Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: The Midwife by Jennifer Worth

When Jennifer joins the Midwives of St. Raymond Nonnatus she is running away from her life and a failed love affair. Already trained as a nurse, she hopes to learn the skills of a midwife. In addition to learning the skills of a midwife, she finds a vibrant community of faith, love, and service. The job of a midwife is a serious one and the people she meets she often meets in the most dramatic moments of their lives.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times reads a bit like a collection of short stories. There's no clear narrative timeline, but rather Jennifer tells the stories of the people she knew during her years as a midwife. Not just the families she met, but the nuns, and other workers. She tells these stories with heart, depth, and wisdom, so that you feel you know them. She shares the world of East London with tremendous empathy and compassion. She presents her knowledge of midwifery in a way that is easy to read and understand. Her prose is natural and enjoyable, and she captures the Cockney dialect and sensibility, even including a guide in the back.

I seriously loved this book. I wasn't sure if I was really going to like it, but I was hooked from the first story. There's something about the birth of a child that brings all sorts of human emotions to the surface and there is so much at stake. Undoubtedly, the stories she shares are the most dramatic ones. A breech birth, a case of eclampsia, the horrors of the workhouses for one lady (which strangely helped me understand just how evil Scrooge was!), the woman with 24 children.

My favorite story by far was the third in a series of "what happens when the mother has cheated with a man of a different ethnicity?" The first two were far less positive, but the third story positively made me weep. You see, the man, when looking down upon the new baby, makes an instant decision to act as if the boy is his and he can tell no difference. In Worth's words, "Perhaps he understood in that moment that if he so much as questioned the baby's fatherhood, it would mean humiliation for the child, and might jeopardise his entire future. Perhaps, as he held the baby, he realised that any such suggestion could shatter his whole happiness." What love! The father treats the boy as his very own, even though he clearly is not.

Part of what I loved about this book is Ms. Worth's she slowly warms up to the nuns and comes to understand them, so do we. The entire book emphasizes that appearances can be deceiving and there is often more to a person than our first judgements. And it takes us into the crisis heart moments of so many lives.

What becomes of all these people? As Jennifer puts it so well herself..."Sadly, in nursing, and particularly in hospital nursing you meet people during some of the most profound moments in their lives, and then they are gone from you forever."

This book is a collection of some of the most heart-wrenching stories you will read and some of the most beautiful and hopeful stories of the resiliency of the human spirit. It's also a journey for Jennifer Worth as she opens her skeptical heart to embrace life and understand faith. I loved it.

Rating: 5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Well, some scenes might make you squeamish!

One final bonus quote about service, when Jennifer asks an older nun if she has done her work out of love for people.

Of course not, she snapped sharply. How can you love ignorant, brutish people whom you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and through His grace come to love His people.


CFBA: Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren is one of my favorite authors, and so I'm really bummed not to have a full review for you of this book. Sadly, it came last Friday right before the Festival of Books. Generally, I need at least a month's lead time with a book. I did start reading it, but I've barely scratched the surface. I've included the synopsis below, and stay tuned for my full review because I'll have a giveaway to go with it!

Book Synopsis: PJ Sugar knows three things for sure:

1) After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that's become her life, she needs a fresh start.

2) The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister's wedding is Boone-her former flame and the reason she left town.

3) Her best friend's husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn't know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she'll uncover much more than she bargained for-a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she's been longing for.

It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her home town, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder—who also happens to be PJ's former flame—is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend’s husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right


Book Giveaway: The Crimes of Paris

About the Book: Turn-of-the-century Paris was the beating heart of a rapidly changing world. Painters, scientists, revolutionaries, poets--all were there. But so, too, were the shadows: Paris was a violent, criminal place, its sinister alleyways the haunts of Apache gangsters and its cafes the gathering places of murderous anarchists. In 1911, it fell victim to perhaps the greatest theft of all time--the taking of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre.

Immediately, Alphonse Bertillon, a detective world-renowned for pioneering crime-scene investigation techniques, was called upon to solve the crime. And quickly the Paris police had a suspect: a young Spanish artist named Pablo Picasso....

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment and tell me your favorite place in Paris if you have been there. If you have not been there, please tell me where in Paris you would like to visit. Please be sure to leave a valid email address. I'll draw winners next week on my birthday May 8.

You must have a United States or Canadian mailing address! :)


LOST Recap and Discussion: The Variable

Tonight's 100th episode of LOST broke my heart. I think that this recap will be a bit disjointed, but tonight's episode was once again, a strong thread in the fabric of the LOST story. SPOILERS BELOW

This episode attempted to put together all the bits and pieces we had of Daniel Faraday's life and how he came to be on the island. This episode is heavy on foreshadowing and watching it a second time, very painful foreshadowing.

Summary and Recap
Back in the 70's, Daniel had just shown up on the island. He believes he has a purpose. He believes that perhaps he can change the future and save the 815ers from ever crashing. He tells Jack that his mother was wrong to send him back. He attempts to explain to Dr. Chang who naturally thinks he's completely nuts and having a bit of fun. So he tries to persuade the group to take him to the Others so he can talk with his mother.

Daniel has always had a strained relationship with his mother. Despite the fact that I thought he was quite good on piano, she felt it was a distraction from nurturing his mind towards math and science. As an adult, he continues to feel pushed by her. She insists his life should be nothing but work. In a heartbreaking scene, a broken Daniel Faraday asks her if she'll be proud of him if he goes to the island. She answers in the affirmative.

The group has decided to split. Hurley, Miles, Sawyer, and Juliet have decided to start over on the beach, while Jack, Kate, and Dan head to the Others. Before they get there, though..gun fight! A bullet grazes Daniel, giving him the chance to have the conversation with Jack about how any one them could die.

They make it to the camp of the Others and Daniel holds a gun on Richard Alpert demanding to speak to Eloise. Before he can take his threat any further...he's shot. By his very own mother. "You knew..." he whispers as he lays dying, "You always knew. You knew this was gonna happen and you sent me here anyway." "Who are you?" she asks coldly.

"Your son" he answers. LOST

A few other key points:
Desmond lives and we got another sweet Desmond/Penny scene!
Sawyer and Juliet seem to be on a bit of shaky ground.
Charles Widmore was Daniel Faraday's father as I suspected giving us another set of half siblings in Penny and Daniel.

LOST can really give us the emotional deaths! For some reason, Daniel's death reminded me a little of Shannon's, where we saw the sad history throughout the episode and the surprise shooting of great consequence. But I simply cannot imagine being Eloise Hawking and willing to go on with my life after shooting my son! Which brings up seems that everyone is highly concerned with making sure that the past as it happened stays that way. It doesn't seem that Eloise felt she could do anything to change Daniel's course. Instead of nurturing him and giving him the happiest life possible, she seems resigned to his fate and encourages him to head right back into that same fate. She doesn't try to talk him out of going to the island but uses all the resources at her disposal to make sure things happen the same way. Whereas Daniel tried to warn Charlotte from ever coming back to the island, she tried no such thing. Why? Is Daniel some sort of necessary sacrifice, right down to his dying words?

I thought this episode was really sad, and I'm sorry to say good-bye to the character of Daniel Faraday. Having said that, I'm curious to see how everything else will play out and next week looks incredible.

Tell me all your thoughts!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FIRST: New York Debut by Melody Carlson

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:

New York Debut (Carter House Girls)

Zondervan (May 1, 2009)


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past ten years, she has published more than a hundred books for children, teens, and adults, with sales totaling more than 2.5 million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List.

Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards including The Gold Medallion, The Christy, and The Rita Award. And most recently she is in the process of optioning some of her books for film rights.
She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714931
ISBN-13: 978-0310714934


“Where is Taylor?” asked Grandmother as she drove DJ home from the airport.
”Is she coming on a later flight?”

DJ hadn’t told her the whole story yet. In fact, she hadn’t said much of anything to Grandmother at all during the past week, except to leave a message saying that she’d changed her flight and planned to be home two days earlier than expected. Obviously, Grandmother had assumed that Taylor had changed her plans as well.

“Taylor’s in LA,” DJ said slowly, wishing she could add something to that, something to deflect further questioning.

“Visiting her father?”


“Touring with Eva?”

“What then?” Grandmother’s voice was getting irritated as she drove away from the terminal. “Where is the girl, Desiree? Speak up.”

