Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Book Review: "A Valley of Betrayal" by Tricia Goyer

Congrats to Anjanette for winning a copy of Wedgewood Grey. Stay tuned for more book giveaways in the future!

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing

(Moody Publishers - February 1, 2007)

by Tricia Goyer (fellow CFBA member, blogger, writer, and homeschooling mom!)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tricia is a members of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. She also has a blog, It's Real Life and a parenting blog Generation NeXt.

TRICIA GOYER is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She also was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana.



Learning while you read

I swear, every time I read a Tricia Goyer book, we end up talking about it in my history classes! Last semester I read Arms of Deliverance, boom! we talk about Nazi breeding houses! This time I
read Valley of Betrayal, what do you know, we're discussing the Spanish civil war! Any books on the Cold War coming up soon Tricia? :)

Sophie is an American who finds herself trying to get into Spain during the outbreak of the Spanish civil war. She is only there to find her fiance who she has not seen in a while, fully expecting to marry him and then leave for home. Instead she is caught into the activities of the people of the country, in a world and culture that she is not used to. Sophie finds that the war has found her and ultimately her life is changed by it.

I think I enjoyed this book a lot more than the average person would because I'm a history major. There was LOTS of information about the war and the circumstances surrounding it, and how it leads up to WWII (thanks for doing the research for me Tricia! lol). I can see if you're not a history buff how some of this info would be boring since this is not an American war. Like I said though, I really enjoyed learning as I read. I've read other books about the Spanish Civil war that don't really give you any details about the war itself, they just send in Americans to save the poor helpless Europeans. Valley instead shows the pride of the Spanish people and allows the reader to immerse in the culture. You get caught up in the character's lives, both Sophie's and Phillip's, as you read about the people they are seeing, the death happening around them, the run for safety. I really felt for Sophie when she finds out the truth about Michael and the lies she must now face. To me that was when her character has to grow up and makes the change towards maturity in the story. She is no longer on vacation in Spain, she is on a mission to survive. The only thing I didn't like about the book was that I'm left hanging at the end of the story and I must wait till fall to find out what happens. Until then, I highly recommend this book if you like an excellent story with rich historical detail.

A Valley of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer is published by Moody (2007)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Book Review: "Mom Over Miami" by Annie Jones


Don't forget to enter the book giveaway to win a copy of Wedgewood Grey. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Wednesday.

Nacho Mama's House

Hannah is doing her best to be the woman, wife and mother she was meant to be. This means taking care of the kids, being the typical soccer mom, having the team over for nachos, ordering new furniture, etc. Basically she is putting everyone ahead of her and still thinks it's not enough. She tells her adventures in emails to her sisters which end up being published as a popular newspaper column. So this means people read about Hannah's mistakes and going through life unexpectedly while she tries to make it seem like a breeze to her. But when her husband cancels out on a long planned trip on her, Hannah decides she can't take it anymore and takes the trip to Miami on her own, leaving everything behind.

This is a book that soccer moms will relate to when there are times that you just want to get away from it all. Hannah is the type of person that wants to please everyone but instead finds she can't do it all. I was glad when she finally made that revelation. I enjoyed her interactions with the soccer team, she sounds like she could be a real fun mom to be around with. I was really glad that Hannah "ran away" and took a vacation for herself. I would have too in her situation. Her husband was taking her for granted, especially with the cleaning up the office for free deal. That is not something a wife should have to do especially if she has to take care of their own household duties. So I was happy that she took the time to enjoy herself, and even though she felt guilty at first, she really deserved the alone time. While it was frustrating at first to keep seeing Hannah having to suffer while the other moms got off scot-free, it was nice to finally see a so called perfect mom reveal her secrets and not judge Hannah for not being like her. On the other hand I did not like the neighbor that prejudged Hannah and felt sorry that she had to put up with that. I also did not really like the bit about the interior decorator sisters from the church. They seemed a bit annoying. Other than that I enjoyed this book a lot, more fun than Sadie in waiting. It's a great mom lit book to read when you just want to escape your own family life.


Mom Over Miami by Annie Jones is published by Steeple Hill (2005)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Book Review: "When Bobbie Sang the Blues" by Peggy Darty

Don't forget to enter the book giveaway to win a copy of Wedgewood Grey. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Wednesday.

Another cozy winner

A year has passed since Christy Castleman solved her first murder in her hometown. Now as she's beginning to get settled down once again when her eccentric aunt comes to town. The exact opposite from Christy's mother, Aunt Bobbie has dreams about opening up a one of a kind antique store and recruits Christy to help her fulfill her wish. But then Bobbie's ex-husband is found dead in a pickle barrel inside the storage unit that belongs to Bobbie making her the number one suspect. Amid few clues and evidence that all point to her aunt, Christy once again uses her mystery novel skills to find out out who the real killer is.

Another winner from Peggy Darty! I enjoyed this book even more than the first.
Bobbie is a great character because she's so spontaneous that you don't know what she's going to do next and I love her idea for a trash=treasures shop. She is a complete opposite of Christy's mother. While one strives for perfection, the other chooses to live for the day. Because of these differences, the two have been at odds over the years and it was nice for them to finally resolve their conflict. My favorite part of the book was when Christy had to go into character in trying to find out who the killer was. While she was in a dangerous situation, I found her airhead-ness a hoot simply because it was so out of character for her. Once again I was surprised at who the actual killer was. I prefer mystery stories when the culprit is someone we have already been introduced to, and not some random person we have no connections to, and this story doesn't disappoint. I'm also really happy for Jack's character as well. From the last book you could see he was lonely after his son's death, and now he has a reason to be happy again. The only thing I found confusing was that at the beginning of this book Christy and Dan are no longer a couple. At the end of Sandpiper they have begun their relationship, here it is already on the outs, without much of an explanation. I just felt like I was missing something as they both try to figure out their relationship. As for the rest of the story, it's superb. This is one of the best cozy mystery series out there, and I can't wait for another!

When Bobbie Sang the Blues by Peggy Darty is published by Waterbrook (2007)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Movie Review: "Hook"

Don't forget to enter the book giveaway to win a copy of Wedgewood Grey. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Wednesday.

I normally would not write a review on a movie I've watched in the past. However I just rewatched this movie for the first time in over 15 years, so I feel it's like seeing it again for the first time.


The premise of the movie is what would happen if Peter Pan grew up? Everyone is familiar with the story whether it be the Disney version, the Mary Martin play, the new version that came out 3 years ago, or Finding Neverland. Peter Pan is a story that everyone wants to be a part of, never having to grow old and facing life's problems. Thus this movie makes such an interesting idea when you think about how this icon himself chose to grow up and then forgot about his past. What's even more interesting is that maybe Hook himself just wants to give up and die but he can't.

The acting in the movie is top notch. When I was younger I never realized that Dustin Hoffman was Hook. Robin Williams is perfect as Peter. Bob Hoskins is hilarious as Smee. Julia Roberts is perfect as Tink. Maggie Smith is a elegant Wendy (although I kept saying McGonagall!) and did you notice that Gwyneth Paltrow has a cameo as a young Wendy? Speaking of cameos look for Glenn Close and David Crosby as pirates and Carrie Fisher and George Lucas are the floating kissing couple. Something else really funny, I remember having a big crush on the guy who played the young Peter Pan back then, now he's nothing great, lol.

I'm not so sure why some people have a love/hate relationship with this film. I absolutely adore it, it's one of my favorite Spielberg films. It just grows on you while you watch it as you think about the premise of the story. And there's so many things going on in the film that it's just like visual eye candy. I would love to live in the Lost Boys neighborhood in that tree house. And I always wanted to eat that dinner they had, with the colorful doughy stuff.

