Wednesday, February 29, 2012

High-octane suspense: My review of Downfall by Terri Blackstock


Publisher: Zondervan (February 28, 2012)

Downfall is the third book in the Intervention Series, and sees the return of the Covington family. Emily Covington has worked hard to achieve two years of sobriety from her drug addictions that so damaged her family, while her mom has obtained a new job and her brother Lance is trying to survive highschool. The progress and healing the family has experienced is cast into doubt when a home-made bomb is attached to Emily's car and a woman is murdered. The cascade of events that follows thrusts Emily into suspicion from her family that she's again using, while a shocking turn leads the police to focus on Emily as a suspect.

Blackstock continues to amaze me with her ability to churn out high-octane suspense novels. I greatly enjoyed Downfall and, though I'd only set out to read a few chapters before bedtime, I found I couldn't put the book down and read into the wee hours of the night until I'd reached the excellent conclusion. I enjoyed revisiting the Covington family, and my heart broke as Emily's innocent actions led her into a web of consequences that had me biting my nails. Blackstock did an excellent job of building tension, and the plot was tightly woven. I especially loved the brother-sister relationship between Emily and Lance, and Lance's courage and his decision to stand up for his sister through all 3 Intervention novels makes him special indeed. Addiction has heart-breaking effects on families, and Downfall and the entire series has really brought that to light while providing a thoroughly entertaining ride.

I highly recommend Downfall and award it 5 out of 5 stars, and if you haven't had a chance to read the first two books in the series, please do - you won't be disappointed!

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Image of Terri BlackstockTerri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual "new kid," her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.




READY TO BUY?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Get hooked even further into the series: My review of Temptation: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series) by Travis Thrasher



Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2012)

What would you do if your search for the truth meant that those important to you ended up disappearing or hurt because of their connection to you? What would you do if your mom kept descending deeper and deeper into the haze of alcohol? What if there seemed to be no purpose in fighting the evil threatening to overtake you?

These are questions Chris Buckley is running from in book three of the Solitary Tales. Sentenced to summer school for no conceivable reason, Chris is soon side-tracked by a gorgeous senior girl who offers him an escape from his struggles. Chris suddenly finds himself facing temptations to lose himself in new friendships, in parties and drinking, and in all-consuming thoughts of the possibility of having sex for the first time. However, when events in his life spiral out of his control, he finds he must decide whether he will embrace the darkness of evil or submit to the Light.

Thrasher's third installment in the Solitary Tales echoes the hopelessness of today's teen culture. What's the point in believing in something beyond yourself, beyond doing what feels good? Why not just lose yourself in the pursuit of fun and pleasure and doing what's right in your own eyes? And yet it also exposes this thinking for what it is - utter lies. And it does so in a highly entertaining, imaginative, and at times creepy manner. If you haven't yet found yourself endeared to Chris Buckley, then you may not want to pick up this book. But if you already feel like taking Chris home and giving him a normal life, if he already seems to be the face of a searching teen in your own life, then you will love this installment with it's darkness, it's questioning, and it's hope. Thrasher has created a character that will long live in my memory.

As with previous novels in the series, the pacing is once again spot on, and as more and more answers emerge as to what on earth is going on in the town of Solitary, you will find yourself hooked even further and desperate for the last book in the series.

I once again find myself highly recommending the latest book from Travis Thrasher, and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I can't wait for the final book, Hurt, coming out September 1, 2012.

An egalley of this book has been provided courtesy of the publisher for the purposes of this unbiased review.

READY TO BUY?

Free Christy-award winning ebook: Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake

A Christy-award winning novel "Blue Hole Back Home" has been made free as an ebook for a limited time. Currently, it's only free on Barnes & Noble for your Nook or from Christianbook.com as a general epub for your Kobo or Sony ereader. Hopefully, it'll be free for the Kindle from Amazon.com soon!

Blue Hole Back Home: A Novel    EPUB from Christianbook.com

NOOK BOOK from Barnes & Noble

  UPDATE: Now free for Kindle as of Feb.29/12.

Monday, February 27, 2012

HUSBANDS - BUY THIS BOOK NOW!: My review of 52 things wives need from their husbands


Today I am introducing a book that I encourage you to head out and buy. Right now. Literally. 

Read on to learn more and be sure to see my review at the end.





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:



Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jay Payleitner is one of the top freelance Christian radio producers in the United States. He has worked on Josh McDowell Radio, Today's Father, Jesus Freaks Radio for The Voice of the Martyrs, Project Angel Tree with Chuck Colson, and many others. He’s also a popular speaker at men's events and the author of the bestselling 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 365 Ways to Say “I Love You” to Your Kids and, releasing late 2011, 52 Things Wives Need from a Husband. He has also served as an AWANA director, a wrestling coach, and executive director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Jay and his wife, Rita, make their home in the Chicago area, where they’ve raised five great kids and loved on ten foster babies.



Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:









For the husband who wants to live out God’s plan for his marriage, 52 Things Wives Need from Their Husbands provides a full year’s worth of advice that will put him on the right track without making him feel guilty or criticizing him for acting like a man. A great gift or men’s group resource.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944710

ISBN-13: 978-0736944717


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Wives Need Their Husbands…
To Kiss the Girl