“She’s in rehab.”

“Rehab?” Grandmother turned to stare at DJ with widened eyes. “Whatever for?”

“For alcohol treatment.”

Grandmother seemed stunned into speechlessness, which was a relief since DJ didn’t really want to discuss this. She was still trying to grasp the whole strange phenomenon. It was hard to admit, but the past few days of being mostly by herself in Las Vegas had been lonely and depressing and one of the reasons she’d been desperate to change her flight and come home early. She had really missed Taylor. The hardest part was when she discovered that Taylor wasn’t allowed any communication from outside the rehab facility. This concerned DJ. No cell phone calls, email, or anything. It seemed weird. Although DJ was praying for her roommate, she was worried. What if it wasn’t a reputable place? What if Taylor never came back? What if something bad happened to her? Not only would DJ blame herself, she figured everyone else would too.

Finally Grandmother spoke. “Did you girls get into some kind of trouble in Las Vegas, Desiree?”


“I want you to be honest with me. Did something happen to precipitate this?”

“The only thing that happened is that Taylor came to grips with the fact that she has a serious drinking problem. If you’ll remember, I tried to let you in on this some time ago.”

“Yes, I remember the vodka bottle. I simply assumed it was a one-time occurrence.”

“I told you otherwise.”

“Well, I know that girls will be girls, Desiree. You can’t have spent as much time as I in the fashion industry and not know this.”

“Were you ever like that?” asked DJ. “I mean that girls will be girls bit?”

Grandmother cleared her throat. “I wasn’t an angel, Desiree, if that’s what you’re hinting at. However, I did understand the need for manners and decorum. I witnessed numerous young women spinning out of control. Beautiful or not, a model won’t last long if she is unable to work.”

“Isn’t that true with everything?”

“Yes…I suppose. How long is Taylor going to be in…this rehabilitation place?”

“I don’t know. You should probably call her mom.”

“Oh, dear…that’s something else I hadn’t considered. Certainly Eva Perez won’t be blaming me for her daughter’s, well, her drinking problem.”
“Eva is fully aware that Taylor had this drinking problem long before she came to Carter House.”

“Good.” Grandmother sighed and shook her head. “I just hope her treatment won’t prevent her from participating in Fashion Week. That would be a disaster.”

“Seems like it would be a worse disaster if Taylor didn’t get the help she needs.”

“Yes, of course, that goes without saying. But I would think that a week or two should be sufficient. Goodness, just how bad can a problem get when you’re only seventeen?”

DJ shrugged, but didn’t say anything. The truth was she thought it could get pretty bad, and in Taylor’s case it was bad. And it could’ve gotten worse. To think that Taylor had been drinking daily and DJ never even knew it.

“It’s just as well you came home early, Desiree,” said Grandmother as she turned onto the parkway. “Already Casey and Rhiannon are back. And Kriti is supposed to return tomorrow. Eliza will be back on New Year’s Eve.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t want to stay in France for New Year’s.”

“As am I. If I were over there, I’d certainly have booked a room in Paris. Nothing is more spectacular than fireworks over the City of Light. But apparently Eliza has plans with her boyfriend. Imagine—giving up Paris for your boyfriend!”

Of course, DJ knew that Eliza’s life of lavish luxury didn’t mean all that much to her. Like a poor little rich girl, Eliza wanted a slice of “normal.” Well, normal with a few little extras like good shoes, designer bags, and her pretty white Porsche.

“It’s good to be home,” DJ proclaimed as her grandmother turned into the driveway.

“It’s good to hear you say that,” said Grandmother.

And it was the truth. After a week in Vegas, DJ was extremely thankful to be back. Maybe for the first time, Carter House did feel like a home. She couldn’t wait to see Casey and Rhiannon.

“Welcome back,” called Casey as she opened the door, dashed out onto the porch, and hugged DJ. “Need some help with those bags?”

“Thanks.” DJ studied Casey for a moment, trying to figure out what had changed. “Your hair!”

Casey picked up one of DJ’s bags then grinned as she gave her strawberry blond hair a shake. “Like it?”

“It’s the old you—only better.”

“My mom talked me into it. The black was a little dramatic, don’t you think?”

“I think you look fantastic. And that choppy layered cut is very cute.”

“Your grandmother approved it too. And I got highlights.”

DJ touched her own hair. “Taylor had been nagging me to get mine redone. But it was so expensive in Vegas. I figured I’d do it here.”

Casey lowered her voice. “So how’d your grandmother take the news about Taylor?”

DJ stopped at the foot of the stairs and stared at Casey. “Did Rhiannon tell you everything?”
“Yeah, is it supposed to be a big secret?” Casey made a hurt face now. “I was wondering why you told Rhiannon and not me. I thought we were friends, DJ.”

“I didn’t mean to, but I sort of spilled the beans with Rhiannon because I was so desperate and didn’t know what to do at the time. But then I felt bad. I mean it was possible that Taylor wanted to keep it private, you know?”

Casey nodded somberly. “Yeah, I guess I do know.”

“You should.” After all, it had only been a few months since they had intervened with Casey in regard to her pain pill snitching.

“So, are you saying mum’s the word?”

“Until Taylor comes back. Don’t you think it’s up to her to say something or not?”

“Yeah. I can just imagine Eliza with that tasty little morsel of gossip. It’d be all over the school in no time.”

“Speaking of Eliza, that means Kriti too.”

“Kriti just got here about an hour ago.” Casey paused, nodding toward the room that Kriti and Eliza shared. The taxi dropped her and she went straight to her room. But something seems wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure. She just looks different. Kind of unhappy. I mean she didn’t even say hello or anything.”

“Maybe she was missing her family.”

“Maybe, but my guess is it’s something more.”

“We should probably try harder to reach out to her and make her feel at home.”

“You’re here!” Rhiannon burst out of the room and threw her arms around DJ. “Welcome home!”

“Man, it is so good to be back. Vegas—for more than a day or two—is a nightmare.”

“At least you got a tan,” observed Rhiannon. She glanced at Casey. “Both of you, in fact.”

“It’s that California sun.”

“Don’t make me envious,” said Rhiannon.

“Hey, look at you,” said DJ as she noticed that Rhiannon had on a very cool outfit. “Is that new?”

“Old and new. My great aunt gave me some of her old clothes and I’ve been altering them.” She held out her hands and turned around to make the long circular skirt spin out. “Fun, huh?”

“And cool,” said DJ.

“She’s got all kinds of stuff,” said Casey. “Hats and costume jewelry and scarves and things. I told her she should open a retro shop and get rich.”

“Maybe I will someday.”

“Or just sell things here in Carter House,” suggested DJ. “Between Eliza and Taylor’s clothing budget, you could clean up.”

“Oh, yeah, DJ, Conner just called,” said Rhiannon. “They just got back from their ski trip and he said he tried your cell a few times, but it seemed to be turned off.”

“More like dead. My flight was so early this morning, I forgot to charge it.”

“Well, I told him you’d call.”

Casey set DJ’s bag inside her door. “Speaking of boys, I think I’ll check and see how Garrison is doing—find out if he missed me or not.” She touched her hair. “Do you think he’ll like it?”

“How could he not,” said Rhiannon. “It’s so cool.”

“Later,” called Casey as she headed for her room.

“So, how’s Taylor?” asked Rhiannon quietly.

“You didn’t tell Kriti, did you?” whispered DJ, pulling Rhiannon into her room then closing the door.

“No, why would I?”

“I just wanted to be sure. I think we need to respect Taylor’s privacy with this.”

“Absolutely. So, have you talked to her?”

“They won’t let me. They have this no communication policy. No email, cell phones…nothing. It’s like a black hole. Weird.”

Rhiannon nodded. “Yeah, it was like that with my mom at first. I think they wanted to keep her cut off from any bad connections. Then after a while, you earn communication privileges.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. I was really worried.”

“I still can hardly believe Taylor went willingly.”

“Yeah, our strong-willed wild child…putting herself into rehab.” DJ shook her head.

“That remind me, Seth has called a few times too. He wanted to know why Taylor’s cell was off and where she was.”

“What’d you say?”

“That I didn’t know.” She shrugged. “Actually, that was the truth.”

“But nothing else?”

“Good. I mean it’s not like we need to keep it top secret, but until we hear from Taylor, let’s not talk about it.”