Something else I found quite hysterical:
Peter Pan: I remember you being a lot bigger.
Captain Hook: To a ten-year-old I'm Huge.
(The funny part of this being that Dustin Hoffman is quite short at 5'6.)

And ok I will admit it, I cried several times while watching this movie. I swear Steven Spielberg movies with John Williams scores get me every time. I cried when the Lost Boys are touching Peter's face and see his smile and realize that it is Peter Pan. I cried when Rufio died and tells Peter he wishes he had a dad like him. I cried when the kids are reunited with their mom at the end. I cry just thinking about how Peter Pan grew up and forgot about everything. (Then I think about how weird it is that Peter should actually be like over 100 and how sad that his parents never knew about what happened to him so I start crying again) I know it's not really that sad a movie but I was moved. If you haven't watched this movie I suggest that you do. It's a great family movie and is really one of those overlooked films.

Bang-a-rang!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sharon Hinck Interview!

I'm happy to have here today Sharon Hinck, author of The Secret Life of Becky Miller and her new book, Renovating Becky Miller as another stop on her blog tour. If you haven't read either of her books, I highly recommend both of them. I have a review of Secret Life of my blog, it's fabulous. And without further adieu, an interview with Sharon Hinck!

Hi Sharon, Just finished reading Renovating Becky Miller and I absolutely adored it. Dare I say it, it was even better than Secret Life.

Hi, Deborah!

THANK YOU! I was very nervous with the second book releasing, because sometimes folks like a writer's first book, but the rest fall flat, and so I've been delighted that this story grabbed people in a new way.

I love all the movie sequences at the beginning of the chapters. You picked all my favorites which include a lot of the geeky/nerdy (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Narnia, LOTR!!!) movies. Which movie do you most relate to with your own life?

You nailed it! I'm a geeky/nerdy soul. :-) And oddly, I relate best to stories and movies of epic battles - (more so than the relationship drama kinds of movies). In real life I might be wounded by a friend's criticism, exhausted by managing my kid's schedule, and struggling with health issues that make it hard to get my work done....but in my imagination, it FEELS like Braveheart and LOTR with swords clanging. That's why I write "stories for the hero in all of us"...because I think many women's lives are heroic battles against the pain they see around them in the world, and in the lives of their family.

If Becky Miller was made into a movie, who would you want to play Becky, Kevin, Lori, etc?

Wow...this is really tough for me. I thought of Lori first, because whenever I think of her, I think of a dear friend who looks like an Alvin Ailey dancer...so since we're doing fantasy casting, I'll pick a young Judith Jaminson. I think Meg Ryan would be a fun, whacky, exasperated Becky. BECKY would like Kevin to be played by Colin Farrell... But I think a young George Clooney would do a great job. Who did you picture?

Hmm I'll have to get back with you on Becky and Lori, but I kept picturing Michael Vartan as Kevin *shrugs*. Sometimes it felt to me that Kevin was being really unfair with Becky's situations. Do you feel that husbands really are that clueless when it comes to what their wives have to do to keep the family running?

I don't think they are clueless, but they often don't get quite as emotionally entangled or overwhelmed by all the crisscrossing relationships and responsibilities - so it's hard for them to understand why their wives are so torn up by some of the issues. I hate generalizations, so take this with a grain of salt...but sometimes a husband can see easy solutions (your friend isn't returning your calls? Maybe she's just busy. Don't worry about it) that don't work for the wife (Something is WRONG. She's mad at me. I just know it. And I can't rest until I find out what it is and how to fix it).

One recurring theme in the book is that Becky learns that she can't do everything on her own and has to learn to say no, from her family to the church. She had to learn to stop trying to please people. Why do you feel that a lot of people, even Christians, have this problem?

I think deep inside, we have a very good impulse. Something deep in our created/redeemed soul longs for the way life was meant to be - the Garden of Eden...the paradise to come. And we fight to restore that in the little ways we can contribute while here on earth. So when we see a need, we want to step in and meet that need. It gets out of balance when we don't trust that God has the universe under control and He might be calling us to just one little corner of service. We DON'T have to do it all. In fact, TRYING to do it all can distract us from the specific task God has called us to fulfill.

The other tricky part is that our sinful nature stirs up motives other than love. That's what Becky found. She wanted to care for her mother-in-law, but her loving motives were all tangled up in guilt, winning points with Kevin, looking good to others.

Will there be another return of Becky Miller in the future?

I have a SUPER cool idea for another Becky story (and the fantasies would be inspired by classic books). But that is totally up to my publisher. The first book has only been out eight months, and they are wisely waiting to see how both books do. There is so much GREAT contemporary Christian fiction out there now, I'm always amazed and delighted when anyone chooses to buy my books - by an unknown, brand new author!

Thank you so much for answering these questions and I'm honored to be part of your blog tour. Since you went to Regent University, ever think about stopping by again to visit your alma mata? I would love to have a chance to meet with you if you ever did! Thanks again for such a wonderful read!

I would LOVE to visit the Tidewater area again. I miss it. Ted and I had happy happy years there, and I even set an upcoming novel ("Penny's Project" Bethany House Publishing, 9/2008) in Chesapeake and Norfolk. Thanks SO much for letting me stop by to chat. These were fun questions! I'll stop back later to answer any questions or comments from your visitors. Also, thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging words.

Thanks for stopping by Sharon!! Now everyone go out and buy Renovating Becky Miller (Secret Life too if you don't already own it). Do it now!!!! :)

Book Review: "Renovating Becky Miller" by Sharon Hinck

Don't forget to enter the book giveaway to win a copy of Wedgewood Grey. Click here to enter. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Wednesday.

Mom Wars Episode Two: The Attack of the Home Repairs


Becky Miller is back. This time the supermom is facing a daunting new task: moving into a spacious farmhouse that needs some fixing up. All she wants is just some movie nights with her husband and family in a new quiet simpler life out in the country. Alas that is not to be as the farmhouse needs the Extreme Home Makeover of a lifetime, Kevin's mom (whom Becky can't seem to please) moves in with them, her friend Lori is battling depression, her work at church is stretching her thin, and to top it off Kevin and her aren't having the wonderful loving marriage she thought it would be. It'll take some renovating of her own to show Becky what is and should be the most important things in her life and how once again Supermom can't do it all.

First off I want to say I am a huge movie geek nerd. So is it sad that I recognized almost all the movie scenes prologues without even having to look in the back of the book? I absolutely loved those times when Becky uses her imagination. And she did all my favorites: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Indiana Jones, James Bond! (I'm showing my inner geek here) I felt this book was even better than the first. The writing is top notch with lots of humor and feeling. I really love how Becky does allow herself to get angry and frustrated at people even if its close family and friends. It makes her a more real and relatable character. I really could feel sympathetic for Becky in this book. It seemed that no matter what she did it wasn't good enough for anyone. She really stretched herself out thin trying to help both the church and her family. I agree with Becky about the church doing too much to help out others but not think about their actual members. Yes it is important that we need to witness to others but should church members have to suffer from being burnt out? I also felt Becky's pain about trying to have to please Kevin's mom all the time, and how she had to back down because Kevin's mom had the bad past background card to trump everything Becky did. Also at times I got frustrated with Kevin. It seemed to me he was being selfish at times just because Becky wasn't giving him the attention he wanted. It almost seemed providential that Becky hurt her leg again so that people could finally realize that they needed to show her more appreciation. It's really sad to think about how we take our moms for granted sometime.

This is one of the best mom-lit books out there. It makes me wonder if this will be what my life will be like next time when I have my own family. I highly recommend this book for everyone (moms, movie lovers, home renovation experts). Here's hoping for a Becky Miller Episode III: Revenge of the Kids....

