Saturday, April 30, 2011

COTT: Exciting News, Poll Results, plus...Fish in a Barrel?

When it comes to books, how easy are you to reel in? Do you swim against the current, requiring a strong line to tug you along? Or do you flow right in to a story's net? I admit I can be a stubborn swimmer. I've become a more critical connoisseur of fiction. Occasionally I'll abandon ship, but I'll usually still swallow a tepid plot even while making a face. It just takes more to make my knees go weak from the complex flavors of a novel. Writing chops get me baited. Strong plotline pulls me in. It's a magical moment when everything comes together perfectly and I'm happy to leap into the boat without resistance.
A couple weeks ago COTT put up a survey asking how long you give a book to reel you in. We received 54 responses! So today we're going to share those results and many of the comments that came in:
     11.1% of responders said one page
     35.2% said one chapter
     46.3% said until they lose interest
     7.4% said they finish every book they start, regardless of interest. (God bless 'em)
What do you think? Here are some of the comments we received: 
  • I know some stress the first paragraph and even the first line, but I don't want my reading to become fast food. Don't bore me with bad writing, but give me something to savor, something to enjoy for a while. Hopefully, my own writing will do the same.
  • I always try to give the author a chance, as some great books have slow beginnings.
  • I am the eternal optimist! I keep thinking, "I know its gonna get better. I just know it." So I trudge along, supporting the author the best I can until finally...I can't go any further. I have noticed that I have a much more critical eye than I used to, though. So maybe my patience isn't quite as long as it used to be. I just hate to give up on ANYBODY!
  • I love it when I'm hooked in the first few pages. Definitely must be in first chapter. I no longer feel obligated to finish a book I can't get into. Twice this year I've chosen not to finish books that failed to hook me.
Thank you to those who participated in the survey--we love giving readers a voice! Throughout the week we will be interviewing our competing authors and collecting your names for our book giveaway so be sure and join us.
And now an exciting announcement:
We all knew it was coming...We at Clash of the Titles have had such fun getting to know new authors we decided to dive deeper into their novels. Join us in June when we launch a Clash of the Titles Book Club! Our first selection will be COTT Conqueror Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride, available for free Kindle download in the month of May. Which reason why absolutely everyone can't join, right?  (To download the free Kindle for PC, click here)
Keep up to date on Book Club News right here
Make it a great week, everybody!
bio: Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist, as well as Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles . Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook, and her blog Adventures in Writing

Diagnosis Death by Richard Mabry

Diagnosis Death (Prescription for Trouble Series #3)Diagnosis Death by Richard L. Mabry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"What God has done in the past is both a model and a promise of what He will do in the future; but He's too creative to do the same thing the same way twice."

Elena has had a tough time of things with Marc's recent stroke. She knows he'll never recover so the hard decisions are made. After all, she knows what the future looks like for him...she almost finished with her residency. How will she go on without him?

Dr. Cathy Sewell (you might remember her from the first book in this series, Code Blue) is very pregnant and in need of someone to keep her practice running while she's out on maternity leave. Can she find a reputable doctor to handle her practice in Dainger, TX?

I do believe this is my favorite Richard L. Mabry book to date! It is fast-paced, intense, full of suspense and mystery and will keep you on the edge of your seat! I'm a little sad that this series is ending with this book. I look forward to more great works from Dr. Mabry! He has a way with words that put you right there at the scene. I could smell the hospital smells, hear the beeps, buzzes, and whistles, and the excitement that occurs in an ICU setting. Some of those could be my nursing background but I truly believe in this story. The intensity of it keep the story moving very quickly and I read it in no time at all! The characters are believable and Elena's story just about ripped my heart out!

I highly recommend this book to lovers of medical mysteries! I do not believe you would be disappointed in this series, Prescription for Trouble!

I acquired this book on NetGalley. I appreciate the publisher for providing it for review!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FIRST: Mine is the Light by Liz Curtis Higgs

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:

WaterBrook Press (March 15, 2011)
***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky of Random House Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of 28 books with three million copies in print, including: her best-selling historical novels, Here Burns My Candle, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Christy Award-winner Whence Came a Prince, Grace in Thine Eyes, a Christy Award finalist, and Here Burns My Candle, a RT Book Reviews Award finalist; My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland, an armchair travel guide to Galloway; and her contemporary novels, Mixed Signals, a Rita Award finalist, and Bookends, a Christy Award finalist.

Visit the author's website. You’ll also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


The emotional and spiritual journey that began with Here Burns My Candle (WaterBrook Press, 2010) soars to a triumphant finish in Mine Is the Night (WaterBrook Press, March 15, 2011) a dramatic and decidedly Scottish retelling of the biblical love story of Boaz and Ruth. A compelling tale of redemption and restoration, the latest novel from best-selling author Liz Curtis Higgs transports both story and reader to 18th century Scotland, where two widows are forced to begin anew.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400070023
ISBN-13: 978-1400070022


Foul whisperings are abroad.



26 April 1746

The distant hoofbeats were growing louder.

  Elisabeth Kerr quickly pushed aside the curtain and leaned out the carriage window. A cool spring rain, borne on a blustery wind, stung her cheeks. She could not see the riders on horseback, hidden by the steep hill behind her. But she could hear them galloping hard, closing the gap.

  Her mother-in-law seemed unconcerned, her attention drawn to the puddle forming at their feet. A frown creased her brow. “Do you mean for us to arrive in Selkirk even more disheveled than we already are?” Three long days of being jostled about in a cramped and dirty coach had left Marjory Kerr in a mood as foul as the weather.

  “’Tis not the rain that concerns me.” Elisabeth resumed her seat, feeling a bit unsteady. “No ordinary traveling party would ride with such haste.”

  Marjory’s breath caught. “Surely you do not think—”

  “I do.”

  Had they not heard the rumors at every inn and coaching halt? King George’s men were scouring the countryside for anyone who’d aided bonny Prince Charlie in his disastrous bid to reclaim the British throne for the long-deposed Stuarts. Each whispered account was worse than the last. Wounded rebel soldiers clubbed to death. Houses burned with entire families inside. Wives and daughters ravished by British dragoons.

  Help us, Lord. Please. Elisabeth slipped her arm round her mother-in-law’s shoulders as she heard the riders crest the hill and bear down on them.

  “We were almost home,” Marjory fretted.

  “The Lord will rescue us,” Elisabeth said firmly, and then they were overtaken. A male voice cut through the rain-soaked air, and the carriage jarred to a halt.

  Mr. Dewar, their round-bellied coachman, dropped from his perch and landed by the window with a grunt. He rocked back on his heels until he found his balance, then yanked open the carriage door without ceremony. “Beg yer pardon, leddies. The captain here would have a wird with ye.”

  Marjory’s temper flared. “He cannot expect us to stand in the rain.”

  “On the contrary, madam.” A British dragoon dismounted and rolled into view like a loaded cannon. His shoulders were broad, his legs short, his neck invisible. “I insist upon it. At once, if you please.”

  With a silent prayer for strength, Elisabeth gathered her hoops and maneuvered through the narrow carriage doorway. She was grateful for Mr. Dewar’s hand as she stepped down, trying not to drag her skirts through the mud. Despite the evening gloom, her eyes traced the outline of a hillside town not far south. Almost home.

  The captain, whom Elisabeth guessed to be about five-and-forty years, watched in stony silence as Marjory disembarked. His scarlet coat was drenched, his cuffed, black boots were covered with filth, and the soggy brim of his cocked hat bore a noticeable wave.

  He was also shorter than Elisabeth had first imagined. When she lifted her head, making the most of her long neck, she was fully two inches taller than he. Some days she bemoaned her height but not this day.

  By the time Marjory joined her on the roadside, a half-dozen uniformed men had crowded round. Broadswords hung at their sides, yet their scowls were far more menacing.

  “Come now,” Mr. Dewar said gruffly. “Ye’ve nae need to frighten my passengers. State yer business, and be done with it. We’ve little daylight left and less than a mile to travel.”

  “Selkirk is your destination?” The captain seemed disappointed. “Not many Highland rebels to be found there.”

  “’Tis a royal burgh,” Marjory told him, her irritation showing. “Our townsfolk have been loyal to the crown for centuries.”

  Elisabeth shot her a guarded look. Have a care, dear Marjory.

