Sunday, February 28, 2010

Virtuous Woman Magazine

I wanted to share with you an opportunity that I learned of today while at our 4th Annual Ladies Day. I met a young woman named Brittany and she is the publisher of a great new Christian women's magazine called Virtuous. Pop on over to her blog site where you can subscribe. The rates are extremely reasonable and there are print or email options for subscribing. I recommend the email method as it will save you a little bit of money!

Brittany is also looking for contributors to her magazine. Contact her through her blog for more information!

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday

Hosted by Alison each week to focus on 5 aspects of a book to encourage more readers!

It will work like this:
Each Saturday You will post the answer to these questions. The number indicates the number of answers you will provide.

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week: The Amulet of Samrkand by Jonathan Stroud

2 Words that describe the book: magicians, children

3 Settings where it took place or characters you met: Parliament, Bartimaeus, Nathaniel

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it: 1. I really don't like the footnotes in the book when Bartimaeus is speaking. 2. But then again, I do like the shows the snarky side of Bartimaeus 3. I feel sorry for Nathaniel on oh so many levels!! 4. The story is a bit slow in places but overall, not too bad!

5 Stars or less for your rating? So far, 4 stars. Will review on later on this weekend!!

If you would like to become a part of this meme, please join in! Alison would love to have you! Create your post and then let her know the link and she'll add you to the linky list!

Thanks Alison for a super fun Saturday meme!

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New Blog Award: Bliss Award

A very special thank you to my bookie blogger friend Renee from Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot for this super cute (and yummy looking) award!!

The rules for this Bliss (Happy 101) Award are that I must list 10 things that make me happy, then pass it along to 10 other bloggers.

Things I Love (in no particular order)
1. Books
2. Cupcakes (even though I KNOW I shouldn't eat them!!)
3. H-O-C-K-E-Y!!!!!!
4. Family
5. Friends (including you!)
6. Singing
7. Blogging
8. Technology
9. Advocare Spark!!!
10. Fuzzy socks

SOME of the Blogs I Love

1. Journey Through a World of Books
2. Creative Madness That Makes Me Myself
3. Petticoats and Pistols (just recently found this it!)
4. Reading at the Beach
5. Trish Perry
6. Candace Calvert
7. Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
8. Bibliophilic Book Blog
9. Parajunkee
10. Bookalicious

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Friday, February 26, 2010

FIRST: Bailey's Cave Adventures by Nina Meier

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:

Bailey’s Cave Adventures

Tate Publishing (August 5, 2008)


New author Nina Meier is an incredibly talented preschool Sunday school and VBS teacher, having 10 years’ experience in her own church doing just that. Ask anyone under the age of 5 about Miss Nina’s handmade green lizard bag that holds her lessons on love and respect for God’s creation, each other, and ourselves. With fresh, new ideas always at her fingertips, even at a moment’s notice, no child is ever bored in her class, and she is able to laugh and dance them through a Bible lesson effortlessly.

Nina has been enjoying a career in Medical Transcription for the past 15 years, having gone back to school when her 2 sons were both in college. Her husband is a talented wood craftsman and has, on many occasions, brought her VBS ideas to life. He also builds sets for church plays that are of professional quality.

Many of Nina’s lessons on missions come from firsthand experience on the field during short-term mission trips to West Virginia, the interior of Mexico, Moldova near Romania, the Gulf Coast, and an Indian reservation in Ontario, Canada.

With such multi-faceted talent, anything this new author puts her pen to is a guaranteed winner!

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (August 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1604628766
ISBN-13: 978-1604628760


Bailey’s Cave Adventures

Video/Puppet Show

Scene 1 – Day 1: Bailey comes flying and crashing into the room. When dust settles, you can see him more clearly.

Bailey: “Hi boys and girls, my name is Bailey, and I’m a brown bat. Bet you never saw a bat who was always flying into things! That’s because most bats have sonar. Let me explain what that word means. Bats can see with sound better than light. They send out a sound so high-pitched that human ears can’t hear it! The sound bounces off whatever is in front of them, and comes back to their ears. This happens really fast. That’s how they find food, and keep from flying into things.”

“Well, something went wrong when I was born, and my sonar has never worked! Anyway, it’s okay because my Mom and Dad gave me a seeing-eye dog, you know, the kind blind people use, and he helps me get around, and keeps me from falling, when he’s with me. Sometimes I try to go off on my own and, well, you can imagine. He’s my best friend! Would you like to meet my dog? (Yes!) OK. Here Radar, where are you boy?”

Out from under a curtain Bailey knocked down comes a large black Lab wearing a harness w/handle.

Radar: “I see you’re doing okay, no lumps or bumps? Well, climb on up and grab hold of my harness. I have a few things to tell these boys and girls here.”

Bailey climbs up on Radar’s head, to the harness, hangs onto the handle upside down with a sigh of relief, and falls asleep.

Radar turns to audience and says, “My job is to keep Bailey on the right path, and warn him of danger. Sometimes he listens, other times he goes off on his own without even seeing where he’s going. He has to learn to trust me completely. That’s like what the Holy Spirit does for you. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “ ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’ ”

Bailey wakes up.

Bailey: “Radar, I almost forgot. While I was out flying”--Radar whispers to the audience, “And crashing”-- “I heard some kids talking about going spelunking, that’s cave exploring, and someone who does that is called a spelunker. Anyway, I was thinking I’d make a great spelunker, and I’ve never been very far into the cave, I could go all the way down to the dark zone! It would be a real adventure!” (Getting excited).

Radar: “Now hold on Bailey, that sounds pretty dangerous to me. I’d feel a lot better if you let me go with you.”

Bailey: “Sure, okay, that’d be fun, who’s going to carry the flashlight?” (Turns to audience). “Could you help us with flashlights boys and girls?” (Yes!) “Great, let’s get ready to go then!”

This is a book on my wishlist. I think my children would enjoy this one! :)

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

FIRST: Desert Fire by Shannon Van Roekel

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:

Desert Fire

Kregel Publications (September 22, 2009)


Shannon Van Roekel has volunteered on the mission field in both Africa and Mexico and much of this novel is influenced by her experiences. She published works in Guideposts 4 Teens and The Upper Room and now lives with her husband and five children in British Colombia.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825439221
ISBN-13: 978-0825439223


Dear Julia,

I want to die better than I’ve lived. So I ask you, please read this letter to the end.

It’s the only one I’ll send.

