Friday, May 31, 2013

Seeds of Evidence. Must Read Mystery from Linda J. White.





 I am a mystery lover.
 I know a great story when I read it.
 I know good writing when I see it.
 And I know that whatever Linda J. White writes in the future, I intend to read it.
 Consider this a full endorsement of Seeds of Evidence.

This is one of those books that pulls you in from the first page, whose pace requires you to read really fast to keep up, but you know that if you keep reading like the this the book will end sooner, and you don't want it to end.

In Seeds of Evidence, the mystery rings of reality and the characters ring of authenticity.
This is a book whose suspense level raises your heart-rate multiple times as you read.

The setting is Chincoteague Island, sister Island to Asseteaugue which is home of the famous wild ponies. Linda J. White describes this beautiful island in all its wildness yet tranquility: the egrets stalking in the marches, the smell of grass and salt, the fierce thunderstorms that roll in in minutes and the rain that falls in sheets. The crunch of oyster shell parking lots, the purple and orange sunsets.

The characters are superb and the spiritual theme is perfectly done. It makes me so joyful when a Christian book is written so well!

The Main Characters: David, homicide detective who was told to take a six month break after a shooting incident when a teen boy was killed and he was injured. David is still waiting for the scar on his shoulder to heal, and he is convinced the ones in his mind never will. He is "resting" in an old house on Chincoteague, working to paint its siding to reduce his rent, listening to his Ipod to distract his wandering mind and trying to relax and enjoy the kayaking and surfing that the ocean offers.

Kit is an FBI agent come back to Chincoteague on vacation, hoping to find peace if not answers after her husband divorced her in a particularly cruel way.

Kit and David meet on the beach on the morning a little Latino boy is found dead, washed up on shore. In his pockets are half a dozen acorns, and in his rolled up sleeves are tomato seeds. Strange, small seeds of evidence, that lead to a mystery by no means simple.

My review in two sentences? Read Seeds of Evidence. It is on my favorites list.




  Linda J. White is a journalist by day and a novelist by night. Seeds Of Evidence is her second published book, and is published by Abingdon Press.
I am now doing fist pumps, because her website says her next novel will be released in early 2014. I am now waiting for Words of Conviction. Standing by my mailbox. Hoping it will somehow come sooner. :-)
And go, right NOW to her website here: Home, and read about why she writes. Then go there again after you read this book and you will be agreeing heartily that she succeeded at her mission. To write great fiction.

Follow Linda J. White on Twitter

On Facebook: Linda J. White

And one great interview Interview with Linda J. White

   Thank you so much to the great book tour service Pump Up Your Book! for getting me into the book tour for Seeds of Evidence, thank you to Linda J. White for writing this book!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Interview with David and Kit from Seeds of Evidence!





Hello Readers! Today we are sitting down with Kit McGovern and David O'Connor, our main characters from Seeds of Evidence. If you haven't already read Seeds, then I hope this chat with Kit and David will intrigue you and make you want to know the full story... You can read my review of this amazing mystery right HERE.

Hi Kit, Hi David! Thank you both for being here! 
Thanks for the coffee!

Your story was so fascinating that I want to jump right into the questions, so here we go!

Kit, when we first met you in Seeds, you were out for run on the beach. You were supposed to be vacationing, yet you really weren't at rest, emotionally or physically. What had happened in your life in the months before you came back to the Islands? 
Oh, wow…long story. My husband had left me. That was a divorce I didn’t want, and I was crushed. Then I ran into some politics at work, and came out of the wrong side. I needed to make a change, so I transferred to Norfolk. But I still felt wound up. So I went back to Chincoteague, my grandmother’s home. It’s a small town on an island, and I’ve always found rest there. Something about the birds and the beach and the ponies stills my heart and connects me with God.

David, you too were supposed it to be taking it slow and healing in this wild, beautiful place, yet you seemed to have a restless heart. 
Without giving away too many details about your past {which is a story well worth hearing, told fully in Seeds}, you were a cop in D.C. What drew you to law enforcement? 
Y’know, I figured I was going to end up on one side of a jail cell or the other, so I chose to be a cop.
Seriously, I’m a pretty physical person. I was an MP in the Navy. The civilian part just followed.

And what drew to become a homicide detective? 
A homicide is like a puzzle, you know? You look at all the parts—the blood spatter evidence, the ballistics, the wounds, motive, means, opportunity—and then you put it together. And in the process, what you’re doing is finding the bad guys and promoting justice for the deceased. It’s a sacred trust, you know? They’re countin’ on you to find who killed them.

David, when you saw Kit there on the beach the morning that you found the beach child's body, were you torn between wanting to help and not wanting to go back to all of that again? 
Yeah, I definitely didn’t want to get into it. But there was this cute girl…no seriously, I had to help her. Everybody else was just standing around. And after I left the beach, my mind started working on the puzzle. But honestly, I kept telling myself to leave it alone. In the end, I couldn’t resist. (Actually, I couldn’t resist Kit.)


Kit, reading your story really piqued my interest in the FBI. I loved reading about how agents work to solve cases, and I really want to ask: What made you want to become an FBI Agent?  
I was going into law. My father and brother are both lawyers. But then, I’d always been athletic. I was a four-year tri-athlete in high school and played lacrosse in college. And as I started thinking about sitting in an office a lot of the time, well, it didn’t appeal to me. The FBI did.

Can I ask you what the hardest part of being an Agent is?
The hardest part is the stress. The job is very absorbing. It tends to eat up your life. A lot of relationships can’t survive it.

The best part? There’s a fellowship among agents. Yes there’s competition, but there’s also a sense that you’re a team working on something very important. 


I loved watching the way you two worked together investigating in Seeds.
Kit, if you had to use five words to describe David, what would they be? 
Impulsive, handsome, fit, smart, and funny. 

David, your turn: five words to describe Kit? 
She’s beautiful. Really. OK, you said five words: Beautiful, smart, persistent, attractive, and, I’ve got to say it, she’s a godly woman. Very spiritual. Is that more than five? 