  The captain ignored her mother-in-law’s comments, all the while studying their plain black gowns, a curious light in his eyes. “In mourning, are we? For husbands, I’ll wager.” He took a brazen step toward Elisabeth, standing entirely too close. “Tell me, lass. Did your men give their lives in service to King George? At Falkirk perhaps? Or Culloden?”

  She could not risk a lie. Yet she could not speak the truth.

  Please, Lord, give me the right words.

  Elisabeth took a long, slow breath, then spoke from her heart. “Our brave men died at Falkirk honoring the King who has no equal.”

  He cocked one eyebrow. “Did they now?”

  “Aye.” She met the captain’s gaze without flinching, well aware of which sovereign she had in mind. I am God, and there is none like me. She’d not lied. Nor had the dragoon grasped the truth behind her words: by divine right the crown belonged to Prince Charlie.

  “No one compares to His Royal Highness, King George,” he said expansively. “Though I am sorry for your loss. No doubt your men died heroes.”

  Elisabeth merely nodded, praying he’d not ask their names. A list of royalist soldiers killed at Falkirk had circulated round Edinburgh for weeks. The captain might recall that Lord Donald and Andrew Kerr were not named among the British casualties. Instead, her handsome husband and his younger brother were counted among the fallen rebels on that stormy January evening.

  My sweet Donald. However grievous his sins, however much he’d wounded her, she’d loved him once and mourned him still.

  Her courage bolstered by the thought of Donald in his dark blue uniform, Elisabeth squared her shoulders and ignored the rain sluicing down her neck. “My mother-in-law and I are eager to resume our journey. If we are done here—”

  “We are not.” Still lingering too near, the captain inclined his head, measuring her. “A shame your husband left such a bonny widow. Though if you fancy another soldier in your bed, one of my men will gladly oblige—”

  “Sir!” Marjory protested. “How dare you address a lady in so coarse a manner.”

  His dragoons quickly closed ranks. “A lady?” one of them grumbled. “She sounds more like a Highlander to my ear.”

  The captain’s expression darkened. “Aye, so she does.” Without warning he grasped the belled cuff of Elisabeth’s sleeve and turned back the fabric. “Where is it, lass? Where is your silk Jacobite rose?”

  “You’ve no need to look.” Elisabeth tried to wrest free of him. “I haven’t one.”

  Ignoring her objections, he roughly examined the other cuff, nearly tearing apart the seam. “The white rose of Scotland was Prince Charlie’s favorite, was it not? I’ve plucked them off many a Highland rebel.”

  “I imagine you have.” Elisabeth freed her sleeve from his grasp. “Are you quite satisfied?”

  “Far from it, lass.” The captain eyed the neckline of her gown, his mouth twisting into an ugly sneer. “It seems your flower is well hidden. Nevertheless, I mean to have it.”

CFBA: Abigail's New Hope by Mary Ellis

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Abigail's New Hope
Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2011)
Mary Ellis


A word from the author:I grew up close to the eastern Ohio Amish community of Geauga County, where my parents often took me to farmers’ markets and woodworking fairs. My husband and I now live within the largest population of Amish in the country–a four-county area in central Ohio. We love to take weekend getaways to purchase farm produce and other goodies, stay with Amish families in bed and breakfasts, attend country auctions and enjoy the simpler way of life.

This is my first series of novels set in the Amish community.

I would love to hear from readers of Christian novels. Please leave me a post at my blogsite.


As an Amish midwife, Abigail Graber loves bringing babies into the world. But when a difficult delivery takes a devastating turn, Abigail is faced with some hard choices. Despite her best efforts, the young mother dies—but the baby is saved.

When a heartless judge confines Abigail to the county jail for her mistakes, her sister Catherine comes to care for her children while Daniel works his fields. Catherine meets Daniel’s reclusive cousin, Isaiah, who’s deaf and thought to be simple minded by his community. She endeavors to teach him to communicate and discovers he possesses unexpected gifts and talents.

While Abigail searches for forgiveness, Catherine changes lives and, in return, finds love, something long elusive in her life. And Isaiah discovers God, who cares nothing about our handicaps or limitations in His sustaining love.

An inspirational tale of overcoming grief, maintaining faith, and finding hope in an ever-changing world.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Abigail's New Hope, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

FIRST: In Grandma's Attic Series by Arleta Richardson

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:

David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Arleta Richardson grew up in a Chicago hotel under her grandmother’s care. As they sat overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, her grandmother shared memories of her childhood on a Michigan farm. These treasured family stories became the basis for the Grandma’s Attic Series.


Remember when you were a child, when the entire world was new, and the smallest object a thing of wonder? Arleta Richardson remembered: the funny wearable wire contraption hidden in the dusty attic, the century-old schoolchild’s slate that belonged to Grandma, an ancient trunk filled with quilt pieces—each with its own special story—and the button basket, a miracle of mysteries. But best of all she remembered her remarkable grandmother who made magic of all she touched, bringing the past alive as only a born storyteller could.

So step inside the attic of Richardson’s grandmother. These stories will keep you laughing while teaching you valuable lessons. These marvelous tales faithfully recalled for the delight of young and old alike are a touchstone to another day when life was simpler, perhaps richer, and when the treasures of family life and love were passed from generation to generation by a child’s questions and the legends that followed enlarged our faith. These timeless stories were originally released in 1974 and then revised in 1999. They are being re-released with new artwork that will appeal to a new generation of girls.

Product Details:

In Grandma's Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781403790
ISBN-13: 978-0781403795

More Stories from Grandma's Attic:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 3 edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780781403801
ISBN-13: 978-0781403801
ASIN: 0781403804


In Grandma’s Attic – Chapter 1

Pride Goes Before a Fall

“Grandma, what is this?”

Grandma looked up from her work. “Good lands, child, where did you find that?”

“In the attic,” I replied. “What is it, Grandma?”

Grandma chuckled and answered, “That’s a hoop. The kind that ladies wore under their skirts when I was a little girl.”

“Did you ever wear one, Grandma?” I asked.

Grandma laughed. “Indeed I did,” she said. “In fact, I wore that very one.”

Here, I decided, must be a story. I pulled up the footstool and prepared to listen. Grandma looked at the old hoop fondly.

“I only wore it once,” she began. “But I kept it to remind me how painful pride can be.”

I was about eight years old when that hoop came into my life. For months I had been begging Ma to let me have a hoopskirt like the big girls wore. Of course that was out of the question. What would a little girl, not even out of calicoes, be doing with a hoopskirt? Nevertheless, I could envision myself walking haughtily to school with the hoopskirt and all the girls watching enviously as I took my seat in the front of the room.

This dream was shared by my best friend and seatmate, Sarah Jane. Together we spent many hours picturing ourselves as fashionable young ladies in ruffles and petticoats. But try as we would, we could not come up with a single plan for getting a hoopskirt of our very own.

Finally, one day in early spring, Sarah Jane met me at the school grounds with exciting news. An older cousin had come to their house to visit, and she had two old hoops that she didn’t want any longer. Sarah Jane and I could have them to play with, she said. Play with, indeed! Little did that cousin know that we didn’t want to play with them. Here was the answer to our dreams. All day, under cover of our books, Sarah Jane and I planned how we would wear those hoops to church on Sunday.

There was a small problem: How would I get that hoop into the house without Ma knowing about it? And how could either of us get out of the house with them on without anyone seeing us? It was finally decided that I would stop by Sarah Jane’s house on Sunday morning. We would have some excuse for walking to church, and after her family had left, we would put on our hoops and prepare to make a grand entrance at the church.

“Be sure to wear your fullest skirt,” Sarah Jane reminded me. “And be here early. They’re all sure to look at us this Sunday!”

If we had only known how true that would be! But of course, we were happily unaware of the disaster that lay ahead.

Sunday morning came at last, and I astonished my family by the speed with which I finished my chores and was ready to leave for church.

“I’m going with Sarah Jane this morning,” I announced, and set out quickly before anyone could protest.

All went according to plan. Sarah Jane’s family went on in the buggy, cautioning us to hurry and not be late for service. We did have a bit of trouble fastening the hoops around our waists and getting our skirts pulled down to cover them. But when we were finally ready, we agreed that there could not be two finer-looking young ladies in the county than us.

Quickly we set out for church, our hoopskirts swinging as we walked. Everyone had gone in when we arrived, so we were assured the grand entry we desired. Proudly, with small noses tipped up, we sauntered to the front of the church and took our seats.