“Sure.” Rhiannon put a hand on DJ’s shoulder. “And don’t worry about her, DJ. She’ll be fine.”
“I know.” DJ nodded as she put her bags on her bed and started to unzip them. But as soon as Rhiannon left, DJ wasn’t so sure. What if Taylor wasn’t fine? What if something had gone wrong? And what if it was all DJ’s fault?

Waiting on Wednesday: I'll Probably Be Waiting Awhile

I subscribe to Publisher's Lunch and weekly they send out some of the deals of the week. I love reading these to find out what books will be coming out in a year or so. I read this synopsis and have to admit I really want to read this book!

Anjali Banerjee's novel of magical realism, HAUNTING JASMINE in which a recently divorced Indo-American woman travels to a Pacific Northwest island to run her eccentric great aunt's mysterious bookstore, where she discovers a latent ability to communicate with the spirits of dead authors that inhabit the shop; spirits that help her make the bookstore prosperous, mend family relationships, and learn the many turns love can take, to Wendy McCurdy at Berkley, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world English).

Does that sound good or what? What are you waiting or this Wednesday?


Review: The King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes

In a sentence from the publisher: First published in 1959 by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, King's Fool is a remarkable insider tale of the intrigue, ruthlessness, and majesty of the Tudor court.

King's Fool is the story of Will Somers who had the good fortune to be unable to contain his humor the first afternoon he met the King. The King, being King Henry the VIII was greatly amused and invited him to be his jester.

Being the king's jester gave Will the opportunity to make fun where others were forbidden to. But he also earned the ear of the king and used his unique friendship with him to spread kindness to many in the country earning him a good reputation. He served at the King's side through all of his wives and up until his death and this story is told through his some ways the eyes of someone observing not completely on the inside.

I liked this book because I really loved the character of Will. He loves his childhood love faithfully, he has strong character, and he often thinks of others. Having said that, there were times when the history seemed a bit dry and other times where I was glad to know the basic history as it wasn't really explained! This short book covers a lot of time and therefore never goes into any depth. Having said that, I did enjoy reading it.

If you enjoy books set in this time period you might enjoy this one. Published by Sourcebooks and available now.

Rating: 3.75/5


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book Giveaway for Read Alongs!!!

This week is going to be heavy on giveaways....I just realized I have a ton to give away!

But for this particular giveaway, I have two books and there is a condition, so long at that's legal.

The week of May 11, I will be participating in By the Chapter with Marcia of The Printed Page and we will be reading The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose. As it turns out, I have 4 copies of this book to give away! If you haven't yet read this book and would like to...well as long as you agree to read along with Marcia and myself and comment the week of May 11th, then just leave a comment! This giveaway is only open until Sunday so that I can mail the books to you on time. You can read about the book here. A pilot is currently being shot for this you know you want to get in on it early!!

I also have four copies of Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner to giveaway. I would also like the four winners of this book to agree to read along with me during a week in June. You can read about the book here. Am I selfish? Maybe but how much fun could it be to read these books and enjoy them together?

To enter, leave a comment and tell me which book you are interested in. Be sure to leave a valid email address. This is open worlwide...until Sunday. You an enter for both books as well.

I can't wait to share these books with you!


Review: Either You're In or You're in the Way by Logan and Noah Miller

Logan and Noah Miller have not had it easy. Their parents divorced and growing up they alternated their time between the Shed and the Shack and their two parents. The father started to suffer from alcoholism and while Noah and Logan loved him, they dreamed about making a hit movie to save them all.

After a series of employment fiascos, they start pursuing the film business but find it very difficult. Then their father passes away, and filled with regret for all they were unable to do for him, they vow to get their hit movie made and honor his memory.

Problem, though...they have no money. Like, NO MONEY. But they do have an excellent script!

Either You're In or You're in the Way is the story of how Logan and Noah make the movie they vowed to make. They face a tremendous amount of adversity but have several lucky or miraculous moments as well. It's the story of how an independent film gets made, it's a story of two brothers love for their father and for each other, and it's just plain fascinating.

I find that I especially seem to enjoy memoirs that focus on experiences as opposed to life memories. This fits right into that category perfectly. At first I thought the writing was going to be a bit choppy, but I soon got right into it and didn't want to put it down. It feels so much like a glimpse into a world that I have a lot of interest But it's a glimpse into that world from two very ordinary people.

I could feel their stress as they tried to get financing and get things done and their joy when things went well. And I was moved by the end and all that they accomplished in memory of their father. I'm dying to see the film they made as well.

I think this book is a good one for those with an interest in film, baseball, and life stories. It's the PERFECT book for our tough economic times..because this book IS the American dream.

Interestingly enough, the Miller brothers are on Twitter as well! You can learn more about their movie Touching Home, and also about their book and book tour.

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: There's some language.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Vlog: The L.A. Times Festival of Books

I will probably be the last person to write my wrap-up post for the Festival of Books! I promise to get to it just as soon as I can. But one fun part of the weekend was getting the chance to record some vlogs with Natasha and Trish. As it turns out, we can talk a lot. Bet you never guessed!

Anyway, we decided to do a short one on our experience at the Festival of Books. Please forgive my awkwardness in this blog, we were actually sitting really close together and since last time I did this I used my camera and not a webcam I was really rather self-conscious about seeing myself while I talked. So I kept trying to make sure my face wasn't getting cut in half. ;)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy! If you've already watched it at Natasha or Trish's site, well...thanks!


Book Giveaway and Blog Tour: Follow Me by Joanna Scott

About the Book: On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally's father--a man she has never known--enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history.

Giveaway: I'm giving way THREE sets of the book Follow Me along with Joanna Scott's story collection Everybody Loves Somebody. I'll be reviewing Everybody Loves Somebody as part of my attempt to expose myself to my short stories, and it would be fun to get the winner's perspective as well!

To be eligible, leave me a comment with a valid email address and tell me what author you would love to meet in person! You must have a Canadian or United States street address to win.

Thanks all! If you want to learn more about the book, check out Wendy's Review.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ten Things I Learned at the LA Times Festival of Books

  1. The UCLA campus is big and my sense of direction still stinks.
  2. Authors really are the best sort of celebrities.
  3. I continue to be fascinated by authors even if I have no interest in reading their books.
  4. S.E. Hinton's husband always thought she could write soft p0rn.
  5. There are still a lot of people who have no idea what a blog is.
  6. Buying books from independent bookstores is EXPENSIVE. And basically means buying fewer books.
  7. I really want to write a middle grade fiction if I could just get an idea.
  8. My French is very rusty...but Muriel Barbery is absolutely adorable and ever so charming.
  9. I'm a complete sap and get a little teary when I hear people talk about how much books mean to them.
  10. Book bloggers are authentic in their online personalities...and the ones I met this weekend I am glad to now call my real life friends.

I'll write more later about the festival, but I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. And sadly, they expect me at work tomorrow! Can you believe that? What did you do this weekend??

Friday, April 24, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Finding God in.....

Welcome to Faith 'n Fiction Saturday! If this is your first time participating, please read this post. It will tell you everything you need to know!

Please note: I am attending the Festival of Books in LA this weekend and will not be around to visit you until later this week!

Today's Question
Have you seen those books, Finding God in Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, or one that is on my shelf (oh yes it is) What Can be Found in LOST? These books often take popular stories that are not about God and find the spiritual elements in them.

Well sometimes this happens to me. I'll be watching a movie or reading a book and it has nothing to do with Jesus, but all of the sudden all I can see is Jesus.

Has this happened to you? Have you ever read a book that was NOT a Christian book but been able to see spiritual truth or analogies in it?

Tell us about a book or if you can't think of a book, a movie that has reminded you about God in some way that didn't intentionally set out to do so. Dig might be surprised!

I'll answer later when I'm not falling asleep as I type!! :)

Just pop your permalink below! And I've noticed participation has been down lately...feel free to spread the word about Faith 'n Fiction!

Book Giveaway: Gardening Eden by Mike Abbate

About the Book: Before the snake, the apple, and the Ten Commandments, God created a garden, placed humans in it, and told them to take care of it.

“Spiritual environmentalism” did not start out as an oxymoron—it was an invitation. Yet today, many believe God’s original job description for humankind has been replaced by other worthier pursuits. So when did this simple instruction become so controversial? How does one sort through all the mixed messages? Is making the world a healthier place for the next generation really a responsibility—or even possible?