David, I can't resist asking: From the moment we first meet you in Seeds, you have your iPod handy. What music was on your playlist when you came to the island?  
PearlJam, Stone Temple Pilots, early Linkin Park, MuteMath


And what is on that playlist now? :-) 
MuteMath, Skillet, P.O.D., Mumford & Sons


And now a very serious final question.
Kit, before finding the beach child's body, how much did you know about the darkness of human trafficking and modern day slavery? 
Not a lot. I mean, we learned about it at the Academy. But that was just one class. I hadn’t seen it before. I didn’t suspect that I was getting into a trafficking case until I was in it. 

Is there anything you really want us to understand about this evil by the time we finish Seeds?
Look, this is really awful. People’s lives are being stolen. Those people we found, they were helpless. They were afraid, they were scared to death of ICE, they were scared of their captors. Right here, in the United States, they were enslaved. That’s terrible. 
And there are other kinds of trafficking, too. Sex trafficking, for example. Did you know that young teens are being tricked into becoming prostitutes by older men who befriend them? Middle class girls! In America!
God cares about injustice. He created these people and they deserve a chance at life. Trafficking is an abuse. I’m glad we could put some perpetrators out of business.
      
        Thank you both for visiting today, and I hope everyone will go HERE and order Seeds of Evidence so they can find out more about your stories and so they can follow the case of the beach child until it is solved. 
         It was wonderful to get to know you both a little better, please say Hi to Linda White for me! :-) 


I have to tell you, readers: This interview made my day. I was grinning from ear to ear for hours after visiting with Kit and David. This, talking to authors and characters, is the best part of book reviewing. 

Three Days of Seeds of Evidence!!! Day One: Kit's thoughts...




                         A Greater Treasure

I AM the rich, young ruler. Not because I have money or fine clothes or authority. I’m not even a man. Nor have I kept all the commandments except one. (Now that I know myself better, I doubt I’ve kept any of them.) It’s just because … 

I love the beach. Put me next to the ocean with the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and the sand beneath my feet and I am free, as free as the seabirds that soar above my beloved Assateague Island. 

My life is intense—as an FBI agent I go head-to-head with aggressive criminals and sometimes equally aggressive co-workers. And then there was the divorce I didn’t want. How could I have been more careful when I picked Eric to marry? A strong Christian, an intelligent man—who knew he would grow tired of our marriage so soon?

His announcement that he was leaving knocked the wind out of me. I could not find my footing or my faith. I felt lost, overwhelmed, like I was drowning in a disorienting sea, all alone, abandoned.

 I retreated, as I always do, to the beach.

And that’s where I found the boy. The Beach Child. A little guy, just 7 or 8, washing up in the surf. Dead. Even more lost than I.

I had to know who killed him. And why. Who his mother was. And if she grieved.

I had to seek justice for my little Beach Child.

I had no idea it would be the Beach Child who would redeem me, who would show me the treasure I was refusing to give up, introduce me to David, and free my heart. I sought justice for the Beach Child; he brought life back to me.

I am the rich young ruler. I held onto my pain and my righteous anger like it was gold, worth more than the One who is justice. A dead child taught me to release it. And now I am free.

--Special Agent Kit McGovern

“Seeds of Evidence”





Thank you Linda J. White for sharing Kit's thoughts with us!  This is beautiful. 

Photo from Linda's Facebook page. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Five Days of Fear.


                                  


Playing with grandchildren at a family picnic should never have led to her kidnapping.
She was only trying to retrieve her grandson's baseball when she crossed the park toward the van with the men talking beside it. She never expected to overhear their words.... She certainly wasn't any threat to them! Yet in a few terrible moments, her husband was shot and Angie Britton was forced into the van, disappearing into the San Francisco sunshine with the kidnappers.

A day that seemed too perfect for this fallen world turned into Five Days of Fear. 

Jessica Britton, the youngest Britton daughter, finds herself sitting in the hospital where her father is in surgery, speaking with an FBI Agent about the efforts to recover her missing mother. Jessica is a very easy character to like, and she is a unique heroine for a mystery: a quiet-yet-strong 25 year old kindergarten teacher who loves her family and and her Lord.  Jessica is torn between the fact that basics of life must go on while the FBI searches, and the desire to help recover her mom. Jessica's faith and courage are about to be tested more than ever before...

FBI Agent Dan Hamilton is facing a case with no leads. Why would a Grandma in her fifties be abducted in a parking lot, with seemingly no motive and no reason?
Could she possibly have interfered with someone's plans?
Could these plans be terrorism?
If so, they are racing against time to find Angie and save more lives.
And you, the reader, are racing right along with them.

A mystery should reflect real life by being a balance of law-enforcement action as well as details about the character's lives and relationships. David Kovach's book gets an A+ : his characters are a close and loving family thrust into the middle of a terrifying crime. Five Days of Fear shows the Brittons in their darkest hour, yet instead of reacting in frantic worry, they draw together to support one another. Their trust and faith shines out to a world looking for that stability.

There is a good scene when FBI Agent Daniel Hamilton asks Jessie about how she stays so calm. She replies "Dan, I have failed miserably in my faith this week! I think I have been in a constant state of worrying these four days."
"So? It makes your faith real."
Jessica looked at Dan. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, it humanizes your faith. It makes it attainable for even me. I've seen TV evangelists speak of faith as if one were never to worry again, to never have fears- as if problems were never going to happen again. To me, that's so phony. If you never worry, if you never face a situation that causes you fear, where is the need to have faith in God?" 

This exchange was very thought-provoking, and gave me a window into the spirits of Jessie and Dan. They are people you will be glad you met.

With intrepid agents, intense investigation, and the story of a man and a woman bonded together through near-tragedy, Five Days of Fear is a novel to add to your mystery list.

Thank you to David Kovach and Light Messages Publishing for my copy of this book.

You can click here to read the first pages free!