Alas! No one had ever told us the hazards of sitting down in a hoopskirt without careful practice! The gasps we heard were not of admiration as we had anticipated—far from it! For when we sat down, those dreadful hoops flew straight up in the air! Our skirts covered our faces, and the startled minister was treated to the sight of two pairs of white pantalets and flying petticoats.

Sarah Jane and I were too startled to know how to disentangle ourselves, but our mothers were not. Ma quickly snatched me from the seat and marched me out the door.

The trip home was a silent one. My dread grew with each step. What terrible punishment would I receive at the hands of an embarrassed and upset parent? Although I didn’t dare look at her, I knew she was upset because she was shaking. It was to be many years before I learned that Ma was shaking from laughter, and not from anger!

Nevertheless, punishment was in order. My Sunday afternoon was spent with the big Bible and Pa’s concordance. My task was to copy each verse I could find that had to do with being proud. That day I was a sorry little girl who learned a lesson about pride going before a fall.

“And you were never proud again, Grandma?” I asked after she finished the story.

Grandma thought soberly for a moment. “Yes,” she replied. “I was proud again. Many times. It was not until I was a young lady and the Lord saved me that I had the pride taken from my heart. But many times when I am tempted to be proud, I remember that horrid hoopskirt and decide that a proud heart is an abomination to the Lord!”


More Stories From Grandma’s Attic

Chapter 1

The Nuisance in Ma’s Kitchen

When Grandma called from the backyard, I knew I was in for it. She was using her would-you-look-at-this voice, which usually meant I was responsible for something.

“What, Grandma?” I asked once I reached the spot where she was hanging up the washing.

“Would you look at this?” she asked. “I just went into the kitchen for more clothespins and came back out to find this.”

I looked where she was pointing. One of my kittens had crawled into the clothes basket and lay sound asleep on a clean sheet.

“If you’re going to have kittens around the house, you’ll have to keep an eye on them. Otherwise leave them in the barn where they belong. It’s hard enough to wash sheets once without doing them over again.”

Grandma headed toward the house with the soiled sheet, and I took the kitten back to the barn. But I didn’t agree that it belonged there. I would much rather have had the whole family of kittens in the house with me. Later I mentioned this to Grandma.

“I know,” she said. “I felt the same way when I was your age. If it had been up to me, I would have moved every animal on the place into the house every time it rained or snowed.”

“Didn’t your folks let any pets in the house?” I asked.

“Most of our animals weren’t pets,” Grandma admitted. “But there were a few times when they were allowed in. If an animal needed special care, it stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed those times, especially if it was one I could help with.”

“Tell me about one,” I said, encouraging her to tell me another story about her childhood.

“I remember one cold spring,” she began, “when Pa came in from the barn carrying a tiny goat.”

“I’m not sure we can save this one.” Pa held the baby goat up for us to see. “The nanny had twins last night, and she’ll only let one come near her. I’m afraid this one’s almost gone.”

Ma agreed and hurried to find an old blanket and a box for a bed. She opened the oven door, put the box on it, and gently took the little goat and laid it on the blanket. It didn’t move at all. It just lay there, barely breathing.

“Oh, Ma,” I said. “Do you think it will live? Shouldn’t we give it something to eat?”

“It’s too weak to eat right now,” Ma replied. “Let it rest and get warm. Then we’ll try to feed it.”

Fortunately it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to go to school. I sat on the floor next to the oven and watched the goat. Sometimes it seemed as though it had stopped breathing, and I would call Ma to look.

“It’s still alive,” she assured me. “It just isn’t strong enough to move yet. You wait there and watch if you want to, but don’t call me again unless it opens its eyes.”

When Pa and my brothers came in for dinner, Reuben stopped and looked down at the tiny animal. “Doesn’t look like much, does it?”

I burst into tears. “It does so!” I howled. “It looks just fine! Ma says it’s going to open its eyes. Don’t discourage it!”

Reuben backed off in surprise, and Pa came over to comfort me. “Now, Reuben wasn’t trying to harm that goat. He just meant that it doesn’t … look like a whole lot.”

I started to cry again, and Ma tried to soothe me. “Crying isn’t going to help that goat one bit,” she said. “When it gets stronger, it will want something to eat. I’ll put some milk on to heat while we have dinner.”

I couldn’t leave my post long enough to go to the table, so Ma let me hold my plate in my lap. I ate dinner watching the goat. Suddenly it quivered and opened its mouth. “It’s moving, Ma!” I shouted. “You’d better bring the milk!”

Ma soaked a rag in the milk, and I held it while the little goat sucked it greedily. By the time it had fallen asleep again, I was convinced that it would be just fine.

And it was! By evening the little goat was standing on its wobbly legs and began to baa loudly for more to eat. “Pa, maybe you’d better bring its box into my room,” I suggested at bedtime.

“Whatever for?” Pa asked. “It will keep warm right here by the stove. We’ll look after it during the night. Don’t worry.”

“And we aren’t bringing your bed out here,” Ma added, anticipating my next suggestion. “You’ll have enough to do, watching that goat during the day.”

Of course Ma was right. As the goat got stronger, he began to look for things to do. At first he was content to grab anything within reach and pull it. Dish towels, apron strings, and tablecloth corners all fascinated him. I kept busy trying to move things out of his way.

From the beginning the little goat took a special liking to Ma, but she was not flattered. “I can’t move six inches in this kitchen without stumbling over that animal,” she sputtered. “He can be sound asleep in his box one minute and sitting on my feet the next. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate him in here.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t much longer. The next Monday, Ma prepared to do the washing in the washtub Pa had placed on two chairs near the woodpile. Ma always soaked the clothes in cold water first, then transferred them to the boiler on the stove.

I was in my room when I heard her shouting, “Now you put that down! Come back here!”

I ran to the kitchen door and watched as the goat circled the table with one of Pa’s shirts in his mouth. Ma was right behind him, but he managed to stay a few feet ahead of her.

“Step on the shirt, Ma!” I shouted as I ran into the room. “Then he’ll have to stop!”

I started around the table the other way, hoping to head him off. But the goat seemed to realize that he was outnumbered, for he suddenly turned and ran toward the chairs that held the washtub.

“Oh, no!” Ma cried. “Not that way!”

But it was too late! Tub, water, and clothes splashed to the floor. The goat danced stiff-legged through the soggy mess with a surprised look on his face.

“That’s enough!” Ma said. “I’ve had all I need of that goat. Take him out and tie him in the yard, Mabel. Then bring me the mop, please.”

I knew better than to say anything, but I was worried about what would happen to the goat. If he couldn’t come back in the kitchen, where would he sleep?

Pa had the answer to that. “He’ll go to the barn tonight.”

“But, Pa,” I protested, “he’s too little to sleep in the barn. Besides, he’ll think we don’t like him anymore!”

“He’ll think right,” Ma said. “He’s a menace, and he’s not staying in my kitchen another day.”

“But I like him,” I replied. “I feel sorry for him out there alone. If he has to sleep in the barn, let me go out and sleep with him!”

My two brothers looked at me in amazement.

“You?” Roy exclaimed. “You won’t even walk past the barn after dark, let alone go in!”

Everyone knew he was right. I had never been very brave about going outside after dark. But I was more concerned about the little goat than I was about myself.

“I don’t care,” I said stubbornly. “He’ll be scared out there, and he’s littler than I am.”

Ma didn’t say anything, probably because she thought I’d change my mind before dark. But I didn’t. When Pa started for the barn that evening, I was ready to go with him. Ma saw that I was determined, so she brought me a blanket.

“You’d better wrap up in this,” she said. “The hay is warm, but it’s pretty scratchy.”

I took the blanket and followed Pa and the goat out to the barn. The more I thought about the long, dark night, the less it seemed like a good idea, but I wasn’t going to give in or admit that I was afraid.

Pa found a good place for me to sleep. “This is nice and soft and out of the draft. You’ll be fine here.”

I rolled up in the blanket, hugging the goat close to me as I watched Pa check the animals. The light from the lantern cast long, scary shadows through the barn, and I thought about asking Pa if he would stay with me. I knew better, though, and all too soon he was ready to leave.

“Good night, Mabel. Sleep well,” he said as he closed the barn door behind him. I doubted that I would sleep at all. If it hadn’t been for the goat and my brothers who would laugh at me, I would have returned to the house at once. Instead I closed my eyes tightly and began to say my prayers. In a few moments the barn door opened, and Reuben’s voice called to me.

