Category: reviews (Page 1 of 3)

Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble

No review yet, but I can’t wait until I get a moment to read this book. Scroll down after the chapter preview for a Q&A with Colleen Coble.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Colleen Coble’s thirty-five novels and novellas have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA, the Holt Medallion, the ACFW Book of the Year, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, the Booksellers Best, and the 2009 Best Books of Indiana-Fiction award. She writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail and love begin with a happy ending.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Olivia seems to have it all, but her heart yearns for more.

Olivia Stewart’s family is one of the Four Hundred—the highest echelon of society in 1910. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Olivia leaves their New York City home for Mercy Falls, California, to determine what befell Eleanor. She suspects Harrison Bennett, the man Eleanor planned to marry. But the more Olivia gets to know him, the more she doubts his guilt—and the more she is drawn to him herself.

When several attempts are made on her life, Olivia turns to Harrison for help. He takes her on a ride in his aeroplane, but then crashes, and they’re forced to spend two days alone together. With her reputation hanging by a thread, Harrison offers to marry her to make the situation right. As a charity ball to rebuild the Mercy Falls lighthouse draws near, she realizes she wants more than a sham engagement—she wants Harrison in her life forever. But her enemy plans to shatter the happiness she is ready to grasp. If Olivia dares to drop her masquerade, she just might see the path to true happiness.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159554268X
ISBN-13: 978-1595542687

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The New York brownstone was just half a block down from the Astor mansion on Fifth Avenue, the most prestigious address in the country. The carriage, monogrammed with the Stewart emblem, rattled through the iron gates and came to a halt in front of the ornate doors. Assisted by the doorman, Olivia Stewart descended and rushed for the steps of her home. She was late for tea, and her mother would be furious. Mrs. Astor herself had agreed to join them today.

Olivia handed her hat to the maid, who opened the door. “They’re in the drawing room, Miss Olivia,” Goldia whispered. “Your mama is ready to pace the floor.”

Olivia patted at her hair, straightened her shoulders, and pinned a smile in place as she forced her stride to a ladylike stroll to join the other women. Two women turned to face her as she entered: her mother and Mrs. Astor. They wore identical expressions of disapproval.

“Olivia, there you are,” her mother said. “Sit down before your tea gets cold.”

Olivia pulled off her gloves as she settled into the Queen Anne chair beside Mrs. Astor. “I apologize for my tardiness,” she said. “A lorry filled with tomatoes overturned in the street, and my driver couldn’t get around it.”

Mrs. Astor’s face cleared. “Of course, my dear.” She sipped her tea from the delicate blue-and-white china. “Your dear mother and I were just discussing your prospects. It’s time you married.”

Oh dear. She’d hoped to engage in light conversation that had nothing to do with the fact that she was twenty-five and still unmarried. Her unmarried state distressed her if she let it, but every man her father brought to her wanted only her status. She doubted any of them had ever looked into her soul. “I’m honored you would care about my marital status, Mrs. Astor,” Olivia said.

“Mrs. Astor wants to hold a ball in your honor, Olivia,” her mother gushed. “She has a distant cousin coming to town whom she wants you to meet.”

Mrs. Astor nodded. “I believe you and Matthew would suit. He owns property just down the street.”

Olivia didn’t mistake the reference to the man’s money. Wealth would be sure to impact her mother. She opened her mouth to ask if the man was her age, then closed it at the warning glint in her mother’s eyes.

“He’s been widowed for fifteen years and is long overdue for a suitable wife,” Mrs. Astor said.

Olivia barely suppressed a sigh. So he was another of the decrepit gentlemen who showed up from time to time. “You’re very kind,” she said.

“He’s most suitable,” her mother said. “Most suitable.”

Olivia caught the implication. They spent the next half an hour discussing the date and the location. She tried to enter into the conversation with interest, but all she could do was imagine some gray-whiskered blue blood dancing her around the ballroom. She stifled a sigh of relief when Mrs. Astor took her leave and called for her carriage.

“I’ll be happy when you’re settled, Olivia,” her mother said when they returned to the drawing room. “Mrs. Astor is most kind.”

“She is indeed.” Olivia pleated her skirt with her fingers. “Do you ever wish you could go somewhere incognito, Mother? Where no one has expectations of you because you are a Stewart?”

Her mother put down her saucer with a clatter. “Whatever are you babbling about, my dear?”

“Haven’t you noticed that people look at us differently because we’re Stewarts? How is a man ever to love me for myself when all he sees is what my name can gain him? Men never see inside to the real me. They notice only that I’m a Stewart.”

“Have you been reading those novels again?” Her mother sniffed and narrowed her gaze on Olivia. “Marriage is about making suitable connections. You owe it to your future children to consider the life you give them. Love comes from respect. I would find it quite difficult to respect someone who didn’t have the gumption to make his way in the world. Besides, we need you to marry well. You’re twenty-five years old and I’ve indulged your romantic notions long enough. Heaven knows your sister’s marriage isn’t what I had in mind, essential though it may be. Someone has to keep the family name in good standing.”

Olivia knew what her duty demanded, but she didn’t have to like it. “Do all the suitable men have to be in their dotage?”

Her mother’s eyes sparked fire but before she spoke, Goldia appeared in the doorway. “Mr. Bennett is here, Mrs. Stewart.”

Olivia straightened in her chair. “Show him in. He’ll have news of Eleanor.”

Bennett appeared in the doorway moments later. He shouldn’t have been imposing. He stood only five-foot-three in his shoes, which were always freshly polished. He was slim, nearly gaunt, with a patrician nose and obsidian eyes. He’d always reminded Olivia of a snake about to strike. His expression never betrayed any emotion, and today was no exception. She’d never understood why her father entertained an acquaintance with the man let alone desired their families to be joined.

“Mr. Bennett.” She rose and extended her hand and tried not to flinch as he brushed his lips across it.

“Miss Olivia,” he said, releasing her hand. He moved to her mother’s chair and bowed over her extended hand.

Olivia sank back into her chair. “What do you hear of my sister? I have received no answer to any of my letters.”

He took a seat, steepled his fingers, and leaned forward. “That’s the reason for our meeting today. I fear I have bad news to impart.”

Her pulse thumped erratically against her ribcage. She wetted her lips and drew in a deep breath. “What news of Eleanor?” How bad could it be? Eleanor had gone to marry Harrison, a man she hardly knew. But she was in love with the idea of the Wild West, and therefore more than happy to marry the son of her father’s business partner.

He never blinked. “I shall just have to blurt it out then. I’m sorry to inform you that Eleanor is dead.”

Her mother moaned. Olivia stared at him. “I don’t believe it,” she said.

“I know, it’s a shock.”

There must have been some mistake. She searched his face for some clue that this was a jest. “What happened?”

He didn’t hold her gaze. “She drowned.”

“How?”

“No one knows. I’m sorry.”

Her mother stood and swayed. “What are you saying?” Her voice rose in a shriek. “Eleanor can’t be dead! Are you quite mad?”

He stood and took her arm. “I suggest you lie down, Mrs. Stewart. You’re quite pale.”

Her mother put her hands to her cheeks. “Tell me it isn’t true,” she begged. Then she keeled over in a dead faint.

#
Harrison Bennett tugged on his tie, glanced at his shoes to make sure no speck of dirt marred their perfection, then disembarked from his motorcar in front of the mansion. The cab had rolled up Nob Hill much too quickly for him to gather his courage to face the party. Electric lights pushed back the darkness from the curving brick driveway to the porch with its impressive white pillars. Doormen flanked the double doors at the entry. Through the large windows, he saw the ballroom. Ladies in luxurious gowns and gentlemen in tuxedos danced under glittering chandeliers, and their laughter tinkled on the wind.

His valet, Eugene, exited behind him. “I’ll wait in the kitchen, sir.”

Harrison adjusted his hat and strode with all the confidence he could muster to the front door. “Mr. Harrison Bennett,” he said to the doorman.

The man scanned the paper in his hand. “Welcome, Mr. Bennett. Mr. Rothschild is in the ballroom.”

Harrison thanked him and stepped into the opulent hall papered in gold foil. He went in the direction of the voices with a sense of purpose. This night could change his future. He glanced around the enormous ballroom, and he recognized no one among the glittering gowns and expensive suits. In subtle ways, these nobs would try to keep him in his place. It would take all his gumption not to let them. It was a miracle he’d received an invitation. Only the very wealthy or titled were invited to the Rothschilds’ annual ball in San Francisco. Harrison was determined to do whatever was necessary to secure the contract inside his coat pocket.

A young woman in an evening gown fluttered her lashes at him over the top of her fan. When she lowered it, she approached with a coaxing smile on her lips. “Mr. Bennett, I’d hoped to see you here tonight.”

He struggled to remember her name. Miss Kessler. She’d made her interest in him known at Eleanor’s funeral. Hardly a suitable time. He took her gloved hand and bowed over it. “Miss Kessler. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“I came when I heard you were on the guest list.”

He ignored her brazen remark. “It’s good to see you again. I have some business to attend to. Perhaps later?”

Her eyes darkened and she withdrew her hand. “I shall watch for you,” she said.

And he’d do the same, with the intent to avoid her. “If you’ll excuse me.” He didn’t wait for an answer but strolled through the crowd. He finally spied his host standing in front of a marble fireplace. A flame danced in the eight-foot hearth. Harrison stepped through the crowd to join the four men clustered around the wealthy Rothschild.

The man closest to Harrison was in his fifties and had a curling mustache. “They’ll never get that amendment ratified,” he said. “An income tax! It’s quite ridiculous to expect us to pay something so outrageous.”

A younger man in a gray suit shook his head. “If it means better roads, I’ll gladly write them a check. The potholes outside of town ruined my front axels.”

“We can take care of our own roads,” Rothschild said. “I have no need of the government in my affairs. At least until we’re all using flying machines.” He snickered, then glanced at Harrison. “You look familiar, young man. Have we met?”

Flying machines. Maybe this meeting was something God had arranged. Harrison thrust out his hand. “Harrison Bennett.”

“Claude’s son?”’

Was that distaste in the twist of Rothschild’s mouth? Harrison put confidence into his grip. “Yes, sir.”

“How is your father?”

“Quite well. He’s back in New York by now.”

“I heard about your fiancée’s death. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Harrison managed not to wince. “Thank you.” He pushed away his memories of that terrible day, the day he’d seen Eleanor Stewart for what she really was.

“Your father was most insistent I meet you. He seems to think you have a business proposition I might be interested in.”

Harrison smiled and began to tell the men of the new diamond mines that Bennett and Bennett had found in Africa. A mere week after Mr. Stewart’s passing, Mr. Bennett had renamed the venture to include Harrison. An hour later, he had appointments set up with three of the men as possible investors. His father would be pleased.

Harrison smiled and retraced his steps to toward the front door but was waylaid by four women in brightly colored silk. They swooped around him, and Miss Kessler took him by the hand and led him to a quiet corner.

“Let’s not talk about anything boring like work,” she said, her blue eyes sparkling. “Tell me what you love to do most.”

He glanced at the other women clustered around. “I’m building an aeroplane. I’d like to have it in the air by the time Earth passes through the tail of Halley’s Comet.”

She gasped. “Do you have a death wish, Mr. Bennett? You would be breathing the poisonous fumes directly. No one even knows if the Earth will survive this.”

He’d heard this before. “The scientists I’ve discussed this with believe we shall be just fine,” Harrison said.

“I assume you’ve purchased comet pills?” the blonde closest to him said.

“I have no fear.”

The brunette in red silk smiled. “If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings. Or so I’ve heard the minister say.”

He finally placed the brunette. Her uncle was Rothschild. No wonder she had such contempt for Harrison’s tone. All the nobs cared for were trains and ships. “It’s just a matter of perfecting the machine,” Harrison said. “Someday aeroplanes will be the main mode of transcontinental transportation.”

The brunette laughed. “Transcontinental? My uncle would call it balderdash.”

He glanced at his pocket watch without replying. “I fear I must leave you lovely ladies. Thank you for the conversation.”

He found Eugene in the kitchen and beckoned to his valet.

Eugene put down his coffee cup and followed. “You didn’t stay long, sir,” he said. “Is everything all right?”

Harrison stalked out the door and toward the car. “Are there no visionaries left in the country?”

Eugene followed a step behind. “You spoke of your flying machine?”

“The world is changing, Eugene, right under their noses—and they don’t see it.”

Eugene opened the door for Harrison. “You will show them the future, sir.”

He set his jaw. “I shall indeed.”

“I have a small savings set aside, Mr. Bennett. I’d like to invest in your company. With your permission, of course.”

Eugene’s trust bolstered Harrison’s determination. “I’d be honored to partner with you, Eugene. We are going to change the world.”

What do I have to offer this world? Can I really be loved for who I am on the outside and not for how others view me? Where does my true significance come from? In her third installment of the Mercy Falls series, The Lightkeeper’s Ball, award-winning author Colleen Coble will answer these questions while leading her readers down a path of betrayal, desire and ultimate fulfillment.
The Mercy Falls series centers on a small town in California and its lighthouse. Coble uses the lighthouse as a reminder that Jesus is our lighthouse always leading us home. In her latest addition to the series, the main characters must wrestle with their desire to find fulfillment in more than their work and money while being hunted by those who are holding on to resentment and unforgiveness.

With murder, suspense and desire, readers will enjoy peeling back the layers and discovering that this is more than your average romance novel. They will be perched on the edge of their seats trying to solve a mystery while discovering that the true worth of an individual never comes from a name or accomplishments. True worth can only be found in Christ.

EXTRA: An interview with Colleen Coble, author of The Lightkeeper’s Ball
Q: Did you always dream of becoming a writer? Why did you choose the romance genre?

I wrote my first story in the first grade. It was about a horse that had twin colts. The teacher praised it and the writing seed was planted. I love illustrating God’s love through romance. I especially love the suspense I put into all my books as well. I have a strong streak of justice and it plays out in the suspense element.

Q: What inspired you to write a historical series based in the early 1900’s? What would you have enjoyed about living in that time period and what would you have found the most difficult?

I happened to read an article about the Gilded Age and it mentioned how that era was so similar to today’s. I was intrigued with that, plus I wanted to choose a time period that wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my contemporary books. In that era, there were still cars and telephones!
I would have loved the simpler lifestyle. However, I would miss my jeans! How vain.

Q: Society at the turn of the century was very preoccupied with appearances and impressing other people. How is that not so different than our society today and how can we keep from falling into that same trap?

That’s exactly right! The parallels between the two eras are astounding. I’ve been at the cancer hospital this week with a dear friend, and it was a reminder of how fragile this life is. We seek THINGS when God wants us to seek Him. We need to keep our eyes set on eternity and remember that THIS life is the real dream. When we reach heaven, we will finally start to really live.

Q: Bitterness and unforgiveness led to the death of Olivia’s sister. Why is it so important to forgive those who have wronged us?