Gardening Eden is a new understanding of how the spiritual dimensions of life can find expression and renewal through caring for our incredible planet. Empowering, simple, and never polemical, Michael AbbatĂ© outlines the Bible’s clear spiritual benefits of caring for creation, exploring new motivations and inspired ideas, and revealing the power of our basic connection to all people and living things through the growing interest in spiritual environmentalism.

Green living is no longer a fad—simple lifestyle solutions are now available to everyone. Gardening Eden shows readers how this shift transforms not only our world, but their very souls as they’re drawn into deeper harmony with the Creator. This book invites them to discover the powerful spiritual satisfaction of heeding the call to save our world.

Giveaway: Leave a comment and tell me a way you've changed to be more green in the past year and I'll enter your name into a drawing for a copy of this book. Be sure to leave a valid email address. Open worldwide.

CFBA: Elisha's Bones by Don Hoesel

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Elisha's Bones

(Bethany House March 1, 2009)


Don Hoesel


Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home. He is a Web site designer for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN. He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.

He lives in Spring Hill with his wife and two children.

Elisha's Bones is his first novel.


Every year, professor of antiquities Jack Hawthorne looks forward to the winter break as a time to hide away from his responsibilities. Even if just for a week or two. But this year, his plans are derailed when he's offered almost a blank check from a man chasing a rumor.

Billionaire Gordon Reese thinks he knows where the bones of the prophet Elisha are--bones that in the Old Testament brought the dead back to life. The bones of the prophet once raised the dead to life... but they vanished from history in a whisper.

Bankrolled by a dying man of unlimited means, Hawthorne's hunt spans the globe and leads him into a deadly conspiracy older than the church itself. A born skeptic, Jack doesn't think much of the assignment but he could use the money, so he takes the first step on a chase for the legendary bones that will take him to the very ends of the earth.

But he's not alone. Joined with a fiery colleague, Esperanza Habilla, they soon discover clues to a shadowy organization whose long-held secrets have been protected . . . at all costs. And he soon discovers those sworn to keep the secret of the bones will do anything to protect them. As their lives are threatened again and again, the real race is to uncover the truth before those chasing them hunt them down.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Elisha's Bones, go HERE

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Which American Idol Judge Are You? (Book Reviewing)

I really enjoy watching American Idol. Oh the drama! Oh the bad singing! Oh the snark! And oh the star moments.

American Idol has three true judges. (and this season a fourth sort of one)

There are three judges....but it seems that there's only one judges opinion who really matters.

Let's discuss.

Randy Jackson
Randy is a bit of an unpredictable judge. While never outright harsh, he's not afraid to say a performance didn't really do anything for him. He will let a singer know if their vocals are off. But he usually doesn't say anything that can be interpreted as hurtful.

Then we have, Paula Abdul...
Paula is by far the softest judge. She always finds something positive to say, though it may not always be coherent. "You look amazing," she'll say...and that's it. The singer may have forgotten the words. Maybe they went stunningly off key. But Paula can't crush them..."I'm so proud of all you've done." We think of Paula as the nice judge..supportive to the young singers.

But then we have Simon Cowell...
Simon often seems harsh, cruel, and unkind. "Sounded like karaoke" is one of his nicer assessments. "That was a complete mess," or "Are you drunk?" The audience boos. But you know what? Secretly, the majority of Americans agree with Simon's judgements.

And it's obvious when you watch the show, that there is one judge whose opinion matters. Simon. The contestants nod and smile through Randy's enthusiastic judge, and Paula's babbling. But they hold their breath and wait for the one they know matters. Why? Because Simon doesn't like everyone. When he says it's really believe that he thinks that it's good. about you?

There's been a lot of talk about the professionalism of blogger reviews. I have a lot of opinions on this subject that aren't popular.

But I think I'm a Paula/Randy mix. I do try to find balance in my reviews. I do look for the positive things I can say. (what a gorgeous cover) This is very consistent with my non-confrontational personality and my desire for harmony. It's my personality.

Do I have influence? I honestly don't know. I know people have said they added books to their wish list after reading my reviews, but I don't know if anyone thinks..."oh my gosh Amy loved that book, I will, too!" Or if authors think, "I got a positive review on My Friend Amy, that's a score!"

Why? Because I'm a Randy/Paula mix. What I'm trying to say is...that's my role and my personality. But I'd venture to say, for the love of books, for the passion of the written word and its survival, we NEED some Simon Cowells. We need a mix of voices and reviewers. And if publishers are smart, they will realize this.

We are on very shaky ground when we accept review copies and allow publishers to dictate any part of how that review will be written. Do they have to send us review copies? No, of course not! But if there are publishers who tell reviewers how reviews should be written in any way, I want to know who they are because I won't trust any reviews for their books. It's really that simple.

You may think I'm going off the deep end. I believe in book blogs, and I believe in book bloggers. I believe that we have a chance right now to be a voice of integrity in the book reviewing world. But if we say, "it's okay for a publisher to set guidelines on what can be said in a review (yes even in exchange for a review copy)" than we are selling a little part of our souls and trading in a bit of our integrity.

We need Randys, Paulas, Simons, and yeah, okay, even Karas. If books are to have a chance and book blogs are to have any influence, I really think we need to stand together on this. If this becomes something publishers can't live with, fine. But right now we are navigating these waters and learning how to do all of this and we could be wiped out the second it becomes obvious our reviews are anything less than our own reviews.

"What about the rude reviews?" Well obviously, a publisher can check out a blog and see if the tone of the blogger is agreeable to them. But more than the publishers, let's trust our readers. Readers will be drawn to the reviews that work for them. Book blog readers are highly intelligent and can think for themselves. Trustworthy reviewers will get more traffic. They will help drive sales. And publishers will risk their snarky reviews for the possibility of a positive one. It's how book reviewing has always worked.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. If you are a reader with no blog, I am very interested in how you feel about bloggers altering even just their tone for publishers. If you are a book reviewer yourself, I am interested in which judge you think you are!


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twitter: Friend or Foe?

It's 12:28 a.m. and the huge list of things I wanted to get accomplished tonight didn't get accomplished. I was working through a section of my google reader (my new strategy!) and came across a post I found to be very interesting.

So....I threw the link up on Twitter to see if anyone cared to chat about it. Oh did they ever! A long chat ensued. While I enjoyed the chat, my to-do list gathered dust. I mean, I was still able to get a little done as I chatted, but it was quite the discussion!

This is the only downside to Twitter. For the most part, I'm a huge fan of Twitter. I feel like I've gotten to know other bloggers, authors, and bookish people so much better since being on Twitter. If I have a question, I almost always have an instant answer.

The downside is just how much time I can lose having fun!!

But the discussion was an important one. It's the kind of discussion book bloggers and book reviewers need to be having. You can get the gist of the conversation by following the link at the beginning of the post.

Anyway, all of this reminded me of a video I've been wanting to share:

I hate this video. First of all, why does the guy that uses Twitter look like the dork and the guy that thinks Twitter is dumb look like the cool guy? (when are they going to get that Geeks rule the world??????)

Secondly, I use Twitter for conversation (over 80% of my tweets are @replies) and have never said anything to the effect of "cool tweet!"

Lastly, I use Twitter to talk to my friends...but I also use other means to talk to friends.

Right now Twitter is getting so popular I wonder how long it can last. I used to love facebook, too, and then they got power hungry. I fear Twitter shall charge down that path. But for the moment, I mostly love it even if I didn't get a darned thing done tonight.

(okay fine. I did laugh at the fail whale part)

Do you use Twitter? (if so, follow me)! What do you use Twitter for? If you don't use Twitter, do you honestly think we only talk about what we had for breakfast?


FIRST: The Blood of Lambs by Kamal Saleem

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Blood of Lambs

Howard Books (April 7, 2009)


Kamal Saleem was born under another name into a large Sunni Muslim family in Lebanon. At age seven, he was recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood and immediately entered a Palestinian Liberation Organization terror training camp in Lebanon. After being involved in terror campaigns in Israel, Europe, Afghanistan, and Africa, and finally making radical Islam converts in the United States, Saleem renounced jihad and became an American citizen. He has appeared on CNN, CBS News, and Fox News programs, and has spoken on terrorism and radical Islam at Stanford University, the University of California, the Air Force Academy, and other institutions nationwide.

