Tuesday, November 26, 2013

LDS BOOK REVIEW: 12 Gifts for Christ by Merrilee Boyack


ABOUT THE BOOK

Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Christ and a time for giving. In the middle of this busy season, it is easy to forget the very reason why we celebrate. The first Christmas began with gifts of light and gold. This Christmas, ask: What gifts can I give to Him?

In 12 Gifts for Christ, author Merrilee Boyack suggests ways we can give to the Savior, including having gratitude, sharing through service, and loving others. With examples of these gifts shared through personal stories, scriptures, activities, and family home evening lessons, she suggests presenting those gifts to Christ in letters placed in stockings or brightly wrapped boxes. Following the ideas of this book will truly add joy to the spirit in our hearts and homes during Christmas!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merrilee Boyack is a crazed woman who loves eating out and taking naps when she can. She is an estate-planning attorney who conducts her law practice from home. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in business management—finance, and from University of Santa Clara Law School. Merrilee is also a professional lecturer, featured for many years at BYU Education Week, and a published author. Her interests include reading, camping, talking, eating, and helping children in Africa. She’s now a pesco-vegetarian and is having to relearn how to cook!

She is the author of several books and talks, including The Parenting Breakthrough, Strangling Your Husband Is Not an Option; Toss the Guilt and Catch the Joy; and her most recent, In Trying Times, Just Keep Trying. Merrilee and her husband, Steve, reside in Poway, California, and have four sons, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way!

REVIEW

Boyack presents twelve 'gifts' that followers of Christ can give him, not only at Christmas but throughout the year.  Each of the twelve gifts that she mentions, she discusses briefly followed by ideas for personal study, a family devotional and family home evening ideas. She starts with the importance of developing personal knowledge of the Savior and how to do it through the scriptures and words of the prophets and those who knew/know him best. She goes on to discuss the importance of gratitude, remembrance, repentance, obedience, emulation, charity, forgiveness, faithfulness, love, healing balm, and joy.

What a beautiful book about how we as believers can give back to the One who gives so much to us. I hope to implement some of these ideas in my life during the Christmas season and throughout the year. I appreciated her ideas for sharing these ideas with a family. Highly recommended for those who want to make Christ more of a part of their celebrations during the Christmas season and throughout the year.  Some of the ideas relate specifically to Christmas, some are more general, all are worth considering.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

HOLIDAY KINDLE FIRE HDX GIVEAWAY

Holiday Kindle Fire Giveaway  

 Just in time for the HOLIDAYS - Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)   This is a joint AUTHOR & BLOGGER GIVEAWAY EVENT! Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HDX 7".

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HDX (US Only - $229 Value)


  Or $229 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)

 
  Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)

   
  Holiday Kindle Fire Giveaway #1 Sponsors:
  1. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
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  4. The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl
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  6. Confessions of a Librarian in Training...
  7. Bea's Book Nook
  8. Author Kary Rader
  9. Author Jennie Sherwin
  10. A Book Lover's Retreat
  11. These are but Shadows
  12. Tressa's Wishful Endings
  13. Author Lia Fairchild
  14. Author Helen Smith
  15. Buku-Buku Didi
  16. Truth Seekers Dare to Enter
  17. The Reporter and the Girl
  18. Author Terah Edun
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  23. Author L.A. Matthies
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  25. Like a Broken Vessel
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  32. Word to Dreams
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  35. ~Owl Always Be Reading~
  36. Fairie Chick's Fantasy Book Reader
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Sign up to sponsor the next Kindle Fire Giveaway: http://www.iamareader.com/category/kindle-giveaway-sign-ups  

Giveaway Details

1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7" HDX (US Only - $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International).

There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7". Ends 12/18/13 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LDS BOOK REVIEW: My Name Used to Be Muhammad by Tito Momen with Jeff Benedict