An unforgiving spirit hurts us much more than the person we hate. It makes us ugly and crowds out the love we want to show other people. God is love, not hate. Bitterness is the very opposite of the attitude God wants us to have.

Q: This is the third book in your Mercy Falls series. Addie and Katie were the main characters in your first two books. Olivia was given a true gift in the friendship of Katie and Addie. What does it take to find trustworthy and loyal friends? Why do you think that we all desire to find friends like these?
You have to first be a friend. You have to be open and giving of yourself to have those kinds of friends. A true friend tells you the truth in love, and that’s an important component of the give and take of real friendship.

Q: What do you hope that your readers will take away from reading The Lightkeeper’s Ball?
I hope the readers who feel they have to earn love will take away the realization that their true worth is that Jesus loves them and died for them. They are valuable beyond comprehension. When we can step into the role of daughters and sons, we can realize our true potential.

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A Cowboy’s Touch by Denise Hunter

I’m excited to bring you this book. I’ve loved Denise’s style of writing and was looking forward to see what a cowboy book from her would look like. It didn’t disappoint! I enjoy cowboy books and she lived up to my expectations. From the beginning the situation is set up to be an impossible one between Abby and Wade and you spend the whole book wondering how they are going to get together. I love that kind of tension. Scroll down to get a sample of the first chapter.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson (March 29, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Wade’s ranch home needs a woman’s touch. Abigail’s life needs a cowboy’s touch.

Four years ago, rodeo celebrity Wade Ryan gave up his identity to protect his daughter. Now, settled on a ranch in Big Sky Country, he lives in obscurity, his heart guarded by a high, thick fence.

Abigail Jones isn’t sure how she went from big-city columnist to small-town nanny, but her new charge is growing on her, to say nothing of her ruggedly handsome boss. Love blossoms between Abigail and Wade–despite her better judgment. Will the secrets she brought with her to Moose Creek, Montana separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 29, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548017
ISBN-13: 978-1595548016

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Abigail Jones knew the truth. She frowned at the blinking curser on her monitor and tapped her fingers on the keyboard-what next?

Beyond the screen’s glow, darkness washed the cubicles. Her computer hummed, and outside the office windows a screech of tires broke the relative stillness ofthe Chicago night.

She shuffled her note cards. The story had been long in coming, but it was finished now, all except the telling. She knew where she wanted to take it next.

Her fingers stirred into motion, dancing across the keys. This was her favorite part, exposingtruth to the world. Well, okay, not the world exactly, not with Viewpoint’s paltry circulation. But now, during the writing, it felt like the world.

Four paragraphs later, the office had shrunk away, and all that existed were the words on the monitor and her memory playing in full color on the screen of her mind.

Something dropped onto her desk with a sudden thud. Abigail’s hand flew to her heart, and her chair darted from her desk. She looked up at her boss’s frowning face, then shared a frown of her own. “You scared me.”

“And you’re scaring me. It’s after midnight, Abigail—what are you doing here?” Marilyn Jones’s hand settled on her hip.

The blast of adrenaline settled into Abigail’s bloodstream, though her heart was still in overdrive. “Being an ambitious staffer?”

“You mean an obsessive workaholic.”

“Something wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong is my twenty-eight-year-old daughter is working all hours on a Saturday night instead of dating an eligible bachelor like all the other single women her age.” Her mom tossed her head, but her short brown hair hardly budged. “You could’ve at least gone out with your sister and me. We had a good time.”

“I’m down to the wire.”

“You’ve been here every night for two weeks.” Her mother rolled up a chair and sank into it. “Your father always thought you’d be a schoolteacher, did I ever tell you that?”

“About a million times.” Abigail settled into the chair, rubbed the ache in her temple. Her heart was still recovering, but she wanted to return to her column. She was just getting to the good part.

“You had a doctor’s appointment yesterday,” Mom said. Abigail sighed hard.

“Whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”

“Goes out the window when the doctor is your sister. Come on, Abigail, this is your health. Reagan prescribed rest—R-E-S-T—and yet here you are.”

“A couple more days and the story will be put to bed.”

“And then there’ll be another story.”

“That’s what I do, Mother.”

“You’ve had a headache for weeks, and the fact that you made an appointment with your sister is proof you’re not feeling well.”

Abigail pulled her hand from her temple. “I’m fine.”

“That’s what your father said the week before he collapsed.”

Compassion and frustration warred inside Abigail. “He was sixty-two.” And his pork habit hadn’t helped matters. Thin didn’t necessarily mean healthy. She skimmed her own long legs, encased in her favorite jeans . . . exhibit A.

“I’ve been thinking you should go visit your great-aunt.” Abigail already had a story in the works, but maybe her mom had a lead on something else. “New York sounds interesting. What’s the assignment?”

“Rest and relaxation. And I’m not talking about your Aunt Eloise—as if you’d get any rest there—I’m talking about your Aunt Lucy.”

Abigail’s spirits dropped to the basement. “Aunt Lucy lives in Montana.” Where cattle outnumbered people. She felt for the familiar ring on her right hand and began twisting.

“She seems a bit . . . confused lately.”

Abigail recalled the birthday gifts her great-aunt had sent over the years, and her lips twitched. “Aunt Lucy has always been confused.”

“Someone needs to check on her. Her latest letter was full of comments about some girls who live with her, when I know perfectly well she lives alone. I think it may be time for assisted living or a retirement community.”

Abigail’s eyes flashed to the screen. A series of nonsensical letters showed where she’d stopped in alarm at her mother’s appearance. She hit the delete button. “Let’s invite her to Chicago for a few weeks.”

“She needs to be observed in her own surroundings. Besides, that woman hasn’t set foot on a plane since Uncle Murray passed, and I sure wouldn’t trust her to travel across the country alone. You know what happened when she came out for your father’s funeral.”

“Dad always said she had a bad sense of direction.”

“Nevertheless, I don’t have time to hunt her down in Canada again. Now, come on, Abigail, it makes perfect sense for you to go. You need a break, and Aunt Lucy was your father’s favorite relative. It’s our job to look after her now, and if she’s incapable of making coherent decisions, we need to help her.”

Abigail’s conscience tweaked her. She had a soft spot for Aunt Lucy, and her mom knew it. Still, that identity theft story called her name, and she had a reliable source who might or might not be willing to talk in a couple weeks.

“Reagan should do it. I’ll need the full month for my column, and we can’t afford to scrap it. Distribution is down enough as it is. Just last month you were concerned—”

Her mother stood abruptly, the chair reeling backward into the aisle. She walked as far as the next cubicle, then turned. “Hypertension is nothing to mess with, Abigail. You’re so . . . rest- less. You need a break—a chance to find some peace in your life.” She cleared her throat, then her face took on that I’ve-made-up- my-mind look. “Whether you go to your aunt’s or not, I’m insisting you take a leave of absence.”

There was no point arguing once her mother took that tone. She could always do research online—and she wouldn’t mind visiting a part of the country she’d never seen. “Fine. I’ll finish this story, then go out to Montana for a week or so.”

“Finish the story, yes. But your leave of absence will last three months.”

“Three months!”

“It may take that long to make a decision about Aunt Lucy.”

“What about my apartment?”

“Reagan will look after it. You’re hardly there anyway. You need a break, and Moose Creek is the perfect place.”

Moose Creek. “I’ll say. Sounds like nothing more than a traffic signal with a gas pump on the corner.”

“Don’t be silly. Moose Creek has no traffic signal. Abigail, you have become wholly obsessed with—”

“So I’m a hard worker . . .” She lifted her shoulders.

Her mom’s lips compressed into a hard line. “Wholly obsessed with your job. Look, you know I admire hard work, but it feels like you’re always chasing something and never quite catching it. I want you to find some contentment, for your health if nothing else. There’s more to life than investigative reporting.”

“I’m the Truthseeker, Mom. That’s who I am.” Her fist found home over her heart.

Her mother shouldered her purse, then zipped her light sweater, her movements irritatingly slow. She tugged down the ribbed hem and smoothed the material of her pants. “Three months, Abigail. Not a day less.

As an extra benefit, here’s an interview with Denise about her book.

Do the secrets from our past affect who we become in the future? 
Can the hurts we’ve experienced really prevent us from finding true fulfillment? 
In her release, A Cowboy’s Touch, award-winning author Denise Hunter will explore these questions, and readers will discover that “the truth really can set us free.” 
As the first book in the Big Sky Romance series, A Cowboy’s Touch is the story about a truthseeker who ends up discovering the real truth and a cowboy who learns to let go of his past.  Hunter shines as she draws her readers into an intriguing world of boots, chaps and cowboy hats.  This heartwarming romance is a story of love, pain and forgiveness.  It has also been named a Women of Faith novel for 2011.

An interview with author Denise Hunter:

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?  When did you first begin to write?
I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t start dreaming about writing a novel until I was in my early twenties.  By then I was married and busy pursuing a degree.  I put writing on the back burner until my grandfather became fatally ill.  While I was visiting him in the hospital, I was struck by the brevity of life and felt God pressing on my heart to take the first step.  I started my first novel a couple weeks later.  I had two small children by this time, so I wrote while they napped.  I wrote my first four books that way.  Even if you can only write a page a day, by the end of a year you’ll have a complete manuscript!
Q: Are you a small town or a city girl?  What inspired you to write a book about the life of a cowboy?
I’m a little of both.  We live in a country setting just outside the city.  It’s the best of both worlds.  There’s something very earthy and organic about a cowboy’s life.  I was drawn by the idea of living off the land.  I think it takes us to a simpler time and place—even though the life of a cowboy is not necessarily simple!  And Montana is such a beautiful state.  I thought my readers might like to journey there with me through story.
Q: Can you tell us a little about what you have learned about the cowboy lifestyle while doing research for this book?
I learned a lot of fascinating details about the workings of a ranch: branding, breeding, cattle disease, etc.  But what I came away with is a great respect for cowboys and their families.  Those who choose this way of life do it because they love it.  It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. 
Q: Abigail’s title at her job is “the Truthseeker.”  What is the significance of this title, and what do you think a real truthseeker does?
I thought it would be interesting to write about a protagonist whose job was to seek the truth and have her find out that she was missing the real Truth the whole time.  Since Jesus is the Truth, a real truthseeker follows Him.
Q: Forgiveness seems to be a recurring theme in your books.  Why do you feel it is so important?  Your main characters both dealt with forgiving their past mistakes.  Do you think that it is just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive the mistakes of others?
With sin rampant in all of us, this is something we need to get good at!  Eventually, someone’s going to do something you struggle to forgive.  I think this is partly because forgiveness is easily misunderstood.  It’s not saying that what they did is okay.  It’s saying that you’re not going to hold it over them anymore.  I do think it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others.  Oftentimes, it’s even harder. 
Q: Abigail and Wade both threw themselves into their work in order to escape their pasts.  Do you believe it is easy to find an escape in work in order to hide from our problems?
No one likes to hurt, so I think the tendency is to avoid it however we can.  Throwing ourselves into our work is certainly one way of doing so.  But these things have a way of bubbling up to the surface eventually, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

Q: What would you like your readers to take away after reading A Cowboy’s Touch?
Abigail was essentially trying to work off her guilt.  She thought if she could just keep exposing other peoples’ wrongs, it would appease her own guilt.  I’d like readers to see that only God can redeem us.

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Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

Today’s book is a real treat. I love getting a new Susan Meissner book because they are so beautifully crated it’s like stepping inside a masterpiece and walking around. If you like women’s fiction with the kind of elegant writing usually reserved for literary books, you’ll love Susan Meissner’s books.

As a history buff, I love historical novels, but even if that’s not your typical cup of tea, Susan does such a wonderful job of weaving the past with present and making the past feel so real that you forget you’re reading about historical events.

The parallel in Lady in Waiting between present day Jane and her issues of happiness and self-determination become more poignant when cast against the light of historical Jane and her struggles. Pick this book up, you’ll be glad you did. Scroll down for a first taste.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Susan Meissner has spent her lifetime as a writer, starting with her first poem at the age of four. She is the award-winning author of The Shape of Mercy, White Picket Fences, and many other novels. When she’s not writing, she directs the small groups and connection ministries at her San Diego church. She and her pastor husband are the parents of four young adults.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458830
ISBN-13: 978-0307458834

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Jane

Upper West Side, Manhattan

ONE

The mantle clock was exquisite even though its hands rested in silence at twenty minutes past two.

Carved—near as I could tell—from a single piece of mahogany, its glimmering patina looked warm to the touch. Rosebuds etched into the swirls of wood grain flanked the sides like two bronzed bridal bouquets. The clock’s top was rounded and smooth like the draped head of a Madonna. I ran my palm across the polished surface and it was like touching warm water.

Legend was this clock originally belonged to the young wife of a Southampton doctor and that it stopped keeping time in 1912, the very moment the Titanic sank and its owner became a widow. The grieving woman’s only consolation was the clock’s apparent prescience of her husband’s horrible fate and its kinship with the pain that left her inert in sorrow. She never remarried and she never had the clock fixed.

I bought it sight unseen for my great aunt’s antique store, like so many of the items I’d found for the display cases. In the year and half I’d been in charge of the inventory, the best pieces had come from the obscure estate sales that my British friend Emma Downing came upon while tooling around the southeast of England looking for oddities for her costume shop. She found the clock at an estate sale in Felixstowe and the auctioneer, so she told me, had been unimpressed with the clock’s sad history. Emma said he’d read the accompanying note about the clock as if reading the rules for rugby.

My mother watched now as I positioned the clock on the lacquered black mantle that rose above a marble fireplace. She held a lead crystal vase of silk daffodils in her hands.

“It should be ticking.” She frowned. “People will wonder why it’s not ticking.” She set the vase down on the hearth and stepped back. Her heels made a clicking sound on the parquet floor beneath our feet. “You know, you probably would’ve sold it by now if it was working. Did Wilson even look at it? You told me he could fix anything.”

I flicked a wisp of fuzz off the clock’s face. I hadn’t asked the shop’s resident and unofficial repairman to fix it. “It wouldn’t be the same clock if it was fixed.”

“It would be a clock that did what it was supposed to do.” My mother leaned in and straightened one of the daffodil blooms.

“This isn’t just any clock, Mom.” I took a step back too.

My mother folded her arms across the front of her Ann Taylor suit. Pale blue, the color of baby blankets and robins’ eggs. Her signature color. “Look, I get all that about the Titanic and the young widow, but you can’t prove any of it, Jane,” she said. “You could never sell it on that story.”

A flicker of sadness wobbled inside me at the thought of parting with the clock. This happens when you work in retail. Sometimes you have a hard time selling what you bought to sell.

“I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep it.”

“You don’t make a profit by hanging onto the inventory.” My mother whispered this, but I heard her. She intended for me to hear her. This was her way of saying what she wanted to about her aunt’s shop—which she’d inherit when Great Aunt Thea passed—without coming across as interfering.

My mother thinks she tries very hard not to interfere. But it is one of her talents. Interfering when she thinks she’s not. It drives my younger sister Leslie nuts.