Collaborator Writer, Lynn Vincent: Lynn Vincent, a U.S. Navy veteran, is features editor at WORLD Magazine, a national news biweekly. She is the author or co-author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller, Same of Kind of Different as Me.

This true story of an ex-terrorist reveals the life and mindset of radical Muslims. Now a US citizen, Kamal heralds a wake-up call to America.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $23.99
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (April 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416577807
ISBN-13: 978-1416577805


Beirut, Lebanon


It was at my mother's kitchen table, surrounded by the smells of herbed olive oils and pomegranates, that I first learned of jihad. Every day, my brothers and I gathered around the low table for madrassa, our lessons in Islam. I always tried to sit facing east, toward the window above the long marble sink where a huge tree with sweet white berries brushed against the window panes. Made of a warm, reddish wood, our table sat in the middle of the kitchen and was surrounded by tesats, small rugs that kept us off the cool tile. Mother sat at the head of the table and read to us from the Koran and also from the hadith, which records the wisdom and instruction of Allah's prophet, Muhammad.

Mother's Koran had a hard black cover etched ornately in gold and scarlet. Her grandfather had given the Book to her father, who had given it her. Even as a small boy I knew my mother and father were devout Sunni Muslims. So devout, in fact, that other Sunnis held themselves a little straighter in our family's presence. My mother never went out without her hijab, only her coffee-colored eyes peering above the cloth that shielded her face, which no man outside our family had ever seen. My father, respected in our mosque, earned an honest living as a blacksmith. He had learned the trade from my grandfather, a slim Turk who wore a red fez, walked with a limp, and cherished thick, cinnamon-laced coffee.

Each day at madrassa, Mother pulled her treasured Koran from a soft bag made of ivory cloth and when she opened it, the breath of its frail, aging pages floated down the table. Mother would read to us about the glory of Islam, about the good Muslims, and about what the Jews did to us. As a four-year-old boy, my favorite parts were the stories of war.

I vividly remember the day in madrassa when we heard the story of a merciless bandit who went about robbing caravans and killing innocent travelers. "This bandit was an evil, evil man," Mother said, spinning the tale as she sketched pictures of swords for us to color.

An evil bandit? She had my attention.

"One day, there was a great battle between the Jews and the sons of Islam," she went on. "The bandit decided to join the fight for the cause of Allah. He charged in on a great, black horse, sweeping his heavy sword left and right, cutting down the infidel warriors."

My eyes grew wider. I held my breath so as not to miss a word.

"The bandit fought bravely for Allah, killing several of the enemy until the sword of an infidel pierced the bandit's heart. He tumbled from his horse and died on the battlefield."

Disappointment deflated my chest. What good is a story like that?

I could hear children outside, shouting and playing. A breeze from the Mediterranean shimmered in the berry tree. Mother's yaknah simmered on the stove — green beans snapped fresh, cooked with olive oil, tomato, onion, and garlic. She would serve it cool that evening with pita bread, fresh mint, and cucumbers. My stomach rumbled.

"After the bandit died," Mother was saying in her storytelling voice, "his mother had a dream. In this dream, she saw her son sitting on the shore of an endless crystal river, surrounded by a multitude of women who were feeding him and tending to him."

I turned back toward Mother. Maybe this story was not so bad after all.

"The bandit's mother was an observant woman, obedient to her husband and to Allah and Muhammad," my mother said. "This woman knew her son was a robber and a murderer. 'How dare you be sitting here in paradise?' she scolded him. 'You don't belong here. You belong in hell!' But her son answered, 'I died for the glory of Allah and when I woke up, He welcomed me into jannah.' "


My mother swept her eyes around the kitchen table. "So you see, my sons, even the most sinful man is able to redeem himself with one drop of an infidel's blood."

The Blood of Lambs © 2009 Arise Enterprises, LLC

Tube Talk Tuesday (a day late): Supernatural Season 1 Episodes 8, 9

Welcome to our weekly discussion of Supernatural Season 1! Today we are discussing episodes 8 and 9. Even if you don't watch the show, we do add some personal anecdotes how I now love both brothers equally. :) Read our discussion of episodes 6 & 7 at Elizabeth's blog. (Elizabeth is in italics, and I'm in regular font.)

Episode 8: Bugs Synopsis: After a construction worker is killed by insects burrowing into his brain, Sam and Dean investigate a town's history and find that the new housing development is being built on sacred American Indian land.

Am I the only one who found it weird that Sam was driving the car??

Oops, guess I missed that!!

I'm always more interested in the family backstory than the monster-of-the-week. (Although, I have to say that, since I HATE bugs, this episode totally creeped me out.) I loved the conversation between Sam and Dean at the open house, where Sam reveals that their dad was always hard on him. Why do you think Sam is trying so hard to find his dad if he believes his Dad won't want to see him?

Well it is his dad. But more than that, I think that by finding his dad, he hopes to find who killed Jess. I thought these scenes also were the most interesting of the show although like you the bugs totally and completely creeped me out!!

Didn't it seem like the night in the house was the shortest night EVER?

YES. I was like...what? It's already over? But in the end...good for them. I was thinking..gosh, I do have a spider infestation problem...I hope they don't eat me.

It seemed like the boys didn't have too much to do in this episode - I mean, they were basically told what the problem was, without having to do much investigation, and then when they bugs came they couldn't really do anything to stop them. Do you think the show is running out of ghosties?

Well it's been on for a few years, so no. :) I think there are just some stronger story ideas than others.

Episode 9: Home
Sam is haunted by a vision of a woman trapped in the brothers' childhood house and convinces a reluctant Dean that they need to go home. Upon arrival, they meet the woman in Sam's premonition, and she reveals that the house is haunted.

I think this is the episode we've been waiting for...getting back a bit to the mythology of the show.

I know - I loved it! Definitely my favorite so far.

What did you think about Sam's dream? What do you think about his developing gift? Do you think he's being given the gift because he's less willing to do the hunting on his own?

He really does have some sort of pre-cog/psychic ability starting up. What I'm wondering about is when he got it - if it's just now developing, or if he somehow got it way back when he was a baby and the stuff happened to his mom - remember, the demon thing was standing in front of his crib for a while - and it's just now manifesting itself. It also makes me wonder if maybe Sam has been the focus of the evil surrounding the family all along.

Man I didn't even think about that!

This was a classic haunted house type of episode in many ways. What was the scariest part to you?

The creature in the closet! That poor little girl! Also, the little boy getting locked in the refrigerator was pretty tense.

How in the world did that little girl go to sleep in that room?????

I don't know, but I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to check a closet without thinking of this episode!

I suspected that Sam and Dean's mother was in the house as soon as the psychic said there was more than one spirit. Did you?

No, I actually didn't suspect their mom - I was afraid their dad was dead, and HE was in the house. I went in the completely wrong direction!

How can a dead spirit die again? (just wondering)

I didn't really understand that, either.

Why do you think that their father doesn't want them to know where he is?

I think something really bad is going on, and for some reason he believes he is protecting them by staying away. I feel like he thinks he has to figure it out before he can go back to them. (Also, I think he's probably wrong about that, but we'll see....)

And last random come they left a box of photos in the house?????

Right - I was confused about that too! Didn't the whole house burn down, and then it was rebuilt? How would a random box of photos survive the blazing fire??

I also wondered what their mom was sorry about - obviously, she could be sorry that she left them as little boys, but I wonder if it's something bigger that we don't know yet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blog Tour: The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day and I'm pleased to be a part of this blog tour for The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister. Please enjoy the interview below about this incredible story. And join with me in remembering the fight against injustice never ends.
The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin


Nonna Bannister appeared to be a typical American housewife. She married Henry, the love of her life, in 1951 and together they raised three children in Memphis, Tennessee. But Nonna was far from average. For half a century, she kept her story secret while living a normal life. She locked all of her photos, documents, diaries, and dark memories from World War II in a trunk in her attic.

Tyndale House Publishers announces the publication of The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister written by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (April 2009, Tyndale House), the haunting eyewitness account of Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister, a remarkable Russian girl who saw and survived unspeakable evils during World War II.

Questions & Answers

The Secret Holocaust Diaries is written by Nonna although she passed away in 2004. Did she write the book before she died?

Yes, she slipped up into the attic each night, translated her diaries (from several different languages), and recorded them in English onto yellow legal pads. Much later, after she told her husband, Henry, about her incredible past, she showed him the stacks of yellow legal pads on which she had translated her diaries and recorded her thoughts about her past, and he typed them up into a manuscript.