Cold, fluorescent light shone down on the metal desk where Fred Keegan sat. His hair was closely shaven along a massive neck between a pair of muscle-bound shoulders. He hunched over white notepaper, his right hand engulfing the pen.

A sigh escaped him, a moment passed, and then the pen scratched its way across the paper again:

If you receive this, it will mean I am gone from this world—so you can relax, I won’t come and disturb your life.

There are some things, however, that I’d like you to know about me.

One is that I’ve always loved you. I guess your mama didn’t spend much time talking about the father you probably had no trouble forgetting. I don’t blame either of you for having nothing to do with me. I was a real jerk. I was guilty, as charged, for the crimes I committed. That life, I am ashamed of, and I paid a high price. Thirty years in the slammer. And counting. I won’t bore you with the sorry-old-me stuff. Mostly, I want to tell you about the last eight years. Something important happened, and you should know not just who I was, but who I got to be and the Treasure I found. This is why I write to you.

I’ve got a picture of a cute kid taped to my wall. You’re missing your front teeth and have two of those pony things. You’re a cute gal and no mistake. Pretty, like your mama. The picture came in the last letter with the divorce papers.

Fred stopped, head bowed, eyes squeezed shut. The memories of that day still filled him with remorse. The rage he’d felt and his inability to control it. Two guards had taken the brunt, both of whom still carried scars marking the event. Two weeks in solitary was his punishment. Regrettably, not long enough to cure him of his anger-management problem.

Picking up his pen again, he gazed at the photo. The tape had yellowed with age. The girl never aged. She smiled back with sweetness and youth.

I guess you were seven in that photo. That means you’d be thirty-three now. I wonder if I’d know you if I saw you today. Can a man walk past his own kin and not feel the bond of blood that connects them? Recognize the spirit in the other who shares his same history, ancestors, and perhaps God? Maybe that’s why we get goose bumps. Maybe I’m a crazy old fool who’s had too much time to think about the inner workings of this thing we call life.

“Keegan, you got a visitor.”

Fred looked up as the guard unlocked the steel door and stepped aside, allowing a tall man access into his cell. His frown at being interrupted from his writing smoothed immediately into a grin when he recognized his guest.

“Mr. Lawyer, good to see ya.”

“Good to be seen, Keegan. How are you feeling today?” Joel Maartens returned Fred’s grin with one of his own.

“Feeling? I guess I’m fine. I’ve got things to do, and that helps keep my mind off the pain.” Fred tried to ignore the pity in Joel’s eyes.

“Let me guess, you’ve got new books?”

Fred followed Joel’s gaze as he glanced at the bookshelf on the opposite wall. His cell was compact: bed, desk, chair, toilet, sink. But the bookshelf reaching from floor to ceiling was the focal point.

“Nah! Not books this time. I’ve got a letter to write, and it’s not an easy thing to do, Mr. Lawyer.” Fred folded his large frame into a sitting position on the edge of his bed so Joel could take the chair. “That’s why I asked to see you. I need some help with its delivery.”

“You need a letter mailed?” Joel asked.

“Not mailed, delivered,” Fred explained.

“Got an address, Keegan?”

“Well, no. No, I don’t. But it’s to my daughter.”

Fred watched Joel, wondering how his lawyer would respond to his proposal. They had known each other for the last five years, and during that time, he had learned to value the man’s opinion. Joel seemed less like his lawyer and more like a nephew.

Joel leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees and his fingers laced together as he spoke.

“I wouldn’t think it should be too difficult. There’ll be a marriage certificate if your ex remarried—would she be the type to remarry?” As Fred nodded and grimaced, Joel continued. “And of course, school registration forms. Maybe with some help from the Web, I could find an address or addresses where you can send the letter—”

“No,” Fred interjected. “I don’t want to mail it. It’s taken me a long time, Joel, but now that I have something of value to offer her, I want to know that it’ll get put into her hands. I don’t know who else to ask. I thought this thing through till my head feels like I’ve got two tumors, not one, and I keep coming back to you. I need you to do this.

“My daughter, Julia, will be my only heir, and you will be the executor—if you agree to it, that is. This search shouldn’t be complicated, but if it is, you can take any funds you require for it from the inheritance provision that you will write up with my signature and a third-party witness. I’m not a rich man, but I’m not a poor one, either, thanks to some of the investments you’ve helped me with.” He stopped. His outburst had winded him.

Fred prepared himself for disappointment as he watched Joel struggle with the ramifications of his request. Things that should be simple and straightforward were sometimes the opposite. For a lawyer to take on the unknown with no guarantee was a leap, and Fred knew it.

Joel hesitated for a moment, then gave a quick nod.

“I’ll do it, Keegan,” he told him.

As they shook hands over the agreement, Fred sighed with relief. He knew Joel would see it through. It was enough.

I have not read this book. I have added it to my wish list.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Dare You To Mess With Me and/or My Books!!!

I couldn't resist this...I must have two!!!

What am I talking about? Well, if you choose to mess with me and/or my books, go see Pam's post to see what will happen to you!!

I just love the internet, blogging, and all the great finds in this technology filled world, even those that are a little on the weird side! :)

Happy Thursday Ya'll!

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A to Z Wednesday: C is for Calamity Jack

Welcome to A-Z Wednesday!!
To join, here's all you have to do: Go to your stack of books and find one whose title starts with the letter of the week.
1~ a photo of the book
2~ title and synopsis
3~ link(amazon, barnes and noble etc.)
4~ Come back here and leave your link in the comments.
If you've already reviewed this book you can add it also.
Be sure to visit other participants to see what book they have posted and leave them a comment.
(We all love comments, don't we?)
Who knows? You may find your next "favorite" book.


Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale with illustrations by Nathan Hale

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-9–The Hales follow up Rapunzel's Revenge (Bloomsbury, 2008) with this fast-moving story focusing on Jack. It begins in the city of Shyport with his birth. Even as a child, Jack tends toward scheming, conning, and thievery with various accomplices, including Pru, a hat-fancying pixie. One scheme involving magical beans and the wealthy and corrupt giant Blunderboar goes awry, leaving Jack's tenement and his mother's bakery destroyed. Jack's mother orders him to go, and go he does with a certain goose under his arm. After the events recounted in Rapunzel's Revenge, Jack and Rapunzel head back to Shyport to set things right. They arrive to find that Jack's mother is being held prisoner by Blunderboar, who is virtually running the city. They team up with Pru and Freddie Sparksmith, a young journalist, to save Jack's mom and the day. Nathan Hale's artwork again places the action in a fairy-tale version of the American West, now with the city as backdrop. His character sketches are delightfully expressive, and the book has the same rich palette as the previous story. It should satisfy readers who enjoy adventure, fairy tales, and anyone who loves a rogue. Some fans of Bill Willingham's Jack of Fables series (Vertigo) may also enjoy this take on the Jack stories for a younger audience.–Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Please take a minute to read my review of this book!