“Do you want me to take it back to the store?” I asked.

“No! It’s perfect for this place. I just wish it were ticking.” She nearly pouted.

I reached for the box at my feet that I brought the clock in along with a set of Shakespeare’s works, a pair of pewter candlesticks, and a Wedgwood vase. “You could always get a CD of sound effects and run a loop of a ticking clock,” I joked.

She turned to me, childlike determination in her eyes. “I wonder how hard it would be to find a CD like that!”

“I was kidding, Mom! Look what you have to work with.” I pointed to the simulated stereo system she’d placed into a polished entertainment center behind us. My mother never used real electronics in the houses she staged, although with the clientele she usually worked with—affluent real estate brokers and equally well-off buyers and sellers—she certainly could.

“So I’ll bring in a portable player and hide it in the hearth pillows.” She shrugged and then turned to the adjoining dining room. A gleaming black dining table had been set with white bone china, pale yellow linen napkins, and mounds of fake chicken salad, mauvey rubber grapes, and plastic croissants and petit fours. An arrangement of pussy willows graced the center of the table. “Do you think the pussy willows are too rustic?” she asked.

She wanted me to say yes so I did.

“I think so, too,” she said. “I think we should swap these out for that vase of Gerbera daisies you have on that escritoire in the shop’s front window. I don’t know what I was thinking when I brought these.” She reached for the unlucky pussy willows. “We can put these on the entry table with our business cards.”

She turned to me. “You did bring yours this time, didn’t you? It’s silly for you to go to all this work and then not get any customers out of it.” My mother made her way to the entryway with the pussy willows in her hands and intention in her step. I followed her.

This was only the second house I’d helped her stage, and I didn’t bring business cards the first time because she hadn’t invited me to until we were about to leave. She’d promptly told me then to never go anywhere without business cards. Not even to the ladies room. She’d said it and then waited, like she expected me to take out my BlackBerry and make a note of it.

“I have them right here.” I reached into the front pocket of my capris and pulled out a handful of glossy business cards emblazoned with Amsterdam Avenue Antiques and its logo—three As entwined like a Celtic eternity knot. I handed them to her and she placed them in a silver dish next to her own. Sophia Keller Interior Design and Home Staging. The pussy willows actually looked wonderful against the tall jute-colored wall.

“There. That looks better!” she exclaimed as if reading my thoughts. She turned to survey the main floor of the townhouse. The owners had relocated to the Hamptons and were selling off their Manhattan properties to fund a cushy retirement. Half the décor—the books, the vases, the prints—were on loan from Aunt Thea’s shop. My mother, who’d been staging real estate for two years, brought me in a few months earlier when she discovered a stately home filled with charming and authentic antiques sold faster than the same home filled with reproductions.

“You and Brad should get out of that teensy apartment on the West Side and buy this place. The owners are practically giving it away.”

Her tone suggested she didn’t expect me to respond. I easily let the comment evaporate into the sunbeams caressing us. It was a comment for which I had had no response.

My mother’s gaze swept across the two large rooms she’d furnished and she frowned when her eyes reached the mantle and the silent clock.

“Well, I’ll just have to come back later today,” she spoke into the silence. “It’s being shown first thing in the morning.” She swung back around. “Come on. I’ll take you back.”

We stepped out into the April sunshine and to her Lexus parked across the street along a line of townhouses just like the one we’d left. As we began to drive away, the stillness in the car thickened, and I fished my cell phone out of my purse to see if I’d missed any calls while we were finishing the house. On the drive over I had a purposeful conversation with Emma about a box of old books she found at a jumble sale in Oxfordshire. That lengthy conversation filled the entire commute from the store on the seven-hundred block of Amsterdam to the townhouse on East Ninth, and I found myself wishing I could somehow repeat that providential circumstance. My mother would ask about Brad if the silence continued. There was no missed call, and I started to probe my brain for something to talk about. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t told my mother I’d found a new assistant. I opened my mouth to tell her about Stacy but I was too late.

“So what do you hear from Brad?” she asked cheerfully.

“He’s doing fine.” The answer flew out of my mouth as if I’d rehearsed it. She looked away from the traffic ahead, blinked at me, and then turned her attention back to the road. A taxi pulled in front of her, and she laid on the horn, pronouncing a curse on all taxi drivers.

“Idiot.” She turned to me. “How much longer do you think he will stay in New Hampshire?” Her brow was creased. “You aren’t going to try to keep two households going forever, are you?”

I exhaled heavily. “It’s a really good job, Mom. And he likes the change of pace and the new responsibilities. It’s only been two months.”

“Yes, but the inconvenience has to be wearing on you both. It must be quite a hassle maintaining two residences, not to mention the expense, and then all that time away from each other.” She paused but only for a moment. “I just don’t see why he couldn’t have found something similar right here in New York. I mean, don’t all big hospitals have the same jobs in radiology? That’s what your father told me. And he should know.”

“Just because there are similar jobs doesn’t mean there are similar vacancies, Mom.”

She tapped the steering wheel. “Yes, but your father said . . .”

“I know Dad thinks he might’ve been able to help Brad find something on Long Island but Brad wanted this job. And no offense, Mom, but the head of environmental services doesn’t hire radiologists.”

She bristled. I shouldn’t have said it. She would repeat that comment to my dad, not to hurt him but to vent her frustration at not having been able to convince me she was right and I was wrong. But it would hurt him anyway.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” I added. “Don’t tell him I said that, okay? I just really don’t want to rehash this again.”

But she wasn’t done. “Your father has been at that hospital for twenty-seven years. He knows a lot of people.” She emphasized the last four words with a pointed stare in my direction.

“I know he does. That’s really not what I meant. It’s just Brad has always wanted this kind of job. He’s working with cancer patients. This really matters to him.”

“But the job’s in New Hampshire!”

“Well, Connor is in New Hampshire!” It sounded irrelevant even to me to mention the current location of Brad’s and my college-age son. Connor had nothing to do with any of this. And he was an hour away from where Brad was anyway.

“And you are here,” my mother said evenly. “If Brad wanted out of the city, there are plenty of quieter hospitals right around here. And plenty of sick people for that matter.”

There was an undercurrent in her tone, subtle and yet obvious, that assured me we really weren’t talking about sick people and hospitals and the miles between Manhattan and Manchester. It was as if she’d guessed what I’d tried to keep from my parents the last eight weeks.

My husband didn’t want out of the city.

He just wanted out.

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Judgment Day by Wanda Dyson

A fast-paced suspense, I could hardly put it down. The PI team of Marcus and Alex (Alexandra) have great chemistry and snappy dialogue. I hope Dyson plans more books with these two because it reads like it has series potential. She does a great job of balancing the story of the PIs with the story of their client, who’s frankly not easy to like or protect. Combined with a multi-layered plot, it’s a book where you can’t wait to see what happens next. Scroll down to catch the first chapter.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press (September 21, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion/Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

WANDA DYSON lives on a working horse farm, boarding and keeping a menagerie of critters. After writing three critically-acclaimed suspense novels, Wanda was asked to co-author the true story of Tina Zahn, Why I Jumped, a non-fiction work for which both Wanda and Tina appeared on Oprah. Wanda is a licensed Christian counselor who specializes in helping women recover from depression, anxiety, rejection, and the long-term effects of sexual and physical assault.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 21, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074754
ISBN-13: 978-1400074754:
Get it here or here.

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue

Friday, April 3. Baltimore, MD

Running away from home had sounded like the best idea ever when she was planning it, but now that sixteen-year-old Britney Abbott was tired, hungry, and out of money, it felt more like the biggest mistake of her life. She climbed down off the bus, slung her backpack over her shoulder, and wondered where she was going to sleep for the night.

If only her mother hadn’t married that jerk. He was so strict. According to Ronnie, Britney couldn’t date, couldn’t stay over at a friend’s for the night, and she had to be in the house no later than seven every evening. None of her friends had to live like that.

Last Saturday night her mom and Ronnie went out to dinner, leaving her home alone with the usual litany of instructions: You cannot have anyone over. You will do your homework. You will be in bed by ten. You will not spend the evening on the phone with your friends. And you will not—I repeat, not—leave this house; I am going to call and if you aren’t here to answer the phone, you will be grounded for a month.

Fifteen minutes after they left, Ronnie-the-Predictable called. She answered the phone. An hour and a half later, she was gone.

She looked around at the crowds dispersing in several directions. The smell of diesel fuel overwhelmed her empty stomach and it growled in protest. Everything looked the way she felt— worn-out, dirty, and depressed.

“Hey, you okay?” A girl stood against the wall near the exit from the bus station. Torn jeans, pink T-shirt, high top sneakers, leather jacket, and numerous rings and studs from ear to nose to lip.

“Yeah, I’m cool.”

“You look hungry. I was just going over to Mickey D’s. You wanna come?”

“No money.”

“It’s okay. I think I can buy you a hamburger and some fries.”

Britney was hungry enough to be tempted and wary enough to wonder why the girl would make such an offer. “Me?”

“Yeah.” The girl walked over. “My name’s Kathi. I came to Washington about five months ago. A friend of mine was supposed to be on the bus but either her parents caught her trying to run away or she changed her mind.”

“You’re a runaway?”

Kathi laughed as she shoved her hands deep into the pockets of her jacket. “Look around, girl. There are lots of us. We come to DC to get away. Some stay, some move on to Chicago or New York.”

Britney felt relieved to know she wasn’t alone. “Okay. I’ll take a hamburger. Thanks.”

Kathi linked her arm in Britney’s and led her down the street toward the Golden Arches. “What’s your name?”

“Britney.”

“Well, let’s get you something to eat and then you can crash at my place.”

They chatted as they ate their food and drank their sodas, and with each passing minute, Britney liked Kathi more. She might look a little tough, but Britney supposed that living on the streets, you had to be. Her appearance aside, Kathi seemed friendly and generous.

They were about a block past McDonald’s when a woozy feeling interrupted their conversation. When she stumbled, Kathi steadied her. “You okay?”

“Just lightheaded.”

“Tired, more than likely. It’s not far to my place.”

But Britney’s body felt heavier with each step. She struggled to stay awake. She had never felt this way before in her entire life. Not even after staying up for two straight days studying for a math test.

“I don’t feel so good.”

“We’re almost there,” Kathi told her. “Just down this way.”

Britney didn’t like the dark alley or the dark van parked there with the motor running, but she couldn’t find the strength to resist Kathi’s pull on her arm.

As they passed the van, the side door opened and a man

stepped out. “Too bad she’s such a looker.”

“Yeah, well,” Kathi replied. “You get what I can find.”

The man picked up Britney and tossed her into the van. Britney tried to call out, tried to resist, but she could no longer control her arms or legs. She could only lie there and let the fear grow and build until the scream inside felt like an explosion in her head.

The man duct-taped her arms and legs. Then he placed a piece over her mouth. “Don’t worry, kid. This will be over real soon.”

1

Wednesday, April 15. Outside Washington DC

Suzanne Kidwell shoved her tape recorder in the cop’s face, smiling up at him as if he were the hero in her own personal story. “We have two girls missing now and both were students at Longview High. Are you looking at the faculty and staff at the school?”

The officer puffed a bit, squaring his shoulders and thrusting out his chest as he hiked up his utility belt. “You have to understand that we haven’t finished our investigation, but I can tell you that we found pornography on the principal’s computer. I’d say we’re just hours away from arresting him.”

She lightly traced a glossy red nail down his forearm. “I knew I came to the right man. You have that air of authority and competence. And I’ll bet you were the one who sent those detectives in the right direction too.”

He dropped his head in one of those “aw shucks, ma’am” moves. “Well, I did tell them that he had been arrested about ten years ago for assault.”

“And they made a man like that the principal. What is this world coming to?” Before he could comment, she hit him with another question. “Has he told you yet what he did with the girls?”

“Not yet. He’s still insisting he’s innocent, but it’s just a matter of time before we get a confession out of him.”

“Thank you so much, Officer. You’re a hero. Those girls would be dead without you.”

He blushed hard as she hurried off, lobbing him another dazzling smile as she calculated her timetable. It was nearly four and she had to be ready and on the air at six, scooping every other network in the city.

At the station, she ran up the stairs to the second floor and jogged down to Frank’s office. “Is he in?” she asked his secretary.

“Sure. Go on in.”

If there was a dark spot anywhere in her job at all, it was Frank Dawson. The man delighted in hassling her. Professional jealousy, no doubt. She knocked on his doorjamb. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Like Frank, the room was heavy on shine and light on substance. Awards and diplomas covered all the walls. Pictures of Frank with politicians, presidents, and the wealthy, beautiful, and powerful were displayed prominently on all the bookshelves. His desk dominated the center of the room, covered in paperwork, tapes, and files.

“Sure.”

Suzanne took a deep breath, clutched her notes, and strode into his office. “You know the two local girls that went missing recently?”

He glanced up at the clock, a subtle reminder that she should be getting dressed and into makeup. “I think so.”

“Well, I’ve been doing some digging and they have a suspect.”

“And this is your business exactly why?”

“Because I scooped everyone else. I talked to one of the officers working the case and he told me that they have a suspect, they’re interrogating him now, and they expect to announce his arrest momentarily.”

“And what does this have to do with me?”

She stared at him for a long moment. “I want to go on the air with this late-breaking news.”

He scratched his chin. “Your show is already scheduled, Suzanne. Corruption in the horse industry.”

“I know that, and I can still do that. I just need five minutes at the end of the show to cover this. We’ve got the scoop! How can we not run with it?”

Waving a hand, he said, “Fine. Go with it. I sure hope you have all the facts.”

“I have them straight from the mouth of the police. How much more do you want?”

“Fine. Do it.”

Grinning, she rushed back down to wardrobe and makeup in record time, entering the studio with mere minutes to spare.

Suzanne looked over at one of the assistants. “Where’s my microphone?”

As someone rushed to get her miked up, the director walked in. “We have a job to do, people; let’s get to it. We’re on the air in two.”

She straightened her jacket as the assistant adjusted the small microphone clipped to her lapel. “It’s fine. Move.”

The cameraman finished the countdown with his fingers. Three…two…one. She fixed her expression.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” Suzanne turned slightly. “I’m Suzanne Kidwell. And this is Judgment Day.”

Suzanne took a deep breath while the station ran the introduction, taking a moment to straighten the notes in front of her and sip her water.

When the director pointed at her, she launched into the ongoing corruption and abuses endangering horse owners.

The camera shifted for a closeup. “And before I close tonight, I want to give you a late-breaking report. Just like you, I’ve been horrified by the tragic disappearance of teens here in the tristate area. But what made me truly sit up and take notice was that within the last two weeks, two young girls—seventeen-year-old Jennifer Link and sixteen-year-old Britney Abbott—were reported as runaways. Same neighborhood, same school, both runaways?

“Now maybe that could happen, but I was skeptical. I did some digging. And I’m happy to report that the police have arrested Peter Fryer, the principal of Longview High School.”