Would Nonna have liked to see her book published before she died?

Nonna translated her diary into English and her husband, Henry, typed the manuscript. However, she requested the diary not be published until at least 2 or 3 years after she died. Henry honored this request. (She died in 2004.) The story was very painful and reminded her of the suffering her family endured. When she came to America in 1950 she was overwhelmed by her new life. She was determined to make a new life for herself and to give her husband and children a happy home.

Nonna came from a privileged family. Are there any interesting stories of people her ancestors knew?

Nonna's family "ran with" the upper crust in the Ukraine and Russia. Her mother and father were educated in Russia's great cultural city, St. Petersburg. Nonna's grandmother and grandfather knew the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and Nonna kept a postcard sent by him (shortly before his death) to her grandfather, Jakob, for his birthday (dated 1913?). Jakob was killed during the Revolution while trying to help Russian families escape.

Nonna writes in her diary of living on the ”Chekov Lane” in Taganrog, the street where Russian writer Anton Chekov (1860–1904) had once lived.
The family also visited often the boy Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (nicknamed "Sasha") and his mother, Taissia. She and Nonna’s mother, Anna, were good friends. They enjoyed giving concerts and playing the violin and piano. Nonna writes of eating ice cream with her mother and Taissia, and spending the night in the Solzhenitsyn home during a thunderstorm. Alexander was older that Nonna, studying at the university.

Many people assume most of the people killed by the Nazis were Jewish. Was Nonna’s family Jewish?

Although it is estimated that approximately 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, other nationalities experienced suffering and death, also. Nonna's family was Russian and owned seven grain mills and homes in southern Russia and the Ukraine. Her father, Yevgeny, and his family were from Warsaw, Poland, which included a large population of Jews. Due to border restrictions, Nonna never met her father's family. Yevgeny never told Nonna and her brother, Anatoly, if his family was Jewish. If the children didn't know, they could not let it slip. The admission of being Jewish could have meant deportation or certain death. There is speculation, but no one is certain.

Nonna saved many documents from her time at Nazi camps; what are these artifacts?

In a small ticking pillow she kept tied around her waist, she kept many one inch square photos of her family and friends in the Ukraine. She also kept her small childhood diary. On tiny slips of paper, she wrote her experiences (in diary form) and also kept these in the little pillow.
Later she kept all these in a small trunk, which she painted bright green.

When Nonna finally revealed her secret, was her family shocked?

Henry knew there was something about her past that she didn’t want to talk about. Being a patient man, he never pressed her to speak about this secret. As they grew older, he asked her to write down some things about her family—so their children would know their heritage. After months of secretly translating her diary (written in several different languages) she took him to the attic, open the little green trunk and showed him her family’s photos and the yellow legal pages of the translated diary. Henry was astonished at what he saw.

Why did Nonna keep her devastating secret for so many years?

Nonna kept her secret past from her family/friends because she had, at last, found such happiness with her husband, Henry, and her three children. She didn't want to express her past pain--she didn’t want it to interrupt the family's happiness and cast a shadow of despair over them.

The diaries themselves were written in several languages and some were on scraps of paper. How did she go about transcribing them?

Nonna learned English after she came to America in 1950. This became her primary language. She realized they should be transcribed in English so Henry could type the pages. He spent several years typing these notes after work and on weekends.
The miniature black/white photos, the diaries, the notes from the prison camp, her mother’s letters from the concentration camps, and other documents were organized and put into chapters for a book—one she hoped would be published after her death.

What can people of Christian faith or Jewish faith/descent take from The Secret Holocaust Diaries?

That grave injustice exists--Nonna learned that from the Red Army (who killed many of her family members) and Hitler's army (who also killed many of her family members and imprisoned her in a labor camp). But that God's love and forgiveness for those who hurt us are stronger than even Hitler's evil and injustice. Nonna came out of the whole experience with her heart still filled with love. She experienced none of the bitterness and hatred that some Jewish Holocaust survivors have held onto. She was able to marry, raise children, and bring them much joy and happiness through her own love and through introducing them to God's love.

Why did Nonna feel it was so important to share her story?

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister is a true story of a young Russian girl whose family was caught up in the Russian Revolution and in World War II. In spite of the injustice inflicted on her family and millions of others, it is a story of love and forgiveness. Nonna wanted others to know the horrors that occurred during the Hitler and Stalin era so that it might never happen again.
Nonna felt compelled to tell her story because she was an eyewitness to many dramatic events, and she was the only survivor of her entire family.

Late in life, Nonna unlocked her trunk filled with memories from World War II first for her husband, and now for the rest of the world. Nonna’s story is one of suffering, torture, and death—but also of incredible acts of kindness that show the ultimate triumph of faith and love over despair and evil. The Secret Holocaust Diaries is in part a tragedy, yet ultimately it’s an unforgettable true story about forgiveness, courage, and hope.

Review: So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones

Bella's father cheated on her mother and a year later, Bella's mother is marrying Jake, a man she met off the internet and moving Bella from her socialite life in New York City to a farm in Oklahoma. Bella is horrified.

Leaving behind all her friends and her lifestyle, she is now adjusting to life in a small town...and not doing such a great job at it. Bella's sarcastic and cruel comments about the kids in her town are posted on the blog for her old school..and soon everyone has read it! Bella has her work cut out for her in both adjusting to her new family as well as trying to win some friends in her new town.

I've read Jenny B. Jones blog for awhile and appreciate her sense of humor. I also really enjoyed this book! It's chick lit style and Bella certainly finds herself in all manner of interesting situations. Bella is likeable if a bit of a snob at first, she is also very sassy and definitely comes around. I have to admit I didn't really blame her for her attitude. Her mother had been largely absent from her life and then expected her to give up a whole lot! Better communication wouldn't have hurt!

So Not Happening is really clean, and even though Bella is 16 I think it might appeal more to girls younger than that. (although I loved it, so what am I talking about? I guess what I mean is that lots of hot teen topics are absent) Also, it's Christian fiction...Bella believes in God, but it's not ever preachy, its just a natural part of her life and she prays to God to sort of whine to Him, lol!

There's also a bit of a mystery thrown in which is always enjoyable. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and can't wait for the next installment in Bella's adventures! Also, go visit Jenny B. Jones blog for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction

One year ago my mom got traded in for a newer model.

And that’s when my life fell apart.

“Do you, Jillian Leigh Kirkwood . . .”

Standing by my mother’s side as she marries the man who is so not my dad, I suppress a sigh and try to wiggle my toes in these hideous shoes. The hideous shoes that match my hideous maid-of honor dress. I like to look at things on the bright side, but the only

positive thing about this frock is that I’ll never have to wear it again.

“. . . take Jacob Ralph Finley . . .”

Ralph? My new stepdad’s middle name is Ralph? Okay, do we need one more red flag here? My mom is marrying this guy, and I didn’t even know his middle name. Did she? I check her face for signs of revulsion, signs of doubt. Signs of “Hey, what am I thinking? I don’t want Jacob Ralph Finley to be my daughter’s new stepdad.”

I see none of these things twinkling in my mom’s crystal blue eyes. Only joy. Disgusting, unstoppable joy.

“Does anyone have an objection?” The pastor smiles and scans the small crowd in the Tulsa Fellowship Church. “Let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

Oh my gosh. I totally object! I look to my right and lock eyes with Logan, the older of my two soon-to-be stepbrothers. In the six hours that I have been in Oklahoma preparing for this “blessed” event, Logan and I have not said five words to one another. Like we’ve mutually agreed to be enemies.

I stare him down.

His eyes laser into mine.

Do we dare?

He gives a slight nod, and my heart triples in beat.

“Then by the powers vested in me before God and the family and friends of—”


The church gasps.

I throw my hands over my mouth, wishing the floor would swallow me.

I, Bella Kirkwood, just stopped my own mother’s wedding.

And I have no idea where to go from here. It’s not like I do this every day, okay? Can’t say I’ve stopped a lot of weddings in my sixteen years.

My mom swivels around, her big white dress making crunchy noises. She takes a step closer to me, still flashing her pearly veneers at the small crowd.

“What,” she hisses near my ear, “are you doing?”

I glance at Logan, whose red locks hang like a shade over his eyes. He nods again.