Born and raised in California, Dave has a love for San Francisco—its blend of history, progress, scenery, and, of course, its cuisine, make it special. After a stint in the Air Force, Dave received his education at Cal Poly, S.L.O. and UC Davis—where he met his wife, Karen. They have two children, Scott and Jen, now grown, and moved to Iowa where the topography is part of the Great Plains, but the people are anything but plain.

While working a daytime job with the government, Dave began writing study guides in the evenings for the church they attended. After writing a few of these and learning some writing skills, he decided to try his hand at fiction. Five Days of Fear is his debut novel. Dave left the tentacles of government employment and now devotes his time to writing.

Dave loves landscaping and Karen loves gardening. They “have such felicity, that they seemed to be made for each other.”

  

 You can visit David at his Twitter, and his Goodreads page!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Survivor by DiAnn Mills


Volume One in the Crime Scene Houston Series, The Chase.
This book introduces us to Kariss, a sharp and spirited writer who has decided to switch genres from woman's fiction to suspense. Her idea is to write the stories from FBI cold-cases, and for this she is teamed up with FBI Agent Santiago Harris. When Santiago and Karriss re-open the case of Cherished Doe, will they find her killer and stay alive? 


The Survivor is the sequel to The Chase, and I really think that for the fullest reading pleasure you should buy both and read them together! :-) 

In The Survivor,  Kariss is contacted by a Christian counselor who was herself the victim of a brutal assault as a child. Over the last decades, this woman has turned her compassion and understanding into Freedom's Way Counseling. Now, Dr. Amy Garrett wants to tell her story, in fiction, with Kariss' help. Kariss accepts the project, with some trepidation... and much curiosity. After a near-death experience of her own while working with Santiago on the Cherished Doe case, Kariss understands the trauma that a violent attack produces. 
Besides, tackling a project like this will keep her mind off a certain Agent who has established a place in her heart. 

Santiago and Kariss have broken off their relationship, giving Santiago time wrestle with the question of who Jesus is and what kind of call He has on his life. 
One thing is sure, Tigo's life needs to include Kariss Walker, but before that can happen they must both know and serve the same Lord.
So Kariss and Santiago bury themselves in their work, he investigating crime and she writing Dr. Garrett's story. 
Soon though, their work connects them again as the man who killed so many other victims returns and tries to claim the one survivor. Amy Garrett is not alone in danger, she is dragging Kariss into the line of fire along with her. 

As I read, there were two main questions in my mind: "How can Kariss and Tigo possibly keep avoiding one another like this when they mean so much to each other?!!!!" and "How long will this stalker be able to keep tormenting Amy before he is stopped?"  
These two questions, and their answers, made for some very compelling reading.  

I want to thank Netgalley for my ebook to review.
 The Survivor is one I would add to my paperback mystery library, along with The Chase.   


Award-winning author DiAnn Mills launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over fifty books in print and has sold over 1.5 million copies. DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.”Six of her titles have appeared on the CBA Bestseller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2008, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007. She was a Christy Awards finalist in 2008 and a Christy Winner in 2010 and 2011!  DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. 

She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman Mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.  She and her husband live in Houston, Texas. They have four adult sons.
Favorite Verse - Jeremiah 20:9 But I say,'I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.



and an interview with  DiAnn Mills at the fabulous TitleTrakk.com !!! 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Widow Of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green.


I have always thought that historical novels are best when they follow the pattern of the true story of Ruth, told in the Book of Ruth. 
In this Biblical book, the tiny details of the Ruth's life and the wholesome, growing love between her and Boaz are set against the backdrop of national upheaval and giant questions of faith. 
I marvel when I read Ruth, because here are homey, ordinary details amidst such a dark and deadly time, the period of the Judges. Famine and fighting surrounded Israel, yet Ruth was trusting God and bowing her head and praying and serving her family and falling in love while the world crashed down around her. 

The Widow of Gettyburg tells Liberty Holloway's story in a like way, giving attention to the fact that lemonade colored roses grew over the porch railing and that her kitchen garden flourished even as war tortured hearts and marched ever closer to their quiet home.  

I was one chapter into this book, the second book in the Heroines Behind the Lines Series, and I was already telling my Mother "You *have* to read this!" 
And what a first chapter it is! 
Liberty is nineteen years old and a widow, her life seemingly put on hold before it even really began. Liberty had worn her black mourning dress for almost two years, mourning a youthful husband she never really knew; a love she isn't sure she really received or gave.  
After all, when would "Orphan Libbie" have known love? Raised by an unkind aunt and told terrible stories about who her mother was, Liberty has spent her years being the outcast. 
Now she is marginally accepted only because she is the Widow of Gettysburg, a symbol of the war's toll on them all.  

In the drenching rain, a lone rider is coming toward Liberty's farm-turned-inn, seeking shelter and a meal. Liberty is alone with Bella, her hired help, and Major, her Newfoundland. {I got this big grin on my face when I first met Major, because I grew up with a big Newfie in my family!  Major's story is another example of how Jocelyn Green includes little details that fit within the grand scope of the story and enrich our reading experience. Major was the canine mascot for Liberty's late husband's regiment. The dog has attached himself to Levi, and when Levi died Major was sent home to Liberty.} The rider gives his name simply as Johnny, and surely Liberty hasn't met him before, so how is it that he can read her so well so quickly?  
And why did he give her the warning that she should leave this town, and soon? 
What harm could come to her in Gettysburg? 

Then comes the battle, and after that comes the bloody river of 21,000 wounded men, sweeping around the 2,400 residents of Gettysburg and all but drowning the city. 
It was then, as civilians were pressed into service to care for the men, that the women of Gettysburg discovered what they were capable of. It is from there that Liberty's story is told. 

Once again, Jocelyn's descriptive writing takes you into the scenes, to see both the beautiful and the tragic. We see the peace of a June day in Gettysburg, and then we see the shallow graves where too many were buried. We see the strength of doctors and nurses who labored to save everyone they could, and we see the devastation of wounds in bodies that were whole and healthy. 