Suzanne changed her expression from a touch of sorrow mixed with concern to outrage. “I spoke to the lead officer and he told me that evidence against the principal included child pornography on Fryer’s computer. In spite of being arrested ten years ago for assault, Peter Fryer was hired on as the principal of Longview just four years ago. He is still denying any involvement, but the police assured me they have their man. I will keep you posted.”

She angled her body. “As long as people out there who betray our trust, there will be Judgment Day with Suzanne Kidwell. Good night, America. I’ll see you next week.”

As soon as she got the signal that she was clear, she pulled off her mike and stood up, grabbing her water as left the studio.

She rushed down the hall, and when she reached her office, she sank down into her chair and kicked off her shoes. She barely had time to curl her toes in the carpet before her phone rang.

She picked it up. “Great job, Suzanne.” It was Frank.

“Thanks, boss. I knew you’d be happy.”

“The phones are ringing off the hook. The other stations are scrambling to catch up to us.”

Smiling, she leaned back. “They’ll be eating our dust for a while now.”

“You’ll stay on this?”

“All the way to conviction.”

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The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry

If you’re looking for a delightful romantic comedy, pick up The Perfect Blend. Trish has a great way of bringing her characters to life by letting us in on their thoughts in a very natural way. The dialogue is fun and realistic as well. Those two areas alone are often ones that pull me out of the story in the hands of less talented writers.

Her characters aren’t perfect, but that’s what makes them enjoyable. And through it all Trish weaves an authentic spiritual thread that we all can relate to.

Steph Vandergrift is in need of a job, having been left at the altar by her runaway groom. Kendall James, one of the kindest and most eligible bachelors in the area, meets Steph and proceeds to pursue her. Will this meeting at a local tea shop produce the perfect blend?

Trish Perry is an award-winning writer and editor of Ink and the Spirit, a quarterly newsletter of the Capital Christian Writers organization in the Washington DC area. She has published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media, and she is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group.

Get it here:

*Thanks to Harvest House for providing me a review copy. This in no way influences my opinion. If I didn’t like it, I’d say so!*
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Stronger: Trading Brokeness for Unbreakable Strength by Jim Daly

I’ve been a Focus on the Family listener since I was a little girl. Jim Daly has done a terrific job taking over the reins from Dr. Dobson, a role that had to have been intimidating to fill. Daly has revealed a bit of his life and the difficulties he had growing up through the broadcasts which made me want to read this book because I knew he could speak to the subject with authenticity.

I’ve had my share of difficult times recently, struggling with Lyme Disease as I’ve shared here, and other things that I haven’t shared. Because of that, I found this book to be particularly good at walking that narrow line between hard reality and encouragement. Through sharing stories and drawing on his own wisdom, Daly expanded my view on why God allows challenges in our lives for our own good.

This is not a book you can skim through lightly. It’s not a book full of fluff and feel good, cotton candy sayings. This is a book that looks at faith colliding with real life, about how you pick up the pieces and go on after that collision. And how you are made stronger if you so choose.

It’s a characteristic of the human condition that we need challenges to grow stronger. Much as we need to lift ever-increasing weight to build our muscles, we need challenges to our character to grow it. Yet growth isn’t a given just because there is a challenge. We have to choose it. Daly says we can choose to respond by becoming bitter, beaten, or broken. It’s when we choose broken that we allow God to take those broken pieces to create something stronger.

Pick up the book. You’ll be glad you did.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jim Daly joined the Focus on the Family staff over 20 years ago, initially in the ministry’s public affairs division. Since that time, he has worked extensively in the formation and development of the international outreach of the ministry serving as field director of Asia, Africa, and Australia. Serving in additional roles within marketing and public affairs, Daly continually accepted greater roles of responsibility until his most recent appointment in February 2005 as president and CEO of this internationally recognized family-centered ministry. He is the author of Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family, a deeply personal memoir. He resides in Colorado Springs with his wife, Jean, and two sons.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143476446X
ISBN-13: 978-1434764461
Get it here

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

When I Am Weak

This isn’t how it works in the movies.

On a chilly Sunday morning in December, David Works and his family—his wife, Marie, and daughters Stephanie, Laurie, Rachel, and Grace—finish worshipping at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. As usual, they stay after the service to enjoy conversation with friends. On their way to the exit, David announces that lunch will be at a nearby hamburger restaurant called Good Times. The members of the Works family pull their coats tighter and step into a brisk breeze, shuffling carefully across patches of snow in the parking lot.

As the family approaches its white Toyota Sienna van, Laurie heads for the left-side sliding door.

“No, no—you have to sit in the back on the other side,” Rachel says.

It is a Works family tradition that everyone keeps the same seat for both parts of a trip. Laurie rode to church in the rear right seat of the van, and Rachel intends to continue the custom.

“Okay, okay,” Laurie says.

She walks around the back of the van, enters through the right side sliding door, and takes her place in the back seat. Rachel, behind Laurie, pauses in front of the open right-side door to look for something in her purse.

That is when it starts.

David, sitting in the front passenger seat and in the process of buckling his seat belt, hears a sharp metallic sound. What was that? He lets go of the seat belt and swivels his head to the right, surveying the parking lot. To his shock, a young man dressed in black stands just twenty yards away. He’s pointing a large assault rifle at the Toyota.

What in the world?

Another shot rings out.

“Get down! Get down! There’s a shooter out there! He’s shooting at us!” David screams. He curls up in the van’s footwell, trying to get as low as possible. He hears the sound of more gunshots mixed with his family’s screams. The sound of the shots changes; David understands the shooter is on the move.

Wait a minute—where is Rachel?

She’d been just outside the van when the shooting started. David twists to look behind him. His sixteen-year-old daughter is still standing next to the Toyota, a dazed look on her face. Her burnt-orange T-shirt has a hole in it at the level of her lower-right rib cage.

“Rachel!” David cries.

“I think I’ve been shot,” Rachel says. Suddenly, she collapses, falling backward onto the blacktop.

David jerks his door handle and jumps out. The instant his feet hit the ground, another volley of bullets whizz past his head. He turns; the gunman is no more than ten yards away, rifle pointed directly at him. Before he can move, David feels pain on his right side, just above his waist. He too falls to the pavement. The shots continue.

“Gracie, get down and play dead! He’s still here!” David orders. His youngest daughter, eleven years old, had been moving from the backseat to help her sister.

The firing stops momentarily, then resumes, but the sound is more distant and muffled. David realizes the gunman has gone into the church.

David has been shot in the abdomen and groin. He stretches his arm in Rachel’s direction, willing his body to move. His daughter needs her father—her protector—yet David can’t even crawl. Through tears, he says, “I’m so sorry, honey. I can’t reach you.”

“That’s okay, Daddy,” Rachel whispers.1

On this horrifying, heartwrenching day, David Works would give anything to turn into a Hollywood action hero. If this were a movie, he would be Superman, leaping in front of his daughter and watching bullets bounce harmlessly off his chest. With his super strength, he would pick up the van and fly his family to safety, then return to catch the bad guy before he could hurt anyone else.

But this isn’t a movie.

David Works has no super strength. He is lying in a church parking lot, weak, helpless, and bleeding, and watching the life ebb from his beloved daughter.

Panic Attacks

Let’s leave this traumatic scene for the moment and visit the mother of a different family. Lori Mangrum is a pastor’s wife. She and her husband, John, have two children. But Lori isn’t thinking about her family right now. She’s slumped in a chair at home. The curtains are

drawn. For months, she hasn’t slept or eaten well.

Lori grew up in a Christian home and learned to smile and appear joyful no matter what was going on around her. Like any family, she and her parents and siblings had their share of troubles, but Lori didn’t want to burden her parents with her own fears and worries. She became the “sunshine” for her family, always working to cheer up others but rarely addressing her own emotional needs.

Years later, after marrying John, having kids, and moving to a new home, Lori started experiencing panic attacks. Without warning, feelings of terror overwhelmed her. She felt a crushing weight in her chest and became nauseous, dizzy, and disoriented. She thought she would die. The attacks increased to the point that Lori couldn’t drive a car or go into a grocery store.

One day, after a series of tests, a physician explained to Lori that she had a benign heart condition that could cause some of the symptoms of panic attacks. Finally! Lori thought. I knew they would find something!

But the doctor wasn’t finished.

“You have another problem,” he said gently. “I believe this problem manifested itself because of some psychological problems. I want you to see a psychiatrist.”

Lori couldn’t believe it. I don’t have any stress, she told herself, and what stress I do have I handle better than many others!

Now, sitting in the dark at home for week upon week, Lori is depressed. Friends have told her, “Pray harder, get yourself together, and stop this!” Yet she doesn’t even have the energy to talk, eat, or take a shower. Lori is disgusted with herself. She would give anything to change her circumstances, but emotionally, she feels weak and helpless.2

Those Uncomfortable Feelings

You may never have faced a crazed gunman or dealt with debilitating depression, but I’m guessing that at some point in life—perhaps many times—you’ve experienced some of the same feelings that David Works and Lori Mangrum went through in the incidents described above.

Weak. Helpless. Useless. Vulnerable.

Some pretty uncomfortable feelings, right?

We all do our best to avoid situations that expose our failings and fragility. But whether it’s a life-or-death crisis or the challenge of simply getting through another day, sooner or later we each confront the undesired sense of being powerless, worthless, feeble, disabled, and dependent on others.

And we don’t like it.

Most of us, especially in America, grow up with the idea that we can shape our own destinies. This, after all, is the land of opportunity. This is a place where dreams come true. We see ourselves as rugged individualists, fully capable of taking control of our lives and rising to the top.

And the weak? “Those people” are not us. Most of us profess to have empathy for the struggling and more helpless members of our society. But many of us are also conditioned to feel, deep down, a certain amount of disdain for the unfortunate few. You’re homeless? That’s too bad—but maybe you need to work harder at finding a job. You’re depressed? Yeah, I get discouraged sometimes too—but enough of feeling sorry for yourself; it’s time to get yourself together.

Part of the problem is that the weak and helpless are all around us, and when we see others having problems, it reminds us that we’re vulnerable too. Some of us cope by closing our eyes and shutting our ears to troubles. I will confess that this can be my attitude at times. But no matter how hard we try to ignore the trials of others, they rise to our attention like steam from a teapot. We think we’ve guarded our minds and hearts, and suddenly we’re faced with:

The distraught mother who watches her teenage son storm out of the house in anger, not knowing what to say or do and wondering when or if she’ll see him again.
The discouraged father of four who has lost his job, has been evicted from their home, and is so deeply in debt that he doesn’t see a way out.
The terrified little girl who is sexually molested by her “uncle” when Mom isn’t home and is told to keep quiet about it “or else.”
The lonely wife who thought she was marrying a soul mate and is desperate because she can’t get her husband to talk to her.
The sullen fourth-grader who repeatedly gets teased and bullied by a sixth-grader on the way home from school.
The worried single mom whose son is being recruited by a neighborhood gang.
The shocked fifty-year-old who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The young woman who feels paralyzed by depression and guilt over an abortion.
The husband who can’t forgive himself for an affair.
The despairing grandmother who is watching her children and grandchildren destroy their lives with alcohol and drugs, yet doesn’t know what to do about it.

It’s hard enough to put aside the struggles and weaknesses of family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. It’s harder still when the hurting wife, husband, mother, father, little girl, young man, or grandmother is us.

Do you know what I’m talking about? Are there times when you feel utterly incapable of dealing with the skyscraper-sized obstacle in your path? When you wish you didn’t feel more helpless than a bug on your back? When you wish you were Superman or Wonder Woman instead of plain old pint-sized “me”?

If so, I understand at least some of what you’re experiencing. One of my earliest memories, from when I was four years old, is of a man suddenly bursting through our front door one night as my brothers and sisters and I were watching TV. The man looked like a monster. His eyes were puffy, red, and glassy. His face was unshaven. He carried an oak-handled, ball-peen hammer in one hand and a jug of Gallo burgundy wine in the other.

The half man, half monster was my father, and he was looking for my mother. When he realized she wasn’t there, he roared, “This is what I’m going to do to your mother!” He swung the hammer and bashed a giant hole in the wall. I spent the rest of that night in my bedroom, cowering under a blanket, even after the police arrived and took my dad away.

Up to that point, I’d enjoyed a fairly typical childhood. I was more worried about missing favorite TV shows like Batman than whether I would make it to the age of five. But everything changed for me that night. Although I couldn’t have put it into words at the time, I suddenly learned just how vulnerable and helpless I really was.

It was a pretty awful feeling.

The feeling grew worse when my parents got divorced, Mom remarried, and we moved to an apartment complex in Compton, California. One night soon after, someone was murdered ten feet away from my ground-floor bedroom window. The rumor was that the killer used a shotgun. Knowing that only four inches of stucco and drywall separated me from whatever was out there left me distinctly scared.

I felt exposed. Defenseless. Weak.

The final blow occurred the next year. I understood that my mom was sick. She seemed to get more and more tired and eventually stayed in bed all the time. My stepfather, Hank, was so overprotective that he wouldn’t even let us kids talk to her. Weeks later, when my mom went to the hospital, I still just thought she was really sick. It never occurred to me that she might be dying. When my brother Mike told me that Mom was dead, I was shocked. I squeezed Mike’s arm so hard that I left fingernail marks. In some strange way I felt that hanging onto Mike would keep me from losing my mother.

My dad was out of my life. My stepfather left the family the day of Mom’s funeral and had no real interest in or relationship with my siblings and me. My mother was gone. I felt completely alone—and more helpless than ever.

How I wished it could be different. I wanted something then that I simply did not possess. I wanted strength.

A Different Kind of Strength

Most of us admire strength in its many forms. We all want to be strong. But the word strong conjures up a variety of meanings and images in our minds. For some, it means sheer physical power. We might think of bulging muscles and the ability to handle the next bad guy who crosses our path. For others, strength is about having the persistence to do what we set out to do—such as taking the lead on a difficult project at work or potty training our children. Some may think of strength of intellect—an ability to outsmart any person or problem. For still others, being strong means appearing immune to any irritations or challenges that threaten to disrupt daily life. Some like the idea of being emotionally detached, to embody a “James Bond” approach to life. Whatever comes up, we’ll take care of it, and we’ll do it with style.

Think of the figures portrayed so prominently in the media today: politicians such as our current president; technology gurus such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs; athletes such as Peyton Manning or

LeBron James; actors and actresses such as George Clooney or Nicole Kidman; media moguls such as Oprah Winfrey.

Each of these people possesses strengths that the public appreciates. It might be physical strength, emotional strength, talent, intellectual capacity, or influence, but the world admires these folks for what they have that the rest of us don’t. They seem to have it together. They appear strong.

But I want to talk with you about an entirely different kind of strength. It’s a quality of strength that David Works and Lori Mangrum discovered. It is so powerful that it overshadows every other kind of strength, like a Himalayan mountain towering over a molehill. It wasn’t the strength that David and Lori were looking for in their moment of crisis, darkness, and greatest weakness. In some ways, it was the furthest thing from their minds. But it was exactly the strength they needed most.