“Um . . . um . . . Mom, I haven’t had a chance to talk to you at all this week . . .” My voice is a tiny whisper. Sweat beads on my forehead.

“Honey, now is not exactly the best time to share our feelings and catch up.”

My eyes dart across the sanctuary, where one hundred and fifty people are perched on the edge of their seats. And it’s not because they’re anxious for the chicken platters coming their way after the ceremony.

“Mom, the dude’s middle name is Ralph.”

She leans in, and we’re nose to nose. “You just stopped my wedding and that’s what you wanted to tell me?”

Faint—that’s what I’ll do next time I need to halt a wedding.

“How well do you know Jake? You only met six months ago.”

Some of the heat leaves her expression. “I’ve known him long enough to know that I love him, Bella. I knew it immediately.”

“But what if you’re wrong?” I rush on, “I mean, I’ve only been around him a few times, and I’m not so sure. He could be a serial killer for all we know.” I can count on one hand the times I’ve been around Jake. My mom usually visited him when I was at my dad’s.

Her voice is low and hurried. “I understand this isn’t easy for you. But our lives have changed. It’s going to be an adventure, Bel.”

Adventure? You call meeting a man on the Internet and forcing me to move across the country to live with his family an adventure? An adventure is swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean. An adventure is touring the pyramids in Egypt. Or shopping at the Saks after-Thanksgiving sale with Dad’s credit card. This, I do believe, qualifies as a nightmare!

“You know I’ve prayed about this. Jake and I both have. We know this is God’s will for us. I need you to trust me, because I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”

A single tear glides down Mom’s cheek, and I feel my heart constrict. This time last year my life was so normal. So happy. Can I just hit the reverse button and go back?

Slowly I nod. “Okay, Mom.” It’s kind of hard to argue with “God says this is right.” (Though I happen to think He’s wrong.)

The preacher clears his throat and lifts a bushy black brow.

“You can continue,” I say, knowing I’ve lost the battle. “She had something in her teeth.” Yes, that’s the best I've got.

I. Am. An. Idiot.

“And now, by the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Finley. You may kiss your bride.”

Nope. Can’t watch.

I turn my head as the “Wedding March” starts. Logan walks to my side, and I link my arm in his. Though we’re both going to be juniors, he’s a head taller than me. It’s like we’re steptwins. He grabs his six-year-old brother, Robbie, with his other hand, and off we go

in time to the music. Robbie throws rose petals all around us, giggling with glee, oblivious to the fact that we just witnessed a ceremony marking the end of life as we know it.

“Good job stopping the wedding.” Logan smirks. “Very successful.”

I jab my elbow into his side. “At least I tried! You did nothing!”

“I just wanted to see if you had it in you. And you don’t.”

I snarl in his direction as the camera flashes, capturing this day for all eternity.

Last week I was living in Manhattan in a two-story apartment between Sarah Jessica Parker and Katie Couric. I could hop a train to Macy’s and Bloomie’s. My friends and I could eat dinner at Tao and see who could count the most celebs. I had Broadway in my backyard

and Daddy’s MasterCard in my wallet.

Then my mom got married.

And I got a new life.

I should’ve paid that six-year-old to pull the fire alarm.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker

Ryan Evans is an intelligence officer serving in Iraq when his convoy comes under attack. The torture Ryan endures changes his life forever. Determined to make right all that has gone wrong in his life, he heads stateside.

Meanwhile, one of the most horrific serial killers ever is set free. He's called BoneMan because he breaks the bones of his victims without breaking their skin. But did the police have the right man in custody? Who is the BoneMan? And can they stop him before he kills again?

This book marks Ted Dekker's first book for the general market. He's been enormously successful in the Christian market, and his books are usually quite fast paced page turners. I usually enjoy them quite a lot. I sort of enjoyed BoneMan's Daughters as well, but it's a pretty gruesome read. I can't say that it's my favorite of his books. I do enjoy suspense books centered around serial killers, but I got really queasy reading this one! It's a very dark read, but it does end with hope.

It also raises some interesting questions and is not without hope. Christian readers should be aware that their is a wee tiny bit of language they might find offensive. (I did not).

Rating: 4/5
Things You Might Want to Know: A bit gruesome!

FIRST: The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Unquiet Bones

Monarch Books (November 4, 2008)


Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.

Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Kennesaw, GA, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.

***No author photo available. The church pictured is The Church of St. Beornwald (part of the setting for The Unquiet Bones). Today it is basically unchanged from its medieval appearance. Except for the name: in the 16th century it was renamed and since then has been called The Church of St. Mary the Virgin.***

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (November 4, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825462908
ISBN-13: 978-0825462900


Uctred thought he had discovered pig bones. He did not know or care why they were in the

cesspit at the base of Bampton Castle wall.

Then he found the skull. Uctred is a villein, bound to the land of Lord Gilbert, third Baron Talbot, lord of Bampton Castle, and had slaughtered many pigs. He knew the difference between human and pig skulls.

Lord Gilbert called for me to inspect the bones. All knew whose bones they must be. Only two men had recently gone missing in Bampton. These must be the bones of one of them.

Sir Robert Mallory had been the intended suitor of Lord Gilbert's beautious sister, Lady Joan. Shortly after Easter he and his squire called at the castle, having, it was said, business with Lord Gilbert. What business this was I know not, but suspect a dowry was part of the conversation. Two days later he and his squire rode out the castle gate to the road north toward Burford. The porter saw him go. No one saw him or his squire after. He never arrived at his father’s manor at Northleech. How he arrived, dead, unseen, back within--or nearly within--the walls of Bampton Castle no one could say. Foul play seemed likely.

I was called to the castle because of my profession; surgeon. Had I known when I chose such work that cleaning filth from bones might be part of my duties I might have continued the original calling chosen for me: clerk.

I am Hugh of Singleton, fourth and last son of a minor knight from the county of Lancashire. The manor of Little Singleton is aptly named; it is small. My father held the manor in fief from Robert de Sandford. It was a pleasant place to grow up. Flat as a table, with a wandering,

sluggish tidal stream, the Wyre, pushing through it on its journey from the hills, just visible ten miles to the east, to the sea, an equal distance to the northwest.

As youngest son, the holding would play no part in my future. My oldest brother, Roger, would receive the manor, such as it was. I remember when I was but a tiny lad overhearing him discuss with my father a choice of brides who might bring with them a dowry which would enlarge his lands. In this they were moderately successful. Maud’s dowry doubled my brother’s holdings. After three children Roger doubled the size of his bed, as well. Maud was never a frail girl. Each heir she produced added to her bulk. This seemed not to trouble Roger. Heirs are important.

Our village priest, Father Aymer, taught the manor school. When I was nine years old, the year the great death first appeared, he spoke to my father and my future was decided.

I showed a scholar’s aptitude, so it would be the university for me. At age fourteen I was sent off to Oxford to become a clerk, and, who knows, perhaps eventually a lawyer or a priest. This was poor timing, for in my second year at the university a fellow student became enraged at the watered beer he was served in a High Street tavern and with some cohorts destroyed the place. The proprietor sought assistance, and the melee became a wild brawl known ever after as the St. Scholastica Day Riot. Near a hundred scholars and townsmen died before the sheriff restored the peace. When I dared emerge from my lodgings I fled to Lancashire and did not return until Michealmas term.

I might instead have inherited Little Singleton had the Black Death been any worse.

Roger and one of his sons perished in 1349, but two days apart, in the week before St. Peter’s Day. Then, at the Feast of St. Mary my third brother died within a day of falling ill. Father Aymer said an imbalance of the four humors; air, earth, fire, and water, caused the sickness. Most priests, and indeed the laymen as well, thought this imbalance due to God’s wrath. Certainly men gave Him reason enough to be angry.

Most physicians ascribed the imbalance to the air. Father Aymer recommended burning wet wood to make smoky fires, ringing the church bell at regular intervals, and the wearing of a bag of spices around the neck to perfume the air. I was but a child, however it seemed to me even then that these precautions were not successful. Father Aymer, who did not shirk his duties as did some scoundrel priests, died a week after administering extreme unction to my brother Henry. I watched from the door, a respectful distance from my brother’s bed. I can see in my memory Father Aymer bending over my wheezing, dying brother, his spice bag swinging out from his body as he chanted the phrases of the sacrament.