Jocelyn Green has introduced us to people from history and adding layers to their stories, giving them life in our minds. Authors have such a unique opportunity, to let us meet people like Liberty's friend Elizabeth Thorn, who really was the pregnant cemetery keeper and grave-digger in Gettysburg. Elizabeth is memorialized by a statue and a place in this book.  

When you read Widow of Gettysburg you read Liberty's own personal story as well as the story of a nation at war. Both stories are told with equal skill, making this an unforgettable lesson in history and the human heart. 

Thank you Moody Press Newsroom and Jocelyn Green for sending me this book to review! 

Jocelyn Green is an award-winning author and freelance writer. A former military wife, she authored, along with contributing writers, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and Faith Deployed . .  Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. Jocelyn also co-authored ofStories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan, which won the Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America in 2010, and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, which inspired her first novel: Wedded to War.

Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, with a B.A. in English, concentration in writing. She is an active member of the Evangelical Press Association, Christian Authors Network, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Military Writers Society of America.
She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, Toblerone chocolate bars, the color red, and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two small children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at JocelynGreen.com.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Deployed: by Mel Odom.

                             


I was so happy to see Tyndale release Deployed as a free ebook right before the second book in the series, Renegade was published!
I thought Renegade looked really, really good... but I hadn't gotten a chance to read Deployed. Well, let me tell you: about three pages into Deployed I discovered that was reading a very good story... and I knew I needed to read the next book, and the next one...

Deployed begins with Bekah, a Marine reservist, getting into a fight with Buck Miller in an attempt to protect her friend Connie from one of Buck's drunken beatings.
Bekah wasn't looking for any trouble, but she is brave and won't back down when right is on the line. Even though Buck is heavier, drunk and wielding a knife, it is he who ends up on the ground in the bar's gravel parking lot, clutching his injuries.
Bekah ends up in the county jail, with a blot on her otherwise excellent record and accusations that her two deployments are taking a toll on her mental health.

After no good Billy Roy Briggs left her with a baby boy, Bekah joined the Marines to make a better life. She and her six year old Travis lived with her sweet, godly Granny and she worked slinging hash at a local diner to bring in money. Their small Oklahoma town offered no mercy and few breaks to a young woman like her, and being a Marine was Bekah's best chance to provide for her son. There was a catch though: each deployment took her away from him, and he was growing up before her eyes. And Bekah is about to be deployed again.

Mel Odom has written a great piece of military fiction, with real characters in the middle of intense action.
Bekah is strong and brave, as a single Momma and a Marine....
Pike Morgan is a great Marine, and he is also convinced that he is a bad guy who doesn't want to be trusted or needed by anyone....
Ralph is very young and slightly scared Marine about to deploy for the first time....
Marine Lt. Heath Bridger is tougher than he might look at first, and a sharp lawyer too.
These are a few of the cast of characters in Deployed. 
As far as I am concerned, we can't have enough books written that honor the Marines.
I am eager to read the other books Mel Odom writes about the USMC.







  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Heart Stone.

      A grieving widow....
      A young single mother....
      A boy who has never known his father...
      A drug addicted man who never wanted his son...
      A kind but shattered missionary, back in the states after
      losing  his leg...
      One story that connects them all....



The Heart Stone lets us meet characters who are asking "Can I let go of that hurt?" "Can he forgive me?" "Is it right to love again after my husband dies?" and finding that God, as the author of love,   doesn't want them to shut love out.



Evelyn needs to find the man whose heart she broke years before, Jessica needs to release her fear of Jacob's father and open her heart to the godly man who wants to help her.

Exploring the themes of forgiveness, trusting again and moving forward after loss, this book will touch the heart of anyone who has walked in those shoes.

"I found the stories I was most drawn to deal with women’s issues, particularly self-identity; so writing women’s fiction was a natural fit for me. I love writing about characters who connect or reconnect with someone from their past, whether they are friends, family members, or long lost loves." Sherry Kyle said, in this interview, and that is what she has wonderfully succeeded in with this novel. 


I received The Heart Stone from Pump Up Your Book Promotion and the author for my review. Thank you!!





Sherry Kyle is a graduate of Biola University with a degree in Communications, and a minor in Bible. Sherry is also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. She currently has three books in print, her award-winning book for tween girls titled The Christian Girl's Guide to Style all about beauty, fashion, and character, Delivered with Love, her debut contemporary novel, as well as The Heart Stone by Abingdon Press. Sherry and her husband have four children, three biological and one by adoption. She lives along the coast in central California.

You can visit Sherry HERE, at her facebook page, and HERE at her Twitter! 


   






Keep Scrolling to read the first chapter FREE! 

SUMMARY:

When the biological father of Jessica MacAllister’s son decides to break their custody agreement, Jessica and her son visit her Uncle George for advice and refuge…

Following a year of grief, Evelyn Sweeney is finally ready to move on. Pondering her new path in life, her mind drifts to her first love, George MacAllister…

When the lives of these two women cross, they discover that one heart-shaped ring binds their stories together. But will the results be a rekindled faith and new hope, or will it lead them both back into the darkness they’ve fought for so long?

FIRST CHAPTER

“Jessi, it’s Andrew . . . Andrew Lawson.”

At the sound of his voice, Jessica MacAllister’s knees went limp and her palms grew moist. She sat down on the wooden stool near the kitchen counter and leaned her head on her hand, her elbow resting against the cold tile. Why was he call- ing? She hadn’t heard from him since he signed the papers relinquishing his rights to Jacob six years before.

“Jessi, you there?”

She fought the urge to hang up the phone. “I’m here.”

“I want to see him.”

Her heart beat a strange rhythm. She had prayed this day would never come. “Andrew, I—I—I don’t know,” she stut-tered. As a speech pathologist, she prided herself on her communication skills, but this man could trip her up regardless of her training.