I think it’s just what the rest of us need too.

We’re Going Through

In the instant after David Works was shot that December day in 2007, he realized he was in a situation that was beyond him. He didn’t have the power or strength to control the events around him. He was helpless to protect himself or his family. So he turned to the only one left who did have the power and strength to change matters.

God, what’s going on here? he thought. This is crazy. We’re supposed to be a missionary family getting ready to go around the world for You. What’s this all about? It doesn’t make any sense.

David sensed an immediate answer. It wasn’t audible, but it left a deep impression on him nevertheless: We’re going THROUGH. We’re not going OVER or going AROUND this. We’re going THROUGH.

Most of us would be thrilled to receive a message from the Lord. Under the circumstances, however, that message wasn’t what David wanted to hear.

David survived the attack on his life that morning. His daughter Rachel and his oldest daughter, eighteen-year-old Stephanie, did not. Stephanie was struck by a bullet while sitting in one of the van’s middle seats. She died at the scene. Rachel died a few hours later at the same Colorado Springs hospital where David was treated. The gunman was a twenty-four-year-old who had also killed two people earlier that day at another ministry facility. Inside New Life Church, he’d been shot dead by a security guard before he could claim any more victims.

As the father of two boys, I can only imagine the physical and emotional anguish that David and his family endured in the hours, days, and weeks that followed the shooting and loss of two precious daughters and sisters. I can also imagine that they would have been tempted to curse God for what occurred that day, even to turn away from Him for apparently not intervening when they needed Him most. But that’s not what happened.

That first night, lying alone in a hospital bed, overwhelmed by shock and grief, David tried to make sense of the tragedy. He took it straight to God.

Lord, I don’t understand You at all right now. I don’t get it. How could we lose two kids in one day? You’re not making any sense.

But somehow, I trust You in this situation. Obviously I don’t have any better ideas. I’m not going anywhere. I will stick with You, Lord, because You have the words of eternal life. I need You tonight more than ever.

From that humble beginning, David found a strength he didn’t know he had. After just nine days, he was discharged from the hospital. Gradually, and with persistent effort, he recovered from his physical wounds.

What is more incredible was David’s emotional and spiritual recovery. At times the grief and despair overwhelmed him; at one point he was out of control, thrashing, wailing, and sobbing until his voice was hoarse. Yet he was able to attend his daughters’ burial and memorial service, where he read the Twenty-third Psalm and thanked God for allowing him to heal quickly enough to be there. A few days after Christmas, he addressed a crowd of 350 people and talked about how, through the nightmare of the previous three weeks, God had never left his family.

Most amazing was that when the New Life pastor asked if David and his family would like to meet with the parents of the gunman, they took a day to think about it, then agreed. And when they met, there was no hesitation. David stretched his arms out and encircled another grieving father and mother in a

long embrace, followed by the hugs from the rest of his family. Through tears, he and his family repeated, “It’s okay. We forgive you.”3

Lori Mangrum experienced her own amazing emotional and spiritual renewal. In the midst of her depression, she too turned to God. Though He seemed distant, she began reading Scripture with a new interest and curiosity. She read about the Lord’s relationships with sinful men and women and saw how He loved them despite their weaknesses.

One afternoon, while driving home from a session with a therapist, Lori cried out to God, “I can’t do this alone. It’s too hard. If You’re really there, then show me, and I will trust You!”

Lori sensed an answer in the stillness.

Trust Me first—then I will show you.

Starting with small steps, Lori began to relinquish control of her life to the Lord. She focused more on pleasing Him instead of everyone else. It helped her to say no to some requests—and to speak up when she felt upset, angry, hurt, or scared. She began sharing her fears and feelings with her husband. And when a panic attack did strike, she faced it head-on, reassuring herself that she didn’t have to cooperate with what her body was trying to tell her.4

The grace and courage demonstrated by David Works and Lori Mangrum blows me away. Could I have faced and forgiven the parents of a man who murdered my children? Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out. Could I take the brave steps to surrender to the Lord and allow Him to lift me out of a disabling depression? Again, I’m not sure, and I’d prefer not to take that test.

But am I attracted to what David and Lori have? You’d better believe it. Because what they have demonstrated is not simply physical, emotional, or intellectual strength. It’s something far deeper, far more powerful, and far more lasting.

Something spiritual.

Something holy.

David and Lori took the worst that life could throw at them. Did it hurt? Of course. Did it bring them to their knees, both figuratively and literally? Yes. Did they find themselves utterly weak and helpless? Absolutely.

Yet somehow, through that weakness and their connection to a merciful God, David and Lori were transformed. They didn’t just survive. They didn’t just “get by.”

They got stronger.

That’s the kind of strength I want: a strength that never leaves, a strength that actually magnifies during the tough times, a strength that isn’t dependent on me but resides in a power that can’t be stopped.

How about you?

I don’t presume to have all the answers to life. But I know who does, and I know who provides the greatest strength of all. It is a strength that I believe is found and forged only through weakness.

It’s what the apostle Paul meant in his message to the members of

the fledgling Corinthian church: “For when I am weak, then I am

strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Let’s talk about it.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Stronger by Jim Daly. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

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Solitary by Travis Thrasher

I’d been hearing good things about Travis Thrasher but this was the first one of his books I’d picked up. I wasn’t sure what to make of it from the cover, which reminded me of either Shel Silverstein’s (Where the Sidewalk Ends) or Jack Prelutsky’s (Snopp on the Sidewalk) book of poems. Which may not be far off since those were highly imaginative poems for children.

Thrasher is an excellent writer, able to take us back to those painfully awkward, lonely days of being an outsider in high school with just a few words (read the excerpt below to see what I mean). And his ability to create a sense of place and infuse it with meaning (or emptiness and evil in this case) is something rarely seen. His abilities in these areas reminded me of Stephen King.

Which actually created a bit of a difficulty for me. I love suspense and mystery, but I can’t do horror. Mostly likely because I do the bulk of my reading before I go to bed, and if I read horror I have nightmares. This was young adult horror so I thought I could handle it.

When I got to page 42 I put the book down, not sure if I could go on, but torn to know what happened. I decided to finish the book but only read it during the day. Let me tell you, Thrasher can write some heart-pounding scenes. And because of that, I’m not sure if it’s exactly a YA book. I would be hesitant to give it to anyone under 14, maybe even 16, because of his ability to so elucidate the pervasiveness of evil. If you know your child is sensitive to these things then be wary. But any kid that loves Stephen King will love Travis Thrasher. The book takes you right up to the edge all the way to the end and leave you wanting more.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings Senior Media Specialist at the B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Travis Thrasher is an author of diverse talents with more than twelve published novels including romance, suspense, adventure, and supernatural horror tales. At the core of each of his stories lie flawed characters in search of redemption. Thrasher weaves hope within all of his tales, and he loves surprising his readers with amazing plot twists and unexpected variety in his writing. Travis lives with his wife and daughter in a suburb of Chicago. Solitary is his first young adult novel.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1434764214

ISBN-13: 978-1434764218
Get it here:

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1 . Half a Person

She’s beautiful.

She stands behind two other girls, one a goth coated in black and the other a blonde with wild hair and an even wilder smile. She’s waiting, looking off the other way, but I’ve already memorized her face.

I’ve never seen such a gorgeous girl in my life.

“You really like them?”

The goth girl is the one talking; maybe she’s the leader of their pack. I’ve noticed them twice already today because of her, the one standing behind. The beautiful girl from my second-period English class, the one with the short skirt and long legs and endless brown hair, the one I can’t stop thinking about. She’s hard not to notice.

“Yeah, they’re one of my favorites,” I say.

We’re talking about my T-shirt. It’s my first day at this school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think carefully about what I was going to wear. It’s about making a statement. I would have bet that 99 percent of the seven hundred kids at this high school wouldn’t know what Strangeways, Here We Come refers to.

Guess I found the other 1 percent.

I was killing time after lunch by wandering aimlessly when the threesome stopped me. Goth Girl didn’t even say hi; she just pointed at the murky photograph of a face on my shirt and asked where I got it. She made it sound like I stole it.

In a way, I did.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” Goth Girl asks. Hersparkling blue eyes are almost hidden by her dark eyeliner.

“Did the shirt give it away?”

“Nobody in this school listens to The Smiths.”

I can tell her that I stole the shirt, or in a sense borrowed it, butthen she’d ask me from where.

I don’t want to tell her I found it in a drawer in the house we’re staying at. A cabin that belongs to my uncle. A cabin that used to belong to my uncle when he was around.

“I just moved here from a suburb of Chicago.”

“What suburb?” the blonde asks.

“Libertyville. Ever hear of it?”

“No.”

I see the beauty shift her gaze around to see who’s watching. Which is surprising, because most attractive girls don’t have to do that. They know that they’re being watched.

This is different. Her glance is more suspicious. Or anxious.

“What’s your name?”

“Chris Buckley.”

“Good taste in music, Chris,” Goth Girl says. “I’m Poe. This is Rachel. And she’s Jocelyn.”

That’s right. Her name’s Jocelyn. I remember now from class.

“What else do you like?”

“I got a wide taste in music.”

“Do you like country?” Poe asks.

“No, not really.”

“Good. I can’t stand it. Nobody who wears a T-shirt like that would ever like country.”

“I like country,” Rachel says.

“Don’t admit it. So why’d you move here?”

“Parents got a divorce. My mom decided to move, and I came with her.”

“Did you have a choice?”

“Not really. But if I had I would’ve chosen to move with her.”

“Why here?”

“Some of our family lives in Solitary. Or used to. I have a couple relatives in the area.” I choose not to say anything about Uncle Robert. “My mother grew up around here.”

“That sucks,” Poe says.

“Solitary is a strange town,” Rachel says with a grin that doesn’t seem to ever go away. “Anybody tell you that?”

I shake my head.

“Joss lives here; we don’t,” Poe says. “I’m in Groveton; Rach lives on the border to South Carolina. Joss tries to hide out at our places because Solitary fits its name.”

Jocelyn looks like she’s late for something, her body language screaming that she wants to leave this conversation she’s not a part of. She still hasn’t acknowledged me.

“What year are you guys?”

“Juniors. I’m from New York—can’t you tell? Rachel is from Colorado, and Jocelyn grew up here, though she wants to get out as soon as she can. You can join our club if you like.”

Part of me wonders if I’d have to wear eyeliner and lipstick.

“Club?”

“The misfits. The outcasts. Whatever you want to call it.”

“Not sure if I want to join that.”

“You think you fit in?”

“No,” I say.

“Good. We’ll take you. You fit with us. Plus … you’re cute.”

Poe and her friends walk away.

Jocelyn finally glances at me and smiles the saddest smile I’ve ever seen.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified.

I might look cool and nonchalant and act cool and nonchalant, but inside I’m quaking.

I spent the first sixteen years of my life around the same people, going to the same school, living in the same town with the same two parents.

Now everything is different.

The students who pass me are nameless, faceless, expressionless. We are part of a herd that jumps to life like Pavlov’s dog at the sound of the bell, which really is a low drone that sounds like it comes from some really bad sci-fi movie. It’s hard to keep the cool and nonchalant thing going while staring in confusion at my school map. I probably look pathetic.

I dig out the computer printout of my class list and look at it again. I swear there’s not a room called C305.

I must be looking pathetic, because she comes up to me and asks if I’m lost.

Jocelyn can actually talk.

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Where are you going?”

“Some room—C305. Does that even exist?”

“Of course it does. I’m actually heading there right now.” There’s an attitude in her voice, as if she’s ready for a fight even if one’s not coming.

“History?”

She nods.

“Second class together,” I say, which elicits a polite and slightly annoyed smile.

She explains to me how the rooms are organized, with C stuck between A and B for some crazy reason. But I don’t really hear the words she’s saying. I look at her and wonder if she can see me blushing. Other kids are staring at me now for the first time today. They look at Jocelyn and look at me—curious, critical, cutting. I wonder if I’m imagining it.

After a minute of this, I stare off a kid who looks like I threw manure in his face.

“Not the friendliest bunch of people, are they?” I ask.

“People here don’t like outsiders.”

“They didn’t even notice me until now.”

She nods and looks away, as if this is her fault. Her hair, so thick and straight, shimmers all the way past her shoulders. I could stare at her all day long.

“Glad you’re in some of my classes.”

“I’m sure you are,” she says.

We reach the room.

“Well, thanks.”

“No problem.”

She says it the way an upperclassmen might answer a freshman. Or an older sister, her bratty brother. I want to say something witty, but nothing comes to mind.

I’m sure I’m not the first guy she’s left speechless.

Every class I’m introduced to seems more and more unimpressed.

“This is Christopher Buckley from Chicago, Illinois,” the teachers say, in case anybody doesn’t know where Chicago is.

In case anybody wonders who the new breathing slab of human is, stuck in the middle of the room.

A redheaded girl with a giant nose stares at me, then glances at my shirt as if I have food smeared all over it. She rolls her eyes and then looks away.

Glancing down at my shirt makes me think of a song by The Smiths, “Half a Person.”

That’s how I feel.

I’ve never been the most popular kid in school. I’m a soccer player in a football world. My parents never had an abundance of money. I’m not overly good looking or overly smart or overly anything, to be honest. Just decent looking and decent at sports and decent at school. But decent doesn’t get you far. Most of the time you need to be the best at one thing and stick to it.

I think about this as I notice more unfamiliar faces. A kid who looks like he hasn’t bathed for a week. An oily-faced girl who looks miserable. A guy with tattoos who isn’t even pretending to listen.

I never really fit in back in Libertyville, so how in the world am I going to fit in here?

Two more years of high school.

I don’t want to think about it.

As the teacher drones on about American history and I reflect on my own history, my eyes find her.

I see her glancing my way.

For a long moment, neither of us look away.

For that long moment, it’s just the two of us in the room.

Her glance is strong and tough. It’s almost as if she’s telling me to remain the same, as if she’s saying, Don’t let them get you down.

Suddenly, I have this amazingly crazy thought: I’m glad I’m here.

I have to fight to get out of the room to catch up to Jocelyn.

I’ve had forty minutes to think of exactly what I want to say, but by the time I catch up to her, all that comes out is “hey.”

She nods.

Those eyes cripple me. I’m not trying to sound cheesy—they do. They bind my tongue.

For an awkward sixty seconds, the longest minute of my sixteen years, I walk the hallway beside her. We reach the girls’ room, and she opens the door and goes inside. I stand there for a second, wondering

if I should wait for her, then feeling stupid and ridiculous, wondering why I’m turning into a head of lettuce around a stranger I just met.

But I know exactly why.

As I head down the hallway, toward some other room with some other teacher unveiling some other plan to educate us, I feel someone grab my arm.

“You don’t want to mess with that.”

I wonder if I heard him right. Did he say that or her?

I turn and see a short kid with messy brown hair and a pimply face. I gotta be honest—it’s been a while since I’d seen a kid with this many pimples. Doctors have things you can do for that. The word pus comes to mind.