ABOUT THE BOOK

Tito Momen was raised Muhammad Momen. Born in Nigeria, he was taught to observe the strict teachings of Islam.
Beginning at age five, he woke at 4:45 every morning to attend the mosque and perform dawn prayer with the other men in his village. At age six, he began memorizing the Qur'an by copying the entire book word for word. He was preparing to become a cleric capable of leading a jihad, or holy struggle, to convert nonbelievers to Islam.
But Tito's path took an unexpected turn when he was introduced to Christianity. His decision to believe in Jesus Christ cost him his family and his freedom. Sentenced to prison, Tito expected to spend his remaining days enduring a life sentence in an uncivilized Egyptian prison. For fifteen years, he suffered and waited and prayed. "I never gave up hope," Tito says. "I never stopped believing."
Although he was falsely imprisoned, beaten, and ridiculed, Tito's remarkable true story is one of faith and forgiveness, as well as a witness that God does hear and answer prayers.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jeff Benedict is the author of eleven critically acclaimed books, including Little Pink House, The Mormon Way of Doing Business, and Without Reservation. His articles have been published in Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, and he appears as an expert on network news and cable television programs. A frequent public speaker, Mr. Benedict teaches writing at Southern Virginia University.
REVIEW
A powerful story about a man who grew up Muslim yet eventually becomes a Christian. But he pays a high price for doing so, he is completely disowned by his family, he loses the woman he loves, and he's thrown in an Egyptian prison for 15 years. The book is a fascinating and heart-wrenching account of the suffering inflicted by religious extremism. It's sad to read about how instead of using faith to encourage obedience, all too many of those Tito is surrounded by use fear and intimidation and violence. It's not too surprising to read about Momen's trip back to Nigeria only to discover that many of those he once new had joined Al Qaeda. After reading about Momen's struggles both internal and external, I truly have a greater appreciation for the freedoms available, here in the United States. Despite the suffering that Momen undergoes the book remains hopeful and there are plenty of examples of God watching out for him even under the most horrendous circumstances. A heart-wrenching but ultimately hopeful read.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BLOG TOUR: A Fantasy Christmas By Stephanie Fowers, Cindy C. Bennett, & Sherry Gammon



What do Witches, Elves, and Greek Gods (Oh My) have in common? They are part of the romantic Christmas anthology, A Fantasy Christmas, written by Cindy C Bennett, Stephanie Fowers, and Sherry Gammon








Banished from the South Pole, Kara tries to carve out a new life among the elves of the North. It’s not easy with a secret to protect—a secret she's cursed with by the unusual circumstances of her heritage: half-elf, half-fairy. In the North, she’s assigned to work with Seb on a special project. He's the most gorgeous elf she’s ever seen - and the orneriest. 

As if being banished wasn’t punishment enough. 

Seb introduces her to Trystin, a fairy from the nearby fairy forest. Trystin discerns her secret right away and promises to teach her how to use the powers given to her by the very thing she’s fighting to keep hidden.

Check out Cindy C Bennett's web page for more information on her.


Nothing is simple for Aphrodite’s daughter, especially love. 
Scorned by society in regency England, Affry longs for romance. Upon encountering a dashing nobleman at her aunty's Christmas' ball, Affry gets caught in a lovely intrigue with disastrous results. Worse, she wins the interest of the gods. 

Now the furies of the underworld and Hades himself are after her. When all is fair in war,  Affry must use love as her weapon—but only for the one who’s stolen her heart. 


Check out Stephanie Fowers' web page for more information on her.



Loving Marigold by Sherry Gammon

Author of Unlovable, Unbelievable, Not So Easy and more)


Young Marigold Yarrow has a secret. She’s also in love with Jack Mahoney. In the middle of her ninth grade year, Jack's family up and moves to Port Fare, New York, leaving the small town of Sugar Maple, West Virginia - and Marigold - far behind.

Nine years later Jack and Marigold meet again. They join forces to weed out the shady Abbott boys. The unscrupulous brothers are illegally selling moonshine near her home on Sugar Maple Ridge. And they'll do anything to get Marigold to leave the ridge. Anything. This time it may be magic that tears Jack and Marigold apart.


REVIEW

A delightful collection of clean, fantasy-related romance, A Fantasy Christmas provided a great deal of enjoyment for me.  Not only are the stories well-written, but the characters are unique and made me smile. With plenty of magic and mayhem, the authors sent me on a fun journey through love and adventure.  A series of stories that I can highly recommend.  I only wish they had been a little longer so I could have stayed with the characters just a bit more.

Purchase A Fantasy Christmas-Click on links:

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Friday, November 15, 2013

LDS BOOK REVIEW: 52 Life-Changing Questions From the Book of Mormon by John Hilton III & Brad Wilcox


ABOUT THE BOOK

Has a question ever changed your life? "A good question ... is like an alarm clock," wrote Elder Tad R. Callister. "It awakens us out of our mental doldrums [and] jump-starts our mental engines."

A woman was in a church meeting, studying Philippians 4:8: "Whatsoever things are true, ... honest, ... pure, ...lovely, [or] of good report; if there be any virtue, and ... any praise, think on these things." She felt the Holy Spirit say to her, "Is there anything honest, pure, or lovely in your soap opera?"

She had to confess that the program was not lovely or of good report or praiseworthy. Then the Spirit whispered another question: "So what are you going to do about it?"

What this sister heard from the Spirit that day were life-changing questions, and her decision to give up her soap opera made a profound difference in her life.

Where can we find questions that will awaken us out of those mental—and spiritual—doldrums? Popular authors John Hilton III and Brad Wilcox help us recognize and ponder fifty-two powerful questions from the Book of Mormon—one for each week of the year. One short chapter each week has the power to change your life.
Have miracles ceased?
Have ye inquired of the Lord?
Have ye spiritually been born of God?
Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?