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Faithful Heart by Al Lacy

Faithful Heart (Angel of Mercy Series #2) Faithful Heart by Al Lacy

This one gets 2 stars from me.

Faithful Heart is the story of Breanna, a nurse, and her love interest, John Stranger. This book is the second in the Angels of Mercy Series.

I didn't feel like I missed anything by not reading the first book in this series because there was a great recap in the beginning of the book. That's not something I see often in a book that's a part of a series. Kudos to the author/publisher on that one! There were so many inaccuracies in this book that I just can't really recommend it for other than a sweet story. The use of dementia precoxa is misused in terms of the historical timing, Breanna is doing surgery as a nurse (definitely not allowed during this time period) and there are many inaccuracies where the Bible is concerned.

If you can ignore all of those things, the story is an ok one. I didn't like how the author made Dottie look so weak, but then again, that's a reality for many battered women. Jerrod was surely not the saint that he was made out to be either.

Overall, this one was just OK. I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series though.

Thank you to Waterbrook Publishers for my review copy of this book.

View all my reviews >>

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Do You Mark the Pages in the Book You Are Reading?

I just love this idea! Monica is a little tied down since she just had some surgery so she came up with this idea that on March 15, she is hosting a "Honor the Bookmark Day" over at her blog. Be sure to visit her and sign up for this super great experience! She will have some giveaways (books, book marks, etc) so join in the fun! Sign up closes on March 10.

All of this brings me to the do you mark the page in the book you are reading? For me, it's usually a piece of junk mail, a post it note, or a dollar bill. I can't stand to dog ear pages! I've heard of some interesting book marks just by visiting over at Monica's but I'm curious what my readers use. Mark away!!!

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Are You Having a Hard Time Trying to Decide What To Read?

Peter, the fellow who runs Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, is a great resource!! He's making a concerted effort to increase the number of book lists in his Book Club Books category.
Interested in writing a book list? Think you know a number of books that would appeal to book clubs? Get in touch with Peter at and he'll fill you in on the details.

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Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!!

"Good or bad news?" she asks softly. "Bad." I look up to her, think oh, screw it, and spit out the rest, "They rejected me. Each of 'em. Twenty total."

Taken from Unconventional by J.J. Hebert.
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Yesterday's Promise by Linda Lee Chaikin

Yesterday's Promise (East of the Sun, #2) Yesterday's Promise by Linda Lee Chaikin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Really should be more like 3.5 stars!

From Goodreads: He fought to seek his fortune.
Would he lose a greater treasure: the love he left behind?

As the son of the squire of Grimston Way, aristocrat Rogan Chantry has fought hard to win his independence from Sir Julien Bley and the British South Africa Company. Now, his pursuit of a mysterious deposit of gold, marked on a map willed to him by his murdered uncle, Henry Chantry, is challenged by a new complication: the impending British colonization of South Africa. Can Sir Rogan find the gold in the midst of escalating tensions among the native tribesmen, the missionaries sent to win them, and the new colonists?

Meanwhile, Evy Varley, the woman Rogan loves back in England, is headed for a brave yet dangerous confrontation with Henry’s killer–but at what price? With so much against Rogan and Evy, a reunion seems improbable, if not impossible. Can yesterday’s promise hold them faithful to the hope of future freedom and a victorious love?

My Review:

I'm a little indifferent towards this book and I really hate to be. I'm not sure if it's because this is the second book in a series (I haven't read the first one yet), if it's the book's setting, or what it might be. For me, this book was just....alright. I did love the names of Rogan and Evy..beautiful names! I also liked the mystery involving Evy and the cottage. For some reason, the twins and Wally kinda reminded me of characters out of Nancy Drew. The whole fiasco of the gold and diamonds just didn't really grab me though. While I feel the book sorta dragged throughout, the last 4 or 5 chapters really captured my interest again so I guess there are some redeeming qualities if you hold out until the end. Overall this wasn't a bad book, it just didn't hold my interest as much as I was hoping it would. Since reading this book, I have ordered the first and third books in the series. I'm curious to know what I missed out on in the first book, and I'm dying to know what happens with Evy and Rogan in book 3.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing a review copy of this book for me to read.

This book qualifies for the following challenges: A-Z Author, A-Z Book, 100+ Reading, Christian Historical Fiction

View all my reviews >>

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Monday, February 22, 2010

FIRST: Double Trouble by Susan May Warren

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:

Double Trouble

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)


Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she's also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women's events and retreats speaker, she's a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer's workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you! She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414313136
ISBN-13: 978-1414313139


PJ Sugar had been born to sneak up on people. She clearly possessed the instincts of a panther, with the ability to find her prey and slink up to them in the shadows, pouncing only when they least suspected.

Suspected adulterer Rudy Bagwell didn’t have a prayer of escaping.

“I’m telling you, Jeremy, we’re going to nail him this time.” She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to keep her voice to a hoarse whisper into the cell phone—or even to slink down in the bucket seat of her VW Bug. It wasn’t like Rudy or his cohort in crime, Geri Fitz, would hear her.

PJ glanced at the digital clock on the dash. It glared 2:14 a.m., a resounding gavel bang to Rudy’s guilt. After all, who would be sneaking around after midnight?

Without, er, a good reason. Like a stakeout.

“I followed him to the Windy Oaks Motel off Highway 12,” PJ continued. She glanced at the soot-dark picture window next to the peeling door of the ancient one-story motel. A brass number 8, slanted at a corrupt angle, glared against the parking lot lights as if spotlighting the sin behind the closed doors.

If she were picking a location to have a tryst with her old high school sweetheart, she might have aimed higher than a graying yellow motel edged with weeds, a broken swing set, a muddy sandbox, and a Dumpster stuffed with a ripped prison-striped mattress. Oh, the romance.

Just sitting in the greasy parking lot made her itch, as if she might be the one engaging in the skulduggery.

Now that she was a PI in training, she got to use words like that. She had even highlighted this one in the Basics of Private Investigation manual Jeremy had assigned her to read as part of her apprenticeship. She had read the “Stakeout” chapter three times. And, if she did say so herself, had the “Tailing Your Suspect” techniques down to a science.