“Mabel,” he said, “it’s just me.” He came over to where I lay, and I saw that he had a blanket under his arm. “I thought I’d sleep out here tonight too. I haven’t slept in the barn for a long time. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh, no. That’s fine.” I turned over and fell asleep at once.

When I awoke in the morning, the goat and Reuben were both gone. Soon I found the goat curled up by his mother.

“Will you be sleeping in the barn again tonight?” Ma asked me at breakfast.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ll take care of the goat during the day, but I guess his mother can watch him at night.”

Grandma laughed at the memory. “After I grew up, I told Reuben how grateful I was that he came out to stay with me. I wonder how my family ever put up with all my foolishness.”

Grandma went back into the house, and I wandered out to the barn to see the little kittens. I decided I wouldn’t be brave enough to spend the night there even if I had a big brother to keep me company!

These were some of my favorite books growing up. I loved to hear that they were being re-released! I am super excited that I can now share these stories with my daughter. She loves them as much as I do. These books are keepsakes and great for passing down through the generations, adding your own stories to it! :) 

Monday, April 25, 2011

FIRST: The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley

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:

The Reluctant Detective

Monarch Books (March 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort and Noelle Pedersen of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Ockley lives in the North-East of England and has close links with the church, having grown up as the daughter of a minister. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction.

Visit the author's website.


Faith Morgan has lived her whole life in Birmingham. Her two careers, first as a policewoman, then as an inner-city parish minister have kept her close to her family, but also painfully close to her past. Now the picturesque country village of Little Worthy needs a new vicar. But Faith’s g trip to Little Worthy to consider if this is God’s will becomes a long-term commitment when the current vicar falls over dead during a communion service.

Faith suspects murder. And when the police are called in, Faith’s past follows her to Little Worthy in the shape of former partner and former boyfriend, Detective Inspector Ben Shorter.

Ben never understood her calling , but he will need her help if he is going to solve this. How will Faith balance her present calling with her past training, and her feelings for Ben? And is Faith in danger herself?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249851
ISBN-13: 978-1854249852


“You know I don’t like to complain.” Pat Montesque screwed up her soft cheeks into a fierce smile. “But I’ll tell you, Elsie, I was a tad put out. I’ve always done the altar arrangements – since before Vicar Alistair came. You need a good substantial block of colour and there she was putting up a great waxy lily and a couple of twigs. Striking simplicity! I ask you!”

Elsie Lively tut-tutted sympathetically. She was looking at her dear Arthur’s grave: probably thinking it needed a bit of a tidy, thought Pat. But then it was so difficult to get down on your knees at her age and well nigh impossible to get back up.

“Naturally I pointed out it wouldn’t do – not in that space. Who’s going to notice a single lily? The altar would be as good as bare. He said it was a misunderstanding. She’d only meant to help. Men!” She philosophized aloud. “What they don’t know about women! And as for men of the cloth…”


“What did you say, dear? Didn’t quite catch that.” Pat leaned down to the small, bent woman at her side with all the gracious condescension of a church officer to a valued lay member.

“Charitable – man of the cloth; a good thing.”

Dear Elsie. Always stating the obvious.

Pat was distracted. A stranger was getting out of a little blue car by the gate. It was one of those snub-nosed Japanese things they were forever advertising on the commercial channels.

“Now, who’s that?”

The newcomer was a young woman in her early thirties with glossy brown shoulder-length hair and a healthy outdoor tan. She was dressed in a crisp fifties-looking cotton shirt dress in dove grey. As she turned, the sun caught a discreet cross pinned to her lapel. The churchwarden’s nose twitched. It couldn’t be! The bishop wouldn’t do that to them – would he?

Faith Morgan looked down the path from the wicket gate. A couple of elderly ladies were standing by an evergreen bush, cataloguing her from head to foot. This was supposed to be a low-key visit – she was only investigating options, she told herself. It might lead to nothing but still, it wouldn’t do to get off on the wrong foot with the locals.

The parish church of St James’s in Little Worthy rose sturdy and enduring with its sunlit graveyard at its feet. According to the guidebooks, stones in the tower had been part of a church here since Saxon times. Faith felt a wash of pleasure and peace. This place of worship had served its community for nearly a thousand years. There could hardly be a greater contrast to the gritty, uncertain, challenging chaos of the urban parish she was thinking of leaving. A pang of guilt interrupted her moment of euphoria. The face of her mentor, Canon Jonathan, came to mind, fixing her with one of his wry looks. His tart comment echoed in her head: Little Worthy, Faith? A congregation of eight – if you’re lucky – with an average age of seventy; a fund-raising nightmare to crush the heart of a saint!

Her eyes searched the roof line. Bound to be Grade I listed. Maintaining Saxon masonry couldn’t be cheap. It all seemed in good shape. Besides, there were always the heritage funds…

The bells began another peal, and the whiff of vanilla from a nearby shrub struck her with a breath of nostalgia. She had been here more than once as a child with Ruth and Dad on his bell-ringing outings. Those convivial summer Sundays with the dads and their kids and the occasional mother. After church they would go to the pub across the green – still called The Hare and Hounds, she noted happily. The dads would take off their ties and swap stories while she and Ruth sat outside with their lime shandies on benches of sun-warmed wood. You can never go back, she mused, so what was she doing back here?

She rallied. There was nothing wrong with peaceful continuity. Decency deserved to be cherished too.

There was a little time yet before the service began. Faith avoided the main approach and followed a gravel path around the back of the church. A creamy cloud of ivory clematis cascaded over a grey stone wall. Beyond, a solitary pony raised its chestnut head to gaze mournfully at her from a field of weeds. Some way off squatted a group of ramshackle farm buildings.

There was a well-worn track leading from the vestry door. Through a clump of limes she glimpsed the corner of what she thought must be the vicarage.

A dark-haired young man in jeans and a rumpled striped shirt strode out of the church. He had an angular face and the coltish appearance of not having quite grown into his bones. Behind him, a distinguished-looking fifty-something clergyman in surplice and cassock filled the doorway. That must be the incumbent, Alistair Ingram, thought Faith, wondering if she should introduce herself. He called out to the retreating youth, who turned back briefly to make a dismissive pushing gesture with both hands. She was about to step forward when she registered the youth’s expression: disdain, fury, and something else. Triumph? Faith turned away, embarrassed. It felt like a private matter; she shouldn’t be spying. She retraced her steps and entered the church.

The transition from sunlight to cool interior blinded her briefly. In a pool of clarity, Faith saw a service sheet held out in a meaty hand. It belonged to a cheery-looking man in a red waistcoat and a moss-green tweed jacket. He was smiling at her as if they knew one another.

“Fred Partridge,” he pronounced in a carrying voice. “Churchwarden. Pleased to have you with us.” He winked conspiratorially as he turned to greet a couple coming in behind her.

Faith slid into an unoccupied pew. There were twenty or so worshippers scattered about. Not a bad turnout for a small country church on the fifth Sunday in Lent. Her eyes settled on the little bent woman who had been outside as she arrived. She was arranging her hymnal and prayer book on the shelf before her with delicate, twisted hands. Her fine silver hair was folded into a thin bun secured by a network of old-fashioned two-pronged pins.

A presence blocked the light from the door. The formidable-looking lady who had been sizing her up as she arrived was standing in the aisle looking at her with speculating grey eyes. She was solid, with a healthy complexion, probably in her late sixties or early seventies, dressed in what Faith’s mother would refer to as “good clothes”.

“You’ve met my fellow churchwarden, I see,” she said. She had a round face and a hint of Morningside gentility in her voice. “I’m Patricia Montesque, the other one,” she stated brusquely.

Faith gave her best smile and held out her hand to have it clasped briefly in paper-dry fingers.

“I’m pleased to meet you. Faith Morgan. I’m visiting for the weekend – my sister lives locally. I have fond memories of Little Worthy. We used to come here when I was a child.”

“So you like our little church?”

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Faith responded warmly. “So well proportioned, and a lovely, comfortable feel about it.”

They contemplated the nave together.

“That’s a striking arrangement,” Faith remarked, indicating the display of lilacs and ivory viburnum by the altar. It was a deliberate ploy. Pat Montesque seemed the kind who was almost certain to do the flower arrangements. She was right. The churchwarden’s face relaxed into a narrow smile.

“Not one of my best, I’m afraid. I was rather rushed. But lilacs do give a lovely block of colour.” She inclined her perfectly coiffed head in a faintly regal manner. “So you’ve family in the area, then?”