A husband and wife are driving down a country road. They’re a few years older than you are now. He’s behind the wheel. The pavement and cornfields are passing by. She breaks the silence with a sigh and says, “Remember when we were younger and we used to sit right next to each other in the car?” “I remember,” the husband replies after a moment. “But you know, I haven’t moved.”
It’s a story from way before seat-belt laws, but the sentiment still carries a bushel of truth. Men—the good ones like you and me—travel down the road of life with a sense of stability and direction. We’re not out drinking every night. We do our best to bring home a paycheck and be a good father. An affair is not an option. Neither is divorce. Our deepest need is for our bride to sit close to us and tell us—just once in a while—that we’re doing a good job. That we’re appreciated. That they look up to us and need us.
Our wives, on the other hand, slide back and forth. Like many women these days, they are getting mixed messages and giving mixed signals. They don’t seem to know what they want. A career or a houseful of babies? A new washer/dryer or a week in Aruba? A bigger house or just bigger closets? Do they want a husband who is sensitive and tender or a tattooed bad boy riding a Harley? While they’re daydreaming about what they want, we’re just two feet away and hoping they’ll ask us for it. We want to fill their every desire. We want to be their shining knight and perfect man. If only they’d slide next to us and tell us what they want.
How did we get here? Two feet and two miles apart.
Think back to not too long ago. Remember that girl you married? The girl who caught your eye. The girl you couldn’t keep your hands off of. The girl who taught you to love in brand-new ways. Romantic love. Committed love. Crazy love. Eternal love. Silly love. You may be thinking, Where did that girl go?
Gentlemen, she’s right there. That girl is inches away. She’s looking down the same road and going the same direction. She’s committed to sharing your life and sharing your bed. By the way, she’s asking the same question. Where did that boy go?
Men of courage, follow your impulse. Pull the car over. Look into her eyes, maybe for the first time in a long time. Tell her she means everything to you. Be the boy. Be the girl. Expect no less than to memorize each other’s hopes and dreams.
Steam up those car windows. With conversation, of course.


Takeaway
You did not marry to live separate lives.
“Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.”


Song of Songs 8:6-7






MY REVIEW

When I received this book in the mail, my wife picked it up and remarked with a chuckle "well, if this was a book for women, it would have the title '2 things husbands need from their wives - sex and food'". While this would make for a short book, I'm afraid she's not that far from the truth! Unfortunately, men need a bit more help to figure out their wives - and this book certainly is a huge step in the right direction.

Practical, easy-to-read, and written in a non-judmental manner, the author has succeeded in providing a book that is sure to capture a guy's attention and help them make their marriage all the better. I found the guidance and wisdom the author offers to be spot-on, and conveyed in a way that usually left me chuckling too! It is clear he knows exactly what he's talking about, and I definitely come away a better person - and hopefully husband - for having read the book. Each topic area is expounded on just enough to provide excellent food for thought on topics that will help you love your wife, while being brief enough to leave you with a take away thought you can actually put into practice. I greatly appreciate this book and will definitely be recommending it to my guy friends!

I give this book my highest rating of 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided couresty of the publisher and First Wildcard for the purposes of this unbiased review.


READY TO BUY?

4 free fiction ebooks including Highland Sanctuary and A Texan's Promise

4 ebooks from publisher Abingdon Press have been made free for today for your Kindle from Amazon.com. They include:








Sunday, February 26, 2012

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Common English Bible (giveaway #1)


As part of the "Common English Bible Change Your Heart and Life" tour, extending from February through May, copies of the CEB are being given away to readers all over the United States.

You have the opportunity to be selected to receive the CEB through this blog, one a week for the next few weeks.

To enter, you must be a resident of the United States (sorry international readers! As a Canadian blogger, I can feel your pain).

Simply leave a comment below with your email address and stating why you'd like to receive the Bible, and I will randomly pick a winner from those who enter. I'll then email you for your address to send to the publisher, and you will receive your copy of the CEB in the mail! How sweet is that?

Good luck :)


Who does God love? from Common English Bible on Vimeo.

Win an iPod Nano with Rosslyn Elliott's Sweeter Than Birdsong and "Downton Abbey" Giveaway

Quick! Enter a contest to win an Ipod Nano - you still have a couple days to do so through Rosslyn Elliott's Sweeter Than Birdsong and "Downton Abbey" Giveaway, which ends Feb.28, 2012.

Follow the link below:

Filled with gripping drama: My review of The Wounded Heart by Adina Senft


The Wounded Heart, Amish Quilt Series #1 


Publisher: FaithWords (September 27, 2011)

Since the passing of her husband, widow Amelia Beiler has focused on caring for her 2 sons, running her late husband's pallet buisness, and making quilts with her closest two friends. However, Amelia starts experiencing strange physical ailments that she is unable to ignore, such as tingling and loss of movement in her left arm. After she seeks medical help, she receives a difficult diagnosis that presents a stunning expectation of loss for Amelia, one that forces her to face difficult decisions about the future of her business, whether to take a chance on new love, and even the possibility of being shunned by her Amish community.

Adina Senft has created a promising beginning in this first book of her "Amish Quilt" series, filled with memorable characters, a true wrestling with tough questions about suffering and God, and heart-gripping drama. Amelia's medical journey was fascinating to behold, and the unexpected twists kept the pages churning through my fingers. Senft perfectly captures the Amish setting of the novel, causing me both to long for the simplicity and beauty of the Amish way, but also to ponder with puzzlement some of the decisions made by the Ordnung. Amelia is an endearing character, and there were a few laugh-out-loud moments for me that I wasn't even expecting. The outcome of some of the gossip flying around the community especially had me chuckling! When I came to the end of the book, I was left craving more, and I am thankful that this is only the first book in the series!

Although this is the first book I have read by the author, she has been added to my "must read" list. If you are a fan of Amish fiction, then plan on reading The Wounded Heart soon!

I highly recommend this novel and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book provided courtesy of the publisher for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Celebrate the First Sunday in Lent (courtesy of the Common English Bible)

In Celebration of the First Sunday in Lent, enjoy this power point provided courtesy of the Common English Bible. The Common English Bible - 1st Sunday in Lent

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE

Known for being “built on common ground,” the Common English Bible is a collaboration of 120 academic scholars and editors, 77 reading group leaders, and more than 500 average readers from around the world who joined together to clearly translate the Bible’s original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages into 21st century English. More than half-a-million copies of the Bible are currently in print. It’s also available online and in 20 digital formats.

“When we say ‘built on common ground,’ we mean that the Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals; teens working with retirees; men working with women; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a vibrant and clear translation for 21st century readers, with the ultimate objective of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world; in essence, helping Bible readers live on common ground,” says Paul Franklyn, PhD, associate publisher for the Common English Bible.

The Common English Bible is written in contemporary idiom at the same reading level as the newspaper USA TODAY—using language that’s comfortable and accessible for today’s English readers. It’s available—with and without the Apocrypha—in multiple editions and bindings.

Information about the Common English Bible is available on its website, Twitter stream, Facebook page, and video.

Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the Common English Bible is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others.

Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field-tested the translation. Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified. The translators considered the groups' responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in modern English their meaning from the original languages. In total, more than 700 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition; and because of the Internet and today’s technology it was completed in less than four years.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tantalize your tastebuds, and get this cookbook! My review of "Creative Slow-Cooker Meals"


Mmmmm, mmmmm! Read on to learn about a cook book you'll be wanting to add to your collection, and check out my review near the end...






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:


Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cheryl Moeller is a seasoned mother and a standup comic. She is also a syndicated columnist with her own blog (www.momlaughs.blogspot.com) and contributes monthly to several online parent websites. Cheryl has coauthored two books on marriage with her husband and has written for www.mops.org and Marriage Partnership. Cheryl does comedy for parenting classes, MOPS groups, wedding or baby showers, church retreats, women’s conferences, and those in line at the grocery store.



Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 From the celebrated coauthor of The Marriage Miracle comes a new kind of cookbook and a new attitude toward planning meals. With an eye toward the whole menu, not just part of it, columnist Cheryl Moeller teaches cooks to use two crockpots to easily create healthy, homemade dinners.

Don’t worry about your dinner being reduced to a mushy stew. Each of the more than 200 recipes has been taste-tested at Cheryl’s table. Join the Moeller family as you dig into:



  • Harvest-time Halibut Chowder
  • Salmon and Gingered Carrots
  • Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
  • Indian Chicken Curry
  • Apricot-Pistachio Bread
  • Shrimp Creole
  • Rhubarb Crisp

... and many more! Perfect for the frazzled mom who never has enough time in the day, Creative Slow-Cooker Meals gives readers more time around the table with delicious, healthy, frugal, and easy meals!

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944915

ISBN-13: 978-0736944915


MY REVIEW

Cheryl Moeller has assembled a fantastic collection of recipes in Creative Slow-Cooker Meals.

Whether you are looking for something creative to serve for breakfast, want to provide a satisfying meal to your family after a busy day, or want something extra special waiting for when the company comes over after church, this book has it all! I also think that readers will appreciate the special sections at the end of the book containing the dairy free recipes and the gluten-free cuisine. The author's personal touch in her comments scattered throughout the book add to the homey and welcoming feel to the book, and I especially loved her great-grandmother's Swedish meatball recipee! A couple of things keep this book from getting a rating of 5 out of 5 stars. First, although I don't feel every recipe needs to be accompanied by a picture, I think it would have added to the book to have at least a picture included for each section of the book to liven it up. Secondly, while I found the index at the back very handy, I was disappointed to find that a couple of the references were wrong (for example, the index says the "spiced rice" recipe is on page 79, but it is actually on page 77). Beyond these minor details, I found this to be an excellent treasure trove of useful recipes and give it a solid recommendation of 4 out of 5 stars.


Book provided courtesy of the publisher and First Wild Card for the purposes of this unbiased review.


AND NOW...THE FIFTH CHAPTER (click on pages to enlarge):


























Thursday, February 23, 2012

3 FREE Kindle books from author Ann Tatlock, including Christy-Award winning All the Way Home!

Ann Tatlock is one of my FAVORITE authors, so I'm excited that 3 of her books are now available as free ebooks for your Kindle. I don't own one myself, but I'm still downloading them to read on the computer [or maybe I'll own an ipad of something in the future I can get the Kindle app for... :)].

You can download her 3 ebooks here:





UPDATED: A wild ride sure to please: My review of "Frantic" by Mike Dellosso




 Read on to be introduced to "Frantic" and check out my review at the end!






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




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


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Realms (February 7, 2012)

***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Dellosso is the author of numerous novels of suspense, including Darkness Follows, Darlington Woods, and Scream. He is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College and frequent contributor to Christian websites and newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and FaithWriters, and he plans to join International Thriller Writers. He earned his BA degree from Messiah College and his MBS from Master’s International School of Divinity. He lives in Hanover, PA, with his wife and daughters. Hometown: Hanover, PA


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Gas station attendant Marny Toogood thinks it’s just another ordinary day on the job until an urgent message from a young girl in the backseat of a car draws him into a daring rescue attempt. Now he is on the run with Esther and William Rose from their insane “uncle” who thinks it is his mission from God to protect William, a boy with incredible faith that gives him supernatural powers.

As they face kidnapping, underground cults, and other evils, can Marny trust the simple faith of a child and stand his ground against a power so twisted?

 
Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (February 7, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616384808

ISBN-13: 978-1616384807


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





    The night Marny Toogood was born it rained axheads and hammer handles.
His grandfather made a prediction, said it was an omen of some sort, that it meant Marny’s life would be stormy, full of rain clouds and lightning strikes. Wanting to prove her father wrong, Janie Toogood named her son Marnin, which means “one who brings joy,” instead of the Mitchell she and her husband had agreed on.
But in spite of Janie’s good intentions, and regardless of what his birth certificate said, Marny’s grandfather was right.
At the exact time Marny was delivered into this world and his grandfather was portending a dark future, Marny’s father was en route to the hospital from his job at Winden’s Furniture Factory where he was stuck working the graveyard shift. He’d gotten the phone call that Janie was in labor, dropped his hammer, and run out of the plant. Fifteen minutes from the hospital his pickup hit standing water, hydroplaned, and tumbled down a steep embank- ment, landing in a stand of eastern white pines. The coroner said he experienced a quick death; he did not suffer.
One week after Marny’s birth his grandfather died of a heart attack. He didn’t suffer either.
Twenty-six years and a couple of lifetimes of hurt later, Marny found himself working at Condon’s Gas ’n Go and living above the garage in a small studio apartment George Condon rented to
1