Joseph Smith promised that we would get nearer to God through the Book of Mormon than through any other book. Pondering its inspired questions can propel us forward to attain that promise.

CLICK HERE to see "52 Life Changing Questions from the Book of Mormon" featured in LDS Living's blog.




ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Brad Wilcox is a professor of teacher education at BYU, where he also works with Especially for Youth and Education Week programs. He served a mission to Chile and later presided over the Chile Santiago East Mission. He currently serves as a member of the Sunday School general board. Brad and his wife, Debi, are the parents of four children and grandparents of three. He is also the author of The Continuous Atonement and The Continuous Conversion.

John Hilton III teaches in Religious Education at Brigham Young University. He has degrees from BYUand Harvard and has taught at Especially for Youth and BYU Education Week. John and his wife, Lani, have six children and reside in Utah. John’s published books include Why? and How? and he collaborated with Brad Wilcox and others on Armor Up and Suit Up. For more information visit www.johnhiltoniii.com.

REVIEW

I'll just say right out that this book really makes you think about God and his commandments.  This is the kind of book that you can read over and over again and learn something new every time.  I love the fact that the book is based around questions.  Out of the 543 questions asked throughout The Book of Mormon, the authors have chosen 52 to highlight in this book, starting in 1 Nephi and running through Moroni (these are different books within The Book of Mormon).

After sharing the context of each question, the authors share stories and thoughts about the importance of the doctrines and counsel contained in each question.  Questions, if used well, are a powerful way to teach and to learn.  This book shows that very clearly.  The authors emphasize the need to not just read the scriptures but to respond to them and one of the best ways to do that is to think about how one might answer the questions posed by the scriptures. Truly a wonderful, thoughtful read.

