benefits of passing. I came back. Conveniently forgot my uncle’s address. Fell in love with a white woman. Married her on her daddy’s front porch overlooking the Chesapeake. Had our lovely Rose. Made a nice living passing for white.

“My sweet Leslie thought the sun and moon rose and set at my command till the day my uncle shows up and I have to tell her my little secret. She took Rose and left. All these years I thought she’d told Rose. Yesterday, when I realized Rose didn’t know …

He shook his head and ran a shaky hand through his thinning hair. “You know what your granddaddy told me one day? He said ‘A lie is a lie is a lie. No matter how pretty you tell it or how long you live it, it’s still a lie and in the end when it’s brought to light, it breeds misery.’ Right out of the blue. That’s what he said. I was sitting in his room playing old Al Green and he kinda woke up and came to his senses just for a few seconds.”

He glanced at me and stopped short. I was trying hard not to roll my eyes. I’d heard that lie line many times from my grandfather. It was as tired as Mr. Smith’s blanket.

“‘I’m not black, daddy.’ That’s what my Rose said before she left me.”

He stretched out a hand, palm down, and looked at it. His hand started to tremble and he caught his breath. Tears dropped into his lap. I looked away then turned to go.

“Isaac. Wait.”

He handed me the envelope, “From Rose.”

I took it and stood there for a few seconds. Looking at that wilted rose and the shrinking old man. I remember thinking as I shifted on my cold feet that this talk had really been more for him than for me. It was obvious he didn’t care any more for me than the man in the moon but he needed to say these things to unload some guilt. He was old and guilt ridden. I knew the truth about who I was. I wasn’t living a lie, I told myself.

Man, I couldn’t have been more wrong.



# # #



“Where’s Betty’s boy?” came the scream a second time. It was my grandfather’s voice a few thousand decibels louder than anything I had heard coming out of him in a coon’s age, as he would say. And it was certainly louder than anyone at Glenbrook Rehabilitation Center would appreciate.

I chuckled and said something about his medication needing adjusting as I entered granddaddy’s room. My parents weren’t amused. Dad was hovering over his father’s bed. Mom was standing near the door wringing her hands.

When I walked in she pushed me back and pointed to the bench outside the room and said, “Sit.”

“I want to see Betty’s boy.” came another yell. “Can’t a dying man have a last request?”

Last request?

I pushed past my mother. “No, Mama. I want to talk with granddad.”

“Isaac …” my father started, then muttered, “Chloe, honey, stop him.”

Granddaddy’s eyes widened. He smiled and stretched his yellowing brown arms toward me. “There’s Betty’s boy. Come give me a hug, Isaac.”

I studied the old man from where I stood. His light brown eyes didn’t look like they had three months ago – wild and glassy like those of an animal in pain. During that visit, he’d talked endlessly to an invisible person named Mimi. The woman, I found out later, had been his secretary for a few months during his many years at the Department of Justice in D.C. Their affair had lasted for several years.

“Guilt will do that to a man in his last days,” Ricky Hunt, my father the wise judge had pronounced on the ride back to Raleigh.

Granddaddy had on one of those 9/11 tee shirts with a large bald eagle and flag enfolding the Twin Towers, and the words ‘In God We Trust’ across the top. I stared at it for a few seconds, not sure what to make of the words. God and Granddaddy? I chalked it up to another slip in reality for him.

I glanced behind me to where my parents stood – their eyes stretched wide. Dad shifted toward me a bit but stopped short when his foot hit the corner of a bulging duffle bag propped against the wall.

My mind went briefly to Mr. Smith out there crying in the woods. Racked with guilt and regrets. Weighed down with the burden of lying all his life.

What kind of burdens were weighing on my grandfather I wondered?

I stepped closer to the bed. His blue bathrobe, the one I had given him when I was twelve, was stretched over his thighs. I placed my hand on the worn terry cloth and leaned in. “Who’s Betty, granddaddy?”

“Your mama, Betty Douglas. She lives in North Carolina. In Pettigrew.”