    Mike Dellosso
him for two hundred bucks a month. It was nothing special, but it was a place to lay his head at night and dream about the dark cloud that stalked him.
But his mother had told him every day until the moment she died that behind every rain cloud is the sun, just waiting to shine its light and dry the earth’s tears.
Marny held on to that promise and thought about it every night before he succumbed to sleep and entered a world that was as unfriendly and frightening as any fairy tale forest, the place of his dreams, the only place more dark and foreboding than his life.
On the day reality collided with the world of Marny’s night- mares, it was hotter than blazes, strange for a June day in Maine. The sun sat high in the sky, and waves of heat rolled over the asphalt lot at the Gas ’n Go. The weather kept everyone indoors, which meant business was slow for a Saturday. Marny sat in the garage bay waiting for Mr. Condon to take his turn in checkers and wiped the sweat from his brow.
    Man, it’s hot.”
    Mr. Condon didn’t look up from the checkerboard. “Ayuh.
Wicked hot. Newsman said it could hit ninety.”
    “So it’ll probably get up to ninety-five.”
    Mr. Condon rubbed at his white stubble. “Ayuh.”
He was sixty-two and looked it. His leather-tough skin was

creased with deep wrinkles. Lots of smile lines. Marny had worked
for him for two years but had known the old mechanic his whole
life.
    Mr. Condon made his move then squinted at Marny. Behind
him Ed Ricker’s Dodge truck rested on the lift. The transmis-
sion had blown, and Mr. Condon should have been working
on it instead of playing checkers. But old Condon kept his own
schedule. His customers never complained. George Condon was
the best, and cheapest, mechanic around. He’d been getting cars
and trucks through one more Maine winter for forty years.
    Marny studied the checkerboard, feeling the weight of Mr.
Condon’s dark eyes on him, and was about to make his move
    2


Fr antic
when the bell chimed, signaling someone had pulled up to the pump island. Condon’s was the only full-service station left in the Down East, maybe in the whole state of Maine.
Despite the heat, Mr. Condon didn’t have one droplet of sweat on his face. “Cah’s waitin’, son.”
Marny glanced outside at the tendrils of heat wriggling above the lot, then at the checkerboard. “No cheating.”
    His opponent winked. “No promises.”
    Pushing back his chair, Marny stood and wiped more sweat
from his brow, then headed outside.
    The car at the pump was a 1990s model Ford Taurus, faded blue
with a few rust spots around the wheel wells. The windows were
rolled down, which probably meant the air-conditioning had quit
working. This was normally not a big deal in Maine, but on a rare
day like this, the driver had to be longing for cool air.
    Marny had never seen the vehicle before. The driver was a large
man, thick and broad. He had close-cropped hair and a smooth,
round face. Marny had never seen him before either.
    He approached the car and did his best to be friendly. “Mornin’.
Hot one, isn’t it?”
    The driver neither smiled nor looked at him. “Fill it up. Regular.”
    Marny headed to the rear of the car and noticed a girl in the
backseat. A woman, really, looked to be in her early twenties. She
sat with her hands in her lap, head slightly bowed. As he passed
the rear window she glanced at him, and there was something in
her eyes that spoke of sorrow and doom. Marny recognized the
look because he saw it in his own eyes every night in the mirror.
He smiled, but she quickly diverted her gaze.
    As he pumped the gas, Marny watched the girl, studied the
back of her head. She was attractive in a plain way, a natural pret-
tiness that didn’t need any help from cosmetics. Her hair was rich
brown and hung loosely around her shoulders. But it was her eyes
that had captivated him. They were as blue as the summer sky, but
so sad and empty. Marny wondered what the story was between
the man and girl. He was certainly old enough to be her father. He
3




    Mike Dellosso
looked stern and callous, maybe even cruel. Marny felt for her, for her unhappiness, her life.
He caught the man watching him in the side mirror and looked at the pump’s gauge. A second later the nozzle clicked off, and he returned it to the pump. He walked back to the driver’s window. “That’ll be forty-two.”
While the man fished around in his back pocket for his wallet, Marny glanced at the girl again, but she kept her eyes down on her hands.
You folks local?” Marny said, trying to get the man to open up a little.
    The driver handed Marny three twenties but said nothing. Marny counted off eighteen dollars in change. “You new in the
area? I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before. Lately, seems more people have been moving out than in.”
Still nothing. The man took the money and started the car. Before pulling out he nodded at Marny. There was something in the way he moved his head, the way his eyes sat in their sockets, the way his forehead wrinkled ever so slightly, that made Marny shiver despite the heat.
The car rolled away from the pump, asphalt sticking to the tires, and exited the lot. Marny watched until it was nearly out of sight, then turned to head back to the garage and Mr. Condon and the game of checkers. But a crumpled piece of paper on the ground where the Taurus had been parked caught his attention. He picked it up and unfurled it. Written in all capital letters was a message:
    HE’S GOING TO KILL ME
    4

MY REVIEW

Frantic is a fabulous read, filled with beautiful writing complemented by pulse-pounding scenes and non-stop action. I was barely into the beginning pages when I first suspected that this would be a book difficult to put down - and I was right! The scenes are painted with vivid imagery, and I found my pulse racing as I was immersed ever deeper into the story, fraught with tension and supernatural mystique.

Marny Toogood is a hero who is easy to relate to, with his difficulty believing in God and faith, his often negative outlook, his insecurities. And yet he's also one to admire, someone who doesn't just stay on the sidelines but actually acts. He perfectly exemplifies "putting faith into action", as the Bible prompts us to do. I found myself wondering more than once, "what would I do if I were in his shoes?". Esther and William Rose, the ones he is on the run with, are equally fascinating, especially William with his child-like faith in God. And the moment when I really knew Dellosso is a good writer was when I found myself feeling sympathetic for the psychotic killer...

Dellosso's pacing is chillingly perfect, and the skill with which he writes will have you devouring the pages - and wishing you weren't reading his book late at night (at least if you're anything like me!). If you are looking for a book that will hold you captive while making you examine your own faith at the same time, then look no further. Get this book. You won't be disappointed.

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

5 fiction ebooks made free: Gone to Green, Wildflowers of Terezin, Diagnosis Death & more

Today, Abingdon Press made 5 of their fiction ebooks free for the next couple of days. I have provided the link for the books from Amazon.com in Kindle format:












Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Celebrate Lent with these Lenten Readings courtesy of the Common English Bible

Beginning today, I will be participating in a multi-week tour celebrating Lent by posting some slides provided courtesy of the Common English Bible. Enjoy :)


LEARN MORE ABOUT THE COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE

Known for being “built on common ground,” the Common English Bible is a collaboration of 120 academic scholars and editors, 77 reading group leaders, and more than 500 average readers from around the world who joined together to clearly translate the Bible’s original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages into 21st century English. More than half-a-million copies of the Bible are currently in print. It’s also available online and in 20 digital formats.