PURCHASE

Deseret Book

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Wherefore can ye doubt?
1 Nephi 4:3
When Nephi was trying to convince his brothers to try to obtain the brass plates from Laban, he said, “Now behold ye know that [what I say] is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?” (1 Nephi 4:3). Laman and Lemuel had seen an angel—yet they still had doubts. Some people today are in a similar situation—they are in a position where they should know, but they remain unsure.
“Could I . . . uh . . .” The dark-haired elder approached his teacher at the Missionary Training Center and shifted his weight awkwardly. “I mean, I was wondering . . . if we could talk.” The teacher had just finished teaching a class, and the group was enjoying a short break.
“No problem,” the teacher assured him. They walked down the hall, away from classrooms and companions for a moment. The teacher had noticed how this elder’s enthusiasm had waned as his time in the MTC had increased.
“It’s about what you said in class,” the missionary began quietly. “You know, about building yourself before you can build others. Well—” He hesitated. “Well, I . . . ” He paused again. His averted eyes did little to disguise the tears that were welling inside them. “I always thought I knew the Church was true till now.” He shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “I came on this mission to tell people what I know.” His voice was husky with suppressed emotion. “But now I’m not sure. I’m just not sure. . . .” His voice trailed off.
“You’re not sure you know?” the teacher asked, filling in the blank in the elder’s sentence. The missionary nodded. Tears glistening on his lashes brimmed over. Suddenly, communication between student and teacher went beyond the foreign language the missionary was studying and the English language they shared. They were at the I-feel-what-you-feel level. The missionary brushed his tears away with the back of his hand. As the teacher watched, he remembered when he, too, wondered if God were there and what on earth he had gotten himself into when he had chosen to serve a mission. He spoke quietly to the missionary, “There was a time in my mission when I felt exactly the same way.”
The missionary looked up. “Really?” he asked. His teacher seemed so confident and sure of himself. He spoke with ease the foreign language the young missionary was struggling to learn. He bore a strong and powerful testimony to the group often and with great sincerity. The missionary could hardly imagine his teacher ever feeling the doubts that were flooding over him.
“I feel like a terrible elder,” the missionary said. “I have so many doubts. You must think I’m wrong and weak.”
The words shocked the teacher, and he responded, “Wrong? Weak? Are doubts wrong? Are questions a sign of weakness? No. Didn’t Joseph Smith himself doubt and question as he learned?” The teacher opened his Pearl of Great Price to Joseph Smith–History and read: “In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties is right or are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith–History 1:10).
The teacher looked up from the page and said, “If doubting and questioning are wrong, then the whole missionary system of the Church is wrong, for isn’t it our invitation to the world to escape tradition’s chains and test present beliefs against revealed truth? Don’t we openly invite people to doubt and question?”
Hugh Nibley wrote that we should “unblushingly try to prove or disprove things. Doubts are not necessarily wrong, and they can definitely be a step toward the right. Questions are not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth. The weak are not discovered by their questions but by when they stop questioning. People are not wrong when they doubt but when they fail to do something about their doubts. American educator Robert L. Ebel wrote, “[We] must earn the right to say, ‘I know’ by our own thoughtful efforts to understand.”
The teacher looked at the missionary and continued, “The scriptures themselves tell us to ‘prove all things,’ but the learning process is not complete until the test is done, experiments are finished, and conclusions are drawn. ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good’ [1 Thessalonians 5:21]. Joseph Smith didn’t understand, so he ‘inquired,’ and he ‘received.’”
The teacher wondered how he could express to the discouraged missionary the joy of having a testimony. How could he convince him that, instead of being a source of discouragement, his doubts could motivate him to new learning he had never dreamed of before? How could he express the overwhelming satisfaction of finally finding answers? He opened his mouth, hoping to say something profound, but all that came out was, “Hang in there. It’s worth it. I promise.” Those words certainly didn’t sound all that wonderful or convincing.
But it was enough for the missionary. He looked up and smiled. “Thanks for understanding,” he said. “I’m glad you’re not mad at me.”
“Mad?” asked the teacher. “How could I be mad? I am proud of you for being honest. I am proud of you for reaching out for help. I am proud of you for not giving up. Now, break’s over. We’d better get back to class.”
While all of us may face unanswered questions that may cause us to doubt, we do not need to be afraid because there are things we do not fully understand. President Joseph F. Smith put it this way: “It is no discredit to our intelligence or to our integrity to say frankly in the face of a hundred speculative questions, ‘I do not know.’” In fact, “uncertainty is a necessary precursor to new discoveries and new creation.”
Robert L. Millet explained the way he handles doubts:
“One thing I have learned through the years is not to become preoccupied with unanswered questions, not to obsess over them, not to allow them to make me spiritually dysfunctional. . . . I have learned to place many items on the shelf for the time being to allow time and study and seasoning and maturity either to prepare me for an answer down the road or to prepare me not to receive an answer, perhaps even in this life.”
All of us have doubts—doubts about the future, doubts about decisions we have made or will make, doubts of a thousand kinds. But these doubts do not need to destroy us—answers will come. One woman spent long hours pondering struggles she was having with her testimony. As she weighed the assurances she had previously felt with the doubts she was currently encountering, she felt prompted to turn to the scriptures. As she did so, her scriptures fell open to Doctrine and Covenants 6, and she read these words: “If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22–23). She felt the Spirit wash over her, and her doubts were replaced by faith.
Sometimes our doubts are quickly resolved, and sometimes we have to put them “on the shelf” for a time. But one thing is certain: the Lord has done great things for us and our ancestors and He will continue to do great things in the future. As Nephi said, “Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers” (1 Nephi 4:3). Even though there may be things we do not fully understand, we can move forward as Nephi did, trusting in the God who has always stood by us.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

LDS BOOK REVIEW: Follow Me to Zion by Andrew D. Olsen and Jolene S. Allphin


ABOUT THE BOOK

James G. Willie knew the trek would be arduous when he left Iowa City in July 1856, leading 500 handcart pioneers on a 1,300-mile journey across the plains.
But he could not have known that his people would run out of food while still hundreds of miles from Salt Lake City nor that the winter of 1856 would begin in the middle of October with prolonged, severe storms. Sixty-nine members of his company would die along the way. Yet from this tragedy emerged triumphant stories of personal endurance, courage, heroism, and unwavering faith.
Follow Me to Zion recounts 20 compelling stories of members of the Willie handcart company and their rescuers. Dozens of full-color images by artist Julie Rogers enrich this keepsake volume, which pays tribute to the men, women, and children who have become enduring witnesses of the power of faith and sacrifice.
Here you will find excerpts from their own accounts of the journey, learn what those faithful pioneers did after reaching the Salt Lake Valley, and read reflections on their lives by descendants.
The simple words “Follow Me to Zion,” cross-stitched onto small pieces of fabric kept in the journal of a handcart pioneer, are an invitation that still calls to us today.
The stories and paintings in this beautiful volume can inspire us to live true to our faith and reach out to help others do likewise.
This book also contains the most comprehensive, up-to-date listing of members of the Willie handcart company.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Andrew D. Olsen is an editor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the author ofThe Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers. Andrew and his wife, Linda, are the parents of 3 children.
Jolene Spendlove Allphin has a love for the 1856 pioneers and rescuers that continues to grow. She has published nearly 300 biographical sketches of them in Tell My Story, Too. Jolene and her husband, Michael, are the parents of 11 children.
Julie Boswell Rogers is an acclaimed artist who has won many awards. Her art has been featured in Church publications, visitors’ centers, and the Church History Museum. The book Emma, the Elect Lady contains many of her paintings of Joseph and Emma Smith. Julie and her husband, Russell, are the parents of 5 children.
REVIEW
This is a remarkable book. Not only is it beautifully designed with elegant pages and gorgeous paintings, but the stories are touching and truly inspiring.  The suffering endured by the Willie handcart pioneers is heart-wrenching, my heart ached for the hunger, cold, and exhaustion that they faced, especially during the last part of the journey.  But the sacrifices they made didn't end when they arrived in Salt Lake City.  Many of them went on to make more difficult sacrifices later on in their lives.  I appreciated hearing more about their lives after arriving in Utah.  It was nice to put their experiences in context.  Direct quotes from the pioneers themselves add just the right touch to a powerful story. Highly recommended.