The two adults behind me descended on the old man like an ER team, doing everything but cover his mouth with their hands. Looking back on that day, I think if they hadn’t been so obvious I wouldn’t have gotten so suspicious. I would have marked it up to another Mimi incident. Maybe he had had more than one tryst. He was a handsome old guy with those eyes and that square jaw, and probably had played the field as a younger man.

“What’s going on, Chloe?” asked granddaddy. His body fell back onto his pillow and he gasped, “Good Lord, help us all.”

Ulysses Hunt, the man I had grown to love and trust and learned to call Granddaddy Ulysses, died the next morning. Two days later, I hired a private investigator to help me find this Betty of Pettigrew.


BBAW E-mail Sent

I interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to let you know that I just sent out a BBAW informative email.

If you believe you have registered--and you did NOT get this email, please check your spam box. If you still don't have it, let me know immediately--it means you're not registered. Thanks.

Review: A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman


About the Book: Depth of beauty … shallow of heart, Charity O’Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. She sets her sights on a man who wants nothing to do with her, and although the sparks are there, he refuses to fan the coals of a potential relationship with a woman who ruined his life. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won’t play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants—one way or another.


My Review: Early this year when I read A Passion Most Pure, I was gripped by the story. It had all the elements I love in a book, great characters, fantastic romantic tension, an epic love story, perfect pacing, and gorgeous prose.

Soooo...my expectations were pretty high for A Passion Redeemed. I couldn't wait to see how Julie was going to transform Charity into a character worth rooting for (well I actually didn't mind her in a APMP), and get her together with the hero...a character I liked a lot from A Passion Most Pure.

When the book showed up, I squealed and did a little dance and got that wonderful new book euphoria that is so rare, and only comes from that series and author you love. ;) Like, the last time I felt that way was probably the release of the last book of Harry Potter.

I dove right in. And....

I LOVED IT. In fact, I would say that the book far exceeded my expectations.

WARNING!! If you have not read A Passion Most Pure spoilers follow! If you have, please go ahead and keep reading!

Charity is back, and in fine form, and oh so desperate to turn the head of Mitch Dennehy. And well, Mitch is none too thrilled with the reality of his attraction for her. Because, oh yes, is he attracted to her. But he cannot forget her cunning and devious ways and the small little detail that she is responsible for him losing the woman he loved. But Charity is determined and willing to go to any lengths to win his love. In her favor, she is apparently the most beautiful woman to walk the planet. There isn't a male character in this book that doesn't lust after her!

The story is gorgeously told. The characters leap off the page, I really felt like I was right there with them, I could imagine each scene so perfectly. But even more than that, I could feel each scene. I laughed, I cried...tears streamed down my face at times, and I felt like I had been through quite the experience by the end of the book.

Which, by the way, I tore through and immediately wanted the next book. The O'Connors feel like family, I love the vivid family scenes. I can't wait to find out more about each one of them, and the tiny seeds planted in this book for the next one have me very eager.

Did Julie succeed in turning Charity into a likeable character? I think so. In fact, I think many of the issues and challenges that Charity encounters are issues that many young women face today. Charity is a great beauty which is a benefit to her, but also a curse in some ways. Julie deals with that reality in this story in a way that will break your heart.

There are books that engage your mind, and then there are books that engage your heart and set up residence there. A Passion Redeemed is a heart book and I envy those of you who have yet to devour this delicious series for the first time. I can't recommend it enough.

Mark my words...Julie Lessman is the future of this genre and I expect that we will be seeing her name everywhere in the years to come.

Leave a comment on this post to earn anther entry into my Daughters of Boston giveaway...which you can read more about right here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review: Twice Loved by Lori Copeland


About the Book: Texas, 1865 Willow Madison and her friends, Copper and Audrey taught school in neighboring Texas communities until the Yankees rode into the area and burned them out. In the midst of fear and chaos, survivors banded together to fight for what remained of their homes. Then word reached the people that the terrible war was over.

Now penniless but still hopeful, Willow vows she will take care of her friends, Copper and Audrey, and her ailing uncle, in Thunder Ridge, Texas, even if it means having to marry wealthy Silas Sterling, a man thirty years her senior. But standing in her way is handsome sawmill owner Tucker Gray, with his enticing eyes and infuriating headstrong manner—the man Willow cannot get out of her head . . . or her heart. Even though her friends beg her not to give up her dream of happiness, Willow is determined to do the right thing for those who are dearest to her. But which path does God want Willow to take: a life of duty and commitment . . . or a life of everlasting love?