Renovating Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck is published by Bethany House (2007)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wedgewood Grey by John Aubrey Anderson and Book Giveaway

I have an ARC (advanced readers copy) of Wedgewood Grey to give away. Leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win. I'll pick a name and announce the winner on Wednesday, February 28. Good luck!

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Wedgewood Grey (Faith Words, February 2007) by John Aubrey Anderson .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John was born five miles north of the setting for Abiding Darkness, a cotton country town within a rifle shot of two rivers, a bayou, a double handful of lakes, and endless acres of woods.

After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.

He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.

They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Wedgewood Grey is the second book in the Black and White Chronicles. The first was Abiding Darkness (August, 2006).

Mississippi cotton country . . . in the spring of 1960.

The War At Cat Lake is fifteen years in the fading past . . . but the demonic beings who launched that first battle, are alive and well at Cat Lake. Waiting.

Late on a Friday night, on a muddy little road a mile east of Cat Lake, a ten-year-old black child is forced to watch while a gang of white men beat his mother to death. Aided by Mose Washington, an old black man, the boy exacts a measure of his own revenge. When the sun comes up on Saturday morning, Mose and the boy are fugitives.

Missy Parker Patterson, who as a child stood at the epicenter of the first war, is married and living in Texas. In the aftermath that follows Mose Washington’s disappearance, she goes back to Cat Lake to discover that the demonic beings have been anticipating her return . . . and so begins the second battle of The War At Cat Lake.

In 1962, an old black man and his grandson move into the country near Pilot Hill, Texas. The people in the local area are told that the old gentleman’s name is Mose Mann—his grandson introduces himself as Bill.

However, the lives of the new arrivals are not as peaceful as they seem. The unassuming old black man and his grandson are being pursued by a triad of formidable and unrelenting adversaries . . . a ruthless political leader, an enduring lie, and an invisible army allied beneath the banner of a hatred for God.

Wedgewood Grey is a story about the impact of choices that real people—people like you and me—are sometimes forced to make.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Book Review: "Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man" by Claudia Mair Burney


Sassy with a touch of edge

Amanda Bell Brown is a forensic psychologist who one night on the town with her sister meets up with Jazz Brown, a fine man, no relation to her. You know that Jazz is a guy who is perfect for Bell when he doesn't run away after she throws up on his shoes. And since Bell has just turned 40, this may be the man who she'll spend the rest of her life with. But before she can think about settling down, Jazz and Bell find themselves at a crime scene where the murderer may be someone connected to Bell's long forgotten past.

I did not want to stop reading this book. From the beginning, Bell keeps you on her toes with her sassy attitude and no nonsense personality. Jazz is perfect for her, in that he wants to take care of her but since he's been hurt in the romance field, he wants to take things slow. The two of them have great chemistry together. Sometimes he would annoy me with some of his actions (like showing up in her house unexpected) but for the most part he's a really great guy. I was really creeped out with the whole Gabriel/cult situation. Bell's past was also painful to read but it showed the true power of God that she was able to get out of that lifestyle. I love how many "taboo" topics were brought up in this book and that Claudia Burney was not afraid to write about them. For example, Bell and Rocky used to be an interracial couple. That topic is still not brought up a lot in Christian fiction, and while the two are not in a relationship anymore, they are still friends and not affected by it. Also Bell's past and her situations with Gabriel are very intense and with very mature topics, so this book is not recommended for younger teen readers. I applaud the edginess of this book. I couldn't put it down because of it. I can't wait til I get my hands on the next book in the series.

Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney is published by NavPress (2006)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Book Review: "Flies on the Butter" by Denise Hildreth


There's no place like home

Rose Fletcher is on her way back to South Carolina after being away for many years. She's tried to escape her southern heritage by living up in DC, hiding her accent and cutting all connections with her past. However she's discovered that her past cannot escape her especially with the trip she is now taking back to her home. The story is Rose's drive from DC to South Carolina interwoven with memories from her past. The reader is shown how scenes from her childhood have affected her life today. As Rose's trip continues, she and the reader see how no matter how you try to escape where you came from, your home will always be with you no matter what.

If you liked the Savannah series, you'll like this book one too. While it doesn't have the humor or eccentric characters as the Savannah books, Flies does have that southern charm and great storyline that draws you in. Rose is a character that slowly grows on you. I didn't like her at first but then as more of her story is revealed, I felt more sympathetic towards her. Although I do not agree with her reasons for having an affair, it is understandable why a working woman in the prime of a budding career would not want to have children. I liked also the characters Rose met along the way, each realizing that they met her for a reason and then chose to pray for her. and I also enjoyed reading about the food. Southern food is the absolute best, fried chicken and pork chops. I live in Virginia but not in the part that's considered real southern. My boyfriend on the other hand lives in that southern part so a lot of what happens in the book happens in his hometown. So I found a bunch of familiar things that I could relate too such as the boiled peanuts, Fun Dip, and the ice cold coke. And I really want to go to one of those roadside diners one day. That meal that was given to Rose at the diner sounds so good. While reading this book, I was reminded of the movies Elizabethtown and Junebug. The whole southern bit about slowing down. This book really moved me. I laughed and I cried. It's definitely one of the best books I've read this year so far.

Denise Hildreth has once again written an excellent novel, one I couldn't put down. If you want a story that will move you and touch your life, then I highly recommend this book for you.

Flies on the Butter by Denise Hildreth is published by Thomas Nelson (2007)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Movie Review: "Murder She Wrote The Complete Fourth Season"

This has got to be one of the best shows ever produced in television history. The premise is rather odd, I mean who would want to watch an little old lady solve mysteries every week? Apparently millions of people as this show stayed on the air for over 12 years (plus TV movies). I remember watching this show when I was younger with my family. It was a show everyone could enjoy, there was nothing objectionable, the script was witty, and you didn't know who had done it until five minutes before the show ended no matter how hard you tried to look for clues.

I'm so glad that our library decided to buy the first four seasons of the show. It's one of the most popular TV series at our branch, the DVDs are almost never in. Everyone loves Murder She Wrote, even the most casual fan. I mean what's not to like? Jessica Fletcher is just like the grandma you never had and always wanted. Angela Lansbury is perfect in this role. She's very spunky and spry for someone who's stereotypically supposed to stay at home and be docile. I love all the adventures she gets in, which of course there's a murder every time she goes somewhere.

In this season, Jessica travels from Paris to Quebec, a Catholic school, New York, a rodeo, and of course back home in Cabot Cove. Every single episode in this season, like all the other seasons, is superb. There is humor, mystery, suspense all in a single episode. I love the secondary characters that reappear every now and then. Sheriff Tupper and Dr. Seth add humor when Jessica is at home, while her nephew Grady always seems to find himself in trouble. And did anyone notice how many nieces and nephews Jessica has? They always seem to be popping up everywhere.

I feel that these shows in the 70s and 80s are far superior than what is shown today. There is no gore, little sex, little language and still the shows are entertaining and have more class than the shows today. I wish the public would realize this and demand that shows be more clean cut but unfortunately that is not the norm anymore. I hope the library gets more Murder She Wrote, it truly is one of the best shows ever put out.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Book Review: "A Promise for Ellie" by Lauraine Snelling


The story continues...

Lauraine Snelling has taken us yet again to the community of Blessing, North Dakota. This time the story focuses on Andrew, Ingeborg's younger son, and his fiance Ellie. The two have known they would get married ever since they were little. When the pair have to postpone their marriage due to circumstances beyond their control, Andrew is angry at the delay, while Ellie accepts the wait. She wants to learn what it'll be like to have a home with Andrew. However Andrew keeps growing more sullen and distant with her. Then tragedy strikes making the couple having to rethink their relationship and especially their upcoming marriage.