“I was born in Winchester…”

“Winchester! Barely twenty minutes away. You’re almost a native.”


“I’m just a newcomer, of course – hardly been here twenty years!” Pat Montesque gave a hard little laugh. “Not like dear Elsie Lively there.” She nodded in the direction of the silver-haired lady with the bun. “She’s Little Worthy born and bred. Ran the post office for half a century. A close-knit lot, the old families – but we have a very friendly parish here,” she ended firmly.

Faith remembered the post office. They had sold old-fashioned sweets: shell-shaped sherbets and Parma violets. She could almost smell the sugar. Ruth always chose liquorice; not because she particularly liked the taste, but for the way it stained her tongue black.

“So you haven’t met our vicar, Alistair?”

Faith was surprised by the challenge. Pat flicked a significant look at the cross pinned to her dress. So I’ve been rumbled, Faith thought.

“I haven’t had the pleasure,” she said.

“He’s a good pastor. A bit of a liberal, some thought when he first came, but he’s sound enough in the essentials. And very good with the finances.” Pat paused. “He’s leaving us, you know.”

“I had heard something of the kind,” murmured Faith. To think she had meant to slip in and out with being noticed. She should have known better. Rural parishes always had a Pat Montesque.

“Mmm. A bit of a dicky heart. He looks wonderfully well, but…” Her tone implied something more.

A petite woman with smooth, long fair hair, wearing a simple cotton dress came out of the vestry.

“…decided to take early retirement,” continued Pat.

The blonde had striking long-lashed blue eyes and a neat-featured prettiness that retained an element of youthful innocence, although she might have turned forty – it was hard to tell. She saw the churchwarden looking at her, and gave a little girl lost smile before leaning over a pew to exchange greetings with a young mother trying to hold a squirming toddler in her lap.

Pat turned back to Faith apparently as an afterthought. “You’ll be staying for coffee after the service?” Without waiting for a response, she was gone.

Could this place feel like home? Could these people ever be her people?

Faith studied the faces around her – silver-haired Elsie; the doting mother shadowing her small determined son as he ventured out down the aisle; the ruddy-faced man with the jacket too short in the sleeve, who couldn’t be anything else but an English farmer; a single black family with mother and father and a boy and a girl dressed in smart Sunday clothes. Faith’s eyes drifted up into the barrelled roof. There was such comfortable familiarity about the space. Why should that make her feel guilty?

Guilt. Purpose. Being of use. From the very first, Faith had always known that she wanted to be part of some greater purpose. That desire had led her into the police force. And, for a while, she thought she had found her place: to serve and protect; to bring the guilty to account; to protect the weak. That was what had first brought her and Ben together.

Running away, Faith?

I am not.

Ben always seemed to engage life so directly; he was unflinching, so sure of himself.

She was daydreaming. She could see Ben staring her down. Taking refuge, Faith? Never thought you were a coward.

You know I’m not, she protested the thought.

The rhythm of the old argument circled in her mind; the argument they had recycled so many times. It had moved them further and further apart, until she had left him – Ben, her lover, her mentor, her inspiration, once.

I can’t hold on to your certainties any more.

He had been so hurt. She couldn’t make him understand that it wasn’t about him. It had been something so personal; each step on her path to the ministry had seemed undeniable.

Her eyes came to rest on a stained-glass window panel leaning against the wall in the shadows beyond the pews. She guessed it must have been taken down on its way for repair. A glass section was cracked through and the leading twisted. The echo of the panel’s shape above was boarded up. A haloed lamb stood on a stretch of gaudy emerald grass. The Victorian artist had given the lamb a smiling, enigmatic expression. The Lamb of God.

Running away from reality.

That’s what he’d called it. To Ben, it had been a betrayal. And was he right? Was she seeking refuge from the world?

She looked around the congregation. These were people, individual persons, with their complicated lives, their struggles, their fears, their sins, their souls.

An intelligent, capable woman past thirty – with a degree, no less – buying into this delusion… for what? Ben always challenged her. They’d been a good team, once.

What am I doing?

Finding out.

That voice was somehow neither her own nor Ben’s. God and she often spoke like that. He would enter the conversation in her brain – not exactly unexpectedly. She had a sense he’d always been there. But since she had taken this turn – embraced this risk and embarked on the ministry – the sense of a presence, of an enduring and constant friend, had grown.

Finding out. The sense of opening horizons warmed and excited her. But then, what about Ben? He had moved back to Winchester more than a year ago.

And why should that matter one way or the other? He had his world now and she had hers.

The organist finished up with a self-important chord. The vicar was standing before them. Faith pulled her thoughts back to concentrate on the service.

Alistair Ingram took a step towards the altar draped in its Lenten purple, and the choir embarked on the Agnus Dei. Faith suppressed a smile as Pat Montesque’s forceful soprano rose above the rest.

“Lamb of God,

You take away the sin of the world.”

The vicar’s voice was clear and impressive. Faith wondered briefly if her own lighter tones could ever carry the words so well. Then she was caught up in the familiar comfort of their meaning.

“Jesus is the Lamb of God,

Who takes away the sin of the world.

Blessed are those who are called to his supper.”

Alistair Ingram spread out his arms to encompass his congregation. Sunlight, tinted by the stained glass in the window behind him, painted pastel blue and red on the white linen runner laid on top of the purple cloth.


He picked up the communion cup and drank.

The toddler escaped from his mother and made a break for freedom past the communion rail, his feet pattering in quick uneven steps. What perfect timing. There had to be a life metaphor in that. Faith was pondering how children brought life into a church when her ears registered the choking rasp from the direction of the altar.

Alistair Ingram was staring out at nothing, his eyes wide, his chest heaving. Faith saw in slow motion. The chalice dropped from his hands. It hit the edge of the table. Wine flowed out red over the white cloth and stained the purple black. The empty cup rolled off the altar and struck the stone flags.

Alistair Ingram was no longer standing before them. Clutching at his chest and tearing at his vestments, he sat heavily on the steps.

The mother caught her son up in her arms. She turned his head into her shoulder, covering his face. Alistair slumped sideways. Faith realized that she was standing in the aisle, then she began to run towards the chancel steps.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Interview with Denise Hunter, author of A Cowboy's Touch

Do the secrets from our past affect who we become in the future?

Can the hurts we’ve experienced really prevent us from finding true fulfillment?

In her release, A Cowboy’s Touch, award-winning author Denise Hunter will explore these questions, and readers will discover that “the truth really can set us free.”

As the first book in the Big Sky Romance series, A Cowboy’s Touch is the story about a truthseeker who ends up discovering the real truth and a cowboy who learns to let go of his past. Hunter shines as she draws her readers into an intriguing world of boots, chaps and cowboy hats. This heartwarming romance is a story of love, pain and forgiveness. It has also been named a Women of Faith novel for 2011.

Hunter can also talk about encouraging others to go for their dream of becoming a writer. She talks more about that in her interview below.

An interview with author Denise Hunter:

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you first begin to write?

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t start dreaming about writing a novel until I was in my early twenties. By then I was married and busy pursuing a degree. I put writing on the back burner until my grandfather became fatally ill. While I was visiting him in the hospital, I was struck by the brevity of life and felt God pressing on my heart to take the first step. I started my first novel a couple weeks later. I had two small children by this time, so I wrote while they napped. I wrote my first four books that way. Even if you can only write a page a day, by the end of a year you’ll have a complete manuscript!

Q: Are you a small town or a city girl? What inspired you to write a book about the life of a cowboy?

I’m a little of both. We live in a country setting just outside the city. It’s the best of both worlds. There’s something very earthy and organic about a cowboy’s life. I was drawn by the idea of living off the land. I think it takes us to a simpler time and place—even though the life of a cowboy is not necessarily simple! And Montana is such a beautiful state. I thought my readers might like to journey there with me through story.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what you have learned about the cowboy lifestyle while doing research for this book?

I learned a lot of fascinating details about the workings of a ranch: branding, breeding, cattle disease, etc. But what I came away with is a great respect for cowboys and their families. Those who choose this way of life do it because they love it. It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Q: Abigail’s title at her job is “the Truthseeker.” What is the significance of this title, and what do you think a real truthseeker does?

I thought it would be interesting to write about a protagonist whose job was to seek the truth and have her find out that she was missing the real Truth the whole time. Since Jesus is the Truth, a real truthseeker follows Him.

Q: Forgiveness seems to be a recurring theme in your books. Why do you feel it is so important? Your main characters both dealt with forgiving their past mistakes. Do you think that it is just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive the mistakes of others?