My Review: Oh man did I go back and forth about whether or not to request this book for review! The thing is, a looonng time ago, Christian fiction was almost all historical fiction, and so I had a huge and steady diet of it....to the point of getting absolutely sick of it when I was younger. For some reason, I worried this book was going to be like that, and I wasn't sure I would enjoy it. But I've enjoyed the other Avon Inspire books I've read, so I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did, because this book is a treat!

What was unexpected to me was how light this book was...well yes in weight, too, (easy to carry in your purse) but the fact that it brought many a grin to my face. I wasn't expecting it to be funny, but it was, which was a nice surprise. Willow is an extremely likeable character, and Thunder Ridge is a fantastically unique setting. I just really liked everything about this book!

I recommend it if you're looking for something light and fun with a kick of romance. Oh and since I have a lot of new readers, I review a lot of Christian fiction...and it's not what it used to be...the genre has exploded and the talent right now is unprecedented. The risks being taken make this a really exciting time in the market and I hope if you've tried it in the past and didn't like it, that you'll give it another go at some point.

Check out Twice Loved on Amazon.

What's On My Nightstand



I don't even know where to start. I'm so completely deliciously and wonderfully overwhelmed with books at the moment!

But..I'm currently reading The Making of Isaac Hunt by Linda Leigh Hargrove.

And coming up next? I have At His Command by Brenda Coulter, which I've actually started. It's a Love Inspired book, which is the inspirational imprint of Halequin. These books are hit or miss with me, but this one is a hit so far! I also have the Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams, and The Last Queen by CW Gortner waiting as well. I'm really looking forward to reading both of these!

If you're visiting for the first time, I just wanted to let you know I have a couple of bookish giveaways you might be interested in entering.

I'm giving away copies of Julie Lessman's A Passion Redeemed with some other prizes here.

And I'm giving away a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin here.

And of course don't forget to go back to 5 Minutes for Books to see what is on everyone else's nightstand!

A Boston Quiz




You still want chances to win that grand prize right? Well, for three additional entries into the pot, answer these questions about Boston correctly and send your answers to mypalamyATgmailDOTcom

True or False:
Boston is the largest city in New England.
Boston is one of the cheapest places to live in the United States.
Traffic in Boston is always a pleasure.

Name two big historical events that took place in Boston.
What is the name of the floating hospital in Boston?

And for a bonus entry:
What are the names of the O'Connors? (this is obviously for those who have read A Passion Most Pure!)

Tomorrow, I'll have my review and Thursday and Friday Julie will be here for an interview...be sure to join us! And help spread the word!

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin Giveaway!

Earlier this year, Joshua Henkin offered to let me read and review his book Matrimony, which just so happened to be getting rave reviews around the blogosphere. On top of that, it's a New York Times Notable book. I mean really, what convincing did I need? I read it and loved it and wrote my review which you can read here.

Now, Josh has offered to give one of you copy of his book which releases today in paperback. On top of that, he will sign it personally to you. This is a real treat my friends, and I hope you're as excited about this as I am.

Now, I loved this book, but I have to admit I wasn't crazy about the original cover. But the paperback has a new cover, which to me is much warmer and more appealing. And that's the cover you'll be getting. See how pretty it is below:

I'm sure you want to to know what you can do to win a copy of this book! Well, you can do three things.

1) Leave a comment on this post with a valid email address and a United States or Canadian mailing address and tell me something that surprised you about marriage. If you are not married (like me!) tell me something that surprised you about the Olympics.
2) Leave a comment on my original review. It must be a relevant comment and not just enter me!
3) Blog about this giveaway including a link back to this post to triple your chances.

You can visit Joshua Henkin at his website here.

I'm including this little video of Joshua Henkin discussing the novel, but please be warned that it contains spoilers...of a sort!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome to Daughters of Boston Week!