I love the Bjorkland family and I'm glad that we are able to again join with another generation of the family. The original series, Red River of the North, was excellent as was the second series with Thorliff. I love how there is so much detail about prairie life, this time new and old worlds collide as Thorliff's wife is now the doctor of the area. All the familiar faces are still around, making cameos at least. I really liked Ellie. She was practical, reasonable, patient, and understanding. She was able to stand up to Andrew even when he was being completely stubborn. Andrew's temper has been brought up in past books as a forewarning that it would get him into trouble someday. I kind of got annoyed with him sometimes. I know that he loved Ellie and wanted to be with her, but his actions and attitude were very childish. When his father tried to give him reasons about why he should wait a bit for the wedding, which IMO were very reasonable, Andrew throws a tantrum. He gets mad that Ellie wants to go to her own bridal shower. He keeps thinking she's cheating on him. When the climax happens, I know this sounds sadistic, but I'm glad Andrew finally realizes he's gone over the edge and now has to pay the consequences. I never got bored reading this book, I love the historical detail, I love all the background stories from the characters. I can't wait for the next book in the series. At this rate Lauraine will never leave the town of Blessing which is perfectly fine with me!

A Promise for Ellie by Lauraine Snelling is published by Bethany House (2006)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Katie Hart's Book Sale

Katie Hart from Christian Novels says she has too many books! *gasp* is that even possible??? Well that means more for the rest of us!

From Katie:

How would you like to buy great Christian novels for only $5.00 each, including shipping?

Send me your wish list - theloneislands at yahoo.com. I'll go through my books and zap you back a list of what titles I have from your list. Chose them all or just some, and I'll confirm that I have them reserved for you (first come, first serve!) and send you your total. Pay me via PayPal, and I'll mail them out!

Buy ten books and get your 11th one free! The $5.00 offer is only for US addresses. If you live in Canada, email me and I'll figure out your rates. For other countries, it likely won't be as great of a deal, but if you really want to order I'll send you the total once the titles are confirmed.

I try to keep my books nice but a few are more worn. I'll only charge $3.00 for those (less than Amazon shipping!). Also a few titles may only be available as ARCs - those will also be $3.00. Of course, you have the option of passing on those.

So you heard her, send her your lists and get great books for cheap prices. If I had known about this earlier, I wouldn't have spent $35 at the bookstore today for 3 books. I could have had 7. :(

just don't ask for the books i want :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Book Review: "Sticks and Stones" by Susan Meissner

Innocence lost

Rachel Flynn is a lawyer who is getting over her last case which nearly killer her. She thinks things will start to return to normal when she receives an anonymous note saying a body will be found in a construction site. When the body is revealed to have been killed 20 years ago, Rachel starts to investigate who sent the note and why only now. As Rachel is drawn more into the mystery, she discovers the horrors that a bully can cause and the pain, suffering and emotional damage that stem from it.

This was an excellent book. I haven't read the first book in the series, Widows and Orphans, but I never felt lost in this book (although I definitely want to pick up a copy of it now). I felt like I was watching a mix of Cold Case and Medium. I could actually see this book being made into a TV episode. This is one of the few books that I felt creeped out while reading, I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was standing behind me especially whenever Rachel got one of her "feelings." What made the story even more scarier was that situations like this take place all the time. I was teased a lot due to my ethnicity but I was fortunate that I was never bullied. Reading this book really gives an insight to what the victims of a bully go through. It really is scary when you think that these children felt so helpless and that every adult turned a blind eye and wouldn't listen to them. Rachel is a very good lead character and she's also one of the bravest female leads I've ever read. I really like Rachel's husband Trace and his friends. They're very different from her but they don't clash and they're very eager to help Rachel out. They sound like a really fun bunch to hang out with. (except for Fig's eccentric taste in food!) I really enjoyed reading this book. I'm definitely going to go read the first book and I'm looking forward to more of Rachel Flynn's mysteries.

Sticks and Stones by Susan Meissner is published by Harvest House (2007)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Book Review: "Fair Game" by Elizabeth White


Not such an easy target

Jana has returned to her hometown with her two young children after trying to find a new start in life. She has dreams about opening an animal conservatory on the land her grandfather owns. Meanwhile Grant is also eying that same piece of land to use as a hunting reserve. The two clash over the way the land should be used, but added tension is thrown in because Grant was Jana's high school crush! Add some kittens, fawns, runaway fishing boats and flash floods and you got yourself a story about trying to figure out how to find common ground with someone you care about.

This was a really great book. It was fun to read about how opposite viewpoints clash. I love how the opening of the book is Jana hitting a cow. It's a funny, grab your attention opening and, for me at least, familiar since I went to a college where cow tipping was the norm. I'm not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I tended to share Jana's viewpoints on animal treatment in this book. I'm all for eating meat but I hate the thought of shooting animals just for sport. Luckily the storyline doesn't take a one sided approach to the issue and shows the pros and cons from both Jana's and Grant's views. I also did like how the two were able to compromise and Jana was not portrayed as the type of character that gave up all her beliefs just to get the guy. All of the characters were multi-dimensional and I enjoyed meeting all the members of both Jana's and Grant's families. They certainly added a lot of spunk to the story, especially Jana's children. I kind of wish there was more back story about her ex-husband, it doesn't seem that we know his complete story or what really happened to him. Other than that small hiccup, I really enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about animals too during this book, so it was a learning experience as well as a fun read. This was my first Elizabeth White book, and I have definitely now become a fan!

Fair Game by Elizabeth White is published by Zondervan (2007)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Book Review: "Reclaiming Nick" by Susan May Warren

I wanna be a cowboy baby

Nick Noble is a modern day prodigal son. He's finally returned to the family ranch after leaving ten years ago. His father has died and Nick has found out that the ranch has been split between him and his siblings and his former best friend Cole. He wants to know why Cole should get what is rightfully his. Piper is pretending to be a ranch cook so she can investigate Nick who she believes is the cause of why her brother went to jail. The two develop a relationship against Piper's wishes. Meanwhile many secrets float around the ranch, and it also looks like there is someone who doesn't want anyone to own a part of it.

First off, look at the book cover! Woooo! Love those dimples, he looks just like Colby from season 2 of Survivor. So it was really easy to picture Nick, which is good because he was a really interesting, well developed character. Him, Maggie, and Cole all have a history with everyone not knowing the full truth about each other. It sounds soap opera-ish but it doesn't come off that dramatic. I enjoyed Piper's attempts to hide that she couldn't cook. She really got lucky with the roundup takeout dinner. Although hearing about
Rocky Mountain oysters was just gross. Ewww. But it was very cool to learn about the happenings at a rodeo ranch (although those poor calves that got branded). Also you don't know who is causing all the bad things until the last few chapters, I mean I literally didn't see it coming. The only thing I didn't seem to get was that everyone was making such a big deal about Nick's discovery about Cole's relation to him. Yet no one says anything about Stephanie and Rafe's (well he isn't there) reaction to this news. It was like it was only Nick's situation to deal with. Stephanie also doesn't get fleshed out much but she'll be having her own book soon. I'm looking forward to the next book which will be about Rafe. Learning about cowboys has never been so much fun..and if Rafe's cover looks anything like Nick's..."VBG" Another highly recommended SMW novel!!!