“When we say ‘built on common ground,’ we mean that the Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals; teens working with retirees; men working with women; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a vibrant and clear translation for 21st century readers, with the ultimate objective of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world; in essence, helping Bible readers live on common ground,” says Paul Franklyn, PhD, associate publisher for the Common English Bible.

The Common English Bible is written in contemporary idiom at the same reading level as the newspaper USA TODAY—using language that’s comfortable and accessible for today’s English readers. It’s available—with and without the Apocrypha—in multiple editions and bindings. Information about the Common English Bible is available on its website, Twitter stream, Facebook page, and video.

Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the Common English Bible is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others.

Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field-tested the translation. Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified. The translators considered the groups' responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in modern English their meaning from the original languages. In total, more than 700 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition; and because of the Internet and today’s technology it was completed in less than four years.

Better even than I hoped for: My review of Words Spoken True by Ann H. Gabhart

Words Spoken True: A Novel
Fans of Ann H. Gabhart, rejoice! Words Spoken True is a superb book that lives up to her reputation, so read on to learn more and see my review of this great book:

Publisher: Revell (February 1, 2012)

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

Adriane Darcy was practically raised in her father's newspaper offices. She can't imagine life without the clatter of the press and the push to be first to write the news that matters. Their Tribune is the leading paper in Louisville in 1855. Then Blake Garrett, a brash young editor from the North with a controversial new style of reporting, takes over failing competitor the Herald, and the battle for readers gets fierce.

When Adriane and Blake meet at a benefit tea, their surprising mutual attraction is hard to ignore. Still, Blake is the enemy, and Adriane is engaged to the son of a powerful businessman who holds the keys to the Tribune's future. Blake will stop at almost nothing to get the story--and the girl. Can he do both before it's too late?

MY REVIEW

I can honestly say I picked up this book expecting to read a gentle "historical romance" in the vein of dozens of other similar historical romance books I've read. What I found, instead, was a book with unique characters who refuse to bow to convention, thrown in with suspense and murder and political tension broiling over into riots. The historical setting of the book is absolutely captivating, especially with the "Know Nothing" party that is determined to trample the rights of immigrants, such as by physically barring them from voting. The world of warring newspapers is equally interesting to read about. But my favourite part of the book is the character of Adriane, whose actions cannot help but scandalize the gentle upcrust society.  Adriane seems determined to prove wrong the popular sentiment of her day that "too much thinking on serious matters was reputed to be injurious to the female brain", a line that I read out loud to my wife and which caused her eyebrows to raise significantly. My, how times have changed! The villain in the story is deliciously creepy (if you love stories with suspense, in any case), and although I figured out early who the murderer was due to the author's well-paced clues, the journey to his eventual unveiling is an exciting one.

I give this book my highest rating of 5 out of 5 stars, and look forward to what the author has up her sleeve for her next book...

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

About the author:

Image of Ann H. GabhartAnn H. Gabhart started writing when she was ten and has been writing ever since. Her first published writings were personal experience pieces, youth stories, and poems in church periodicals such as HomeLife. Her first novel, a historical romance about the settling of Kentucky, was published by Warner Books in 1978. Since then, she's published numerous books for both adults and young adults. The Scent of Lilacs, her first inspirational novel, was chosen as one of the Top Ten Books in Christian Fiction in 2006 by Booklist magazine. Her first Shaker book, The Outsider, was a finalist for Christian Fiction Book of the Year in 2009 and was a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine.

Ann lives on a farm in Kentucky not far from where she was born. She and her husband, Darrell, a bass singer in the Patriot Quartet, have three children and nine grandchildren. Her website is www.annhgabhart.com.

Free ebook alert: Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy (Pub. Oct. 2011)

Sweet! Today, Bethany House publishers has made Patti Lacy's ebook "Reclaiming Lily" free for a limited time. Download it quick and also check out my review HERE:

                       Nook Book                         Epub from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Sony ereader, etc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Captured me from the first sentence: My review of Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry



"What would you do to save the life of your Child?". Read on for a review of the latest book from popular author Chris Fabry:






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:



Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 20, 2012)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings – The B&B Media Group – for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a child, Chris Fabry wrote stories, songs and poems. The creative process invigorated him. He may not have been a fast reader, but the words on the page had a deep effect. So he vowed that if he ever had the chance to write, he would take it.

After high school, Fabry attended and graduated from the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. After graduation, Fabry and his wife felt a desire for biblical education, so his pastor suggested they check out Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. At Moody, Fabry met Jerry Jenkins who learned of his desire to write and encouraged him to pursue his dream. In 1998, Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye hired him to write Left Behind: The Kids series. He wrote 35 books in that series over the next six years. He later collaborated with Jenkins on the Red Rock Mysteries series and The Wormling series, and in 2008 he worked solo on the NASCAR-based RPM series.

Since then he has published four novels for adults: Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven and his newest novel, Not in the Heart. Each of his first three books was nominated for a Christy Award in the Contemporary Standalone Category, winning in 2009 for Dogwood and in 2011 for Almost Heaven. In addition to his fiction work, Fabry also collaborated on two best-selling football biographies with Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Altogether, Fabry has published more than 70 books for children and adults.

Fabry’s other passion is broadcasting. As part of the DECCA program in high school, he worked at WNST Radio in Milton, WV. During his senior year at Marshall University, he worked for WSAZ-TV as a weekend reporter. In 1985, he began hosting Open Line, a national call-in show which he hosted until 1997. In 1993, he began a six-year stint as co-host of Mornings with Greg and Chris on WMBI in Chicago. Then in May of 2008 he began Chris Fabry Live! which received the 2008 Talk Personality of the Year Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. He can also be heard daily on Love Worth Finding, featuring the teaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers.

Chris and his wife of almost 30 years, Andrea, are the parents of nine children.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Truman Wiley used to report news stories from around the world, but now the most troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, out of touch with his family, out of his home. But nothing dogs him more than his son’s failing heart.