“Mess with what?”

“Jocelyn. If I were you, I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts.”

Who is this kid, and what’s he talking about?

And what teenager says, “I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts”?

“What thoughts would those be?”

“Don’t be a wise guy.”

Pimple Boy sounds like the wise guy, with a weaselly voice that seems like it’s going to deliver a punch line any second.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, I’m just warning you. I’ve seen it happen before. I’m nobody, okay, and nobodies can get away with some things. And you look like a decent guy, so I’m just telling you.”

“Telling me what?”

“Not to take a fancy with the lady.”

Did he just say that in an accent that sounded British, or is it my imagination?

“I was just walking with her down the hallway.”

“Yeah. Okay. Then I’ll see you later.”

“Wait. Hold on,” I say. “Is she taken or something?”

“Yeah. She’s spoken for. And has been for sometime.”

Pimple Boy says this the way he might tell me that my mother is dying.

It’s bizarre.

And a bit spooky.

I realize that Harrington County High in Solitary, North Carolina, is a long way away from Libertyville.

I think about what the odd kid just told me.

This is probably bad.

Because one thing in my life has been a constant. You can ask my mother or father, and they’d agree.

I don’t like being told what to do.

Nightshade by Ronie Kendig

Wow! That about sums up my feelings for this book. Ronie just nailed it. I love reading military suspense, especially with a dash of romance, and Ronie is as good as any I’ve read. The dialogue and actions by the men ring very true, and that’s something many female writers struggle with. She’s done her homework and it shows.

I also appreciate that Ronie tackled some tough issues like PTSD and how that tears families apart. I hope her book will help others understand what a tough job those men and women have who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children and a Golden Retriever. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers.

Visit the author’s website and her book website,.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 160260777X

ISBN-13: 978-1602607774
Get it Here:

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Prologue

Crazy lights swirled against the evening sky. Day morphed into the merriment of night. Cotton candy and hot dogs. Teens decked out in Goth gear contrasted sharply with young couples dragged from ride to ride by squealing offspring. White smeared over a man’s face as red encircled his mouth. Like a giant maraschino cherry, his nose squawked when a child squeezed it. He threw his head back and laughed. The little boy stood perplexed, as if uncertain whether to laugh or break into tears.

Olin Lambert shifted on the park bench as a parade of kids trailed the balloon-toting clown through the park. He glanced at his watch. His contact was la—

The boards under his legs creaked. A man dressed in a navy jogging suit joined him.

“You almost missed the fun.” Olin tossed a few kernels of popcorn into his mouth.

Rolling his shoulders, the man darted his gaze around the carnival insanity. “You know how dangerous this is? What it took for me to get out here without being seen?”

The danger and risk to his contact were no greater than what was stacked up against Olin. They both had a lot to lose—careers, reputations, families. . . . “We could leave now.”

“You know this has to happen.”

After a sip of his diet cola, Olin stuffed the half-full bag of popcorn on top of the overflowing trash bin. He wiped his hands and turned back to the man. “So, the body count’s finally high enough?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “I’m here. That should tell you something.”

“Indeed.” Olin waited as the ice cream vendor wheeled his musical cart past. “I need full autonomy for me and my team.”

Music burst forth as swings whirled occupants in a monotonous circle. A performer tossed flaming sticks and maneuvered one down his throat, swallowing the flames. Ohs wafted on the noisy, hot wind from the audience gathered around him. A scream pierced the night—a woman startled by another clown.

“Okay, fine. Just get on with this. I’m a sitting duck out here.” He rubbed his hands and glanced around.

Olin swiped his tongue along his teeth, took a draught of his soda, then slumped back against the slats. “I want it in writing. Two copies. Mine. Yours.”

The man shook his head. “No trails.”

The corner of Olin’s mouth quirked up. “You’ve already got one.” He nodded to the ice cream vendor, who reached over the register and tapped a sign with a hole in the center where a camera hid.

A curse hissed through the night. “You’d bleed me out if you could.”

“Whatever it takes to protect these men.”

Eyeing him, the man hesitated. “The men? Or you?”

“One and the same. If they’re protected, I’m protected. Whatever happens out there, we’re not going to take the fall for it.”

“If it goes bad, someone will get blamed.”

Olin pursed his lips and cocked his head to the side. “More dust has been swept under the proverbial Capitol Hill carpet than anyone will ever admit. You have to decide: Is the cost high enough? How many more lives are you willing to sacrifice?”

“Seven.”

On his feet, Olin tugged up the hood of his jacket. “Then we’re through.”

The man caught his elbow. “Sit down.”

Teeth clamped, Olin returned to the bench. He bent forward and rubbed his hands together, more than ready to forget he’d ever tried to deal with this man, the only man with enough power on the Hill and the right connections to both fund and authorize deep-six missions. Missions nobody wanted to acknowledge.

The din of merriment swallowed the silence between them. A beat cop worked the scene, glancing their way as he walked, no doubt making a mental note to watch them.

“Get me their names. I’ll write a carte blanche.”

Olin’s gut twisted. “Not happening.” If he revealed the names of his elite, he would essentially place them on individual crosses to be crucified by some politician who got wind of this or by someone far more dangerous—media—if something went south. “Project Overlook happens under my guidance with all the freedom and resources I need, or it doesn’t happen and you have one heckuva mess to clean up.”

“If I do this, I could get put away for a long time, Lambert.”

“And a million people will die if you don’t.”

“We should sit back and let Congress grant the authorization to go in there.”

A deep-chested laugh wormed through Olin. “You’ve been around too long to believe that. Thick bellies and big heads crowd the halls of the Hill. They want the power and none of the responsibility.” Had he been wrong in talking to the man next to him? What if he went to the Hill and spilled the news about Project Overlook? They’d be dead before the elite soldiers he had in mind could get their feet wet.

He let out a long exhale. “If you aren’t going to pony up, this conversation is over. You contacted me because you knew I could take care of this little snafu. So let us go in and quell this before it destroys more and the body count rivals 9/11.”

He eyed Olin, a slow grin cracking his lips. “You’ve always impressed me, Lambert, even though you’re Army.”

“Navy lost the last game, Admiral.” Olin let his gaze rake the scene around him. “These men are fully capable, and the situation can be tamed before anyone is the wiser. We don’t have time to wrangle the pundits. Let’s get it done, Mr. Chairman, sir.”

Chairman Orr stood and zipped his jacket. “You’ll have it by morning.”

Chapter 1

Cracking open the throttle ignited a wild explosion of power and speed. Zero to sixty in less than three seconds left Max Jacobs breathless. Gut pressed to the spine of his Hayabusa, he bore down the mountainous two-lane road away from civilization, away from . . . everything. Here only pine trees, concrete and speed were his friends.

His bike screamed as it ate up the road. The thrill burst through him. He needed the rush. Craved it. Stop running, Max. Her words stabbed his conscience. Made him mad.

Rounding a bend, he slowed and sighted the drop-off in the road—remembered a full 10% grade, straight down. His gaze bounced between the speedometer and the cement. Common sense told him to decelerate. The boiling in his veins said otherwise.

He twisted the throttle.

Eighty.

Max leaned into the bike and felt the surge.

Ninety.

He sucked in a breath as he sped toward the break.

The road dropped off. The Hayabusa roared as the wheels sailed out. He tried to grip the handlebars tighter as nothing but tingling Virginia oxygen enveloped him. Silence gaped.

This could be it. This could end it all. No more pain. No more life without Syd . . .

Take me. Just take me.

The Hayabusa plummeted.

Straight down. Concrete. Like a meteor slamming to earth.

The back tire hit. A jolt shot through the bike. Then the front tire bounced. Rattling carried through the handlebars and into his shoulders. He grabbed the brake—

Stupid! The brake locked. Rear tire went right. He tried to steer into the skid but momentum flipped him up. Over. Pops snapped through his back as he spiraled through the air. In the chaos his bike gave chase, kicking and screaming as it tore after him.

Crack! Pop! The sound of his crashing bike reverberated through the lonely country lane. Scenery whirled. Pine trees whipped into a Christmas-color frosting. Tree bark blurred into a menagerie of browns, drawing closer and closer.

Thud! His head bounced off the cement. He flipped again.

Finally. It’d be over. He closed his eyes. No more—

THUD! “Oof.” The breath knocked from his lungs. Pain spiked his shoulders and spine. Fire lit across his limbs and back as he slid from one lane to another. Down the road, spinning. Straight toward the trees.

He winced, arched his back. Kicking, he tried to gain traction. If he wasn’t going to die, he didn’t want to end up paralyzed. Just like you not to think it through.

He dumped into a ditch.

Smack!

Everything went black.

He blinked. Pain shrieked through his body, his thighs and shoulders burning. “Argh!”

Max pried himself onto all fours, hanging his head. A crack rent the face shield. A wicked throb pulsed through his temples and . . . everywhere. He fought with the helmet. Growled as he freed the straps. He pawed it off, cursing at the thing for saving his life. Those head whacks as he somersaulted through the air should’ve punched a hole in his skull. Warmth dribbled down his brow. He pressed a palm against his forehead. Sticky and warm. Blood. He grunted and strained to look across the road. Mangled. Twisted. His bike. Him.

Why couldn’t God just let him die? Humanity would be one up, and he wouldn’t have to face his consummate failures in life. “Just let me go!” he growled and pounded a fist against the pavement. He’d do anything to go back to the Middle East, pump some radicals full of lead, and unleash the demon inside. Anything that told him he still had purpose in life.

But that wasn’t an option anymore. Another bad choice. Could he get anything right? Maybe his father had been right to up and leave them. Just like his mother.

A glimmer of light snagged his attention. Less than a mile down the road, a black SUV barreled up the road from town. Max tensed. He’d seen a vehicle like that three times in the last week. But out here? In the middle of nowhere, invading his self-inflicted punishment? This wasn’t a coincidence. And he didn’t like being hunted.

Max dragged himself into the trees, wincing. Using his forearm, he wiped the blood from his face. Why? Why couldn’t he just die? Nothing here for him. No reason.

Sydney. . .

He banged the back of his head against the tree. Pain drove through him like an iron rod. Good. It felt good to hurt. A relief to the agony inside.

Glass popping and crunching snapped his attention to the road. The SUV sat like a giant spider. He wondered who was in the vehicle as he eased farther into the foliage. A carpet of pine needles concealed his steps. He glanced back to the intruder.

The SUV shifted as a man climbed out. Large, African American, and an expression that said he didn’t mess around. Whatever the guy wanted, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. At least not easily.

Even from ten yards away, Max could see the muscle twitching in the man’s jaw. He swallowed and licked his lips, readying himself for a confrontation. He swung back and gazed up at the canopy of leaves. Could he hoof it back to his apartment? Gathering his strength, he shrugged out of the shredded leather jacket, wincing and grunting as it pulled against raw flesh.

“You through? Or you want another go at it?”

What? Max peered around the trunk, surprised to find the man at the edge of the road, hands on his hips as he stared into the trees.

“We took you for stronger.” The man glanced back at the bike. “But maybe you’re nothing but broke and no use to no one.”

Heart thumping, Max jerked back and clenched his teeth. Who was this joker?

“So, what’s it going to be, Jacobs? You ready to face a little reality?”

How does he know my name? “Who are you?” Max hissed as the tree rubbed his raw shoulder. “What do you want?”

“You.”

Max drew the SOG knife from his pocket and opened it. Holding it down, he pushed into the open, making sure his injuries didn’t show him weak. “What’s the game?”

The man’s eyebrow arched. He angled his left shoulder forward, tugged up his sweater’s sleeve, and flexed his oversized bicep. A tattoo expanded across his muscle. Marine. Force Recon, if Max made out the symbol correctly.

An ally? As he struggled out of the ditch and back onto the road, Max collapsed the blade. Heat rose from the cement, aggravating the exposed flesh on his back and legs.

“Navy and Marines, you and me. Almost brothers. It’s the Rangers I don’t like. So, I forgive you for coming at me with a blade. This time.”

Max stared. Confusion—and pain—wrapped a tight vise around his skull.

“What’s it going to be, squid?” The guy pointed to the wreck of a bike on the road. “You don’t have a ride back to town. So why don’t you climb in and listen to what I have to say?”

Might ignore the nickname jab, but the guy assumed too much. “You flash a tattoo and think I’ll just bend my knee? I don’t think so.” A silent brotherhood had closed Max’s knife. But he didn’t want company. The oaf’s or anyone else’s. But how else would he get home?

“What? You think you’re going home? To your can opener and mattress?”

Mr. Recon had a point. Still, he knew too much, and that made Max stiffen—fiery shards prickling his back.

“No obligation. Show me a little respect, and just hear me out.”

At least, as the man had said, he’d have a ride. Eyes on the large man, Max pocketed the knife as he trudged to the other side of the SUV and opened the door.

He paused at the plastic covering the seat. He jerked his gaze to the driver.

Mr. Force Recon grinned. “You’re predictable, Jacobs.”

Max lowered himself onto the seat, cringing as new fire crawled over his back and legs. He buckled in, the irony of the seat belt crossing his mind. “So what’s this about? Why have you been following me?”

A crisp cologne swirled in the air-conditioned interior as Mr. Recon folded himself behind the steering wheel. “You’ve been recruited, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Max snorted. “Already did my time. I’m out.” He gulped against the flurry of emotions within.

“Yeah? How’s that working out for you?”

Glaring, Max resisted the urge to thrust his SOG into the guy’s gut. He’d left the service for Sydney. Only it’d been too late. And in one fell swoop, he lost everything. “Why don’t you tell me? You seem to know everything.”

Mr. Recon pursed his lips and nodded. “Okay.” He rubbed his jaw. “You were discharged ninety days ago. In that time, you’ve been arrested twice, once for fighting. The second time—less than three days ago—for assault against your now-estranged wife.”

The words cut deeper and stung worse than his now-oozing flesh. Max looked at his hand and flexed his fingers.

“Yesterday you were hit with a permanent protective order by said wife. She filed for separation.” He leaned on the console and again arched that eyebrow. “How am I doing?”

“If you knew anything about me, you’d dull your edge.”

Wrist hooked over the steering wheel, Mr. Recon continued unfazed. “The military discharged you. Honorably. A veteran of two wars. Untold combat situations and medals. They tried to put you out medically two years ago, but you fought it.”

“And won.”

“Yessir.” The man nodded for several seconds. “So, why now? Why’d you let them put you out this time?”

Max shoved his gaze to the heavily tinted windows. That was a story nobody needed to hear. Bury it six feet under and walk away.

“You’re a discarded hero, Lieutenant Jacobs.”

Head whipped back to the driver, Max fought the urge to light into the guy. But something in the amused eyes betrayed a camaraderie. An understanding. Acceptance.

“Who are you? What’s your story?”

“Name’s Griffin.” He bobbed his head as they pulled onto the highway, driving east toward the Potomac. “My story. . . ?” A toothy grin. “Let’s just say I got smart.”