Reclaiming Nick by Susan May Warren is published by Tyndale (2007)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Book Review: "The Shepherds' Prayer" by Richard M. Barry

Short but sweet

The Christmas season may be over but its story is always timely. I enjoyed reading this book. Its short and you can probably finish it in one sitting, but the story will last with you for a long time. I love biblical fiction that gives familiar characters from the Bible a storyline and a personality. Anam is a young man trying to find out his true identity. All he has from his birth parents is a blanket proclaiming the birth of a child in Bethlehem. Using this clue he goes to seek out who he really is. As he discovers the truth, he meets up with a group of shepherds, who are considered to be outcasts from the rest of the town. After hearing their story, he learns just how special that child was and how he is connected to that miraculous birth.

This is one of the first times I've read about the perspective of the people who had to deal with the slaughter of the male infants. I never thought about how painful and resentful they would be about Jesus, because his birth had caused them to suffer for no reason. The shepherds are given heroic status in this book, as the unsung heroes of the nativity story. They are usually portrayed as dirty and simple but you know why they were chosen to know about the birth of Jesus. I also liked very much that Jesus came back to hang out with them and reminisce. It made him more human to talk about how his mom still remembered them and Anam's family. I liked the twist about who Anam really is (don't want to spoil, but he's in the Bible). It gives yet another perspective on a familiar Bible character. I also did enjoy learning more about the culture and history of the time period.

This is a book everyone can read. It'd be perfect for parents to read aloud to their children, one chapter at time. Very well written, highly enjoyable, and thought provoking.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Book Review: "The Longing Season" by Christine Schaub

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing The Longing Season (Bethany House July, 2006) by Christine Schaub.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christine Schaub is the author of the MUSIC OF THE HEART series, including Finding Anna, the “rest of the story” behind the writing of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” (October 2005) and The Longing Season, the story behind “Amazing Grace” (July 2006) with Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Books.

In 2003, Christine won the “On the Page” screenwriting contest at Screenwriting Expo 2 in Los Angeles. Her one-page story, written on-site in 24 hours for Jacqueline Bisset, was selected by the actress as the best Oscar Wilde-type comedy for her persona.

While working in freelance corporate communications, Christine completed three feature-length screenplays, including a drama/comedy, romantic comedy, and sci-fi action/drama; developed four biopic teleplays for the stories behind the hymns; and published an online column for the MethodX website (Upper Room Ministries).

Christine honed her writing skills after more than 15 years in corporate communications for healthcare, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies. She has also been a featured conference speaker on working with at-risk youth and changed lives in the classrooms with her creative presentation style.

Christine's love for the arts and creativity have taken her from church platforms to civic and professional stages, performing classics and dramas from her own pen.

Christine graduated from Anderson University with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. She has served on numerous boards and committees, usually as Communications Chair, and has received both regional and national awards in writing and design.



Behind the Music- Hymn Style

Amazing Grace is one of my favorite all time hymns. Almost everyone knows this tune whether you are a Christian or not. My favorite version is when it is played by bagpipes.
I think I had once heard an Adventures in Odyssey episode that described the story of John Newton (as they did with Horatio Spafford's song). So when I started reading this book about how the inspiration for this song was written I was intrigued. The book was chock full of historical information which I love. The characters are multi dimensional and Mary is a strong character, helping out with the doctor which was uncommon during that time period. Newton's story is harsh as with anything about slavery usually is. I especially found the scene where he I find it interesting that the couple's relationship prior to Newton's leaving was brief and chaste, yet there is a very deep relationship between the two. I really liked the flashback scenes that showed how they first met. The only thing I didn't like was that, even though I knew it was going to happen, was that just when Mary was finally ready to move on, John comes back. I was a bit miffed because Alex was so good to her and was there when she needed someone, while instead she pines away for someone she hasn't seen in years. And then the long lost guy ends up winning, while nice guy is left all alone. Other than that I really enjoyed reading this book. I was surprised to learn that Newton didn't write the last line the song. Ironically I usually only remember the first and last verses when I sing this song.

This book is a great prologue to the movie Amazing Grace (starring Ioan Gruffudd and Albert Finney as John Newton) that is coming out in a few weeks. In fact when I first heard about the movie, I immediately thought about this book. While the movie focuses more on William Wilberforce's character, this book is a prequel to get you into the mood for the movie. I definitely enjoyed reading this book and am looking forward to going back to read her first novel, Finding Anna which focuses on another of my favorite hymns.

The Longing Season by Christine Schaub is published by Bethany House (2006)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Survey for Ann Tatlock Cover

A message from Jim Hart over at Bethany House:

"Right now, we’re running a survey to help us make a decision about a cover for an upcoming novel by Ann Tatlock (many of you read and enjoyed her last, Things We Once Held Dear). While we get some response through our newsletter audience, I would like to invite the Christian Fiction Blog community to participate in this survey as well. If you’re willing to, please visit http://faithinfiction.com/phpsurveyor/index.php?sid=8 and take the short survey (all the data is private). "

Here's your chance to have a say in the book publishing world!

Book Review: "The White Knight" by Gilbert Morris


End of an era

The House of Winslow series finally comes to an end with the story of Luke Winslow in "The White Knight". He's a pilot fighting in the Spanish Civil War when his girlfriend's family is killed by German bombers. Feeling depressed he returns home to his family only to become a drunk who mopes around all the time. When one of his war buddies offers him a job, Luke attempts to sober up for it but finds he can't. This mistake costs the life of his friend, which Luke feels responsible for. Ironically Luke finds himself later employed by his friend's sister, who he has kept his identity a secret from. The two fall in love but under false pretenses. When Joelle finds out Luke is in danger of losing her forever. Then Pearl Harbor happens and when Luke feels the call to go into war, he must decide how to prove that he has to be true to himself.

I felt this book was an improvement over the last few that have come out in the series. Luke and Joelle aren't cardboard characters and neither are they complete repeats of Morris' former characters. As always with Morris's books is the rich detail of the culture and history of the time period. I did like how there was a family reunion because the last few books have isolated the main Winslow character with no contact from other family members. It was nice to see some of the older clan from Sky Winslow's descendants back in the story again. I guess however it was wishful thinking to include every Winslow in the reunion, the family tree is way too big and confusing. Also maybe it's just me the two people on the cover, representing Luke and Joelle, look just like Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four, Amazing Grace) and Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor. So that's who I kept picturing the entire time I was reading the book. While there is some plot that seems to be repeated (hiding true identity, being the only non Christian in the family), this book seemed on par with the earlier novels in the series.

I'm really sad to see the series ending, I mean WWII isn't even halfway over. I always wonder why Christian historical fiction never goes past WWII. There might be one or two books about the fifties, but other than flashbacks we hardly ever read about the 60s, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, anything in the 80s. Do they consider it too recent to be history? Do we have to wait another 50 years before they'll start writing historical fiction about that age?
I wish though they could have at least updated the tree to include the last few books. Alana still isn't married and I still feel sorry for poor Dan Greene and Anne Winslow's family from back in the 1800s, they got mentioned in book 7 and then disappeared right after that! I also never understood why they created a new entire family line with Maylon Winslow, and the whole bit with Lance Winslow all of a sudden becoming a southerner was ridiculous. Little discrepancies aside, I really enjoyed reading HOW, this was one of the first Christian fiction series I read after becoming a Christian so I've grown up with it. I've learned a lot from reading these books, in fact it's one of the reasons I got interested in history. While plots tended to repeat themselves and some characters were intolerable, the series does show a good representation that the changes in America do not affect a family of strong Christian faith.