Nope, Rudy wasn’t getting away with cheating on his wife. Not with PJ Sugar on the job.

“Are you sure it’s him?” Jeremy spoke through the gravel in his voice, obviously dredged from a deep sleep.

She heard a faint siren on the other end of the line and did the math. “Are you sleeping at the office again?”

“I worked late. Are you sure it’s Rudy?”

“Of course it’s Rudy. He’s exactly the same dirtbag he was in high school—pockmarked face, a permanent scowl. He was even wearing his leather jacket, which seems suspicious given that it’s August and about seventy degrees out . . .”

“PJ . . .”

She heard him sigh, could imagine Jeremy running his wide hand over his face, through the dark grizzle of his late-night shadow and over his curly, thinning hair. “I’m not sure that I’m up to your PI prowess tonight. Have I ever told you that you’re hard to handle?”

“Every day. Now, get out of bed and bring your camera equipment. Oh, Cynthie is going to be thrilled! I promised her we were going to take down her cheatin’ husband.”

And Cynthie wasn’t the only one to whom she’d promised results. She’d also made a plethora of private promises to herself. A brand-new job, a brand-new life . . . this time she wasn’t going to quit or take the fastest route out of town. She was getting this done, no matter what the cost.

“See, this is your problem, PJ. You make promises you can’t keep. Two weeks, and Rudy hasn’t been seen doing anything more notorious than ordering extra whip on his macchiato. I’m thinking Cynthie is dreaming his affair. And speaking of dreaming, that’s what I should be doing. And you too. Get home. Go to bed.”

“I’m on the case, Jeremy. A great PI follows her instincts, and I know Rudy’s hooked back up with Geri. You should have seen those two in high school—in the halls, wrapped in each other’s arms, making out by the lockers—”

“I don’t want to hear this.”

“I’m just saying, they were an item, and sparks like that never die.”

Silence throbbed on the other end of the phone.

PJ closed her eyes.

“Really.” The word from Jeremy came out small, without much emotion, but PJ felt it like a jab to her heart, even put a hand to her chest.

In some cases, she wanted to add. But not always. Or maybe, yes, always. She wasn’t sure, not with her return to her hometown of Kellogg, Minnesota, right into the bull’s-eye of her high school heartthrob, Daniel “Boone” Buckam, bad boy–turned–detective, who had decided their old flames might be worth stirring up.

PJ had spent too many years roaming the country with his name still simmering in her heart to ignore the fire there.

But Jeremy Kane, PI, had given her a job, even though so far, two months into her gig, Jeremy still hadn’t let her run with her instincts, hadn’t let her handle her own cases. She knew she could be his right-hand gal if he’d just give her a chance.

So she couldn’t find the right reply for him now, as she sat in the darkness of her Bug, alone, knowing she’d been driven out of her bed and from a sound night’s sleep by the stirring desire to prove herself. And maybe something else . . . something she didn’t especially want to talk about. At least not with Jeremy, her boss.

Boss. She needed to write that word on her hand or something. Jeremy was her boss.

“We got ’em, Jeremy. And if we can get pictures, then we’ll have done our job. So get over here.”

“PJ, sometimes . . .” But she heard silence on the other end before she had a chance to tell him that she would surely appreciate some Cheetos and a Diet Coke. Investigative work made a person hungry.

Thirty minutes later Jeremy tapped on her window, looking bedraggled and annoyed.

But because he could read her mind, he held in his hand two cold sodas.

“Scoot over,” he snarled as he climbed in beside her, handing her a soda. His scowl only enhanced his hard-edged former Navy SEAL persona, all dark eyes; wide, ropy-muscled shoulders; trim waist; and long legs. He wore a black T-shirt, a pair of dark jeans, and black Converse shoes that made him melt into the night.

In fact, he sort of matched her, something he made note of as his gaze slid over her. “Is this Sneaky PJ? Black from head to toe? Where are your Superman pants?”

“Hey, a girl has to dress the part. You taught me that.”

Only, in her black leggings and oversize black sweatshirt, she looked more sloppy than dangerous. Apparently only Jeremy could pull that off. She’d first discovered the black ops side of Jeremy Kane the night he’d cajoled her into sneaking into the Kellogg Country Club. She’d nearly been caught when she froze in the bright lights of near discovery.

On the spot, Jeremy, the person she’d believed to be a pizza delivery guy, had morphed into GI Joe, scooping her into his arms and hiding her behind boxes of golf shirts, gripping his flashlight like a lethal weapon.

The memory still sent a forbidden thrill through her, one she didn’t know how to interpret.

And she still, on occasion, called him Pizza Man.

Jeremy didn’t smile, just opened his own soda with a hush, took a swig, and wiped his mouth with his hand. “So, any changes?”

“Rudy hasn’t ordered out for pizza, if that’s what you mean. Did you bring the camera?”

He shrugged a strap off his shoulder and dumped a bag onto her lap, then levered his seat back and closed his eyes. “I’ve created a monster.”

PJ opened the bag and began fitting the long-range digital camera together.

Three hours later, she nudged Jeremy awake. She’d quietly sung through the score of The Phantom of the Opera as well as her complete knowledge of the Beatles and ABBA repertoires, then played “I’m going to the beach and I’m bringing . . .” from A to Z twice and tried to read the chapter titled “How to Find Missing Persons” with the neon blue light attached to her key chain.

She’d even rummaged through her canvas purse that Jeremy referred to as “the abyss,” found a bottle of pink polish, and refreshed her pedicure.

Still, a gal could sit in silence for only so long.

“Smile, this is for posterity.” PJ held the digital camera out as far as her arm would reach, leaned her head in toward his, and depressed the button.

Light flashed like a bullet, shooting her vision with dots against the gray pallor of morning.

“What are you doing?” Jeremy whipped out his arm and snatched the camera from her hand. “Are you trying to get us made?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure they’re glued to the window as we speak.”

He scrolled through the previous shots. “What is this—pictures of your toes?”

“I have cute toes. And I was bored. Delete them if you want.”

Outside, dew glistened on the car hood. She’d rolled up her window, wishing she’d brought along a jacket when she tiptoed out of her sister’s house in the wee hours of the morning, and now shivered. She clamped her hand over a yawn. “I hope they’re not late sleepers.”

“I can’t believe he hasn’t snuck out back to Cynthie yet.” Jeremy popped his seat up and reached for his now-warm soda. PJ said nothing when he noted it was nearly gone.