With sin rampant in all of us, this is something we need to get good at! Eventually, someone’s going to do something you struggle to forgive. I think this is partly because forgiveness is easily misunderstood. It’s not saying that what they did is okay. It’s saying that you’re not going to hold it over them anymore. I do think it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others. Oftentimes, it’s even harder.

Q: Abigail and Wade both threw themselves into their work in order to escape their pasts. Do you believe it is easy to find an escape in work in order to hide from our problems?

No one likes to hurt, so I think the tendency is to avoid it however we can. Throwing ourselves into our work is certainly one way of doing so. But these things have a way of bubbling up to the surface eventually, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

Q: What would you like your readers to take away after reading A Cowboy’s Touch?

Abigail was essentially trying to work off her guilt. She thought if she could just keep exposing other peoples’ wrongs, it would appease her own guilt. I’d like readers to see that only God can redeem us.

A Cowboy’s Touch by Denise Hunter

Thomas Nelson/March 29, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59554-801-6/320 pages/paperback/$14.99 ~

For review copy and interview information, contact:

Audra Jennings
Senior Media Specialist
The B&B Media Group
1-800-927-0517 Ext. 104 - ajennings(at)
Visit us on the web at or our blog at
We are also on Facebook and Twitter (audrajennings and TBBMediaGroup)!
“A Media Communications Company”

109 S. Main - Corsicana, TX 75110
Fax: 903-872-0518

Since 1987, The B & B Media Group, Inc. has used its broadcasting, marketing, and advertising experience to provide the specialized and strategic publicity necessary to achieve the public relations goals of each client. The Barnabas Agency, a division of The B & B Media Group, Inc., is a proven provider of exceptional public relations and personal management services for authors, speakers, ministries and organizations.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

A Cowboy's Touch (A Big Sky Romance)A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very sweet, tender romance of a well-known writer and a rancher. Abigail is on a mother-ordered sabbatical from work to go to Montana and and check on her Aunt Lucy. She is not too sure what to make of Aunt Lucy when she arrives in the land of the giant sky, especially when Aunt Lucy talks to her dolls as though they are living. One day while helping Aunt Lucy in her shop, a sweet little girl named Maddy walks in crying because someone stole her back. Abby is now on a mission to help this little girl. That one act of kindness has Maddy running home to her daddy Wade and begging him to hire Abby as her next nanny. So much for R & R!

I loved this story because, while it was Christian fiction, it pushed the limits a bit. I haven't read much "edgy" Christian fiction but I loved it and would recommend it. Some may not appreciate the tender romance talk (even though it is entirely appropriate!). I have always loved stories involving cowboys and Wade is a looker! Many times, however, I found myself mad at him...but then again, he's entitled to a few things!

Many thanks to The B&B Media Group for providing a copy for review.

View all my reviews

COTT: Winner's Article

Naomi Musch and the opening paragraphs from her historical novel, The Green Veil.
Naomi takes the title in her clash against the very worthy runner-up, Karen Baney, author of A Dream Unfolding.
A snippet from Naomi's winning passage:
Pain seared Colette's temples, neck, and shoulders. Behind her eyelids, everything blazed like a powder keg of dynamite going off inside her. Explosions roared and blasts glared - red, and now and then a streak of hot white. She stirred on the bed, and her satin dress rustled.

Naomi says her best ideas come from overlooked portions of history she stumbles upon and in The Green Veil those include lumberjacks, land barons, and mill owners racing to control the pine lands in 1840s Wisconsin Territory. To read more about the book and find out what her favorite reads of the last year were, check out her interview ith COTT's Senior Editor April Gardner here.
What did readers have to say? A few comments from our voters:

"Excerpt A grabbed my heart. I found myself hurting for Colette, wishing there was something I could do to save her from her plight. Beautiful work."

"I wished I could pick both. I chose A simply because of the references to the book of Esther, one of my favorite accounts in the Bible."

"Wow, I really enjoyed that pine book."
Naomi responded to her win:
Oh WOW! Thank you to everyone at COTT for allowing me to be part of this month's clash, and for all those who stopped by and voted for either mine or Karen's book. What a way to start the Easter weekend! 
There are two more Opening Hooks to vote on this week, so head over to Clash of the Titles and let your voice be heard! A free copy of each competing book will be given away to two lucky readers--you can increase your odds by voting, commenting, sharing our link, or joining our Blog AllianceTell us whose blog sent you here to give them an extra entry too!
Have fun!

bio: Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist, as well as Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles . Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook, and her blog Adventures in Writing

Monday, April 18, 2011

No Safe Haven by Kimberley & Kayla Woodhouse

No Safe HavenNo Safe Haven by Kimberley Woodhouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This highly suspenseful book covers a story of a young girl who has just been given her life back and her mother. Andie and Jenna have faced so much adversity, from Andie's diagnosis to the loss of Andie's father/Jenna's husband. This plane ride home is a celebration. That is, until their trusted friend Hank slugs a last minute passenger and the plane goes down. For days, the girls, along with the unknown passenger Cole, try to reach safety. Cole finally breaks down and tells Jenna that someone is trying to kill her and Andie.

Andie in her sweet way tries to reach Cole with her message of Christ. Cole is a hard one to crack though. Something or someone is preventing him from loving God. Rather, he blames Him.

A pivotal turn comes about when Andie recognizes Cole's's just like her dad's. Did he know him? If so, how? Only when they are able to radio for help does the whole truth come out. Will the girls ever be safe again?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially reading about the terrain in Alaska. I was fortunate enough to visit Anchorage and the surrounding areas about 15 years ago. It's the most beautiful place I've ever seen before! I wasn't not aware that there are so many different names for the mountains. Learning (very) little about the Athabaskan culture was also interesting to me. The suspense built into the story seemed to compound with every page turn. You don't know who is good and who is bad because the details keep on coming out each character!

Some readers may be turned off by the amount of "God talk" in this book as Andie does spend a lot of time trying to convince various characters to find God. While I do not agree (nor does the Bible) that salvation comes from praying God into your heart as a sole action (there are 5 steps to salvation...hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and baptism), I would still recommend this book for it's clean fictional value.

View all my reviews

COTT: Hook, Line, or Stinker?

Authors and readers agree, those first words of a book are of vital importance. Some allow several chapters to convince them, others—no more than a few paragraphs.
Authors feel the weight of this responsibility as they sit down to pen those first lines. At least they should!
The older I get, the pickier I become about which novels I finish. I realized this last month, when I started a book and was struck by the lack of white space—those gaps between paragraphs. More white space = more dialogue. I flipped through the first chapter, then the book, and when I found massive paragraphs dominating the pages, I tossed it in my “donate to library” pile. Apparently, I like dialogue--so much, that a lack of it made me close the book before finishing the first page.
I used to feel compunction over setting aside a book that didn’t hold my attention.  Now, my free time is more scarce and thus, more valuable. When I only have an hour a day to enjoy a book, I want it to be a good one. I want to be swept away to a foreign land or time. I want to be kept there until The End forces me home.
The more I read, the more I define which styles of writing I enjoy and which I don’t.  This process is shorter and shorter every year, which means books have less time to grab my attention.
I’m curious. How much weight do you, dear reader, put into the first pages of a book? Do you feel obligated to finish it once you’ve started?
Below, you’ll find a survey that will remain open for at least the next week. Let’s have some fun! And be sure to visit Clash of the Titles throughout the week to read our author interviews!
Article by April Gardner: A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her children, while her husband serves a tour in the Middle East. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.
She is the best-selling author of Wounded Spirits.
Contact April: aprilgardnerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com
April's blog. Find April on Facebook.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Friday, April 15, 2011

FIRST: Diagnosis Death by Richard Mabry

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:

Diagnosis Death

Abingdon Press (April 2011)


Richard L. Mabry, MD, is a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a writer, speaker, and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement. His first novel, Code Blue, was published by Abingdon in the Spring of 2010, followed by Medical Error that fall. He is also the author of one non-fiction book, and his inspirational pieces have appeared in numerous periodicals. He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas.

Visit the author's website and blog blog.


Removing life support can be a killer!

When her comatose husband died in the ICU while on life support, the whispers about Dr. Elena Gardner began. They were stronger after another patient died in ICU. After she took up practice in a small town, the whispers turned to a shout: “mercy killer.”