The White Knight by Gilbert Morris is published by Bethany House (2007)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Book Review: "When the Sandpiper Calls" by Peggy Darty

Grab your coziest chair for this cozy mystery

Christy Castleman is a novelist who's first book was a hit and is now trying to finish up her second novel. One day she finds a bottle buried in the sand with a message asking for help because they are going to be killed. The Sassy Snowbirds, a group of women in the Red Hat society, think it's the missing realtor who wrote the note and are eager to assist Christy in what feels like her mystery novel come to life. While investigating, she also peaks the interest of the new guy in town, military veteran Dan Brockman. In between juggling this new relationship, Christy uses her detective skills to find that the murder may be connected to a jewelry heist in New York from back in the 1980s. Suddenly the little town is involved in a series of events that will shake up the community, with Christy at the center of it all.


I love a good mystery and this book definitely makes my top ten list of mystery novels. I've enjoyed Peggy Darty's novels from the Palisades series and her writing in this book is even better. The story is very descriptive and keeps you wanting more. Christy was a good lead, she's strong yet sensitive, and even when annoyed she doesn't let it show. I really liked her relationship with her former fiance's dad. She's still close to him even though his son is dead, and he treats her like the daughter in law he would have had, allowing her to bring him food, visit him often and asking him for advice on stuff. Other people might have turned away from this awkward situation, but it showed Christy's compassion for what would have been her future family. I love the Sassy Snowbirds because I enjoy reading stories that involve Red Hats. I only hope when I get to be that age I'm as spunky and adventurous as they are! They always seem to be looking for excitement to happen. I won't spoil the ending, so let's just say I totally wasn't expecting it and I don't think I could have been as calm as Christy was when she found out who the killer was. I highly recommend this book for fans of cozy mysteries or anyone that enjoys a really good page turning read. I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

When the Sandpiper Calls by Peggy Darty is published by Waterbrook (2005)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Movie Review: "Elizabeth I"

Helen Mirren has been getting lots of attention lately for playing the longest monarch in history. She is currently nominated (and will most likely win) for portraying Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen". I have yet to see it but if she is anything like how she portrayed Queen Elizabeth I, she will blow the competition away. "Elizabeth I" has won almost every award it has been nominated. It is one of the best miniseries I have ever seen. I would recommend seeing "Elizabeth" starring Cate Blanchett before seeing this miniseries. That movie shows show she became queen and her first months reigning. (There's a sequel coming out soon too). This miniseries picks up when Elizabeth is in her 40s and still has not married, thus there is no heir to the throne.

Helen Mirren is just simply excellent in this role. She takes one of the most famous icons in history and brings her to life in the most astounding way. There were many things I didn't know about the queen, such as her near marriage to the prince of France (that was sad) or the way she treated members of her council (that was funny). I learned while watching this movie which I loved. You totally forget that you are watching a movie, you don't see Helen Mirren, you see Queen Elizabeth in her golden age of glory.

Jeremy Irons is simply scrumptious in this movie. He is one of the hottest older actors out there especially with the British accent. woooo ! You can tell that he really loves the queen and she loves him (although I've read that this might not be completely true) and if the situation was different they would have married. He is her best friend and her confidant but not once do they do anything improper. I think that he respected her too much to let it happen. Hugh Dancy was really good too (although I'd personally fancy Jeremy) as Essex. (That's one thing I don't get, about earls and dukes being called by their titled name and not their actual last name). Although it seemed a little weird at times that he'd be attracted to such an older woman. And you felt like you wanted to smack him on the head for being so insolent at times. The supporting cast was excellent. Patrick Malahaide looks just like the pictures of the real Sir Francis Walsingham and Ian "Emperor Palpatine" McDiermand was an wonderful Lord Burghley.

The costumes are absolutely fabulous. Every outfit the queen wears is simply spectacular. They have done an excellent job of reproducing all the dresses shown in the pictures of the queen that one is familiar with. Even though I know how much of a hassle it would be to put on and wear the dresses, I wish I could walk around in the clothes the ladies in waiting wore. The sets are superb. You really get the feeling that you are in 1500s England. I love movies that go into so much detail just to make everything look accurate.

I warn you there are 3 really gory scenes in the movie involving quartering and beheading. Actually one beheading was pretty cool, because you obviously knew it was a fake head. But the quartering, OMG, ughhhhhh. I had to fast forward that part. There is also surprisingly a lot of humor in this movie. I guess we have the impression that everyone was serious all the time during that time period. Just the comments Elizabeth would make as she observed things or to liven up her council made her seem more human.

Simply put, this was an excellent movie. Everything about it was spectacular. It really made the queen more human, giving her a personality and relationships. She must have felt really alone at times and did what she only thought was best. I highly recommend this movie, if you are a history fan, especially an anglophile you will love this movie. Even if you hate history, there is action, romance, comedy, drama, even gore to satisfy every fan. This movie deserves every award it has been given.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Abiding Darkness" by John Aubrey Anderson

Congrats to Michelle on winning the "Enter Camy's Contest and Be Entered for an Extra Book from Me" book giveaway! And congrats also to the winners of Camy's contest. Stay tuned for more future book giveaways!

It is February 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

John Aubrey Anderson

and his book:

Abiding Darkness

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John was born five miles north of the setting for Abiding Darkness, a cotton country town within a rifle shot of two rivers, a bayou, a double handful of lakes, and endless acres of woods.

After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.

He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.

They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Abiding Darkness is the first book in the Black and White Chronicles.

It initially anchors itself in the relationship between two children.

Junior Washington is an eleven-year-old black child. He lives in a small cabin out on Cat Lake; his parents work for the Parker family. He’s loyal, he’s compliant beyond what would normally be expected of an eleven-year-old boy, and he’s a committed Christian.

Missy Parker, who lives on the other side of the lake, is the crown princess of the Parker family. At seven years of age she’s beautiful, wealthy, willful, and tough as a tractor tire. And—in the midst of the most defined segregation in our nation’s recent history—this little white girl and Junior Washington are best friends.

Only one thing stands between these two children and a storybook childhood . . . they are destined to encounter a faithful servant of the Author of Evil.

Abiding Darkness starts almost gently. The first sentence offers doubt, but readers may not see any real trouble surface until a few sentences later, and that’s mostly kid stuff, almost cute. From there through the second chapter readers are given a little more to think about . . . an opportunity to imagine what might happen to the children . . . especially the girl.

By the end of the second chapter intuitive readers will be taking a deep breath . . . they’re going to need the oxygen.

THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Summers were mostly reliable.

The always followed spring. They always got hot. And they always promised twelve weeks of pleasure to the three children at Cat Lake.

The summer of ’45 lied.
^ ^ ^
The whole thing started right there by the Cat Lake bridge.

They were playing their own version of three-man baseball when Bobby knocked the ball onto the road near the end of the bridge. Junior was taller and faster, but Missy was ahead in the race to get it. Bobby and Junior were older, but Missy was tough enough to almost keep up, and the boys usually held back some so they didn’t outdo her too much.

Missy was still a few yards from the ball when it rolled to a stop near the only car in sight. A boy taller than Junior stepped from behind the far end of the car and picked up the ball; he was followed by two more boys—one younger than Missy and another almost as tall as a man.

Missy slid to a stop in the gravel and yelled, “Hurry! Throw it!” Junior jogged up behind the girl and waited.

A heavyset man in a rumpled suit was standing in the road by the driver’s door; he allowed himself a long look at the girl and whispered something to the boy with the ball.

The boy nodded at what the man said and backed toward the car. The tallest boy moved up to stand by the man.

The fat man eyed Junior, then looked up and down the deserted road before beckoning to Missy. “Why don’t you come closer, and he’ll let you have it?”

Missy ignored the man and advanced on the boy with the ball. “Give it.”

When she walked past the taller boy, he fell to his hands and knees behind her and the one with the ball shoved her over his back. When Missy hit the ground, all three boys laughed. The man grinned.