ILLUSTRATIONS FROM THE BOOK
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: His Saving Grace by Heather Gray

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

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Astraea Press (July 29, 2013)

***Special thanks to Heather Gray for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing.  Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell.  Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Will she be able to save him from himself?

Grace finds herself wed to a man who loathes her.  She is shunned and exiled to the farthest corner of the land. It wouldn't hurt so much if he hadn't once been her best friend.

Thomas became a duke long before he was ready. Now he can't go anywhere without women trying to entrap him into marriage.  He expected better from his childhood friend.

How can friendship, let alone marriage, thrive in the face of bitterness, suspicion, and misunderstanding?

What's to be done when the hurtful choices made in anger have lasting consequences?

It takes a special kind of person to see past the pain to the beauty that lies beyond…

Product Details:
List Price: $.99
File Size: 349 KB
Print Length: 113 pages
Publisher: Astraea Press (July 29, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00E891FV2

REVIEW

I very much enjoyed this book.  I liked both Grace and Thomas.  Their reactions to the shocking turn of events that finds them married felt real.  I admired Grace's forbearance with Thomas's incredibly unkind behavior and her willingness to forgive which helps Thomas adjust to his changed circumstances. I also found it delightful to read about Grace's efforts to help the local village children, it's heart-warming and funny. Grace and Thomas's relationship once the shock wears off is quite entertaining as well.  There is a decent amount of Christian doctrine mixed in with the story but it feels natural and not overwhelming or anything.  I would have liked the book to be a little longer so I could enjoy Grace and Thomas's relationship continue to develop (Thomas is gone for a good chunk of the book), but otherwise I loved it.



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

March 1815

Stafford Shire, England



Try as she might, Grace couldn't stop the tears flowing down her cheeks. She was hiding in her father's library, hoping no one would be bold enough to seek her out. Her parents were hosting a house party, and the guests were everywhere. Each person, it seemed, wanted to know everybody else's business.

When she heard the door behind her issue a soft squeak, she knew she'd been found. She kept her back to the door, not wanting the person to see how distressed she was. "Gracie, may I come in?"

It was Thomas! Though they hadn't seen each other much in recent years, he was a childhood friend and, the way she saw it, her one true friend here at this gathering. "As long as you close the door and let no one else enter," she said hoarsely.

She heard the door click again, followed by Thomas's movement through the room. He was soon leaning against her father's desk right beside her, his familiar tall frame, shortly clipped brown hair, and intelligent blue eyes a familiar comfort to her.

"What's wrong? Surely Lady Appleton's ghastly morning gown isn’t enough to bring on tears. Temporary blindness, yes, but not tears."

Grace couldn't help the small chuckle that bubbled up and out of her. Thomas had always known just what to say, no matter her mood. Her father, the Earl of Miltmouth, and Thomas's father had been the best of friends. Thomas and Grace had naturally grown up together. She had seen less of Thomas after his father had passed away and he'd had to take over the running of the estates, but they had managed to remain friends.

"I asked Father if I could have a season in London," she said woefully. Grace, wrapping her arms around her midsection, felt nauseated.

"Ah, I take it he said no. Surely he'll bring you to London for a season soon. I assume he'll want you to marry well." When Grace said nothing in return, Thomas asked, "Am I mistaken?"

"You should have heard the awful things he said to me!" Thomas handed a kerchief to Grace, who wiped at the tears she still couldn't quite get under control. "He told me I'll never find a suitable husband. My mouth is too big, and my smile is too wide. I'm too skinny, and my bosom is too flat. No man will ever want to marry me, and going through the pretense of a season in London will be nothing but a costly embarrassment to the family."

Repeating all the terrible things her father had said to her made Grace cry even harder. Feelings of rejection and disbelief swirled through her. Her father, while at times eccentric, had never before said anything so cruel to her. The kerchief, now sodden, did little good.