Julie Lessman's books A Passion Most Pure and a Passion Redeemed have been some of the best reads of this year. I'm just dying to share my review of A Passion Redeemed with you, but I'm going to torture you with the wait until Wednesday. For now I'd like to welcome you to Daughters of Boston week!

We're having a celebration round here! Everyday there will be something fun related to the Daughters of Boston posted and each day will introduce you to new ways you can win! Win what?

Well, the grand prize...

  • A copy of A Passion Most Pure
  • A copy of A Passion Redeemed signed by Julie!
  • A 3.5 bag of Boston baked beans (this is a candy, fyi, if you didn't know!)
  • A $15 Starbucks gift card so you can lose yourself in a good book!


And two additional people will win copies of A Passion Redeemed!

Now, just in case you missed it the first time, here's my review of A Passion Most Pure. And here's the interview I did with Julie.

Okay, I know you are wondering how you can win the fabulous prizes, so here goes....
1) This week, each time you comment on a post labeled Daughters of Boston you will get one entry. These must be relevant comments.
2) Blog about this contest including a link back to this post and the cover of A Passion Redeemed and you will get 5 entries.
3) Read the posts this week...there will be additional ways to gain entries revealed!

Now, the grand prize is open to those with a United States mailing address only, but if you are in Canada and want to try for a copy of A Passion Redeemed, you are welcome to do so.

That's it! I have two more giveaways this week unrelated to this one so stay tuned! (Read: it's going to be a very busy blog week)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

BBAW Award Nominations are Open


It's time to open nominations for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008!

Listed below are the categories of awards. There are many. You may not have a nomination for each award. It doesn't matter. Nominate up to two blogs per category and send an email to BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with your choices. You DO NOT have to have a blog to make nominations. Comments left on this post will NOT be accepted as nominations. Each category will be narrowed to the top five blogs by number of nominations received, so don't be shy!!! Support your favorite blogs and bloggers! Nominations will close on August 31st.

And the categories for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008 are:

Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Best Design
Most Chatty
Most Concise
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Best Meme/Carnival/Event
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site
Write In--think we missed something? Write in your category and nomination and if there are enough other write-ins of the same category it will be added!

Added by Popular Demand:
Most Altruistic Blog
Best Fantasty/Horror/Sci-Fi/Spec-fic Blog
Funniest/Most Humorous Blog
Best Commenter/Commentator

Does This Work?

Lately, I've noticed a new promotional trend. Buy our book and send in your electronic receipt and we'll give you something special!

I ask for this reason.

I participated in this promo and did my usual money wasting saving activity of ordering $25 worth of stuff to get free shipping. Then I sent in my receipt. I received promised prize immediately (it was all online) and I could have cancelled my order, right? (I didn't of course! I love authors!)

Especially since Amazon took forever to finally mail me the books I ordered.

So does this kind of promotion work? I'd like to know.

I know that Seth Godin tried it and he doesn't seem like a dummy.

Tell me your thoughts. Who knows such a promotion might show up here. (for someone else's book obviously!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Spotlight: House of Wolves by Matt Bronweele


About the Book: A mysterious book with a dangerous secret.

An evil brotherhood out to conquer the world.

One man stands between them . . . with his family in the balance.

In the twelfth century, Henry the Lion collected the rarest relics in Christendom. And to protect his most precious acquisitions, he encoded the whereabouts in a gorgeous illuminated manuscript called The Gospels of Henry the Lion.

The manuscript has been showing up and disappearing ever since. No one knows where the relic has been hidden . . . or its ultimate power.

Only one man holds the key to the mystery.

He's carrying it in his briefcase at his son's school for show-and-tell, and he thinks it's a fake. But he's about to find out just how real it is.

Because the wolves are rapidly closing in. And if August Adams can't decode the secret in time, the world's balance of power will forever be altered.

My review will be coming because I'm dying to read this book!! In the meantime, check it out on Amazon.

Another Thought on Twitter

Have you ever looked at Twitter and how some people have like, 1,000,000 people following them and they're following like 20 people?

It's another huge popularity contest. To look cool on Twitter, you should have more people following you than you're following. It's all in the word following I think.

Well, I'm the opposite. I'm following way more than are following me. Wanna know why? Because I'm nosy. The more people I'm following the more conversations that I'm not technically invited to I get in on.