Then there were the midnight phone calls that started after her husband’s death. Who was the woman who sobbed out, “I know what you did?” And how could Elena stop the calls that tortured her?

Two physicians, widowers themselves, tell Elena they know what she is going through. But do they? And is it safe to trust either of them?

What was the dark secret that kept Elena’s lips sealed when she should be defending herself? Would what she did in her husband’s ICU room turn out to be a prescription for trouble?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426710216
ISBN-13: 978-1426710216



She stood by his bedside and waited for him to die.

Outside the room, the machines and monitors of the ICU hummed and beeped, doctors and nurses went about their business, and the hospital smell—equal parts antiseptic and despair—hung heavy in the air.

With one decisive move she flipped the switch of the respirator and stilled the machine’s rhythmic chuffing. In the silence that followed, she imagined she could hear his heartbeat fade away.

She kissed him and exhaled what passed for a prayer, her lips barely moving as she asked for peace and forgiveness—for him and for her.

She stood for a moment with her head bowed, contemplating the enormity of her action. Then she pocketed the empty syringe from the bedside table and tiptoed out of the room.


Dr. Elena Gardner approached her apartment as she had every night for six months—filled with emptiness and dread. The feeling grew with each step, and by the time she put the key in the door, fear enveloped her like a shroud. Some nights it was all she could do to put her foot over the threshold. This was one of those nights.

She turned the key and pushed open the door. The dark shadows reached out at her like a boogeyman from her childhood. The utter stillness magnified every sound in the old apartment, turning creaking boards into the footsteps of an unknown enemy.

She flipped on the light and watched the shadows turn into familiar surroundings. Even though the thermostat was set at a comfortable temperature, she shivered a bit.

Elena dropped her backpack by the door and collapsed into the one comfortable chair in the living room. The TV remote was in its usual place on the table beside her. She punched the set into life, paying no attention to what was on. Didn’t matter. Just something to drown out the silence, something to remind her that there was life outside these four walls. That somewhere there were people who could laugh and joke and have fun. Somewhere.

She sighed and picked up the phone. She should call David.

He’d been firm about it. “Call me anytime, but especially when you get home at night. That’s the toughest time. It’s when the memories butt heads with the ‘what-ifs.’”

She dialed the number. Maybe she should put him on her speed dial. But that implied there wouldn’t be an end to this soon. And she wasn’t ready to think about that.

“Hey, Elena.” Although Dr. David Merritt—a resident physician in one of the busiest obstetrics programs in the Southwest—was surely as tired as she was, his voice sounded fresh, almost cheery. “What’s up?”

“Oh, you know. Just needed to hear a friendly voice.”

“Glad to oblige. How was your day?”

That was one of the things Elena missed most. Now that Mark was gone, there was no one to share her day. “Not too bad until I was about to check out. The EMT’s brought in a thirty-two-year-old woman, comatose from a massive intracranial hemorrhage. The neurosurgeons rushed her to surgery, but––”

She knew David could guess the rest. He cleared his throat. “Did that…was it tough to take?”

Elena started to make some remark about it not bothering her. But that wasn’t true. And she knew David wanted the truth. “Yeah. Not while it was happening. Then I was pretty much on automatic pilot. But afterward, I almost had a meltdown.”

“It’ll get better.”

“I hope so.”

“Any more phone calls?”

Elena felt goose bumps pop up on her arms. “Not yet. But it’s Tuesday, so I expect one later tonight.”

“Why don’t you call the police?”

“What, and tell them that for four weeks I’ve answered the phone every Tuesday at midnight and heard a woman sobbing, then a hang-up? That’s not a police matter.”

“And you—”

“I know what they’ll ask. Caller ID? ‘Anonymous.’ Star 69? ‘Subscriber has blocked this service.’ Then they’ll tell me to change my number. Well, this one’s unlisted, but that doesn’t seem to matter. How much trouble would it be for whoever’s calling to get the new one?”

David’s exhalation was like a gentle wind. “Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“You’ve done plenty already. You know, after Mark died, I had a lot of people fuss over me for about three days, but you’re the only one who’s stayed with it. Why?”

His silence made her think she’d asked an embarrassing question. People didn’t go out of their way to be nice the way David had with no thought of something in return. Did they?

“Elena, I’ve been where you are,” David said. “Oh, I know. A spouse divorcing you isn’t the same as one dying, but a lot of the feelings are the same. I mean, when I saw my wife and little girl pull away from the house for the last time, I wanted to lie down and die.”

She knew exactly what he was talking about. “That’s me. I wanted to crawl into the coffin with Mark. At that point, my life was over.”

“But I got past it,” David said. “Oh, I didn’t ‘heal.’ You don’t get back to where you were, but you learn to move on. And when Carol sent me the invitation to her wedding, it broke my heart, but it helped me realize that part of my life was over. Anyway, I made up my mind to use what I’d learned to help other people. And that’s what I’m doing.”

Elena sniffled. “Sorry.” She pulled a tissue from her pocket and dabbed at her eyes. “That’s another thing. I feel like tears are always right there, ready to come anytime.”

“That’s normal. Let them out.”

They talked for a few minutes more before Elena ended the conversation. She wandered into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and looked in without seeing the contents. She wasn’t hungry. Since Mark’s death she’d lost twelve pounds off a frame that had little to spare. Maybe she should patent the process. “Sure-fire weight loss guaranteed. Withdraw life support and let your husband die. If you don’t lose weight, double your money back.”

Her lips drew back in what started as a hesitant smile but turned into a grimace of pain. She dissolved into tears.

Elena wasn’t sure how long she sat at the kitchen table with her head cradled in her arms before the ring of the phone roused her. She looked at her watch. A little after nine—too early for her midnight caller. Had the routine changed?

She shuffled back to the living room. When she checked the caller ID, she felt some of her tension subside. Dr. Helen Bennett represented the only ray of sunshine in Elena’s dark landscape right now.


“Elena, did I wake you?”

“No, not really. Just starting to unwind. What’s up?”

“We need to talk.”

That didn’t sound promising. “Wow, that sounds like what I used to tell boys in college before breaking up with them. What’s going on?”

“I’d rather do this face to face. Why don’t we have breakfast tomorrow morning? I usually make rounds at six-thirty. Can you meet me in the St. Paul Hospital staff cafeteria at six? We can talk then.”

Elena hung up with a growing sense of unease. Mark’s death had plunged her into a dark abyss. The only glimmer of hope for a future had been Dr. Helen Bennett’s offer to join her practice. The opportunity to work alongside a woman who was one of the most respected family practitioners in the community, a doctor Elena had admired since her days in medical school, seemed like a gift from above. Was that about to be taken from her?

The evening dragged on as Elena worried about the problem like a kitten with a ball of yarn. Finally, she ate some peanut butter and crackers, forced down a glass of milk. She’d shower in the morning. Right now, she just wanted to crawl into bed.

Sleep was elusive as a glob of mercury. She picked up the book from her bedside table and tried to read, but the words blurred on the page. Finally, she closed the book, turned out the light, and tried to sleep. Instead, she watched the red numerals on her bedside clock change: 10:00, 10:40, 11:15.

She was tossing in a restless slumber when she heard the ring of the phone. The clock showed 12:05 as Elena reached for the receiver. Her left hand clutched the covers tighter around her as her right lifted the phone and brought it to her ear.

At first there was silence. Maybe this was simply a wrong number. Maybe the calls had stopped.

No, there it was. Sobbing. Starting softly, then rising to a crescendo. A woman’s voice—a husky alto, like a lounge singer in a smoky, second-rate club.

“Who is this?” Elena said.

No answer. Only sobbing.

“What do you want?” Elena’s voice rose to a shriek.

A click. Then silence.

Elena stabbed blindly at the phone’s “end” button, finally hitting it as an electronic voice began, “If you’d like to make a call—”

She turned on the bedside lamp and stared at the cheap lithograph on the opposite wall. In it, a young man and woman were walking through a field of flowers. They looked so happy. Like she and Mark had been.

But he was gone, and she’d never be happy again. Ever.

She reached for the light, but withdrew her hand. No, leave it burning. Elena burrowed deeply under the covers, the way she used to do as a child after hearing a ghost story. She closed her eyes and watched the images march across her brain: endless days spent at the bedside of a living corpse, Mark’s casket disappearing into the ground, a faceless woman at some shadowy location sobbing into a phone.

As the sound of those sobs echoed through Elena’s mind, that image of a face from her past came into focus. Was that who was calling? If so, there was nothing Elena could do. She’d simply suffer . . . because she deserved it.