“We can meet at a park. I’ll sit at a distance and watch.” The desperation in his voice was palpable. Jessica’s jaw clenched and her stomach churned. How could she trust that he wouldn’t rush up to Jacob and tell him that he was his biological father? Or worse, what if he wasn’t sober? His behavior when he was drunk could be . . . No.

She wouldn’t let a man who had no part in Jacob’s upbringing suddenly waltz into his life—especially someone who had shown her the ways of the world. But Andrew wasn’t entirely to blame. She’d given in.

“No. No, that won’t work.” Jessica ran her hand through her shoulder-length hair.

“How about a restaurant? I’ll eat at a separate table. I only want to see our son.”

Our son. Jacob was not their son. He was hers and hers only. Andrew wasn’t there for her when she was pregnant or gave birth. He’d never been there. Why the sudden interest now?

When Jessica woke this morning, she planned to spend the whole afternoon with Jacob—alone. What right did Andrew have to show up in her life after she’d assumed he was long gone? He’d abandoned her when she needed him most. The wound hurt deep and it would take a lot more than a casual demand.

A fire burned in her belly. “The answer is no—”

“Mommy, who you talking to?” Jacob padded into the kitchen, softly clad in his dinosaur pajamas. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Is that my boy?” Andrew’s voice rose.

Jessica stared at her innocent son. Her hand shook and a lump lodged in her throat. She couldn’t tell Jacob who was calling, and she couldn’t tell Andrew the small voice he heard was indeed his son’s.

“Come on, Jessi, work with me here—”

A firm resolve flowed through her veins. She wouldn’t allow Andrew to worm his way into her son’s life. Not now, not ever.

“I’ve got to go.” She pressed the off button and hung up the receiver.

“Hungry, buddy?” On shaky legs, she swung around the counter. She hoped Jacob didn’t notice how rattled she felt.

“How about some pancakes?”

“With chocolate chips?” He hopped on a stool and grinned, showing the gap that once held a baby tooth.

Several months ago, she’d made his favorite pancakes for his birthday. And now, after receiving the unexpected phone call from his birthfather, she’d give Jacob anything he wanted.

“Sure.” She smiled back.

“Can we go see Uncle George today?” Jacob pleaded.

“Thought you wanted to spend the day with me.” A twinge of jealousy twisted her insides.

She chided herself, and then grabbed a mixing bowl from the cabinet. Uncle George had been through a difficult patch lately. If they could spend an hour or two visiting, it would make a world of difference to the older man.

“I’ve never seen someone without a leg.” Jacob’s eyes grew big and round.

Jessica cringed—neither had she. Why hadn’t she taken the time to visit her uncle before now? The answer made her pulse race. Fear. The smell of hospitals and rehabilitation centers turned her stomach. Glancing down at her hand, the heart-shaped stone glistened and caught the light filtering through the window. Uncle George had given her the diamond ring when he found out she was pregnant with Jacob to fend off any unwanted advances—or unwanted questions. He had said, “It’s hard enough being a single parent.”

“Can we, Mom?” Jacob’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

The phone rang. She recognized the number from moments ago. Andrew.

The phone rang twice more.

Jessica continued to gather the utensils and ingredients for the pancakes. Maybe if she ignored him, he’d go away.

“Can I answer it?” Jacob reached for the phone.

“NO!” She stopped him, and then clicked the off button of the answering machine before it could pick up.

“Who keeps calling?” Melissa, her roommate of a couple years, strode into the room. Her short blonde hair stuck out here and there, and her pink jersey T-shirt hung almost to her

knees over her navy sweat pants.

Jessica shot her a “don’t ask” look, and then gestured to her little boy. “Jacob and I are going to Santa Cruz today to see Uncle George.”

“Yeah!” Jacob hopped off the stool and thrust his arms in the air. He ran around the table like a speeding train pumping his small fists.

“Whoa, buddy.” Jessica caught him, wrapping her arms around his chest. “Jacob, listen. I need to talk with Melissa.

Why don’t you watch cartoons and I’ll call you when the pancakes are ready.” Jessica rubbed the top of his head, his soft, brown hair slipping between her fingers.

“Okay.” He ran toward the couch. On his way, he reached down and grabbed his favorite dump truck from the floor, and then huddled in the corner cushion of the sofa. Jessica flipped on the television, then motioned for her roommate to join her in her bedroom.

“What’s up?” Melissa planted her hands on her hips. “You’re acting strange.”

“It’s Jacob’s birthfather. I spoke with him this morning.

Jessica paced the room. She grabbed her purple terrycloth robe and slipped it over her shoulders. “I hung up on him. And now he’s calling again.”

“What does he want?” Melissa sat on the edge of Jessica’s unmade bed and covered her legs with the striped comforter.

“To see Jacob.” Jessica leaned against the wall, slid down, and landed with a thud on the hardwood floor.

“Has he ever been part of Jacob’s life?”

“No, and I won’t let him start now. When he found out I was pregnant, he made it clear he didn’t want anything to do with the baby or me. He even blamed me for sleeping around, saying the baby wasn’t his.” Jessica hugged her legs with both arms. “I wish I’d never gone to Mexico on that college trip. But I did.” She sighed. “My roommates and I wanted to celebrate. I knew better.”

“Celebrate what?”

“Graduation from Fresno State.” Jessica bit her lower lip.“We were seniors looking for a good time. That’s where I met Andrew.” She stared at the floor, wishing the memories away.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You have a beautiful little boy.” Melissa stood and meandered over to where Jessica sat.

Holding out both hands, she pulled her up. “From now on, I’ll answer the phone. I think Jacob’s waiting for those pancakes.”

Her roommate was never one to mope and she wouldn’t allow Jessica to either.

She cinched the belt of her robe. “Please don’t tell Jacob who called.”

“Never in a million years.” Melissa led her back to the kitchen. “So, when do you leave for Santa Cruz?”

“Right after breakfast.”

“It’s spring break. Why don’t you take the whole week? I’ll ward off any unwanted callers.”