With mounting hospital bills and Truman’s penchant for gambling his savings, the situation seems hopeless . . . until his estranged wife throws him a lifeline—the chance to write the story of a death row inmate, a man convicted of murder who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s son.

As the execution clock ticks down, Truman uncovers disturbing evidence that points to a different killer. For his son to live, must an innocent man die? Truman’s investigation draws him down a path that will change his life, his family, and the destinies of two men forever.





Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 20, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1414348614

ISBN-13: 978-1414348612

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



30 days before execution

The trouble with my wife began when she needed Jesus and I
needed a cat. Life can be that way. That’s part of the reason I was on Sanibel
Island in the cottage I had always dreamed of owning and she was in Tallahassee
tending to the sick son of our youth. But it’s more complicated. There was more
troubling me than religion or people who think problems can be solved with a
leap of faith.
Said cottage was a tiny house that seems to be the rage
among those who believe we are warming the planet with each exhale. I didn’t
buy it because of that, but I recycle my Coors Light cans. My little
contribution to the cause. Lately it’s been a hefty contribution. There was one
bedroom in the back and a little bathroom, a walk-through kitchen, and a living
area that I used as an office. Murrow usually sat in the window looking out at
the beach with as much interest as I have in paying both of my mortgages. It’s
not that I don’t want to pay. I can’t.
I was on the bed, surfing news sites, fueling the ache about
my lack of direction and lack of a job. The satellite TV company disconnected
me a few months ago, so I got my news online from the unprotected network of a
neighbor who can’t encrypt his wireless router.
I could see the downsizing coming in every area of the
conglomerate media company. I knew it would hit the newsroom, but I always
thought when the music stopped, I would have a chair. What I got was severance,
a pat on the back, and a shelf full of awards I stuffed into a suitcase that
sat in the attic of a cottage I couldn’t afford.
I closed my laptop and told Murrow I’d be back, as if she
cared, and walked barefoot out the front door and down the long, wooden
stairway to the beach. I bought this cottage for these long, head-clearing
walks. The sound of the waves crashing against doubts and fears. The smell of
the ocean and its salty cycle of life and death.
A mom and a dad dressed in white strolled along the beach
with two kids who squealed every time the water came close.
I walked the other way.
The phone rang as I passed a dead seagull. Not a good omen.
“Tru, it’s me.”
The woman of my dreams. The woman of my nightmares.
Everything good and bad about my life. The “I do” that “I didn’t.”
“Ellen. What’s up?”
“How are you?” She said it with a measure of compassion, as
if she weren’t holding back years of boiling anger. As if she didn’t have
something else she wanted to ask me and wasn’t just setting the stage for the
coup de grâce.
“I’m good. Just taking a walk on the beach.”
Wish you weren’t here. Wish you
weren’t still in my head. Wish you hadn’t called. Wish the last twenty years
were something I could bury in the sand. What were you thinking marrying a guy
like me? My life is a sand castle and my days are wind and water.
“Hear anything back yet? Any offers?”
“There’s nothing plural about my job prospects. Not even
singular. I did hear from the Fox station in Des Moines yesterday. They went
with somebody with longer hair and bigger lungs.”
She spoke with a wry smile. “It’s only a matter of time; you
know that.”
“Right. It’s always been a matter of time, hasn’t it?”
She let the irony hang there between us, and I could picture
her in her wedding dress and without it. Then the first time we met in the
university newsroom, big glasses and frilly blouse. Hair that smelled like the
ocean and felt like silk. A sharp wit, infectious laugh, and the tenacity of a
bloodhound on every story she covered. I thought we were always going to be on
the same page, but somehow I kept chasing headlines and she moved to the Life
section.
“I have something that might interest you,” she said.
“How old is she?” I’m not always a smart aleck with the
people I love. When I’m asleep, they tell me I don’t say much of anything.
“It’s not a she. It’s a he with a pretty good story. A great
story. A life changer.”
“Not into guys.”
She sighed and plowed ahead. “Have you heard of Terrelle
Conley?”
That was like asking a history major if she’d ever heard of
Alexis de Tocqueville. “I know he’s facing the needle.”
“Right. Next month.”
“Wonder what his last meal will be. How do they choose that
anyway? Shrimp and steak or lobster bisque? Macaroni and cheese? How can you
enjoy a meal knowing you only have hours left? Or what movie to watch? What
would you choose?”
“I know his wife, Oleta. She wants somebody to write the
story from his perspective. The whole family does.”
I laughed. “In thirty days or less.”
“They’ve scraped up some money. Not much, but it could
probably help.”
“How much is ‘probably’?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I was thinking you could call
Gina and find out if—”
“I’m not with Gina or the agency anymore. She dropped me.
Said it was a hard decision on their part. I guess they took a vote.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Just another bump in the literary highway. I don’t think writing
is my thing, anyway.” I said it halfheartedly, coaxing some kind of compliment.
“You’re a great writer,” she obliged. “You haven’t had as
many opportunities lately, but . . .”
“I haven’t had any politicians who want to be president or
sports stars who’ve been accused of steroids approach me in a few years. That’s
what you mean,” I said. “Where did you meet Olatha?”
“Oleta. I met her at church.”
Groan. How did I know that was coming?
I paused at a sand castle that had been constructed with
several five-gallon buckets. Towels and chairs had been abandoned for the
moment. Water filled the moat, and I heard laughter from a bungalow perched
like a lighthouse above. A couple in love.
“You must have some idea of how much.”
“A few thousand. We didn’t talk about that. The important
thing . . . it’s not just an opportunity for you. It’s for
Aiden.”
“Now you’re really getting cryptic. You want to back up?”
“Terrelle’s wife is in a study group with me. She’s known
about Aiden’s condition for years. Always asks for updates. Terrelle came up
with the idea—he wants to be a donor. A second chance for Aiden.”
I should have been doing cartwheels. Our eighteen-year-old
son could get a new lease on life? Instead, I was skeptical, like any good
journalist. “Ellen, there’s no chance. Do you know how long something like that
would take?”
“It’s been in process for a while.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You haven’t exactly been available.”
“The prison system, the authorities, they’ll never let
this—”
“The governor is taking it seriously. I’ve heard he’s
working with the legislature. It’s not a done deal, but there’s a chance.”
The governor. The hair rose on the back of my neck.
“Ellen, there’s some law firm in Tallahassee salivating at
all the appeals and counterappeals that are going to happen. This is less than
a long shot.”
“Yeah, but right now it’s looking like a pretty good long
shot.” There was emotion in her voice and for the first time I noticed noise in
the background.
“Where are you?”
She swallowed hard and I imagined her wiping away a tear. My
wife has had plenty of practice.
“At the hospital again,” she said. “ICU.”
I cursed under my breath and away from the phone. Not just
because of all the hospital bills I knew were coming my way, but also because
this was my son. I’ll be honest—the bills were the first thing I thought of,
but picturing him hooked up to tubes and needles again crushed me.
“How is he?”
“Not good. They’re monitoring him. Same story.”
“How long have you been there?”
“Since late last night. He was having trouble breathing.
Lots of pain. He asks about you.”
Guilt. She had to get that in there, didn’t she?
“Tell him to hang in there, okay?”
“Come see him. It would mean so much.”
“Yeah. I will.” I said it fast, though I knew I’d have to
launder all the cat hair from my clothes because Aiden’s deathly allergic to
cats just like I’m allergic to the inside of the death chamber.
Someone spoke over the intercom near her and the sound took
me back to those first days when I wasn’t as scared of hospitals. Back then I
could watch a movie or a TV show with a medical setting. Now I can’t even watch
the TV promos. My chest gets tight and the smell of alcohol and Betadine and
the shape of needles invades, mingling with the cries of a young child in pain
and another memory of a man on a gurney.
We discovered Aiden’s heart malady by accident. Ellen was