“Is that what the cheaters usually do—sneak out for their trysts and then back to their wives before dawn?”

“Sometimes. Depends. The ones who work downtown usually disappear at lunchtime.”

“Is PI work always so . . . slimy? I feel a little dirty, like I need a shower or something.”

“I have news for you, PJ. You do need a shower.”

“Seriously, don’t we get to solve a real crime? like a murder or something?”

In the receding shadows, Jeremy looked less menacing, although she’d once seen him shoot a man. “Be thankful for the boring ones. They don’t hurt.”

She didn’t respond. But she had thought that being a PI—or rather a PI’s assistant—might be more, well, fun. Instead, she’d spent two tedious months parked behind a desk, filing reports, answering Jeremy’s calls. Only recently had he invited her to keep him company on his stakeouts.

She longed for high action. Undercover ops and maybe even some karate. In fact . . . “Maybe I should sign up for one of Sergei’s tae kwon do classes. I think it would help.”

“What—in understanding Korean? or maybe Russian so you can help Connie with the in-laws?”

“Very funny. No, in taking down criminals.”

Jeremy ran a finger and thumb against his eyes. Sighed. “Why don’t I send you on a mission?”

“A mission? I’d love to—”

“Get us some donuts.” He glanced in the rearview mirror. “Good Mornin’ Donuts’ light just went on.”

“Is that all I am to you—a delivery girl?”

The minute the words left her mouth, PJ knew she was asking for trouble. Jeremy wore the inklings of a very devilish smile. “Oh, don’t get me started.”

Perhaps Boone wasn’t the only one trying to kindle a flame.

Jeremy held her gaze and shook his head. “Maybe stakeouts aren’t such a great idea.”

“I’ll get the donuts.”

Since she’d parked next to a wall deep in the shadows of the Chinese takeout place, she had to wait for Jeremy to climb out of the Bug before she piled over the driver’s seat. He held open the door for her and she scrambled out without looking at him.

“I’ll take a bismark.”

“What is that—the battleship of all donuts?” She laughed at her own joke.

Jeremy rolled his eyes. “A donut covered in chocolate and filled with custard.” He shook his head as he climbed back into the Bug and closed the door.

Sounded like a long john to her. If they were going to work together, they’d need to nail down their donut terminology.

The cool air raised gooseflesh on her skin as she jogged across the parking lot toward the donut shop. The sun, just a sparkle of hope on the horizon, edged into the metal gray sky, and she smelled summer in the tang of grass freshened by the morning dew. Her Converse slapped against the concrete as she hustled to the doors.

The reception area inside remained dark in the early morning shadows. Lifeless. Void of donuts. She cupped her hand over her eyes and peered through the glass, her stomach clenching in dismay. “Hello in there!”

No one. She knocked on the glass door and then spied someone inside wearing a white apron, moving around in the baking area.

“Hello! We need donuts!”

From the back, a body appeared—a teenager with dyed black hair, a lip ring, and darty black eyes, his apron strings wrapped twice around his noodle-thin body (the boy needed to consume his own product). PJ banged on the window, and he jumped as if she might be wielding a rocket launcher.

Good grief, she just wanted a donut. “Are you open?”

The boy drifted toward the front of the store almost surreptitiously, as if he might be letting in the Mongol horde through the gates of the castle.

He unlocked the door, cracking it just wide enough for his lips to fit through. “We’re not open yet.”

PJ wrapped her arms around herself and tried to appear as waiflike as possible. “Oh, please, please, I’m starved.”

He eyed her warily.

“I spent the night in my car.” She added a little shiver. Looked pitiful. Smiled.

He might have believed her—and now her less-than-dangerous attire might have actually worked in her favor—because he opened the door. “Quick. In the back.”

PJ slunk in, the ever-present danger of a raid hovering over the moment. But never let it be said that when Jeremy sent her on a mission, she returned empty-handed.

She scampered into the back room, where she discovered trays of glistening amber donut holes, freshly glazed. The entire room smelled of baking bread, sugar glaze, and the heady indulgence of chocolate. “I’ll take a dozen holes and a bismark—” she glanced at his name tag—“Phillip.” She held out a ten-dollar bill, intimating that he keep the change.

After all, that’s what PIs did . . . paid for information. Or donuts.

Whatever it took to complete the mission.

Phillip boxed up the holes and the bismark, took the ten, and honest Abe that he was, headed to the front to make change. He stopped short at the threshold to the front parlor. “It’s my boss,” he whispered. He turned and, for a guy already sorta pasty, went even whiter. “Hurry, please . . . go out the back.”

She’d never been kicked out of a bakery before. But to save her new hero . . . she turned and pushed on the metal door, letting it swish shut behind her.

PJ was standing in the back alley next to a Dumpster, a beat-up red Honda, and a pile of old, broken pallets, holding the donut box and giving serious contemplation to digging in right there, when she spied him—Rudy Bagwell, sneaking out a back window of the Windy Oaks Motel.

Oh, she was good at this job.

From this angle she watched Rudy hit the ground and skirt along the back of the motel unit, on the way to freedom.

Sneaky. But not too sneaky for her, the Panther.

PJ hiked the box under her arm and crossed the road, hoping Jeremy saw her angle toward her quarry. Even if he couldn’t spot Rudy from his angle, a guy with a eye out for his donuts should know to wake up and grab his camera.

Rudy had stopped at the edge of the motel, leaning away from the wind to light a cigarette.

She slowed her pace and strolled up to him as if she’d just been out early for a donut run. “Hey there.”

He glanced at her, and for a second she wondered if he would recognize her—after all, she did have one vivid recollection of a wild high school beach party when he’d passed out and she and Boone had buried him to his waist in sand.

He grunted at her and blew out a long stream of smoke.

“Beautiful morning.”

He grunted again, rolling the cigarette between two fingers. He didn’t look like a man who’d spent the night in the arms of his beloved high school sweetheart. In fact, he had a rather ugly welt on his chin, and also, if she looked closely—although she didn’t make it obvious—a splatter of blood down his white shirt, maybe from a bloody nose. Or his lip—it looked a little puffy.

She took a step back, glancing toward Jeremy. Movement in the VW parked in the shadows across the lot was too difficult to discern from here. But Rudy would have to cross in front of the motel to retrieve his Camaro. Jeremy could get the shot then.

So why had Rudy come this way—around the back, away from his wheels?

“Is there something you want, babe?” Rudy cocked his head at her. “Don’t I know you?”