With Jacob having time off from school, Jessica had cancelled all her clients. Her speech pathology business, SpeakEasy, would take a hit financially but she’d promised Jacob to spend time with him. Santa Cruz sounded great. Still . . . .

“But tomorrow is Easter and we planned a big dinner. I can’t leave you alone.” Jessica poured a cup of coffee and handed it to Melissa. “I bought more vanilla creamer. It’s in the side door of the refrigerator.”

“Don’t worry about me.” Melissa’s eyes danced. “A guy from work hinted he had no place to go.”

“Oh, I get it.” Jessica grinned. “Don’t let us get in your way.”

“It’s not like that, and you know it.” Melissa returned the tease. “I was going to ask you today if he could join us, but since you’re leaving town, I didn’t want you to worry.” She grabbed the creamer and poured a hefty portion into her coffee.

“If it makes you feel any better, I’m glad you’ll have company.”

“Where will you stay in Santa Cruz?”

“My uncle has a trailer. I’m sure we can crash there.” Jessica cracked two eggs into a bowl and beat them before adding the flour, baking powder, sugar, and milk to the bowl. “He’s going to be surprised to see us. I’ve been hesitating—didn’t want to scare Jacob. He’s never seen someone without a leg.”

Melissa took a swig of her coffee. “Jacob didn’t look scared to me. Are you sure you’re not the one who’s nervous?” She winked.

Jessica placed a small bowl of butter in the microwave.

“Okay, you got me there. I admit I’m scared. I can’t imagine my uncle, someone I’ve leaned on for strength my whole life, needing assistance. I’m glad the nurses at Pacific Coast Manor are available around the clock.” She stirred the batter gently, leaving small clumps of dry ingredients. “I almost forgot the chocolate chips.”

“In the pancake batter? It’s not anyone’s birthday.” Melissa opened the cabinet above the dishwasher and handed the bag to Jessica. “You really are worried about that phone call.”

Jessica nodded and let out a breath.

Melissa sidled up to her and spoke in hushed tones. “Remember, it’s not the end of the world. So, he wants to see his son. Are you sure that would be a bad thing?”

Jessica scrunched up her nose and looked directly at her roommate. “I’m positive.” She placed a frying pan on the stove and turned the heat to medium low before she added a handful of chocolate chips to the mix.

Melissa dropped a pat of butter into the pan. “Okay, if you’re sure, then I’m with you on this.”

“Thank you.”

“But promise me you’ll take this week to really think it through. Jacob needs a man in his life. And you haven’t brought one around since he was born.” Melissa sprinkled a few flecks of water into the pan. The drops sizzled.

“You forget. We’re going to visit my uncle. He’s the best role model I could ask for. No other man is needed.” Jessica poured circles of batter onto the hot griddle.

“If you say so.”

“Jacob, can you please turn off the television,” Jessica called. “It’s time for pancakes.”

“Buckle up.” Jessica glanced over her shoulder at her six year old. He sat in his booster seat between several suitcases, clutching his stuffed teddy bear.

“How long ’til we get there?” Jacob clicked the seat belt.

“About three hours, give or take.”

She couldn’t get out of her apartment fast enough.

Considering she hadn’t heard from Andrew in years, he’d suddenly become persistent. He must have done plenty of searching to locate her unlisted phone number. She’d been careful to keep her whereabouts a secret.

Melissa stood by the curb waving as Jessica turned the key. “Jacob, wave goodbye.”

“Why can’t Melissa come?” Jacob leaned toward the door and moved his hand back and forth.

“Because she has a special guest coming for Easter dinner tomorrow.” Jessica grinned.

No one should be alone on a holiday, including Uncle George. It had been at least two years since the last time they’d been together, and she hadn’t been with him much before that either, although they’d always stayed in touch. His ministry to the people in the Philippines had spanned decades. She knew he’d hoped to live out his days there, but his high fever and toe infection brought him back home to the States. No amount of antibiotics could cure the gangrene that set in or the hearing loss in his right ear. His left leg was amputated below the knee, and he was fitted for a hearing aid. And now, according to the nurses, he was becoming more and more withdrawn as the days wore on. Jessica could hear it in his voice every time she called.

After weaving through town to load her car with gas, she turned onto CA-180W toward CA-99 and drove her Honda Civic with the air conditioner on full blast. She flipped on the radio and sang along.

“Mommy.”

Jessica looked into her rearview mirror. “Yes?”

“I need to go potty.” He bit his lower lip.

Jessica let out a sigh and stared back at the road. “Didn’t I tell you to go before we left?”

“I forgot.”

“I’ll look for a rest stop. You may need to wait until we get to Madera.”

“How long is that?”

“Twenty miles.” Jessica glanced at him once more. Her son’s brows were furrowed, his lips pinched, and his arms were tightly wrapped around his stuffed animal. The life of a six-year-old was hard. She stifled a grin. If worse came to worst, she’d pull over to the side of the road.

“When we gonna get there?” Jacob whined.

This was going to be a long trip.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Its Hard to Find a Special Cat...






"It is hard to find a special cat. Ordinary ones are easy." 

If you can keep from grinning, laughing and cheering while reading The Cat That God Sent, I want to meet you!!!

And if you have your own cat, you will be hugging him the whole way through.

The Cat That God Sent is about a young pastor, his lost faith, a small town, a smaller church, and a cat with silver fur and gold green eyes: A cat who has been sent by God. I knew this book would be a great read the moment Petey the cat was introduced. Sitting in the grass at the edge of the church parking lot, watching Pastor Jake and planning to bring him a nice mouse, Petey is committed to completing his mission from God.

I loved this book because I live in a small town kind of like this. I could see the town of Coulderport, Pennsylvania as I read this book. The convenience store, the gravel parking lot, the river, the fishing hole. The little church with the crooked steeple and the door that doesn't shut or open.