into natural food, natural medicine, whole-grain seaweed sandwiches and eggs
that came from free-range chickens who had bedtime stories read to them each
night before they settled into their nests. Natural childbirth with a midwife.
All that stuff. She was convinced antibiotics were the forbidden fruit, so she
didn’t run to the HMO every time our kids were sick. But something told her to
take Abby in for some chest congestion she couldn’t get rid of. Aiden was with
her, and on a lark the doctor placed the stethoscope on his chest.
Ellen cried when she tried to explain the look on the
woman’s face. They’d missed it when he was born.
That sent us on a crash course of congenital heart defects
and a series of surgeries and treatments that would change our lives. Ellen
hates hospitals as much as I do, but you do what you must for your kids.
“Terrelle has the same blood type,” Ellen said. “He’s about
the same size as Aiden, maybe a little smaller, which is good.”
“Ellen, you know this is not going to happen, right? There
are so many hoops and holes. They don’t let doctors execute people.”
“There are guidelines, but they don’t have a problem
harvesting organs from an already-deceased donor.”
“Anybody who’s pro-life will howl. I thought you were
pro-life.”
“I am, but this is something Terrelle wants.”
“Doesn’t matter. They harvest organs from prisoners in
China, but we’re not in China.” Though you wouldn’t know it by shopping at
Walmart.
“I know all that. But I also know my son is going to die.
And Terrelle and his wife want something good to come out of their tragedy.
They asked if you would write his story. I got to thinking that maybe . . .”
She broke a little and hearing her cry felt like some lonely
prayer drifting away and hitting the empty shores of heaven. Not that I believe
there is one, but you know, metaphorically speaking.
“You were thinking what?” I said.
“Maybe all of this is not really for Aiden. Maybe all we’ve
been through in the last eighteen years is for somebody else. If they deny
Terrelle’s request and Aiden doesn’t make it, maybe writing this story will
make a difference for someone down the road.”
Her altruism was more than I could handle. “Look, I don’t
care about all the people with sick kids. I don’t care about prisoners who want
to make up for their crimes. I don’t care about protesters or the politicians
who’ve found a wedge issue. I just want my son to live. Is that asking too
much?”
The emotion surprised me and I noticed the family in white
had changed direction but now quickly herded their children away from me.
It was Ellen’s turn to sound collected. “Do you have time to
work on something like that in the next thirty days? It would at least pay a
few bills.”
“If they’re trying to get a stay of execution, they need to
go straight to the press. Forget a book deal, forget a magazine exposé—it’s
already too late. Get somebody at one of the local stations to pick it up and
run with it—”
“Tru, they don’t want a stay. He wants to give his heart to
Aiden. And somebody has to get the story down before it’s over. No matter how
it goes, this will make a great story.”
I was already mulling titles in my head. A Heart from Death Row. Change of Heart. Pitter-Pat. Life in
Vein. Aorta Made a Better Choice.
She continued, “They know your history. What you’ve seen.
How you’re against the death penalty and why. For all your faults, Tru, you’re
the best reporter I’ve ever known. You get to the heart of the story like
nobody else. I think you should consider it.”
The Heart of the Story. Another
good title. I could tell she was buttering me up. I love being buttered up by
lovely women. But I hate the complications of life with beautiful women.
“I don’t write evangelical tracts.”
“Why are you so stubborn?” she whisper-screamed at me. Her
voice had an echo like she had moved into the bathroom or stairwell. “Why do
you have to look at this as some kind of spiritual conspiracy against you
instead of a gift? This is being handed to you on a platter. Don’t push it
away. I don’t care if you agree with them about God. You didn’t agree with
every sports figure or politician.”
“The only way I know how to do this job is to ferret out the
truth and tell it. Flat out. The way I see it. And if you’re expecting me to
throw in the third verse of a hymn every other chapter and quote the Gospel of
Terrelle, I can’t do that. Call somebody from the Christian right.”
“Tru, it’s because of who you are and how you tell the story
that they want you. Just talk with her. Let her explain. If you don’t like the
situation, they’ll go somewhere else. But they have to act quickly.”
The sun was coming down behind me and the wind picked up off
the water. I could smell the first hint of an impending storm. Or maybe I
forgot my deodorant.
“I’ll think about it.”
I hadn’t been gone that long, but as I walked up the
stairs, I heard a vehicle pulling away from the house. The taillights had
disappeared into the distance by the time I made it to my front door.
Murrow was still in the window, looking down on me with that
superior look. Humans are such a waste of oxygen,
she seemed to say. Maybe she was right. Maybe we are a waste of oxygen and the
best thing would be for us to be wiped from the planet. But something inside
said that wasn’t true. Something inside pushed me to keep moving, like an ant
dragging a piece of grass along the sidewalk until a strong wind blows it away.
The ant picks up another and starts over. I get exhausted just watching them.
On the front door was a legal document stating that whereby
and forthwith said mortgage company had begun said process with an intent to
foreclose and otherwise vacate said occupant’s tail onto the street to wit and
wheretofore so help them God, amen. I had received several such letters in the
mail, filing them carefully, hoping the rising tide of foreclosures would save
my little cottage until I got a new job.
I ripped the notice down and used it to wipe the sand from
my feet. And then a thought struck. A horrible, no-good, bad thought. The
newspaper. They published my name with each intent to foreclose. That meant
others would know where I was. Others, as in people I owed. Bad people.
Another car passed, slowly. Tinted windows. A low rumble of
expensive metal and fuel.
I hurried to the back of the little house and pulled out
every suitcase I could find and stowed everything of value. Books. Pictures of
me with newsmakers. Cloudy memories of trips abroad, war zones, interviews with
generals and dignitaries who went on to fame or perished in motorcades that
didn’t make it through IEDs.
It was hard not to sit and absorb the memories, but the
passing car gave urgency. I jammed every journal and notebook in with the
pictures, then put one suitcase with clothes in the trunk of my car and took
the rest on my shoulder down the sandy path to the Grahams’ house. Sweet
people. He retired from the Air Force and they moved for the sun and salty air.
Both should have died long ago from arthritis and other maladies, but they were
out walking the beach every day like two faithful dogs, paw in paw.
Jack and Millie were on the front porch, and I asked if I
could borrow some space in their garage for a suitcase or two. “I need to take
a trip. Someone new will be living in my house.”
“Relatives coming?”
“No, someone from the Bank of America wants it.”
Millie struggled to get out of her rocker and stood by a
white column near the front door. “If you need help, Truman, we’d be glad to.”
Jack nodded and the gesture almost brought tears to my eyes.
“How much are you short?” he said.
“Just a spot in the garage is all I need.”
“What about your cat?” Millie said.
“Murrow’s going with me.”
“If we can do anything at all . . . ,”
Jack’s voice trailed.
“I appreciate it. I appreciate both of you. Thanks for your
kindness.”
“We pray for Aiden every day,” Millie said.
The garage was spotless. Everything hanging up or neatly
placed on shelves. I should have joined the Air Force. In the back I found an
empty space near some gardening tools. I shook Jack’s hand gently and gave
Millie a hug. I only turned and looked at them once as I walked back to the
house. They stood like sentinels, the fading light of the sun casting a golden
glow around them and their house.
When Murrow saw the cat carrier, she bolted under the sofa
and I threatened to sell her to the local Chinese restaurant. An open can of
StarKist and my tender, compassionate voice helped coax her into the carrier,
and we were off.
I texted my wife: Will call your
friend tomorrow. Can I use Abby’s room?
The phone buzzed in my shirt pocket as I drove along the
causeway into darkening clouds. Key under frog. No
cats.
The next text gave Oleta’s number and a short message. You were made for this story.
Maybe she was right. Maybe I was the one for this job. One
loser telling the story of his kindred spirit. I sure didn’t have anything
better to do. But with the window down and my hand out, being pushed back by
the cool air, it felt less like the start of a new chapter and more like the
end of one.