* * *

Elena slapped at the snooze button on her alarm clock. Why was it buzzing already? Then she remembered—her breakfast with Dr. Bennett. What had Helen meant by, “We need to talk?”

Her stomach did a flip-flop, and she tasted a bitter mix of peanut butter and bile. Maybe some coffee would help.

Elena padded to the kitchen and reached into the cabinet, wishing she’d had the foresight to make coffee before going to bed last night. The weight of the canister told her before she removed the lid—empty. She filled a glass at the sink and drank the contents, hoping to at least wash the bad taste from her mouth.

A quick shower brought her a bit more awake. Now for hair and makeup. Elena had always taken pride in her resemblance to her mother, a beautiful woman with dark, Latina looks. But long days at the hospital followed by sleepless nights took their toll.

There were dark circles under her eyes, the brown irises surrounded by a network of red. A few drops of Visine, and she looked less like the survivor of an all-night drinking spree. She’d cover the circles with a little make-up and hope Dr. Bennett didn’t notice.

Elena ran her hands through her long, black hair. She needed a haircut, needed it in the worst way. But there was neither time nor money for that right now. She’d pull it into the always-utilitarian ponytail she’d favored more and more lately.

Dressed, her backpack slung over one shoulder, her purse over the other, she stepped through the door into the early morning darkness, in no way ready to face the day. It was bad already. She hoped it wouldn’t get worse.

* * *

The ride in the elevator was three floors up, but Elena’s stomach felt as though she was in a free fall. She didn’t have to do this today. When Helen Bennett called, she should have put this visit on “hold.” But something told her she needed to get it out of the way.

The elevator doors slid open, and the scene before her made memories scroll across her mind like a filmstrip unwinding. The waiting area of the ICU at Zale University Hospital was quiet at 5:30 a.m. The television set high on the far wall flickered with silent images as closed captions of the local news crawled across the bottom of the screen. An older man huddled in a chair near the “Staff Only” door, glancing every few seconds toward that portal as though Gabriel himself were about to come through it with news of his loved one.

Elena knew the feeling. For two weeks, she’d spent much of every day in this same waiting room. The rest of the time, the minutes not spent snatching a quick bite in the cafeteria or hurrying home for a shower and change of clothes, were spent at her husband’s bedside, holding his hand and listening to the even rhythm of the respirator that kept him alive. Her heart bled for the old man and for every other person who’d ever sat in this room.

Elena was pleased when her final training assignment took her away from Zale, the place where her life fell apart. St. Paul Hospital was less than half a mile away, but she welcomed every foot of that buffer. When she walked out of Zale for the last time, she silently vowed never to return.

Now she was back, and she still wasn’t sure of her reason. Was it to add the books from the box balanced on her hip to the dog-eared paperbacks next to the volunteer’s desk? Or was it to show she had the courage to revisit the scene of the most terrible two weeks of her life? No matter, she was here. She clenched her jaw and forced her feet to move.

“Dr. Gardner. What are you doing here?”

Elena looked up at the nurse emerging from the elevator. The woman’s name tickled at the periphery of Elena’s memory like a loose hair. What was it?

“Oh. You startled me.”

“Sorry. What brings you back here?”

Elena held up a handful of books and shoved them into the bookcase. “These are some of Mark’s––” Her throat closed up and words left her. With an effort, she began again. “I was going through some of Mark’s things and thought these might help the people in the waiting room pass the time.”

The nurse moved closer and Elena sneaked a look at her nametag. Karri Lawson. Of course. How could she forget Karri? The pretty brunette had been the nurse responsible for Mark’s care almost the entire time he was in the ICU. In fact Karri had been Mark’s nurse the day––. Elena shook her head. Don’t go there. Don’t go back.

If Karri noticed Elena’s discomfort, she made no mention of it. Instead, she gave Elena a brief hug. “I haven’t seen you since…since that day. I’m sorry for your loss.” She made a gesture toward the closed doors leading to the ICU. “We all are.”

Elena had heard “sorry for your loss” so many times, it was almost meaningless. Her response was automatic. “Thank you.”

“Would you like to come in and see the other staff?” Karri looked at her watch. “The day shift isn’t here yet, but there may be some nurses you remember from when…from your time here.”

“I don’t think so.” Elena reached out and touched Karri on the shoulder. “I have a meeting. But tell everyone hello for me. Tell them I said, ‘thanks.’”

* * *

“The coffee here is surprisingly good,” Elena said. “Everyone always says that hospital food, especially hospital coffee, is terrible.”

“I agree,” Helen Bennett said. “I wish my receptionist could make coffee like this. She’s a jewel, but in fifteen years with me she’s never learned to make coffee that doesn’t taste like it’s brewed from homogenized tire treads.”

“Don’t be too hard on her, Helen. I’m looking forward to working with her. And with you, of course.”

Helen placed her mug on the table as carefully as an astronaut docking the space shuttle. “Well, that’s what we need to talk about.” She looked around to make sure there was no one within earshot. Around them, the cafeteria was filled with bleary-eyed residents, medical students, and nurses, but no one seemed interested in the conversation at their table. “I’m afraid you’re not going to be working with my receptionist, or my nurse, or me.”


Helen stemmed Elena’s words with an upraised hand. “Let me give you the whole story. Then I can answer questions if you have any—assuming you’re still speaking to me by then.”

The hollow feeling in Elena’s stomach intensified.

“I’ve been in private practice for fifteen years, going it alone. There aren’t many of us left in solo situations, but I’ve held out. I’ve managed to get other doctors in various groups to share call with me, but lately that’s been somewhere between difficult and impossible.”

“I know. That’s why you wanted to bring me into the practice,” Elena said.

“True, but that’s changed. The Lincoln Clinic has approached me to join their family practice section. Actually, they want me to head it. They’ve made me a great offer. Not just the money, although that’s good. The whole package seems tailor-made for me. I’ll be supervising six other doctors, and I’ll be exempt from night call. A great retirement plan and benefits.” Helen looked down at the tabletop. “I couldn’t turn it down.”

Elena’s mind scrambled for a solution. The ship was sinking, and she grabbed for something to keep her afloat. “So, why don’t I take over your practice? I can buy you out. I mean, I won’t have the money right way, but I can pay you over several years. It’ll be sort of like an annuity for you.”

Helen was already shaking her head. “No, one part of the deal was that I bring my patients with me. The clinic will hire both my receptionist and nurse, and give them a good package as well. They’ll even buy my equipment from me. I’ve already terminated the office lease. I’m moving out in ninety days.”

Elena forced back the tears she felt forming. “Helen, do you realize what this does to me?”

“I know. I just—”

“No.” Elena worked to keep her voice level. “You don’t know. You don’t know how I’ve struggled to get through my residency after Mark’s death. You have no idea what it meant to me to have a practice waiting for me. No need to lease space, to remodel and buy equipment. No waiting to build up a practice. There’d be a guaranteed income and a chance to pay off a mountain of debt.”


Elena shook her head. “I finish my residency in less than a month. Thirty days! Now you’ve pulled the rug out from under me. I have four weeks to find a way to do the only thing I know how to do—practice medicine.” She turned her back to Helen, thinking that Helen had done the same thing to her. “No, I realize this is good for you, but I don’t think you really know the effect it has on me.”

“Elena, I had to do this. Once you get over the shock, you’ll think about it and agree. But listen, I’m not going to leave you hanging.”

Elena turned back to face the woman who’d been her mentor, the friend who was now betraying her. “What do you mean?”

“The clinic gave me a very short deadline to accept or reject their offer. I only made my final decision this weekend. But the second call I made, after the one to the clinic administrator, was to your chair, Dr. Amy Gross. She and I are both putting out feelers for a place you can practice.” Helen reached across the table and patted Elena’s shoulder. “We know how hard this past three months have been on you. We worry about you. And believe me, we won’t abandon you now. God has something out there for you. Trust Him.”

Elena drained the last of the coffee from her cup. When she set it down, she knocked her fork off the table. The dull clank of silverware on vinyl floor was barely audible over the low hum of voices that filled the cafeteria. “Trust God? I don’t think so. I trusted Him when Mark lay there fighting for his life, but it didn’t seem to do any good.”

“I know. But He’s still in control.”

Elena shook her head, while one more hobgoblin joined those already dancing in her brain.

I have downloaded this book to my Kindle. I hope to read and review it this coming week.