I felt like I knew the people- Vern, crashing around in his monstrous RV. Jimbo, tentatively asking the Pastor to go fishing. Elder Rudolph realizing that he is not alone on his faith journey.
Emma, the vet, who wants to know if anyone can believe what Pastors preach, and Tassy, the dear young homeless girl who knocks on the church door.
All of them with questions and a past, all of them needing to hear from God.
We have all been abandoned, Petey says, by everyone but God. 

Petey knows this is what he was sent here for. He was sent here to help them. And in an unforgettable way, he does.
My appreciation of this book is heightened because in the last year God has sent me a handsome stray cat with the mannerisms of Petey.
The little cat details were a joy to read about, because my Sam has them: Sleeping with his paw over his face, pushing his head into my knee, leaping effortlessly onto desks and windows. Even sleeping on my Bible.

And this book had me a little choked up at the end.
A great read! Bravo, Jim Kraus!

Thank you Litfuse for sending me The Cat That God Sent.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Perfecting Kate by Tamara Leigh




Kate Meadows is a girl we all know... maybe we even see a little of her in the mirror!
She is sweet and doesn't believe it, pretty and can't really see it, she wants to be God's girl but she keeps breaking all her well intended promises.

Kate vows to be unbelievably happy as a 33 year old artist, but she isn't. She is single, with no good men on her horizon as far as she can tell, and she wants to be married!
She knows she can only marry a Christian, so she desperately tries to find hints of Christianity in the "eligible" men around her. Even when she includes the tiniest bits of evidence, there aren't that many decent men in her circles, so sometimes she breaks her rule and dates them anyway... Of course, after the last bad relationship Kate has sworn off men altogether.

And then she meets two men: Michael, a makeup artist, and Clive, a reconstructive surgeon.
Michael wants to use Kate in a "Mismatched Girlfriends" magazine feature. When he called her "perfect" he meant she was perfect for the "ugly+makeover=beautiful" rigamarole. Hint: He thinks she is ugly. Well, no, not ugly, just impossibly unattractive. Of course, with a little of his wares and five or twenty visits to the various professionals whose business cards he is constantly handing her, she might become "beautiful."

Clive, meanwhile, wants Kate to paint the children's mural for the hospital's burn unit. He'll tolerate her Christian symbolism woven through the painting, but he wants it kept subtle.
And he'll tolerate her outspoken Christianity, but he wants her to keep it real.
And Kate just wants someone who will understand her and love her anyway.
Michael seems like he will be that man... all he asks from her is that she take his good advice and get herself fixed up a little. It *is* good advice, isn't it?
But Clive is forcing her to look deeper into her faith even as he refuses to open up and talk about his... and Clive doesn't want her to change the very color of her eyes like Michael advised!

What is a girl to do? Well, if you are Kate Meadows you end up learning a whole lot about God and yourself...

Following Kate through this book to her renewed spiritual awakening was a journey worth taking.
Kate Meadow's story would be an excellent opener for a discussion about relationships and their boundaries are well as body image and our common attempts to have perfect faith.

Now, *SPOLIER ALERT.* I want to say a few words about Clive...
Clive, being the man, had an advantage over Kate because he was naturally the initiator in the relationship, and at times he seemed to be foisting his emotions and desires on her, or at least leading the way into dangerous, forbidden territory. The scene when Kate had to explain that she wanted this to stop before it got out of hand was sad and accurate, because it highlights a common dilemma: Desire without marriage leading to a dance on the edge of sin.
Let me loosely paraphrase Albert Mohler's excellent recent sermon on this "Passion with no holy means of expression, i.e marriage, leads to frustration." We are seeing this on the increase as singles stay single longer, and Kate and Clive exemplify this. The have passion that would be a beautiful thing within their marriage, but is just tinder and sparks out of it. I applaud you, Tamara for leading us into a serious discussion of this issue through a story that we can all relate to.



Tamara Leigh came to Christ, celebrated the birth of her first child, and published her first novel all in one year. Since then, she has kept writing and sharing her stories with us. {I look forward to the chance to review more of her books!}


When not in the middle of being a wife, mother, and cookbook fiend, Tamara continues to write. Recently, she returned to the historical romance genre with the release of Dreamspell, a medieval time travel romance. With The Unveiling: Book One in her new Age of Faith series, she once more invites readers to join her in the world of the middle ages.
Tamara lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and sons, a Doberman that bares its teeth not only to threaten the UPS man but to smile, and a Shih Tzu with a Napoleon complex and something of an eating disorder.


                                                You can visit her website: Tamara Leigh, The Kitchen Novelist

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fire Storm.



Fire Storm has the perfect setting for a mystery: an idyllic farming town in Illinois, where the corn grows tall and shelters the roads, stretching into giant fields with farmhouses and tractors being common sights, and where people still ride horses almost as naturally as they drive cars.

Jim grew up in this town, and loves it with all of his heart. At 24 years old, Jim has a great life here: a few acres of land with a farmhouse hayfields and a barn for his horses, a young bride Jessica waiting for him with their baby in her arms, a fulfilling job as a firefighter at the small local station. Jim also gets to work with his old friend Wade, and Wade's wife Mellissa is best friends with Jessica. Mellissa is expecting her first baby and Jessica's Morgan is a just a newborn. They are blessed and content, and they rely on their Mighty God who has loved, guarded and guided them all their days.

The only thing that has shattered the peace in recent years is Jim's ocasional lead-foot habit when he is driving his red pickup truck on their gravel roads, and Wade's poisonous cooking when it is his turn to make dinner at the firehouse. {The cooking scenes, by the way, were hilarious. Laughing out loud, I was. Ask my family. They heard me laughing several times. Nothing like good humor.}

The first attempt on Jessica's life seems to come out of nowhere, with no reasonable motive behind it. Someone soaked the barn with flammable fluid and lit it while Jess was up in the loft stacking hay. Jim dismisses this as teens out for trouble, more prank than anything, not intended to harm anyone, and certainly not intended to harm Jess.
Then the second incident happens. And the third. And then more.
Who wants to hurt them?
Who wants them to die?
And will they live through this?