The sound of crinkling and rustling plastic pervaded the cabin as Max shifted to alleviate a pinprick fire shooting down his leg. He hissed and clamped a hand over his thigh. “So, what’s the gig?”

“The gig is whatever nobody else will do. What you should ask about is our group—and I do mean our group, Lieutenant. Because you are fully a part of this. Are you ready to step out of the medical trappings of your discharge, of the devastation that has become your life since you’ve returned from your last tour?”

Max grunted. “Yesterday.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” Tires thumped over docks as Griffin steered into a warehouse. “Then this is where it starts.”

Elite soldiers stood in a semicircle, waiting. For what, Max wasn’t sure. And he wouldn’t ask. If his guess was right, then time would tell—because Griffin seemed to be the guy in the know, and his relaxed posture against the SUV said things were going according to plan.

“Hey, dude, want me to look those over?” A blond guy dressed in khaki shorts, a faded tank, and a pair of flip-flops motioned to Max’s scrapes and lacerations.

Right. Beach bum wanted to play nurse. “I’m good.”

“About as good as a dog in a meat grinder,” the guy replied.

Max clenched his teeth. Whatever kind of circus Griffin was running. . .

A diesel engine growled, the sound reverberating off the aluminum in the cavernous space, preempting the shiny blue dualie truck pulling into the dank building. The engine cut. A guy stepped out and donned a black cowboy hat that added about five inches to his six-foot-two frame.

Griffin’s laugh rumbled as he pushed off his SUV. “Colton.”

A broad grin spilled under the rim of the man’s Stetson. “Hey.” The two clasped hands and patted backs. “How’s Dante?”

A quiet dialogue carried between the two for several minutes that effectively cut out the rest of those gathered. Yeah, they had a friendship, one that said they trusted each other with more than superficial things. Something about the tight bond rankled Max. Hit deep.

“Why are we here?”

Max’s gaze bounced to the shortest and youngest of the six men in the building. The Kid had read his thoughts. A warehouse full of warriors? This setup smelled rotten.

“If you’ll be patient—” Griffin paused and glanced behind him. “I think it’s time.”

A black Chrysler 300 glided into the middle of the grouping. The hollow clunk of an opening door echoed off the steel rafters and grime-laden windows. A man emerged. White hair feathered back. A sun-bronzed nose sported dark-tinted sunglasses. The thud of the door almost swallowed the crunching of his squeaky shoes. New, expensive shoes. Maybe even tailor-made. He gripped the rim of his glasses and drew them off.

Was the old man supposed to mean something? Be someone who mattered? Irritation skittered along Max’s shoulders as the old man shook hands with Riddell and the cowboy.

“Who’s the hoo-hah?” Max mumbled to himself.

“You kidding me, man?” The blond look at him and smirked. “That’s—”

“For those not enlightened,” an authoritative voice cut through the surfer’s explanation, “my name is General Olin Lambert. I am a member of the Joint Chiefs. But among the seven of us, I am merely a citizen of the United States just like you.” Blue eyes probed each man.

Right into Max’s soul.

“With Mr. Riddell’s help, I’ve hand-chosen each and every one of you for a very specific purpose. There isn’t anything about you or your lives that I don’t know.” Lambert paused, as if to let his words sink in, but Max just wished he’d get on with it. Scabs were forming on his scrapes.

“Chosen us for what, ese?” asked the Hispanic man.

“A black ops team.”

And that meant two things: military and that this meeting was over. Max turned and started walking.

“It’s not military, Mr. Jacobs.”

Hesitation held him at the large, garage-style door he’d entered. “How can you do black ops without military aid, intelligence, and backup?” He turned around, ignoring what felt like glass stuck to his calves and thighs.

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t have aid or intelligence.” Creases pinched Lambert’s eyes at the corners. “I said it’s not military.”

“Come again?” the beach bum asked, disbelief coloring his words.

“Let the general explain.” Griffin leaned back against the truck with his cowboy buddy.

“Thank you, Mr. Riddell.” Lambert tucked his sunglasses in his left breast pocket, then threaded his fingers in front of him. Impressive and commanding. “Each of you has returned from combat changed, affected.”

Nervous glances skidded from man to man. Max glued his attention to the general, refusing to acknowledge the truth of Lambert’s words.

“You’re what I’ve dubbed discarded heroes.”

Grunts of approval rang through the building, and the group seemed to tighten in around the old man. Being a general, he knew what it was like to have slanted glances of pity from those who knew where you’d been, what you’d probably done, and what it was like to go against a politically correct ideology and fight for freedom on foreign soil. Or to have some tree hugger spit in your face and call you a murderer.

“You served your time, saw and experienced things no normal person would be expected to deal with. Sure, you were trained. Taught to expect evil. Demanded success. However, when confronted with the true terrors of war, no human mind can dissolve the images embedded in memory for all time.

“Then it’s time to get out. They yank you back here, give you a once-over, and toss you out with a ‘thank you very much and have a good life.’ So you go home, try to reintegrate into society, and—”

“It’s screwed up,” the Kid said. He shrugged when the others scowled at him. “Well? I’m right, aren’t I? From what I heard you saying earlier,” he pointed to the beach bum, “you’ve spent time in Afghanistan—a lot.” Then to the Latino, “You probably did your tours of duty in Panama or the like.” His gaze came to Max.

“Don’t.” Fists balled, Max willed his feet to remain in place. He didn’t want anyone digging in his brain.

“Mr. Vaughn is correct,” Lambert said. “You’ve all seen combat. You’ve all been trained to kill; then you come back, and what do you do with those skills but go out of your mind?”

Max shifted. Was it over yet? He eyed the wide-open berth to freedom behind the blue dualie.

“Max Jacobs.”

Hearing his name felt like a detonation that blasted his attention back to the general.

“You served eight years with the SEALs. Your experience in command and combat no doubt left indelible scars. Watched your best friend toss himself on a grenade to save the team.”

Bile pooled at the back of Max’s throat as the memory surged. He flared his nostrils, pushing the images back into the pit from which they’d been drawn.

Lambert stalked the inner perimeter, as if prepping troops for war with a pep talk. “Lieutenant Jacobs is the man I’ve chosen as team leader, but his position is no more valuable than anyone else’s. You’ve all seen war. In this building are years of tactical experience. Incredible wisdom. And one element that makes each of you vital for this to work.”

“What’s that?” Cowboy asked, his arms folded over his thick chest.

“Loyalty, Mr. Neeley. Your duty with the Marine Special Operations Team is bloated with exemplary conduct, commendation after commendation.” He waved his hand around the cozy circle. “I’ve reviewed all of your files and found the same thing in every one.”

Awkward silence cooled some of the tension in the room, and once again Max eyed the exit.

“Mr. Reyes, your career as a pararescue jumper, specifically your medic skills, saved dozens of lives.”

“Pair o’ what?” Cowboy taunted.

“Hey,” Reyes grinned. “You’re just jealous. I’m a PJ. Why you think they call me Fix?”

“Because you put everyone in one?” Griffin chuckled, eliciting more laughter.

“Nah, man. It’s ’cause of this,” he said as he drew out a crucifix from his shirt and kissed it. “My crucifix. They called me Cru at first, then since I’m a medic, they started calling me Fix.”

Swallowing his groan, Max ran a hand through his short crop. Religion and military. This was starting to feel worse than an AA meeting. And there wasn’t a point. “This is a lot of flowery, moving discourse, but what do you want from us?” Max mentally shook off the way the others looked at him. Was he the only one who was still waiting for the boom to lower?

“Mr. Riddell, if you please.” Lambert pointed to the black SUV as Griffin opened the tailgate. “Give each man one.”

Griffin handed out small black packs that bore a lone symbol. A strange star backed by a sword and wings. The Kid, the Beach Bum, and the Latino dug into the packs, almost excited. In seconds, a black phone, keys, a watch, and a set of duds spilled across the gray cement floor in front of them.

Max remained in place, his pack dangling from his clenched fist. He didn’t like being played. And this definitely felt like a setup.

General Lambert faced him. “Is there a problem, Mr. Jacobs?”

He dropped his pack onto the floor. “Not seeing the point.”

Behind the general, Griffin seemed to grow several inches as he towered over the aged officer. “What?” he growled. “You want to take another nose-dive off that hill? Hope this time there’s only enough of you left to fill a baggie? Want to make that estranged wife of yours a widow before you can be called a failure?”

Hands coiled, Max drew up his shoulders. Saw red. No. No. He wouldn’t give in to the goading. He dragged his attention back to the general.

“Ease up, Legend,” Cowboy said, patting Griffin’s chest. “Give the guy a chance.” Lambert remained unwavering. “The point, Lieutenant, is to establish a team that can penetrate hostile situations without any entanglements, without any blame on the good ol’ US-of-A or any other entity or government. You returned from two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and a covert mission nobody in this room will ever know about. You were the best, a natural, your CO said. But you were so volatile after those experiences took their toll they tried to discharge you, and your compatriots nicknamed you after a volatile chemical. Somehow you held it together. Then jumped ship out of the blue.” More than recitation of information lurked behind the general’s blue eyes. A knowing—no, an understanding, quiet and unnerving. “Tell me, Mr. Jacobs, what are you doing with your life now?”

“Minding my own business,” Max answered through tight lips.

Lambert laughed. “And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing as part of my team. Funding isn’t a problem. You’ll have unlimited resources.”

“That’d be a change,” the Kid grumbled.

“To go where?” the Beach Bum asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” the Kid interrupted. “Man, how is this any different than military? Igot out for a reason.”

“You’ll go wherever needed.” The general turned toward the younger man. “Yes, Mr. Vaughn, you did get out for a reason. Tell me, did abandoning the one thing you loved the most give you the love of your father after all?”

The Kid paled.

“Why?” Max couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why are you doing this? What’s this thing to you?”

Lambert lowered his head then looked back at Max. “I am. . .discarded just like you.”

“Bull.” Max tucked his hands under his arms. “You sit in a cushy chair in a carpeted office. You’re paid, you’re connected—”

“I know what you guys have been through.” The general tapped his temple. “MAC-V SOG in Nam. Two tours.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. That meant the man before him had likely seen more carnage than the rest of them put together.

“Heard the phrase ‘peace with honor’?”

Max shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Who hasn’t?”

“It was a platitude.” Lambert’s eyes flamed under his passion. “The armchair generals lost the war, not the grunts on the ground. We won every battle they let us win. But that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re the only guy who comes home from your unit with all his parts and pieces still connected where God put ’em.

“I may not be young, I may not have done combat tours in Iraq like you, Lieutenant, but I was tossed aside, too. For years I languished.” The general pushed to his feet, his voice thick and his eyes weighted by the story. “But I slowly remembered that I’d joined the military for a reason—I wanted to be a man. A real man willing to defend my country with life and limb. I knew then I could screw up my career or I could do my best to make a difference in the lives of those who came after.”

Silence hung rank and thick in the abandoned warehouse. Something akin to admiration leaked past Max’s barriers as he watched the indignant rise and fall of the old man’s chest. A smile threatened his resolve as the old man glared at the hulking men around him.

Lambert’s lips tightened over a clean-shaven jaw. “What’s it going to be, gentlemen? Do you have what it takes to finish the fight with the gift God gave you? Or are you going to turn tail, accept what the government stamped on your papers, and leave—go quietly into the night?”

“Whoa-hoa!” Laughing, Beach Bum stepped forward. “Old Man’s got some fire under that shiny dome.”

Lambert spun toward the bum. “What’s it going to be, Sergeant Metcalfe?”

The blond pursed his lips, considered Lambert, then nodded. “I’m in.”

The bright blue eyes shifted to the Latino.

“You need some CPR, ese? You look worked up.”

A half smile slid into Lambert’s face. “A little passion never hurt, eh, Mr. Reyes?”

“You all right, old man.” He hooked Lambert’s hand and patted his back. “You all right.” Reyes leaned in toward the general’s shoulders and looked at the Kid. “But I don’t know about this kid. He don’t look like he’s out of diapers yet.”

“That’s wrong. That’s just wrong.” The Kid’s face flushed. “I spent six years in the Rangers. I have enough—”

“Rangers.” Max couldn’t help but grunt his disapproval. “That explains a lot.”

The Kid’s chin jerked up in defiance. “I’m in.”

It seemed Lambert grew with each affirmation. He shifted to the cowboy. “Mr. Neeley?”

Cowboy gave a slow, firm nod, his hat shading his eyes. “I’m ready.”

Lambert smiled. “Good. Good.”

They were all crazy. Joining a group like this meant more problems. “What if we get in trouble out there?”

“Then get out of trouble,” Lambert said. “Understand that this team does not exist. If anyone comes looking, there will be nothing to find. Only one man besides those of us in this facility knows it exists, and he’ll pay the highest cost if that confidence is broken. No one—and I mean no one—will know your names.”

“So our orders are coming from on high?” Metcalfe asked.

A twinkle brightened Lambert’s eyes and gave silent assent to the question, although he gave no answer. Instead, he continued. “Any mission, any activity will be utterly and completely disavowed by the United States. You will be disavowed. If you get into trouble, Mr. Jacobs, count on your ingenuity to get out. If you are killed, no one will know.”

“Or care.” The Kid shrugged, a sick smirk in his face.

Max wanted to punch him.

“Or maybe that’s where Sergeant Metcalfe, call sign Midas, will come in with his golden touch.” Lambert ambled toward him.

The beach bum made a tss noise and shook his head. “Nothing golden, just hard work.”

The general’s smile disappeared behind a stern facade. “What is your answer, Lieutenant Jacobs?”

“This is crazy.” What else could he do? Flip burgers at the nearest fast food? What was worth staying here for? No wife. No family. “Fine.” The separation papers told him he had nothing left here anyway. “I’m in.”

“Good.” General Lambert’s smile softened his commando persona. “Look around. The men here are your new brothers, your family. Only they will understand when the horrors of war invade your sleep. Only they will be there when you’re pinned down and need an extraction.

Arms wide, Lambert smiled like a proud father. “Gentlemen, welcome to Nightshade.”

Making Money from Home

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who has ever thought about starting a home-based business or even a side business. The advice is practical and will have you able to get your business up and running with the proper steps.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Making Money from Home

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Maggie Rowe of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Donna Partow is a bestselling Christian author whose books have sold almost a million copies. She has travelled in ministry on six continents and has been featured on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including the Focus on the Family daily broadcast. Donna has operated her own home-based business since being laid off as an investment banker in 1988, routinely generating a six-figure annual sales volume. She has spoken nationwide on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, including two engagements at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Donna also appeared three years in a row at Senator John McCain’s conference for Arizona women. She attended the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts & Sciences, and Wharton Business School. She holds a B.A. in English from Rutgers University. Donna and her family live in Arizona.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1589976088

ISBN-13: 978-1589976085

Get it here:

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Part I

Foundations for a

Home-Based Business

Seven years ago, Kimber King was a busy stay-at-home mom with three boys, ages six, four, and two. She wasn’t looking for a way to make money from home, but when she began using a line of products that dramatically impacted her health; she couldn’t help telling everyone she knew about it. Kimber recalls, “The products were sold through a network marketing company and I actually had a very negative view of the industry. But the results I had with my own health far outweighed all the negative things I felt about the business.” So she quickly signed up enough family and friends to reach the top rank level in her company in the first six weeks. Within ninety days, her monthly earnings matched the full-time income she had previously been paid in the corporate world.