That was when she felt Thomas's arms wrap around her in a hug. "It'll work out, Gracie. I don't know why your father would have said such things to you, but you can't let his words get you down. They're not even true. You have a perfectly sized mouth, a delightful smile, and… well, I'm sure everything else is fine, too."

Grace soaked in Thomas's warmth. She sighed into his waistcoat and said, "I appreciate the kind words, Thomas, but you shouldn't be in here alone with me. We both know that."

Thomas, his voice light, said, "It was in here with you or out there with the barracudas. I think I'm safer right where I am."

Grace didn't pull out of his comforting hug as she knew she ought to. Instead she said, "I've spent my whole life in Stafford Shire and have never even been to London before. All I'm asking for is one season. If I wait much longer, I'll be completely on the shelf, and no decent man will even consider marrying me. My father has doomed me to the life of being some man's courtesan!"

"You've been reading the newspaper again, haven't you?" She felt the warm rumble of his chuckle against her cheek. "You shouldn't even know words like that. If your parents knew you were reading those rags, they'd have your hide."

Grace's tears had quieted and were slowly being replaced by hiccups. Just as Thomas began to release her from his friendly hold, the library door opened with a loud bang.

"What the devil is going on in here?" demanded Lady Appleton.

Grace jumped out of Thomas's arms and said, "It's not what you th—ink." The hiccups were gaining momentum. "I was up—set. Thomas found me, and I was—crying. He was simply be—ing kind."

The skin on Lady Appleton's florid face jiggled as she shouted, "Not only are you in a room with a man unchaperoned, but you were in an embrace!" Her gown truly was the most awful color. It was somewhere between green and brown, like a plant that had withered and died. To make the ensemble worse, she looked as if she were wearing an entire peacock atop her piled hair.

Seeming to thrive on spectacle, Lady Appleton continued to bombast them with accusation, her voice growing toward a crescendo. "You've been ruined, young lady! There will have to be a wedding at once!" If volume were the stick by which such things were measured, Lady Appleton's screeching voice ensured that Grace would feel maximum shame.

"Th—at wasn't an embrace!"

By this time, several people had gathered in the hallway outside the library door. When Grace's father came on the scene, Thomas spoke directly to him, ignoring Lady Appleton. "I apologize for any misunderstanding. Gracie was crying. She was upset, might I add, by the cruel things you said to her. I'm nothing more than a childhood friend offering a bit of encouragement and reassuring her that her father is not the ogre he appears to be at present."

Grace had never heard Thomas's voice quite like this. The sharp edge of strong metal in it was unmistakable. This voice belonged to the Duke of Stafford, not her childhood friend Thomas.

Grace stared at Thomas and saw for the first time, not the boy she'd considered her chum, but rather the man he had become. His stature was impressive, his closely cropped brown hair stylish. It was his eyes that stunned her into silence, though. They had always been such a lively and cheerful blue, but now… now they glinted cold and steely, showing not a glimmer of warmth.

Lord Miltmouth turned from Thomas to Lady Appleton and demanded, "By all that is good and holy, what on earth is going on here? What are you carrying on about, woman?"

The Earl was a tall and imposing man whose black hair had begun to silver at the temples and to whom people normally gave deference. Lady Appleton, however, was no mere mortal. As it turned out, she was a scandalmonger who was nourished with the milk of blather and who thrived on the meat of gossip. She was in her element and would not back down. If anything, her voice grew louder.

Peacock feathers bouncing with each word, she said, "I found your daughter and that… that man there…  in an embrace here in this room. Without a chaperone, I might add. Obviously they must be wed at once!" Then she turned on her heel and marched away, leaving a trail of whispered conversation behind her.

Grace looked to her father and said, "We did no-thing wrong."

More than a dozen faces stared at them from the doors of the library. Some reflected pity or shock, while others showed salacious delight. Lord Miltmouth looked back and forth between the two of them and finally said, "It's too late to change anything. With Lady Appleton leading the charge, word will soon reach the outermost territories of the kingdom. I'm afraid there's nothing for it. The two of you will have to be wed."

"F-ather, don't be r-idiculous. I'm n-ot ruined." Blast these hiccups! Surely her father didn't actually think she and Thomas had been doing anything untoward in the library? Didn't he trust she had been raised better than that?

Thomas whirled to face her, and Grace stumbled back when she saw the look in his eyes. Humor, irritation, resignation –  she could have handled any of those. The withering arctic look he gave instead chilled her to the core. "You planned this whole thing, didn't you, Grace? All to land yourself a duke. I don't know what happened to you, but you're not the girl I used to know, and you are no one I want for a wife."

"Now listen here, Thomas—" the Earl began but was cut off by the young duke's words.

"You will address me as Your Grace or not at all, is that clear?" Grace's father stared at the younger man, his face flushing. "Do whatever you need to do. I will return in three Sundays, and we will get this farce over with."