Jim and Wade have one man whom they would easily suspect of being behind these frightening events: Derrick, who works at the fire station in town.
Derrick is a true loner who has made few friends and has shared even fewer details of his past.
A brooding one, he has a wall up that keeps everyone out.
He is a crack paramedic, though, and he has no competition on the job. He has shown up quite a few of the older men with his skill and his willingness to risk his life. He is characterized by refusal to give up or give in, but beneath all of this is something disturbing.
Why would he hate Jim and Jess?
Does he want them killed?

This is the setting, the conflict, and some of the characters that make up the novel Fire Storm.
This book captivated me from scene one where I met Jim driving to work along a country road.
Shortly thereafter, Fire Storm explodes into twists and turns that leave you wondering what will happen next. Putting this book down is not an option.
The suspense builds and we learn that things are not what they seem... as a little game called "survival" is played.
I shouldn't post spoilers, but I want to tell you that my favorite scene involves a cabin, way out in the woods, and grenades, and rifles and..... Well, let me just say Mackenzie Dare knows how to write action scenes.
This book earned its title.

I can't wait to read the sequel Mackenzie is working on! Thank you so very much for sending me Fire Storm to review!

Please, stop by and say Hi to Mackenzie over at her blog, Poems of Prayer and Praise where you can read the first chapter of Fire Storm

And to read more about both the author and her book, please click HERE to read an author interview that I was privileged to host! The interview also includes a little peek at the plot of the sequel... :-)


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Interview with Mackenzie Dare, author of Fire Storm!




Hello Readers! 
Today I am delighted to feature Mackenzie Dare in an interview! Mackenzie is the author of the riveting suspense novel Fire Storm. 
Jim, a fireman, and his wife Jess live in a small farming town, blessed and content with their new baby and their strong faith. Then things begin happening, attempts on Jessica's life, and the lives of people they love.
At first Jim dismisses it as pranks and accidents, but soon it is clear that there is a killer on the run. Jim thinks he knows who it is... but is he right? And if he is wrong...

You can read my full review of this book HERE, and I can't wait to dig deeper into the story with Mackenzie. 
So let's get started! 


1. First, how long have you loved writing? 

For as long as I can remember. I was that little kid who was always carrying around a pad of notebook paper. I was writing in a journal as soon as I learned to write, and I was one of the only kids in my class that would get excited about writing papers at school. I was always trying to learn and get better. It was my dream to someday write a book. 



2. For Fire Storm, which came to your mind first Plot or Characters? Or both at once? Which character came first? 

Both. I started out my by thinking about the plot of Jim and Jess then added the other characters and their plots. Some of both didn’t actually come about till I was already into the story.


3. Did any characters that you didn't expect come into the story? And did any characters do things that you were surprised by? Can you give us an example or two? 

Yes, all the time. Surprises are one part that made writing the story so much fun. One example would be Carlos and Melinda’s story. They weren’t even characters in the outline. Another would be Derrick’s story. I wasn’t completely aware of his secret myself till very near the page I wrote it.


4. Can you tell us if there were any scenes that were much easier or much harder to write.... any scenes that had to be rewritten over many more times than others? 

I’d say the Salvation message was the hardest to write, mainly because it carried the biggest responsibility, and also because I needed to keep it interesting without making it preachy. Mainly, I enjoyed writing every part of this story. I needed to always keep it fun and interesting so I wouldn’t lose interest.

5. I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the firemen. Those scenes made me laugh out loud! 
And I loved the rescue scenes with the paramedics and firemen. Are there paramedics or firemen in your family and friends? 

No, not really. I’ve just always been fascinated by the profession. I did quite a bit of research so I could keep them true to life.

6. One of my favorite interview questions.... Describe in five words:

Jim – Protector. Loyal. Stable. Good friend. 
Jess – Country girl. Homemaker. Loving. Sweet. 
Derrick – Mysterious. Quiet. Determined. Dark past. 


7. The theme of Fire Storm is trusting our Mighty God when we are weakest and circumstances are most frightening. I loved the way this theme was brought out through this story, and I loved the way Jim and many other characters would quote Scripture to strengthen their hearts when they were afraid. 
Would you like to give us a few verses that remind us that we can and must trust God in our trials? 

The Bible is so full of verses on trusting God and His promises to take care of us, I don’t think my knowledge of them can even scratch the surface, but here are some that have meant a great deal to me in my life.
Psalms 56:3 - What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Psalms 56:11 - In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Joshua 1:9 - Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
Psalms 27:1 - The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
1 Peter 5:7 - Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Isaiah 42:16 - And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.
Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Psalms 4:8 - I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 - And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Psalms 18


8. Now did I read it right when you said you are working on a sequel? :-) Can you tell us a little about your current writing projects? 

Yes, I am working on a sequel, and I’m having quite a bit of fun with it. 

Danger lurks in the shadows one night as the firefighters leave their shift. While walking home, one hears gunshots and instinctively responds. The victim, killed for an death-stained object within his possession, passes the torch to the fireman before drawing his final breath. Instantly aware of the awesome responsibility that comes attached to the object, the fireman becomes keenly aware of two things: the fate of justice is resting within his hands, and he has just been passed the curse of death.

You’ll also find the stories behind all the characters growing deeper and more complex.
How will Jim and Jess continue in their journey of love and dependence on God? 
How will the new baby affect Wade and Mellissa’s relationship?
Will Derrick’s reunion become one he cherishes or grows to regret?
Can Dr. Fredricks keep both his home-life and work-life together without one or the other ending in tragedy? 
Will Carlos’ romance grow deeper and more sincere or will it hit a roadblock?  


Mackenzie, you are killing me with all those hints about your next book! :-) Thank you so much for being here and for this great interview! 

Please click over to Mackenzie's blog Poems of Prayer and Praise and say Hi! You can read the first chapter for free while you are there, too!