What about you? Are you a cool twitterer or a nosy one?

Book Excerpt: The Book of Names



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!




and his/her book:



NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160006227X
ISBN-13: 978-1600062278

Watch the Trailer:




Enter the Contest:




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

In final days / Come final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Forgotten curse / Blight the land

Four names, one blood / Fall or stand


If lost the great one / Fallen low

Rises new / Ancient foe

Darkest path / River black

Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack


If once and future / Lord of war,

Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,

Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,

Prepare / For day of reckoning


If Aion’s breath / For music cursed

Sings making things / Made perverse,

Fate shall split / Road in twain

One shall lose / One shall gain


If secret lore / Then be found

Eight plus one / All unbound

Beast shall come / Six must go

Doors shall open / Doors shall close


If buried deep / Hidden seen

Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green

Nine shall bow / Nine more rise

Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine


If falling flame / Burning pure

Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard

Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread

End of days / Land be red


When final days / Bring final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Fate for one / For all unleashed

Come the Prince / Slay the beast


Cross the water / Isgurd’s way

White horse / Top the waves

Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!

Aion rides / To save the day


— The Ravna’s Last Riddle




Chapter 1

BLACK BIRDS


The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.

Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.

All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.

But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.

He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.

Strange.

Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.

Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.

Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.

Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.

He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.

“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”

But not any warmer.

“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.

Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.

“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.

Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to escape...at least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing

Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.

He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.

The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.

New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.

He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.

How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—

Mom...

It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.

His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?

For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.

Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...

He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.

Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.

“Hey, Hadyn.”

Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”

Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.

“Wondered how things were going.”

“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”

Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”

“Bummer.”

“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”

Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.

“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.

“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.

Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.

“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.

Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”

“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”

“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”

“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”

“I don’t know, but they’re still—”

“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”

All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.

“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.

The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.

Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.

Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.

Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.

“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”

“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”

“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”

Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, but...do carrier pigeons even fly anymore?

“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”

“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.

Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.

“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”

“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”

Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”

While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper messages...by bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?

Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.

“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”

Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”

“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”

The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”

Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”

Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”

This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”

He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”

Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.

“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”

He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.

“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”

Nancy Drew Week

I am discovering so many great new book blogs through Book Blogger Appreciation Week registration. (and I bet some of you haven't known that I've been reading your blog for months!)

I'm slowly working on my spreadsheet, and let me tell you...you guys are awesome. Seriously, your emails to register were very kind and the level of support for this idea has far exceeded my expectations. Many thanks to all who helped spread the word. I think we'll have a really fun week.

Nominations for the awards may be delayed to this weekend or early next week, because it's all taking me a little longer than I expected. But who knows, I may get the ball rolling sooner than that. ;)

Anyway, one of the awesome new things I discovered was Nancy Drew week, which is going on RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND!!! That's right, if you head over to The Thrillionth Page, you can read all the awesome reflections and posts.

When I was little I used to play Nancy Drew. I always got to be Nancy, and I made my friends be Bess and George. I was bossy like that, and besides, I doubt they read the books as devotedly as I did. You see, books have always been there, always just a really huge part of who I am, and that's why things like LibraryThing and book blogs thrill me to no end.

One more thing...while we've had about 175 bloggers register for BBAW, we've only had a few readers. Readers, get in on the fun! Just dash off an email to bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom This week is for you, too. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm Enraged!!

Most of the time I try to stay positive on the blog, and that's because I try to stay positive in life. But sometimes I read things and I can't see straight, I'm so enraged!

Ok, first of all, I promise I'm not a raving feminist. But I am a woman and I do not believe that women have equal standing in the world. I've talked about this before in regards to literature written by women, etc. I just read two very important news items that enforce this truth and make me grateful for just how much we do have in the United States.

Afghanistan is seriously messed up but nothing proves it more than imprisoning women because they were victims of rape. I mean, really? It's hard to believe such injustice is possible.

Russia has deeper problems than the ones we're currently facing. Apparently, Russians believe sexual harrassment is necessary to ensure the survival of the human race. Oh, really? Because we're having a huge shortage of births in the world, so the best possible answer is to force women to have sex they don't want to have. To make them think they must have it to keep a job. For the pleasure and satisfaction of men.