So my nephew and his mother inherited little Singleton and I made my way to Oxford. I found the course of study mildly interesting. Father Aymer had taught me Latin and some Greek, so it was no struggle to advance my skills in these languages.

I completed the trivium and quadrivium in the allotted six years, but chose not to take holy orders after the award of my bachelor’s degree. I had no desire to remain a bachelor, although I had no particular lady in mind with whom I might terminate my solitary condition.

I desired to continue my studies. Perhaps, I thought, I shall study law, move to

London, and advise kings. The number of kingly advisors who ended their lives in prison or at the block should have dissuaded me of this conceit. But the young are seldom deterred from following foolish ideas.

You see how little I esteemed life as a vicar in some lonely village, or even the life of a rector with livings to support me. This is not because I did not wish to serve God. My desire in that regard, I think, was greater than many who took a vocation; serving the church while they served themselves.

In 1361, while I completed a Master of Arts degree, plague struck again. Oxford, as before, was hard hit. The colleges were much reduced. I lost many friends, but once again God chose to spare me. I have prayed many times since that I might live so as to make Him pleased that He did so.

I lived in a room on St. Michael’s Street, with three other students. One fled the town at the first hint the disease had returned. Two others perished. I could do nothing to help them, but tried to make them comfortable. No; when a man is covered from neck to groin in bursting pustules he cannot be made comfortable. I brought water to them, and put cool cloths on their fevered foreheads, and waited with them for death.

William of Garstang had been a friend since he enrolled in Balliol College five years earlier. We came from villages but ten miles apart -- although his was much larger; it held a weekly market -- but we did not meet until we became students together. An hour before he died William beckoned me to approach his bed. I dared not remain close, but heard his rasping whisper as he willed to me his possessions. Among his meager goods were three books.

God works in mysterious ways. Between terms, in August of 1361, He chose to do three things which would forever alter my life. First, I read one of William’s books: SURGERY, by Henry de Mondeville, and learned of the amazing intricacies of the human body. I read all day, and late into the night, until my supply of candles was gone. When I finished, I read the book again, and bought more candles.

Secondly, I fell in love. I did not know her name, or her home. But one glance told me she was a lady of rank and beyond my station. The heart, however, does not deal in social convention.

I had laid down de Mondeville’s book long enough to seek a meal. I saw her as I left the inn. She rode a gray palfrey with easy grace. A man I assumed to be her husband escorted her. Another woman, also quite handsome, rode with them, but I noticed little about her. A half-dozen grooms rode behind this trio: their tunics of blue and black might have identified the lady’s family, but I paid little attention to them, either.

Had I rank enough to someday receive a bishopric I might choose a mistress and disregard vows of chastity. Many who choose a vocation do. Secular priests in lower orders must be more circumspect, but even many of these keep women. This is not usually held against them, so long as they are loyal to the woman who lives with them and bears their children. But I found the thought of violating a vow as repugnant as a solitary life, wedded only to the church. And the Church is already the bride of Christ and needs no other spouse.

She wore a deep red cotehardie -- the vision on the gray mare. Because it was warm she needed no cloak or mantle. She wore a simple white hood, turned back, so that

chestnut-colored hair visibly framed a flawless face. Beautiful women had smitten me before. It was a regular occurrence. But not like this. Of course, that’s what I said the last time, also.

I followed the trio and their grooms at a discreet distance, hoping they might halt before some house. I was disappointed. The party rode on to Oxpens Road, crossed the Castle Mill Stream, and disappeared to the west as I stood watching, quite lost, from the bridge. Why should I have been lovelorn over a lady who seemed to be another man’s wife? Who can know? I cannot. It seems foolish when I look back to the day. It did not seem so at the time.

I put the lady out of my mind. No; I lie. A beautiful woman is as impossible to put out of mind as a corn on one’s toe. And just as disquieting. I did try, however.

I returned to de Mondeville’s book and completed a third journey through its pages. I was confused, but t’was not de Mondeville’s writing which caused my perplexity. The profession I thought lay before me no longer appealed. Providing advice to princes seemed unattractive. Healing men’s broken and damaged bodies now occupied near all my waking thoughts.

I feared a leap into the unknown. Oxford was full to bursting with scholars and lawyers and clerks. No surprises awaited one who chose to join them. And the town was home also to many physicians, who thought themselves far above the barbers who usually performed the stitching of wounds and phlebotomies when such services were needed. Even a physician’s work, with salves and potions, was familiar. But the pages of de Mondeville’s book told me how little I knew of surgery, and how much I must learn should I chose such a vocation. I needed advice.

There is, I think, no wiser man in Oxford than Master John Wyclif. There are men who hold different opinions, of course. Often these are scholars Master John has bested in disputation. Tact is not one among his many virtues, but care for his students is. I sought him out for advice and found him in his chamber at Balliol College, bent over a book. I was loath to disturb him, but he received me warmly when he saw t’was me who rapped upon his door.

“Hugh . . . come in. You look well. Come and sit.”

He motioned to a bench, and resumed his own seat as I perched on the offered bench. The scholar peered silently at me, awaiting announcement of the reason for my visit.

“I seek advice,” I began. “I had it in mind to study law, as many here do, but a new career entices me.”

“Law is safe . . . for most,” Wyclif remarked. “What is this new path which interests you?”

“Surgery. I have a book which tells of old and new knowledge in the treatment of injuries and disease.”

“And from this book alone you would venture on a new vocation?”

“You think it unwise?”

“Not at all. So long as men do injury to themselves or others, surgeons will be needed.”

“Then I should always be employed.”

“Aye,” Wyclif grimaced. “But why seek my counsel? I know little of such matters.”

“I do not seek you for your surgical knowledge, but for aid in thinking through my decision.”

“Have you sought the advice of any other?”


“Then there is your first mistake.”

“Who else must I seek? Do you know of a man who can advise about a life as a surgeon?”

“Indeed. He can advise on any career. I consulted Him when I decided to seek a degree in theology.”

I fell silent, for I knew of no man so capable as Master John asserted, able to advise in both theology and surgery. Perhaps the fellow did not live in Oxford. Wyclif saw my consternation.

“Do you seek God’s will and direction?”

“Ah . . . I understand. Have I prayed about this matter, you ask? Aye, I have, but God is silent.”

“So you seek me as second best.”

“But . . . t’was you just said our Lord could advise on any career.”

“I jest. Of course I, like any man, am second to our Lord Christ . . . or perhaps third, or fourth.”

“So you will not guide my decision?”

“Did I say that? Why do you wish to become a surgeon? Do you enjoy blood and wounds and hurts?”

“No. I worry that I may not have the stomach for it.”

“Then why?”

“I find the study of man and his hurts and their cures fascinating. And I . . . I wish to help others.”

“You could do so as a priest.”

“Aye. But I lack the boldness to deal with another man’s eternal soul.”

“You would risk a man’s body, but not his soul?”

“The body cannot last long, regardless of what a surgeon or physician may do, but a man’s soul may rise to heaven or be doomed to hell . . . forever.”

“And a priest may influence the direction, for good or ill,” Wyclif completed my thought.

“Just so. The responsibility is too great for me.”

“Would that all priests thought as you,” Wyclif muttered. “But lopping off an arm destroyed in battle would not trouble you?”

“T’is but flesh, not an everlasting soul.”

“You speak true, Hugh. And there is much merit in helping ease men’s lives. Our Lord Christ worked many miracles, did he not, to grant men relief from their afflictions. Should you do the same you would be following in his path.”

“I had not considered that,” I admitted.

“Then consider it now. And should you become a surgeon keep our Lord as your model and your work will prosper.”

And so God’s third wonder; a profession. I would go to Paris to study. My income from the manor at Little Singleton was L6, 15 shillings each year, to be awarded so long as I was a student, and to terminate after eight years.

My purse would permit one year in Paris. I know what you are thinking. But I did not spend my resources on riotous living. Paris is an expensive city. I learned much there. I watched, and then participated in dissections. I learned phlebotomy, suturing, cautery, the removal of arrows, the setting of broken bones, and the treatment of scrofulous sores. I learned how to extract a tooth and remove a tumor. I learned trepanning to relieve a headache, and how to lance a fistula. I learned which herbs might staunch bleeding, or dull pain, or cleanse a wound. I spent both time and money as wisely as I knew how, learning the skills which I hoped would one day earn me a living.