She shook her head. “No, I—”

His eyes widened. “PJ Sugar.” He said it slowly, with a hint of a snarl—maybe he did remember the beach party—and pushed himself away from the building. “I’d heard you were back in town. Cynthie said she saw your picture in the paper. You solved Hoffman’s murder . . .” His gaze went from her to the parking lot.

“Want a donut?” She shoved the box toward him.

Rudy turned back to her, his smile now gone. “What are you doing here?”

“Getting donuts.” Only it came out more like a question. Oops, she’d have to work on her lying.

He took a step toward her . . . and that’s when she saw it. Right above the waist of his jeans, small and black, hidden by the leather jacket that, despite the chill in the air, still didn’t belong in an August wardrobe.

A gun. As if it had claws, it tore at her gaze and PJ couldn’t wrench it away.

A gun.

Blood on his shirt. A bloodied lip. A crime of passion? She added up the facts as quickly as it took Rudy to move another step toward her and snake out his hand to grab her.

But he wasn’t the only one with a weapon. She shoved her hand into the box just as Rudy’s grip closed around her elbow.

With everything inside her, PJ slammed the bismark into his face. Pudding squished between her fingers as she crammed it into his eyes. Then, clutching the box to her chest, she yanked her arm from his grasp and ran.


Footsteps slapping the pavement behind her made her dig into the box again. Her hand closed around a donut hole, and she pitched it behind her as she raced across the parking lot. “Jeremy!”

Another hole, followed by an expletive from behind her. Thankfully, Jeremy had finally come alive, because he emerged from the Bug, staring at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“He’s got a gun! He killed her! He killed Geri!”

Another naughty word from Rudy and the footsteps changed direction. She turned to see Rudy flinging himself toward his Camaro. He Bo Duke’d across the hood and climbed in the window, turning the engine over even as PJ threw another hole at him.

It landed with a splotch of sugary goo on his windshield.

He gunned the hot rod across the parking lot.

PJ dropped the box, her breath wheezing out of her even as she watched him escape.

Or maybe not. As Rudy mowed over a parked Harley and smacked against a Ford Fiesta, she heard another car gunning to roadblock him.

She turned too quickly, wishing she had more time to brace herself.



She nearly flung her body in front of Jeremy as he screeched past her in the VW, a laser streak of lime green on course to intersect with its target.

“Jeremy, stop!”

But Jeremy didn’t know that, one, she hadn’t paid her insurance for over a month, and two, the brakes on the Bug were a little on the spongy side, because he didn’t even slow as he T-boned Rudy’s Camaro and pinned it against the metal pole hosting the Windy Oaks sign.

The sound of metal ripping and the dying whine of her beloved Bug buckled PJ’s knees. She went down hard in the gravel, gulping a breath, watching Jeremy leap from the car, dive over her hood, and rip the gun out of Rudy’s grip before he could even clear his head.

Pinned, he screamed at the top of his lungs.

PJ slumped in the gravel of the lot. Not the Bug. Her Bug. The one remaining possession big enough to hide inside. She reached into the box and pulled out her remaining donut hole, considering it for a long moment as her mind faintly registered the wailing police sirens in the distance. Or maybe the noise came from her, from the keening inside.

Jeremy sauntered toward her, a smug smile in his evil eyes, shaking his head. “I don’t suppose there’s a bismark in that mess, is there?”

PJ leaned back, cupped her hand over her eyes, and hurled the donut hole at his arrogant smile.

I have not read this book. It is on my wishlist! :)
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Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page each Monday so that other book lovers and bloggers can see and comment on what's in the mailbox. Thanks Marcia for a great way of posting our new (or new to us) books!!

Have you read a book on my list? Please comment on it. It's possible I will use your comment and link back to you when I post my review of a particular book!

To Review:

Into the Storm by Jon Steven Nappa (thanks to Bostick Communications for this book)
With Hearts Courageous by Jon Steven Nappa (thanks to Bostick Communications for this book)


Morning's Refrain by Tracie Peterson (purchased on Amazon)

Giveaway Books I Have Won:

A Black Tie Affair by Sherrill Bodine (won from Crystal)


Her Only Hero by Marta Perry (received from Paperback Swap)
Atonement Child by Francine Rivers (received from Paperback Swap)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (received from Paperback Swap)

What's in your box this week?
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Winter's Awakening by Shelley Shepard Gray

Winter's Awakening (Seasons of Sugarcreek, #1) Winter's Awakening by Shelley Shepard Gray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read any Amish fiction in quite some time. This was a light, refreshing read. I read this book in a couple of settings.

This is the first book in the Seasons of Sugarcreek Series. We meet Joshua, a young Amish man trying to find his way in life; Gretta (love the name!), a young Amish lady who is anxiously awaiting a marriage proposal from Joshua; and Lilly, an Englishcher who moves to Sugar Creek with her family due to a "condition". I'm not sure that I like the complete story behind seems a little archaic at first but the more I think about her family's reason for moving and the involvement in the "condition" at hand, it makes a little more sense. In the end, I love how everything came together so well.

I believe that this book will please a variety of readers. Given that most of the characters are younger in age (less than 20) this book will appeal to a younger crowd. However, there are lessons in here that those of a more seasoned age would learn from as well. This isn't an overly "convert to Amish" book. I didn't find it preachy at all. I appreciate the differences pointed out between the Amish and the Englishchers in this book.

I have loved learning about the Amish and their simple ways. There are times when I feel that if I adopted some of the Amish ways (I would never become completely Amish as I do not believe in everything that they do) that might life might be a little more enjoyable. Of course, it would mean more work for me in some regards. I think I would have a greater appreciation for my Lord and my life in general if I didn't have some of the modern conveniences that I have now. When I was younger, I did have an opportunity to visit an Amish community. I really enjoyed it at the young age I was at the time (maybe 7 or 8?). I would love to go back and have some time to talk to the people in the community, eat in their cafe's and make purchases in their general stores. I would also love to learn to quilt from the Amish!

Overall, a great, lighthearted read! Highly recommended!

Be sure to visit these others on tour with this book. I have added links to their reviews.