In the near distance, a foursome of well-armed witnesses—tall, bright, and invisible—stood at a portal between time and eternity and watched Bobby Parker leave home plate and sprint for the bridge.

One of the group said, It begins.

Junior Washington’s guardian answered for the remainder of the small assembly, And so it does.

The three guardians conferred quietly about the events taking place before them; the archangel watched the unfolding drama in silence. The quartet—guarded by the wisdom of the ages against restlessness—waited patiently for a precise instant in time that had been ordained before the earth was formed.

The middle kid was plenty bigger than Missy, but she came off the ground ready to take him on. When she waded in, the tall kid grabbed at her. Junior got a hand on the strap of Missy’s overalls and yanked her out of the boys’ reach. He held her back with one hand and popped the tallest kid in the nose, hard enough to knock him down.

When the boy landed in the gravel, the man started swearing. He reached into the car, jerked a mean-looking billy club from under the front seat, and turned on Junior. “Okay, Black Sambo, let’s see h—”

Bobby was short steps from the trouble, running wide open, when the archangel broke his silence. The long-awaited time is come. He pointed his bright sword at a point between Bobby and the man with the club and said, In the Name of Him who sits on the throne, and for the Lamb—go there and turn the tide of evil.

Bobby—barely slowing when he got to the confrontation—tripped over thin air and rammed the business end of the bat hard into the man’s back. The man lurched forward, stumbled over the boy Junior had knocked to the ground, and sprawled on top of him.

Knocking the man down wasn’t what he’d planned, but Bobby knew better than to back off from a pack of bullies; he was talking before the man rolled over. “You keep your hands to yourself, mister.”

The red-faced man struggled to get up, cussing and pointing the club at Bobby. “Son, when a boy hits me, he steps over the line to manhood. That means you’ll get the same beatin’ I’ll be givin’ this nigger.”

On the Parker place, Negro folks were called black or colored. For the children, transgression of that rule meant someone was going to get his mouth washed out with soap. Missy and Junior froze when the man said the forbidden word; Bobby didn’t.

When Bobby squared his stance and drew the bat back, the man rethought his position. “You better put that down, boy.”

Bobby was only twelve, but he knew serious trouble when he saw it—and he was the one holding the bat. “I reckon not.” He and Junior and Missy had made a law about standing up for each other, and these strangers had chosen to be their enemies. If the man made a threatening move, Bobby was going to swing for his head and deal with the consequences later. “You’re on Parker land, mister, an’ you best be gettin’ off.”

The baseball bat had the man stymied. Exertion and frustration soaked his collar with the sweat. “This isn’t your land; it’s a public road.”

Bobby said, “That might be, but the land on both sides of the road belongs to the Parkers—an’ that’s us.” He looked the man up and down. “You ain’t from around here, are you?”

The man’s wide mouth and thick lips were not unlike those of a bullfrog; small, widely-spaced teeth and flesh-draped eyelids contributed to a reptilian appearance. “What if I’m not?”

Bobby cracked a hard smile. “’Cause if you was from around here, folks would’ve told you not to mess with the Parker kids—that’s us, ’specially the black ’un an’ the girl.” He pointed the bat at Junior and Missy. “That’s them two.”

From within the car a woman’s voice said, “Let it go, Halbert. Don’t be getting heated up over some white trash.”

When the woman called them white trash, Missy puffed up and started for the car. Junior grabbed the strap of her overalls again. “Stay quiet, Missy.”

The girl jerked loose and glared at Junior, but she stayed where she was.

The tallest boy got in the car, holding a hand to his bloody nose. The other two weren’t ready to leave.

The man looked at the car and back at Bobby; he didn’t want to leave either, but he wasn’t going to argue with the woman. “Git in the car, boys.” His tongue came out and made a circuit over the fat lips; he let his gaze rest too long on the girl, and he spoke to her last. “You’ll get yours, Little Miss Blue Eyes. Just you remember Hal Bainbridge said so.”

The woman in the car leaned across the seat. Facial features that had been cast to portray beauty were twisted into an angry mask. “Halbert!” she snapped, “I told you to shut up and get in the car.”

The two smallest boys were the last ones to climb. The one who had pushed Missy said, “I’ll be back.”

Missy made a face.

When the Bainbridge family withdrew, a creature that had been traveling with them stayed behind.

The being that remained on the Cat Lake bridge had been working his vile mischief in the Bainbridges’ lives for years. His brief observation of Missy Parker, however, ignited a hatred that far exceeded anything he had ever felt toward Estelle Bainbridge. He petitioned his leader, the high-ranking villain who was assigned to the Bainbridges, to let him stay at Cat Lake and work his evil on the girl and those around her. The one to whom he answered hated to grant any request that might strengthen the position of a subordinate, but he hated humans more. So it was that the malevolent being stayed behind while his former superior and dozens of their kind moved away with the Bainbridges.

The spirit-being assayed his intended victim and was encouraged by what he saw. The girl was self-willed, self-centered, and self-confident—all traits that made her more susceptible to his influence. Early pieces of his plan were arranging themselves before the Bainbridges’ car was out of sight. He would recruit his own team of underlings from the demonic realm. When he and his chosen confederates were in place, he would formulate a plan to destroy the girl’s life, maybe in bits and pieces over the coming years, maybe catastrophically in a single day. There might even be a way to use the Bainbridges to help bring her to ruin. And, if the opportunity presented itself, he would do the same to the two meddlesome boys.

When the car was down the road, Bobby turned on Missy. “You can’t be startin’ fights with boys bigger’n you.”

“I didn’t start it. He did.”

Bobby watched the car. “Well, don’t be messin’ with folks like that. That man had somethin’ wrong with him, like he was mean or evil or somethin’.”

“I ain’t scared of the boogeyman.”

“I don’t mean like that. I mean grown men who stare at little girls like that—stay away from ’em.” He watched the car disappear behind a curtain of dust. “An’ if that bunch comes around here again, you head for me or Junior, you hear me?”

The girl directed her wrath at her brother. “You’re not my boss, Mr. Bobby Parker, an’ I’ll have you know I ain’t a little girl.”

Bobby was still learning that he needed to tell Missy to do exactly the opposite of what he wanted done, but he knew who carried the most influence over her. “Tell ’er, Junior.”

Junior picked up the ball and offered it to the girl. “Do like he says, Missy. A growed man that’d speak bad to a lit—to somebody not big as him has got somethin’ wrong inside ’im. That man had the devil in ’im.”

She turned her back on the ball because she wouldn’t be bribed. “Well, if a’ evil man shows up again, an’ I can’t whip ’im by myself, y’all can help.”

The boys took that as a concession and followed her back to their baseball field.

^ ^ ^
Amanda Allen Parker was the first girl born into the Parker family since the Surrender. Maybe they had spoiled her or maybe she knew she was special. Whatever the cause, “Missy” Parker was a young lady who didn’t just give orders—she laid down the law for those who drew near.

When they didn’t call her Missy, everybody on the Parker place and most people in town just referred to her as the girl. The petite picture of brown-haired Southern charm endured the company of women when she had to, but she preferred the attention of the males of her domain.

The Old Parkers and the Young Parkers lived out south of town in two nice houses set back from the west side of Cat Lake. They got good shade from a stand of oaks planted by their ancestors and the cool of a lake breeze when the wind was right.

Bobby Lee Parker ran the Parker Gin; young Bobby looked as if he had been spit out of his daddy’s mouth. Young Mrs. Parker played bridge, went to the garden club and Missionary Society, and tended her yard. Old Mr. Parker farmed ten sections of cotton land, played dominoes, drank coffee, and visited with his friends. Old Mrs. Parker, the genetic source of the girl’s spitfire personality, stayed close to home and baked things.