I read a really great book earlier this year that touched upon this issue. In Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage, one of the men owned a porn company. He struggled over how he felt about women throughout the book--lying to his daughter about what he did, but at another point in the book, saying men were superior because if there was a war, they would win. Later on in turn, his daughter was sexually molested by a man that may well have been one of his customers.

And that's the point isn't it? The things we do...they are not in isolation. We lie and the effects are felt deeper and further than we know. We cheat on our taxes and someone else ends up on the street. We give a donation, and a village is saved. Our kind word makes someone's day and they share a kind word etc. and so on.

I'm as guilty as the next person of this..of seeing only how things affect me of not realizing that my life, my actions..they are part of a bigger whole.

Would that the men raping and imprisoning women or bending them to their will would see it, too.

(HT: Children Foreign Policy Blogs)

Do You Know What I Hate?

When my internet goes down in the middle of planning a big blogging event. Ha, last night I couldn't access the internet at all. Oh well.

So I'm getting caught up today.

By the way I just finished reading The Faith of Barack Obama and will be reviewing it at The Friendly Book Nook this week. I loved this book. I think I just really love the heart of the guy who wrote it. He writes with such compassion and fairness to all. But I'll be including all of that in my review. I do recommend it, if you have a mind and heart open to looking at people beyond their politics.

In other news, when your internet goes down you can't cheat while you watch the Olympics...you actually have to wait and see what happens!

Which brings me a to a question...do read spoilers? Yes or no and why....tell me! I need to know! (that should tell you what I do!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Children's Book Extravaganza! +Giveaway

I have three really precious children's books to introduce you to today. They are very sweet and all three of them will reassure the little ones in your lives of God's love for them. The illustrations are colorful and fun.
God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura Bryant. About the Book: Little Cub awakens one morning with some important questions on her mind: What is heaven like? How do we get there? Will we eat in heaven? Will we be angels?

During a delightful day spent wandering their arctic world, Papa gently answers each question, assuring Little Cub that heaven is a wonderful place, "a million times better" than she can imagine. He explains how God has made a way for those who love him to enter their heavenly home forever after their lives on earth are over.

Reuniting the best-selling author-illustrator team from God Gave Us You, this gentle story provides satisfying answers for a young child's most difficult questions about heaven. Parents, grandparents, childcare professionals, librarians, Sunday school teachers, and others will appreciate the gentle approach to a topic that's on the minds of so many "little cubs."

Through captivating, full-color illustrations and tender, biblically sound storytelling, young readers and those who love them will find reasons to rejoice in knowing that God Gave Us Heaven.
God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn
About the Book: God Loves Me More Than That, children learn that God loves them deeper than a wishing well, wider than a semi-truck, louder than thunder, and softer than a kitten's sneeze. Each question, presented with charming child-like faith will help young ones grasp the great love of God through comparisons and descriptions they can easily understand. In short, they'll discover that His love is bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than anything they could imagine!

When God Made My Toes by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn. About the Book: In When God Made My Toes, kids are drawn into the wonder of their creation by God. Their masterful artist who fashioned them just right for amazing and delightful adventures, such as roller skating, finger-painting, doing flips, and drinking cocoa. Children will come to an understanding that God shaped each part of their amazing bodies with joy, delight, and humor.

The Giveaway: I have two sets of all three books to give away. If you are interested in winning, please have a United States or Canadian mailing address. Also, leave me a comment finishing this sentence...God loves me more than...

I'll draw a winner next week!

Music Monday: Pre-Order Andrew Peterson's Resurrection Letters Vol. 2 Right This Second!


There are a few things I like to celebrate around this old blog-- book bloggers, a new book from Julie Lessman, Christmas (obviously), and Andrew Peterson singer/songwriter/author extraordinaire.

I also enjoy participating in Music Monday at The Secret Life of Kat!

And I also love great deals on music. And to me, ordering Andrew Peterson's new album Resurrection Letters vol. 2 and getting TWO copies for a mere 15 dollars is a steal. (b/c I'd pay much more than that but shhh, don't let the record label know what a goldmine they have)

Check it out! By the way, is that not the most gorgeous cover?!?