MY REVIEW


Truman is trying to hide away from the world in his cottage by the sea, when a phone call lures him from his retreat and back to the land of hospital bills, a dying son, an estranged wife, and very real threats from dangerous criminals seeking to collect their debt by any means necessary. Truman was once a successful journalist who has lost his job, and his life seems to be falling apart when his wife connects him to a man on death row who wants him to write a book about his life and the police case that resulted in his conviction and sentence to await the death penalty. Truman's decision to accept the job leads him down a path not only to uncovering the truth of a crime, but one of self-discovery as well.

I loved the first sentence of this book, when Chris Fabry writes "The trouble with my wife began when she needed Jesus and I needed a cat". I instantly knew I was going to be treated to a book with characters who had a good sense of humor and who would star in an engaging book, and I turned out to be right! Fabry's writing seems effortless and is truly a joy to read for the sheer manner in which it is written. He excels at his characterization, and brings Truman to life with his sarcastic humor, his tendency to avoid his responsibilities (something we can all relate to on occasion), his addiction to gambling, all wrapped up in a well-meaning heart.
 
I must admit that this strong characterization actually turned out to be a problem for me in this case. Fabry's writing is so solid that he elicited strong feelings from me, particularly disgust at some of Truman's actions, and the end result is that as much as I tried, I never really grew to like Truman all that much, and agreed with his family that he certainly was a poor example of a husband and a father. Although the story ends with an act of selflessness and in a manner that seeks to redeem him as a character, I just never could connect with Truman as a person. That said, I know a writer has succeeded at bringing a story to life when I can get that worked up about a story! The story is still entertaining and a worthy read, one that lives up to Fabry's excellent reputation. I just didn't enjoy it as much as his previous books Almost Heaven or June Bug.

As I was reading this book, I considered who is the "Truman" in my own life, someone who has struggled with addiction issues themselves and for whom my heart has broken in prayer. Although I won't share his name, there is someone who is close to my family who struggled with addiction to cocaine for many years, until God broke through and set him free. The road to freedom was long, with many stops and starts, but this person has lived addiction free for over two years. Much like in Truman's life, God did the impossible, reminding me that "nothing is impossible for God!". If you have someone in your life who isn't being the husband or father or wife or mother or sister or brother that they could be, someone caught up in a cycle of addiction, don't give up hope but cling to God in prayer. God is listening!

Overall, I give this book a solid recommendation and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book provided courtesy of the publisher, B&B Media, and FIRST Wildcard tours for the purposes of this unbiased review.