The Washington family—Mose, his wife Pip, Mose Junior, and little Pearl—lived across the lake from the Parkers. Their home was set back in a stand of pecan trees planted by the same hands that put down the Parkers’ oaks. Mose had been born in the cabin and inherited the house and forty acres of good sandy land from Pap, his great-granddaddy. Back behind the cabin, a full section of Old Mr. Parker’s cotton land separated Mose’s place from the trees of Eagle Nest Brake. Pip, her brother Leon, and her momma Evalina “did for” the Parkers during the week. Mose was Mr. Bobby Lee’s overseer at the gin.

When she became old enough to walk, the girl went where Old Mr. Parker went. While he drove, she stood beside him, one arm on his shoulders, the other holding on to the seat back. When he played dominoes at the pool hall, she sat on his lap. It was the men at the pool hall who had named her Missy—she and those same men called her granddaddy R. D. Trips to that establishment diminished in frequency after Pip had to switch her for “cussin’ in my kitchen.”

Once she started to Mrs. Smith’s kindergarten, Missy’s day-to-day activities became even more curtailed. She countered by playing hooky when she’d had her fill of finger painting and stories about animals made of gingham and calico and velveteen.

After the second time she got called away from her Thursday morning bridge game to hunt for the girl, Young Mrs. Parker taught Pip how to drive. For the next two years, Pip was called into town about twice a week to retrieve the girl from the pool hall. When she was captured, Missy’s complaints were drawled in a little-girl bass voice.

On her first day in first grade, the girl and the staff at the elementary school encountered the first in a series of unique obstacles. The magnitude of the initial confrontation was probably connected with the fact that Missy was on a first-name basis with most of the men in Moores Point, including both bankers and both white preachers.

Missy finally came out of her chair when the first-grade teacher persisted in calling her Amanda.

Hoot Johnson, the school’s janitor, attracted by the mounting sounds of battle, abandoned his dust mop and intervened to contribute his unsolicited—and uninhibited—opinion. The girl’s reaction to what Mr. Johnson had to say didn’t help the situation.

The teacher made a strategic blunder when she decided she would enlist the aid of the principal. The principal made the mistake of showing up, and the tension multiplied geometrically.

Someone eventually called the pool hall and let Old Mr. Parker know about the conflict.

When he got to the school, the farmer didn’t have to guess where the girl was; the war in Europe could not have been heard over the commotion coming from the first-grade classroom.

The adults in the room—a scattering of teachers, the principal, and one vocal janitor—were all yelling at the girl or each other. The other first-day first-graders—joined by two brand-new teachers who had made the mistake of coming to see what on earth the noise was all about—were all cringing in the farthest corner of the room. The girl, who seldom found it necessary to yell at anyone, especially an adult, was keeping her voice down. She was, however, employing the teacher’s chair to be at eye level with the other combatants.

There was Missy, standing in the chair, her tiny fists at her waist, leaning into the principal’s face, her Dutch boy-cut brown hair popping back and forth as her miniature bass voice cataloged the things she didn’t like about his institution. She took passing note of her granddaddy’s presence but continued with her business. She reasoned that if R. D. needed to talk to some of these folks, he was gentleman enough to wait his turn; if he needed to see her, he’d wait ’til she was finished. And wait he did. Leaning on the door frame and giving himself a manicure with his favorite Case pocketknife, the cotton farmer stood by for a break in the storm.

When a majority of the folks finally stopped to catch their breath, Old Mr. Parker put away his knife. He got everyone settled down, borrowed the teacher’s chair from the girl, and presided over the formation of a multifaceted truce.

In the future, the school’s staff would call the girl Missy; she was old enough to decide what her name was. In return, Missy would address the Truitt Elementary School’s principal as Mr. Franklin, not Jimbo, for basically the same reason. Missy would address Mr. Johnson, the school’s janitor, as Hoot because he and the girl were good friends and both preferred it that way. And, one of the teachers crouching in the corner would be released from her contract before the girl moved up to her grade level.

The last point of the truce was a little vague and never resolved to the girl’s satisfaction. It had something to do with whether she could stand on the teacher’s chair, balanced against how many adults were “raisin’ sand for no good reason” when the girl needed to make herself heard.

In the pool hall that afternoon Jimbo Franklin said, “You know somethin’? That girl ain’t always pliable, but she’s almost always fair. I musta been about a bubble offa plumb to take that teacher’s side.” The sages in the pool hall, including Hoot and R. D., nodded. They agreed with every word he said.

During the next year, the second grade had tolerated her well enough; the reciprocal wasn’t always true.

She was three feet tall in the summer of ’45, on the slender side of a pound an inch, with what Scooter Hall called “about eight ounces of eyelashes” strategically situated around midnight blue eyes.

When the sun was out, the three older children at the lake—two Parkers and one Washington—were inseparable. Junior usually deferred to white folks of all ages, and both boys required themselves to yield to most adults. The girl’s deference, however, was never offered capriciously; people of all colors and ages were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and any recipient of her respect had earned it.

For those times when they stepped away from the rest of the world, the children—like a tiny nation—followed an often-argued tangle of laws they had fashioned for themselves.

For three months every summer, and at any other time the children were together, their respective parents—who never knew what might be coming next—waited for the “other shoe to drop.” Or as Old Mr. Parker put it, “for the next shoe to crash through the floor and take most of the house with it.”

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That spring, the three had used up practically a whole Saturday morning arguing about what to name the boat.

The year before, they had procured the building materials for the vessel by tearing the siding off a dilapidated cotton house. Pip’s brother Leon, who took care of things around the Parkers’ houses, was perfectly content to cater to the girl’s every whim. Missy traded him two of Old Mr. Parker’s cigars for his help with the boat. Leon sawed the boards, helped the children nail them together into something that would almost float, and showed them how to put tar in the cracks “so it don’t leak too bad.” The finished product looked like a pauper’s coffin: roughly seven feet long, two feet wide, with two-foot sides. They swamped it so often the first month that Pip told them, “Y’all could use it for one o’ those summarines.” Missy made a new law that only one person could stand up in it at a time, and they kept slopping on tar until they got so they could stay most of the day on the lake without sinking, unless somebody broke the rule. Pip complained, “When they git outta that confounded piece o’ junk, they’re so black I can’t tell which one’s Mose Junior.” It wasn’t the kind of craft a person would want to venture out in while wearing Sunday clothes.

The argument about the christening surfaced because Bobby wanted to name the boat after his hero. Mose Junior said he thought it might be good to name it something out of the Bible, but he cared more about getting started with the painting. When it came right down to it, Missy didn’t really care what they named the dadgummed boat; she was just tired of Bobby getting his way just because he was twelve and she was seven. Bobby countered her objections by claiming they were a democracy, then bought Mose Junior’s vote with the promise that Junior could do most of the painting.

They “happened across” a can of white house paint on the top shelf of the tool shed and made a paint brush by tying a wad of pine needles together. Unraveling the boat’s actual name called for the reader to do a little traveling. The lettering was white and bold; the spelling was close. Junior’s GENRALROB worked its way down the starboard side; around the corner, the bow showed Bobby’s neatly done ERT. The arrangement of the general’s middle initial and last name on the port side was Missy’s responsibility—they came out EEEL. The craft was one of their greatest accomplishments, and they were rarely near the water without it.

Young Mrs. Parker took some snapshots of the paint-splattered trio standing by their pride and joy and gave one to Pip. The two mothers kept the cherished photographs on their dressers until the day they died and occasionally laughed together at speculations of what kind of grandchildren they would see from the mischievous threesome.

They had no way of knowing that the three little figures in the picture were never going to have children.