Grace watched as Thomas stormed from the room. Her tears of earlier were forgotten and her hiccups finally cured. Gawking at her father, whose face had taken on an ashen pallor, she asked, "What have you done?"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: Big Sky Bachelor by Lesley Ann McDaniel

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

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



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Lesley Ann McDaniel for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, and theatre. While earning a degree in acting, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God's guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of women's fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Janessa Greene is leaving Thornton Springs

All she's ever wanted is to attend cooking school in Seattle. But when a big-shot rodeo rider comes to work on her family's Montana ranch, Janessa's determined not to let the cowboy distract her from her goal no matter how charming he is.

Micah was a rodeo star, but he's been trampled by one bull too many. While he's deciding his next move, he gets sidetracked by a pretty cowgirl who's headed out of town. Can Micah convince her to take a chance on a cowboy ready to put down roots?

REVIEW

A light romance that I quite enjoyed. The characters are likable with believable problems.  Their initial interactions are so hostile they are quite funny as neither one is sure what to make of the other.  But their relationship sweetens as they get to know each other better. A fun read for those who like a sweet Christian romance with some fun rodeo scenes.



Product Details:
List Price: $4.99
Series: Heartsong Presents (Book 1068)
Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Love Inspired (October 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373486790
ISBN-13: 978-0373486793:


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14



Chapter 1

Janessa Greene could have sworn her old hatchback lost a little more oomph with each passing day. As she pulled off the highway and through the Bar-G Ranch gate, she sent up a prayer. No way could she spend money on her car right now—not with all the expenses she had coming up. Both she and her car would have to go the extra mile for just a while longer.

As she gunned down the long stretch toward the house, the sight of twenty or so impatient-looking parents standing outside their horse trailers made her stomach buckle. She checked the clock on the dash and grimaced. Why did they all have to be so prompt on the days when she was running behind?

She clattered to a halt between the house and the barn, then gathered up her work bag and purse. Leaping out of the car, she gave the parents a quick wave. “I’ll only be a sec!”

A grating mixture of grumbles and moans followed her as she ran toward the front porch steps. She winced. Those folks had paid good money to have her teach their kids to ride this summer, and they had every right to expect her to deliver her best. She had tried to get there on time. If only the restaurant would stop being so busy on her class days.

She scurried inside, slowing only to push the door shut and to gather up the mail from the table next to it. Flipping through the stack as she bounded across the foyer, she held her breath. Today had to be the day.

“Argh!” She tossed the pile of pure disappointment onto the bench at the base of the staircase, gripped the bannister, and charged up. It was July already. Shouldn’t she have heard by now?

Reaching the top step in record time, she darted across the hall and into her room. She kicked the door closed, dropped her bags on the bed, and tore off her grease-splattered tee, then grabbed a plaid cotton western shirt from the back of her desk chair. As she yanked it on, a rap on the door gave her a jolt.

“Ness, it’s Courtney.”

Her fingers found the shirt buttons as she searched the floor for a pair of jeans. “I’ll be right out.”

“I can go down and get the kids started if you want.”

“Really?” Relief surged as she retrieved some decently-clean Levis off the window seat. “That would make you my favorite sister-in-law.”

Courtney’s laugh sounded through the door. “I’m your only sister-in-law. Besides, you know I love those kids.”

Janessa breathed a little easier. The parents would feel better seeing Courtney, but she’d still have to hustle.

As she fumbled with her cuff button, her focus fixed on the poster over the desk. A plain chef’s jacket hung on a fancy wire hanger with the words ‘Le Cordon Bleu—L’Art Culinaire’ above, and the logo of the school below.

Leaving her second cuff undone, she tugged at the laces on her white SlipGrips—great for the kitchen but definitely not for the arena—and allowed her thoughts to stray. Le Cordon Bleu had been her dream ever since she’d realized she wanted to be a chef. Not only was it a great school, but they had a location in Seattle, not far from Thornton Springs. She bit her lip and yanked at the second lace. Okay, not too far to drive home for holidays and an occasional weekend, anyway. Montana only seemed like a million miles away from everything truly exciting in the world.

She kicked off the shoes. For as long as she could remember, all she’d wanted was to get out of Thornton Springs. Now that she had finally graduated from high school and worked for a year to save up money, her plans were just about to jell.

Flinging herself onto the bed, she quickly replaced her white Dockers with the jeans. She rolled onto her belly to reach under the bed, pulling out one boot, then a second.

She maneuvered into a sitting position, then yanked on the boots and scanned the immediate vicinity for her belt. Her eyes flicked across the framed photo that sat on her bedside table, momentarily sidetracking her with the familiar combination of comfort and sorrow that always accompanied it. Absentmindedly fingering the ever-present heart-shaped diamond necklace at her throat, she wondered for the zillionth time how different her life would be if her dad was still here. He had her heart, even after being gone for so many years.