Kimber soon began reaching beyond her immediate circle of contacts through social networking on the Internet. She recalls, “One night I stumbled upon a site on the Internet that described itself as a business networking site. It was free and on the site you had the opportunity to create a profile page for yourself. I dove right in and started connecting with a ton of people. I did some things very naturally that literally launched my business on the Internet and to this day, from this one site I have an organization of six thousand plus members. Then I started branching out onto other sites like message boards and forums. I began cultivating online relationships mostly focusing on other stay-at-home moms.”

Another of Kimber’s success secrets is working with a personal business coach. Although she was earning a great income from home, she was working long hours on the computer and her income had remained the same for nearly two and a half years. “It was a very lucrative income for a stay-at-home mom of three,” she says, “But I began to have great goals for my family and helping others, and I was frankly stuck.”

Within eight weeks of working with the network marketing coach, Kimber was earning a monthly five-figure income and an annual six figure income while reducing her workload to less than twenty hours per week.

Kimber also credits her parents for much of her success. “My dad instilled a spirit of excellence in me. By watching my mother work in her own hair salon, I learned how to treat customers.” Kimber says the key is focusing on others. “It’s always about them and not me! What are their needs? What are their goals? What are their strengths? What are their desires? It’s never been about me and my income goals or rank advancements. If you focus on others, all that will come! One of my mentors says it like this: ‘If you focus on the mission, you get the commission!’ ”

Trust in God is also central to her business approach. As she explains, “When I start a dialogue with someone, my main intention is to discover how I can bless them. It might not be about business at all. It’s all about relationships first and then anything that flows out of it from there I leave up to God! I trust Him completely with my business and that He will also put those in front of me that I am supposed to serve. When people ask what I do to create success in my home business, I tell them two simple things: Pray and take action. I pray for those who are looking for me and for those I can serve. Then I pick up that phone

or connect with someone. “Faith without works is dead!” I have faith in my heavenly Father to provide the way but I also know that I have to step out on that path in faith.”

Kimber has stepped out in faith knowing that God is the provider in her home business and that’s made all the difference. Now seven years later, she earns a six-figure income from home, working part-time, raising her sons, and modeling the same entrepreneurial spirit she saw in her own mother.

1

Discover the

Advantages of

Working from Home

Let me begin with a brief look at the “why ” of running a home-based business to show you the benefits, because your motivation and belief in the benefits are what keep you going when the going gets tough. But then we’ll quickly shift gears to the more essential and practical how-to suggestions on the following pages.

Like any job, working at home offers both advantages and disadvantages. In the days and months ahead, times of discouragement will come. You may struggle with prioritization and time management. In addition to those burdens, the physical and emotional demands of promoting your business can drain you. You may begin to wonder if all your hard work is worthwhile, and you may even be tempted to give up your plans. In those moments, turn back to this chapter, reexamine the many benefits of working at home, and redouble your efforts to succeed. Remember, anything worth having is worth fighting for.

Your Home Can Be the Center of Your Life

There’s no place like home. I believe that with all my heart. Home can be the center of our lives, not just the place we come to recover from our lives. We can create an environment that fosters creativity and launch not just one narrow home business but a broad range of income-generating activities.

My first home-based business was in marketing communications: writing press releases, brochures, and ad campaigns. It was hard to get people to take me seriously as I tried to compete with the big-city advertising agencies. But I had a talent for writing and was absolutely determined to be a stay-at-home mother. I landed my largest client when I walked into his office wearing a dark pinstriped business suit and pushing my newborn in her stroller. Thisman said he was impressed with my motivation and touched by my priorities.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve launched countless different moneymaking enterprises. Some were dismal failures; others were wildly successful. Most were somewhere in between. As of this writing, I have a dozen income sources. Granted, some provide only $20 here and there. But hey, $20 is $20!

Let me illustrate. While away on a recent missions trip to Mozambique, I received checks from three businesses, totaling $800.The amazing part is that it was all passive income from businesses I had set up on autopilot on the Internet.

How would you like to earn $800 a week? Would you be thrilled with $800 a month? Maybe you plan to become a business tycoon and earn $800 a day. It’s up to you! But whatever your financial goals, I’m here to tell you that anyone can make extra money or have a full-time career from home if he or she is willing to work smart.

For almost twenty years, I’ve been a leader in promoting home-based businesses for women. I have spoken around the country on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, including two events at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and three conferences hosted by Senator John McCain. I have loudly proclaimed my firm conviction that every man and woman in America should develop some creative way to make extra money from home. And, under appropriate learning conditions, children, too, should develop those skills.

You Can Be Available for Your Children and Others

By working from home, you can avoid the hassles and costs of day care (which are far more substantial than most people realize) and enjoy spending time with your children. Even if you have to hire a babysitter to watch your kids in your home while you work, you’ll be available at a moment’s notice if needed. And you can keep a watchful eye on all that

goes on throughout the day rather than sitting at a desk wondering if your children are okay.

My older daughter, Leah, is now in college. She was homeschooled much of her life, and I was a stay-at-home mom throughout her entire childhood. Although I was often extremely busy working forty hours a week, and even more on my businesses, I was always available when she truly needed me. Won’t it be nice, when your children reach adulthood, to look back and say the same?

Perhaps you have a disabled family member or are caring for elderly parents. Maybe someone in your home has a chronic illness, and you need to be available for doctor and other appointments. Working from home allows you to be there to care for them and gives you the flexibility to take time off during the day, setting your own schedule.

You Can Be a Positive Role Model for Your Children

Some would argue, “I’m too busy raising my children to run a home business.”

I counter, “Don’t you think it just makes sense to include your children in your business so they learn to be entrepreneurial and self sufficient under God’s sufficiency? Don’t you think that training them to run their own businesses might prove to be more significant than running them around to various afterschool activities?”

Fortunately neither of my daughters has the mind-set that some corporation is going to give her a paycheck and job security for the rest of her life. That is an absolute delusion. We need to train our children for the real world, where wise people use the gifts God has given them to mind their own businesses—even if they also have careers. Both of my daughters, who are now nineteen and thirteen, have already had many moneymaking businesses. They’ve done everything from making bookmarks and jewelry to running my book table and processing credit-card orders from my Web site.

When my oldest daughter was fifteen, she organized a teen missions conference that attracted seven hundred people. I had very little involvement. How did she know how to do that? She’s been working at Christian conferences since she was two years old! Leah has also raised thousands of dollars for her various missions trips by making and selling

crystal bracelets

In addition to being able to watch my children grow while I worked from home, they also watched me grow as a businesswoman. By observing me model entrepreneurship, both ofmy daughters learned valuable business skills.

You Can Help Shoulder the Financial Load

Not only can you work from home; you should. With few exceptions, it’s unwise to rely solely on one income source in today’s unstable economy. Now more than ever, I thank God that I have multiple streams of income from my various home-based enterprises. All over the world, mothers not only nurture their families, but they also play a vital role in ensuring the economic survival of their families. I’ve seen this with my own eyes as I’ve traveled worldwide—from the subsistence farmer in Africa bent over her crops with a baby slung on her back to the Asian mother selling items in the local market while children sit nearby, often working as well.

Women throughout history have contributed to the economic survival of their families. We can do the same, and if we exercise wisdom, we can do so in a way that won’t detract from our role as nurturers. In fact, working from home will enhance all of the roles we play and increase our stature in the eyes of our family members. My children not only love me, but they also openly admire me. How can you put a price tag on that?

You Can Enjoy a Sense of Accomplishment

One of the most important things I hope my children have learned from observing me making money from home is that productive work is not a punishment; in fact, it’s inherently rewarding. Many of us have experienced that exhilarating feeling of working hard to complete a project or the joy of beholding something we’ve made with our own hands. A home business will provide abundant opportunities for you to enjoy that exhilaration.

As the old saying goes, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s equally true that when Mamma is happily enjoying a sense of accomplishment, everyone around her benefits. I think I’ve modeled a wonderful lifestyle for my daughters. It’s a lifestyle I’m quite certain they’ll choose to replicate.

You Can Be Your Own Boss

Many people fear dependence on a corporation because they have had the rug pulled out from under them or have seen it happen to so many of their colleagues. The days when you could rely on a company to look out for your best interests are long gone. While you’re working diligently for XYZ Corporation, it’s entirely possible they’re filling out your pink slip. Once you establish your own home-based business, you’ll have the pleasure of signing your own paycheck. And when you think you deserve a raise, you can give yourself one.

When you work for an employer, you’re required to work when, where, and how they choose. When you have your own home business, you have more control over when, where, and how you work. Of course, you’re still responsible to your customers, and there will be crunch times when you don’t have a choice about how many hours you put in. But there is usually much more time flexibility when you are your own boss.

Once in a while when I’m struggling with some aspect of my home business, one of my relatives will joke, “Donna, you should go back to banking.” But we all know I’m completely unemployable! I’ve been my own boss for too long, and I don’t think I could ever go back to having someone else tell me what to do with my time.

You Can Continue Your Career

Many women spend years training for a career before their children arrive on the scene. Teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and many other professionals can quite easily transfer their hard-earned skills to a home-based business. Knowing that your career isn’t on hold will give you satisfaction, even though the majority of your time may be spent with family. This is especially important if you want to resume your before children career after the children have grown.

The amazing thing about the Internet is how easy it now is for a woman to stay current and relevant in her field while mothering and earning money from home. These types of opportunities were hard to come by when I wrote my first home-based business book. Now they abound. Let’s hear it for technology!

There Are Opportunities for Tremendous Success

When you work nine to five for someone else’s company, to a large extent your boss controls how well you do. But when you work for yourself, only your ability and determination set the limits, assuming you start with a great product or service people want. Maybe there’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Now is your chance to do it! You

may aspire only to make a little extra money, but there’s always the chance that your “silly idea” will catch on, and you’ll find yourself transformed into a very successful entrepreneur. Someone has to think up those great ideas. Why not you?

I know a number of Christian women who earn six-figure incomes thanks to their home businesses. Yes, you read that right. Six figures! I even know women who’ve earned more than a million dollars, and one woman who has earned several million. With few exceptions, these women did not set out to achieve such tremendous success. They were just doing what they loved, and the success followed. Put another way, they were walking in obedience, and God’s blessings chased them down the street and overtook them. It could happen to you!

The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Scams

1. Surf with caution. Understand that the mainstreaming of the Internet has created both good news and bad news for aspiring home-based business entrepreneurs. Good news: Opportunities abound. Bad news: Scams abound.

2. Beware advertisements. No legitimate company on the planet will advertise to hire an employee to work from home. Not gonna happen. Never. No, not ever. Why? Very simple: If a company had a legitimate interest in hiring employees to work from home, there would be an instantaneous pileup of current employees and their circles of influence. The very fact that a company is advertising work from home is your first clue that it’s a scam.

3. Never buy a list or directory of companies that supposedly hire people to work from home. These are phony! Once and for all: The answer to the question of who will hire you, keep you secure, pay you lots of money, and grant you the freedom to set your own hours from home is no one. You don’t need a list or directory of no one.

4. Choose freedom or security. I constantly hear from people who want the freedom of working from home as well as the perceived security of a job. Freedom and security are always a trade. Will you give up some of your freedom for security? Or will you give up some of your security in return for freedom? You’ll never have both in full measure. Accept reality: You cannot ha e your cake and eat it too.

5. Understand the role of oDesk and similar outsourcing Web sites. In the introduction, I mentioned the emergence of Web sites like oDesk and, in one sense, this is an example of companies looking for people to work from home. And yes, many Americans are trying to capitalize on this new trend. Some are e en succeeding. Howe er, for the most part, companies who post on oDesk aren’t “hiring”; they’re simply outsourcing on a project-by-project basis for the express purpose of not hiring employees. So although some opportunities exist, I belie e sites like oDesk are actually bad news for any North American woman who wants to work from home and is hoping she might find someone to hire her. If you thought the competition was fierce when millions of Americans were looking to work from home, now millions more people around the globe are in the mix. You’ll ha e to compete with people who are willing to work for a few dollars an hour, and it’s nearly impossible to build a successful North American business like that. Now, if you’re willing to move overseas, that’s a whole new ball game, and oDesk can become your very best friend. That’s well beyond the scope of this book, but if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing, read The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss.

6. Know the code. As soon as you hear phrases like “more work than I can handle” or “looking to train someone” or “just want to help others duplicate my success,” run for the door. Or click the mouse. It’s a scam. If these people really had more work than they could handle, their relatives and friends would be beating down the door to get in on it. But since it’s a scam and they’ e already driven away all their friends and relatives, they’re on the Internet trying to scam you. Don’t be fooled. . Beware whirlwind friendships. There are some unethical people whose entire marketing strategy consists of befriending people just to recruit them for this, that, or the other “business opportunity.” Over the years a number of people have swept into my life with a friendship that felt more like a whirlwind romance. In every instance it turned out they were in a network marketing business. As soon as they discovered I wasn’t interested, the whirlwind friendship ended, and they moved on to the next person.

8. Check it out. Don’t rely on information provided by the person trying to sell you. Turn to Google, the Better Business Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to verify the claims and promises.

9. Take your time. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision on the spot. If it’s a great opportunity today, it will be a great opportunity a week from today.

10 . Big dollars should raise a big red flag. It shouldn’t cost more than $500 to $1,000 to launch a business from home.

Starlighter by Bryan Davis

I had my twelve-year-old daughter read and review this book since she’s the target audience and this is one of her favorite genres. Here’s what she had to say.

When I started to read Starlighter I couldn’t put it down. The book is amazing. Bryan Davis has once again made a perfect book which has action, humor, mystery, and it also has some of his and my beliefs, not forgetting that the book can also make you cry. It definitely is the perfect book for young adults and will steal your hearts waiting until you can get your hands on the next book in this magnificent series. It has the same action and adventure of the 39 Clues series. The only thing left to say is thank you Bryan Davis for creating yet another terrific book.

As a mom, I’m glad there are authors like Bryan Davis out there writing books my kids want to read and that I am happy to have them read.

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!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Starlighter

Zondervan (March 19, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler, Associate Director of Public Relations, ZonderKidz for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bryan Davis is the author of the bestselling fantasy series Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire and Echoes from the Edge. He and his wife, Susie, have seven children and live in western Tennessee where he continues to cook up his imaginative blend of fantasy and inspiration.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Zondervan (March 19, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310718368

ISBN-13: 978-0310718369

Get it here:

TO BROWSE THE BOOK, CLICK ON THE BUTTON BELOW:

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