Tuesday, February 2nd: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
Wednesday, February 3rd: Life In Review
Thursday, February 4th: Book Reviews by Bookluver81
Monday, February 8th: Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Tuesday, February 9th: There’s a Book
Wednesday, February 10th: Café of Dreams
Thursday, February 11th: Sunflowers, Choclate and Little Boys
Tuesday, February 16th: Creative Madness
Thursday, February 18th: Woven By Words
Monday, February 22nd: My Own Little Corner of the World
Tuesday, February 23rd: Heart 2 Heart
Wednesday, February 24th: Overstuffed

Shelley Shepard Gray's website: Her website is beautiful and there you can find a biography, her list of books written, who she writes for, along with a host of other wonderful little tidbits!!

View all my reviews >>

Thank you to Trish and TLC Book Tours for a review copy of this book!

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I am so proud to be an American!!

This isn't my typical "bookie" post but I had to pause to say how blessed I am to be an American!! There are so many blessings that are provided to those of us who live in this country one of which is our men's and women's hockey teams in the Olympics!!! I'm so proud of our men beating the skates off of Canada tonight 5-3!! We haven't done that since 1960! Our men were wearing 1960 throwback jerseys and they played a great game! Kudos to goal tender Miller for his super awesome saves!

Other great mentions...Bode's gold medal..way to go man! Our ice dancing contestants...2 teams are going for the gold tomorrow evening!! Apolo can I say? The man is making some major history!! There are so many others I could mention but I think you get the point.

This is the first time I've really watched the Olympics as closely as I have. I am an avid hockey fan and now want to know more about curling. It seems like a pretty cool little sport and one that I might want to try my hand at!

Needless to say, my reading has slacked a bit since the Olympics have started. I do have a few reviews coming this week though, so don't be dismayed! I do hope to start reading a bit more once the Olympics least the hockey!!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Do It Or Age Quickly by JB Berns

Today I am pleased to have a short post from the new release of Do It Or Age Quickly by JB Berns (Nov. 9, 2009). Recognize the name? Well, you should! He is an accomplished personal wellness trainer and a martial artist. He's most known for his work with Jackie Chan in the creation of the Jackie Chan Cableflex System. I have not yet had a chance to read this book but this is one that I have skimmed. I want to be able to devote some quality time to this book as I believe that it will be very beneficial to my health and wellness improving. I do have permission from the author to share with you small sampling of what this book is all about. Without further ado, I give you...

8 Tips to Improve Your Diet

by JB Berns, author of DO IT OR AGE QUICKLY: 60-Second Practices to Live Better, Stronger, and Longer

These simple rules will help shed excess weight, aid digestion, and improve nutrient absorption:

  1. When you wake up, have a glass of warm water with half of a lemon. Lemons are great detoxifiers, rich in vitamin C (so they boost your immune system), aid in digestion, and benefit the gastrointestinal tract. It’s a great way to start the day!

  1. No white flour or foods from sealed cans. Fresh foods are much healthier for you and will give you more energy. Stay away from white flour foods such as donuts and other sweets. Eat natural unprocessed foods like fruit, vegetables, and unsalted nuts.

  1. Before swallowing, chew your solids until they become liquid. Digestion begins in the mouth. By chewing foods well your digestion and assimilation of nutrients should improve. As Ghandi said, “Drink your food and chew your beverages.” In other words, chew until your food is liquefied and drink liquids as slowly as solid food. This applies especially to carbohydrates, which require contact with the alkaline ptyalin enzyme in saliva to begin proper digestion. This also allows the sensation of fullness to develop so you won’t overeat.

  1. Try not to drink liquids during meals. Drinking liquids during your meals does not allow you to chew your food thoroughly and may wash down nutrients prematurely. When you eat a starchy food, for example, if you don’t allow the enzyme ptyalin in your saliva to do its work, digestion will not begin properly.

  1. Eat sparingly to live a long, healthy life. Taoist principles teach that you should only eat until you are 70 to 80% full. The human body is not designed to handle large quantities and the complex combinations of the modern diet. Numerous studies have suggested that calorie restriction (without restricting nutrition) may elongate one’s lifespan.

  1. Eat like a king for breakfast, a queen for lunch, and a prince for dinner. Minimize your intake at meals as the day proceeds. A classic pattern of the overweight is to do the opposite: to eat very little during the day and then binge in the evening (because they’re so ravenously hungry!) Having a large dinner before bed will not allow for good rest and enough time for proper digestion.

  1. Avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures in food and beverages. This can irritate the lining of your tender digestive tract and disrupt efficient digestion.

  1. Try not to consume food three hours before bed. You’ll get a better night’s rest on an empty stomach rather than a full belly.

    Thank you to Meryl and Tricia of Meryl Moss Media Relations for the review copy of this book.

By clicking on the link to the book, you will be taken to Amazon's website. Making a purchase as a result of clicking on that link will give me a minuscule profit which is used to purchase more books for reviews on this blog.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Olympic Edition

btt button

You may have noticed–the Winter Olympics are going on. Is that affecting your reading time? Have you read any Olympics-themed books? What do you think about the Olympics in general? Here’s your chance to discuss!

This is the first year that I've ever really paid a lot of attention to the Olympics. I'd have to say I'm more of a Winter Olympics than Summer Olympics fan. I LOVE the hockey, ice skating, and a new love, curling (even though I don't get it!!)

Have the Olympics affected my reading time? You bet it has! Although I tend to read during commercials (which seem shorter than most regular television!), I am not getting as much in as I would otherwise. I have not read any Olympic-themed books, probably because, as mentioned earlier, I've not been a real Olympic fan until this year. I'd love to read any book about hockey though! Do you have any recommendations? Please pass them along!

Just for the record, I think that all school/work should be canceled during the Olympics. I need more time to watch my favorite sport! Go TEAM USA!!!

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FIRST: Listen by Rene Gutteridge

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)


Rene Gutteridge is the critically acclaimed author of more than fifteen novels, including the Storm series, the Boo series, the Occupational Hazards series, and the novelization of the motion picture The Ultimate Gift. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414324332
ISBN-13: 978-1414324333


Present Day

Damien Underwood tapped his pencil against his desk and spun twice in his chair. But once he was facing his computer again, the digital clock still hadn’t changed.

In front of him on a clean white piece of paper was a box, and inside that box was a bunch of other tiny boxes. Some of those boxes he’d neatly scribbled in. And above the large box he wrote, Time to go.

This particular day was stretching beyond his normal capacity of tolerance, and when that happened, he found himself constructing word puzzles. He’d sold three to the New York Times, two published on Monday and one on Wednesday. They were all framed and hanging in his cubicle. He’d sent in over thirty to be considered.

He’d easily convinced his boss years ago to let him start publishing crosswords in the paper, and since then he’d been the crossword editor, occasionally publishing some of his own, a few from local residents, and some in syndication.