Forcing her thoughts back to the task at hand, she plucked up her floral-shammed pillow from the head of the bed and let out a mini-cry of victory. She dove for a large gold buckle that peeked out from under her sloppily-placed duvet, then swung her legs around and clamored to her feet. She quickly looped the belt into her jeans and grabbed a hair band off her bedside table, then dug through the pile of hats on the chair next to the door. She paused, running her hand over her Le Cordon Bleu ball cap. Her mind latched onto the one problem with her plan, the magnitude of which grew with each passing day.

What if the school didn’t accept her?

Shoving away the thought, she snapped up her favorite white cowgirl hat and plunked it onto her head. She just couldn’t let herself think that way. It was only July. There was still plenty of time for her to hear from them. Besides, if she didn’t get in, they’d send a rejection letter. No news didn’t necessarily mean bad news.

She darted back out into the hallway and took the stairs two at a time, awkwardly yanking her hair into a ponytail as she flew.

Making her way across the drive, she saw that Courtney had gotten the class started preparing their horses. A few parents lingered along the outside of the fence, but most of them had left, probably furious at her for cutting short their hour to go get things done.

Rushing into the barn, she grabbed a curry comb off its hook on the wall and greeted her horse. “Hey, Miss Molly.” As she ran the comb quickly across Molly’s back, she mumbled to herself. She’d have to do a better job of grooming her later on.

Tossing down the comb, she took up the brush. “Sorry, baby. You deserve better than this.” Moving around to the horse’s other side, she realized she’d left her second cuff undone. She fumbled with the button as she continued to brush Molly, but since she actually needed both hands to accomplish each task, she succeeded only in scratching her wrist with the bristles.

“Youch!” She jumped back, pulling up her sleeve to examine the scratch.

“Works better if you use the brush on the horse.”

The confident baritone behind her nearly startled her out of her skin. She whipped around to see a guy hoisting a saddle up onto the rack on the wall, glancing over his shoulder and smirking like the feline friend of the recently departed canary.

“What in the…?” Her tone came out a little more venomous than she’d intended, but he looked like a guy who could handle it. She’d been standing there talking to her horse. Why hadn’t he made his presence known?

“Hey, I noticed that mare has some weeds stuck in her mane.” Speaking without even looking at her now, he secured the saddle. “You know, if you don’t have time to groom your horse correctly, you don’t have time to own a horse.”

Her jaw went slack. She’d been riding her whole life. This was her horse and her barn, and this guy—whoever he was—had no right to admonish her. Questions swirled in her brain, and she spit out the first one she could latch onto. “Who are you?”

Chuckling lightly as he finally turned to face her, he radiated an air of belonging that implied she was the outsider here, not him. His lack of a swift answer to her question gave the impression that he thought she should somehow already know who he was—like he was some kind of celebrity or something.

“Well…?” She seethed. Not only had he made her even later by springing up behind her like that, but he had implied that she wasn’t properly caring for her horse. And now he wouldn’t even identify himself.

Flashing a gleaming white smile that dented a dimple in his cheek, he ambled toward her. He pushed up the brim of his well-worn tan Stetson, revealing tousled blond hair and a pair of eyes so clear and blue they conjured an instant image of Flathead Lake on a hot summer day.

She gulped. As much as she hated to admit it, this guy was the best looking thing to hit Thornton Springs since Jeffrey Mark Caulfield came to town to make that movie last year.

“Name’s Micah.” Stepping confidently close to her, he held out a hand. “I started work here this morning.”

Oh. Of course. She’d forgotten all about the new ranch hand her brother Adam had hired.

Twisting her mouth in irritation at his obvious lack of first day self-consciousness, she reached out for a quick shake. “I’m Janessa.” Hoping to convey a lack of interest in further conversation, she returned to brushing Molly. Time was wasting.

“Pleasure to meet you, Janessa.” After a long moment of studying her the way you would an auction horse you were considering bidding on, he dipped the brim of his hat and strode out of the barn.

Her hand slowed on Molly’s back as she furtively witnessed his exit. She gave herself a mental shake. What was the matter with her? Standing there gawking like a schoolgirl when she needed to get to her class.

Irritation swelled in her gut. Just what she didn’t need, another pointless distraction from what really mattered—making the money to escape Thornton Springs and get her life off the ground.

As she hurried over to fetch her tack, her gaze again drifted to the doorway, but he had moved out of view. Guys. That was one thing she just couldn’t waste time thinking about right now.

She clicked her tongue. Of course, not thinking about them would be a whole lot easier if God didn’t make some of them so all-fired nice to look at.
 
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