The puzzle clues were coming harder today. He wanted to use a lot of plays on words, and he also enjoyed putting in a few specific clues that were just for Marlo residents. Those were almost always published on Fridays.

A nine-letter word for “predictable and smooth.”

Yes, good clue. He smiled and wrote the answer going down. Clockwork.

He glanced over to the bulletin board, which happened to be on the only piece of north wall he could see from his desk at the Marlo Sentinel. Tacked in the center, still hanging there after three years, was an article from Lifestyles Magazine. Marlo, of all the places in the United States, was voted Best Place to Raise a Child. It was still the town’s shining moment of glory. Every restaurant and business had this article framed and hanging somewhere on their walls.

The community boasted its own police force, five separate and unique playgrounds for the kids, including a spray ground put in last summer, where kids could dash through all kinds of water sprays without the fear of anyone drowning.

Potholes were nonexistent. The trash was picked up by shiny, blue, state-of-the-art trash trucks, by men wearing pressed light blue shirts and matching pants, dressed slightly better than the mail carriers.

Two dozen neighborhood watch programs were responsible for nineteen arrests in the last decade, mostly petty thieves and a couple of vandals. There hadn’t been a violent crime in Marlo since 1971, and even then the only one that got shot was a dog. A bank robbery twenty years ago ended with the robber asking to talk to a priest, where he confessed a gambling addiction and a fondness for teller number three.

Damien’s mind lit up, which it often did when words were involved. He penciled it in. An eight-letter word for “a linear stretch of dates.” Timeline. Perfect for 45 across.

So this was Marlo, where society and family joined in marriage. It was safe enough for kids to play in the front yards. It was clean enough that asthmatics were paying top dollar for the real estate. It was good enough, period.

Damien was a second-generation Marlo resident. His mother and father moved here long before it was the Best Place to Raise a Child. Then it had just been cheap land and a good drive from the city. His father had been the manager of a plant now gone because it caused too much pollution. His mother, a stay-at-home mom, had taken great pride in raising a son who shared her maiden name, Damien, and her fondness for reading the dictionary.

Both his parents died the same year from different causes, the same year Damien had met Kay, his wife-to-be. They’d wed nine months after they met and waited the customary five years to have children. Kay managed a real estate company. She loved her job as much as she had the first day she started. And it was a good way to keep up with the Joneses.

Until recently, when the housing market started slumping like his ever-irritated teenage daughter.

The beast’s red eyes declared it was finally time to leave. Damien grabbed his briefcase and walked the long hallway to the door, just to make sure his boss and sometimes friend, Edgar, remembered he was leaving a little early. He gave Edgar a wave, and today, because he was in a good mood, Edgar waved back.

Damien drove through the Elephant’s Foot and picked up two lemonades, one for himself and one for Jenna, his sixteen-year-old daughter who had all at once turned from beautiful princess or ballerina or whatever it was she wanted to be to some weird Jekyll and Hyde science experiment. With blue eye shadow. She never hugged him. She never giggled. Oh, how he missed the giggling. She slouched and grunted like a gorilla, her knuckles nearly dragging the ground if anyone said anything to her. A mild suggestion of any kind, from “grab a jacket” to “don’t do drugs” evoked eyes rolling into the back of her head as if she were having a grand mal seizure.

So the lemonade was the best gesture of kindness he could make. Besides offering to pick her up because her car was in the shop.

He pulled to the curb outside the school, fully aware he was the only car among the full-bodied SUVs idling alongside one another. It was a complete embarrassment to Jenna, who begged to have Kay pick her up in the Navigator. Some lessons were learned the hard way. But his car was perfectly fine, perfectly reliable, and it wasn’t going to cause the ozone to collapse.

She got in, noticed the lemonade, asked if it was sugar-free, then sipped it and stared out the window for the rest of the ride home. It wasn’t sugar-free, but the girl needed a little meat on her bones.

“Your car’s ready.”

Finally, a small smile.


“Have a seat.”

Frank Merret shoved his holster and belt downward to make room for the roll of belly fat that had permanently attached itself to his midsection. He slowly sat down in the old vinyl chair across from Captain Lou Grayson’s cluttered desk.

“You got a rookie coming in this morning.”

“I thought we had an agreement about rookies.”

“You ticketed Principal MaLue. We had an agreement about that too.”

Frank sighed. “He was speeding in a school zone.”

“He’s the principal. If he wants to hit Mach speed in the school zone, so be it. The rookie’s file is in your box.” Grayson’s irritated expression said the rest.

Frank left the captain’s office and killed time in the break room until lineup, where the rookie stood next to him, fresh-faced and wide-eyed. He was short, kind of stocky, with white blond hair and baby pink cheeks like a von Trapp kid. There was not a hard-bitten bone in this kid’s body.

Frank cut his gaze sideways. “This is Marlo. The most you can hope for is someone driving under the influence of pot.”

Lineup was dismissed, and the kid followed him out. “That’s not true. I heard about that bank robbery.”

“That was twenty years ago.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the rookie said. “I’m on patrol. That’s cool. I’m Gavin Jenkins, by the way.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Did you read my stats from the academy?”

“Not even one word.”

Gavin stopped midstride, falling behind Frank as he made his way outside to the patrol car. Gavin hurried to catch up. “Where are we going? Aren’t we a little early?”

Frank continued to his car. Gavin hopped into the passenger side. Frank turned west onto Bledsoe.

“Listen, Officer Merret, I just want you to know that I’m glad they paired me with you. I’ve heard great things about you, and I think it’s—”

“I don’t normally talk in the morning.”


So they drove in silence mostly, checking on a few of the elderly citizens and their resident homeless man, Douglas, until lunchtime, when they stopped at Pizza Hut. The kid couldn’t help but talk, so Frank let him and learned the entire history of how he came to be a Marlo police officer.

Gavin was two bites into his second piece and hadn’t touched his salad when Frank rose. “Stay here.”

Gavin stared at him, his cheek full of cheese and pepperoni. “What? Why?”

“I’ve got something I need to do.”

Gavin stood, trying to gather his things. “Wait. I’ll come.”

Frank held out a firm hand. “Just stay here, okay? I’ll come back to get you in about forty minutes.”

Gavin slowly sat down.

Frank walked out. He knew it already. This rookie was going to be a thorn in his side.

Excerpted from Listen by Rene Gutteridge. Copyright ©2010 by Rene Gutteridge. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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