Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review: "Washington's Lady" by Nancy Moser

The True Life of the First American Lady

It has been said that without George Washington, there would be no United States. But without Martha, there would be no George Washington. He called her "my other self." Who was this woman who captured the heart of our country's founder? Martha Dandridge Curtis was a wealthy, attractive widow and the mother of two small children when she was courted by, then married to the French and Indian War hero. Her new life as Martha Washington took her through blissful times at Mount Vernon, family tragedies, six years of her husband's absence during the Revolutionary War, and her position as a reluctant First Lady.

As a history major, I love historical fiction. But it has to be good historical fiction, not the kind where a famous figure randomly pops up in the story. I fully appreciate it when you can tell the author has done their work by researching the entire life of their characters to bring them to life. You can feel the heartbreak of Martha as her children and those in her family die before their time. It's anguishing to read about a mother's loss and the pain and suffering it brought about. It's also nice to picture George and Martha as being young. The universal image of the two is older with white hair and you don't think about them being young and in love. To see how much they loved each other even when they were at their worst times, when war separated them or when there was joy and happiness is a true testament to the success of a loving marriage. Moser does not make her perfect though. Martha was a real person and not a perfect woman. Someone really needs to option these books as movies. I can totally see this story come alive onscreen. This book brought to mind the John Adams miniseries that recently was on TV. The time period is the same so I could easily picture the characters blending together. I could see Moser's entire Ladies of History series being optioned into a PBS series akin to the recent Jane Austen season. As I said before the reader can tell that a lot of research went into writing this book. It's very risky writing about a figure that is so well known and loved by the country. Nancy Moser did a brilliant job bringing to life our first First Lady. Reading this book wasn't like reading a story, it was as if I was reading Martha's own personal diary. This is THE BEST historical fiction novel I have read this year. I think Martha herself would be proud. HIGHLY recommended especially for history buffs.

Washington's Lady by Nancy Moser is published by Bethany House (2008)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Book Review: "John 3:16" by Nancy Moser


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

John 3:16

Tyndale House Publishers (September 9, 2008)

by

Nancy Moser



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nancy Moser is the author of three inspirational humor books and eighteen novels, including Solemnly Swear, Time Lottery, a Christy Award winner, and her latest historical, Washington's Lady.

Nancy and her husband Mark live in the Midwest. She’s earned a degree in architecture, traveled extensively in Europe, and has performed in numerous theaters,
symphonies, and choirs. She gives Said So Sister Seminars around the country, helping women identify their gifts as they celebrate their sisterhood. She is a fan of anything antique—humans included.

Find out more at Nancy Moser.com and Sister Circles.com


ABOUT THE BOOK

Five people looking for a reason to keep living are about to find it in the last place they expect... In my usual "big cast" style comes a story of what happens when one man puts his faith on the line and holds up a John 3:16 sign at a sporting event. Roman Paulson's life revolves around his son, Billy, a University of Nebraska football hero with a promising life ahead of him. But when Billy's coach encroaches on Roman's relationship with his son, Roman fears he'll lose Billy forever. Roman isn't the only one whose world turns upside down. He's one of five unsuspecting people whose lives intersect on a bright fall day.

If you would like to read the first chapter of John 3:16, go HERE

Six Degrees of Separation

Nancy Moser has lately become one of my new favorite authors. She is gifted in writing in several different genres but is able to maintain wonderful storytelling throughout. I thought it was absolute brilliant how all the characters were somehow connected to each other, even the minor ones. There was one character I could not figure out how he was connected until halfway through the story. Then I was like "Aha!" and felt like I had solved a mystery. As powerful as the story was, I found myself having trouble with some of the characters. They were understandably flawed which would eventually tie into the story. I just didn't like the way their attitudes came across. I really did not like Lianne at all. I understood that she was not living in a happy situation but I detested her attitude. Like Peter said, did she not know the meaning of tact? I didn't agree with everything Peter's parents did but if I was meeting my boyfriend's parents for the first time I would be polite. At least make a good first impression. She was downright rude and seem to want to make them not like her from the beginning. Also when she told Peter her news that involved their future, I did not like the way she treated him afterward. I mean if you heard news that would change your life, you would be in shock at first. She treated him horribly in my opinion, especially with her revelation at the the end. Honestly she was one of the most annoying characters I have ever read in a book.Which thus goes to show how good of an author Nancy Moser is. To make a reader feel so deeply about a character shows how well the writing is. As I said before, the story is brilliant. It really moves you as you read it and you can almost picture yourself being there in the football stadium on that day with the rest of the crowd.

Ironically Nebraska was playing football this weekend and we watched it on TV. Sadly though we were rooting for the other team, Virginia Tech. But since the game was held at Nebraska, I could picture the characters at the game with the faithful sign being held up for all the world to see. This is one of Moser's best words to date. HIGHLY recommended.


John 3:16 by Nancy Moser is published by Tyndale (2008)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I was tagged by Tami from Tree Swing Reading

Here's the rules for those I'm tagging. Check the list after my 6 THINGS to see if you're it then
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag sixish people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know he or she has been
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

6 Random THINGS about me:

1. I was born exactly to the date, 200 years after the Treaty of Versailles was signed thus ending the American Revolution. Was this a sign that I would become a history major?

2. I own over 1500 books and only 3 bookshelves (which means the rest are in rubbermaid containers, piled on TOP of the bookcase, or stacked in piles on the floor)

3. I am getting married in exactly 9 months and I still have not found my dress yet. (Ahh)

4. I have a pug that lives back home with my parents. His full name is Pugsly Obi Wan Yoda (we got him in 1999 right when Episode 1 came out)

5. I don't normally watch chick flicks, but I absolutely love The Holiday with Kate Winslet and I really need to buy the DVD because everytime it comes on TV, I drop what I'm doing and watch it.

6. I love Girl Scout cookies. I wasn't one when I was younger so I never sold them. They need to accept check cards. Everytime I see them I have no cash on me and then whenever I have cash they are nowhere to be found. My favorite is Thin Mints but right now I'm having a craving for Samoas.

I'm not tagging but feel free to leave 6 random things about you here!

Book Review: "Birthday Vicious" by Melissa De La Cruz


*Although the books I review on my blog are almost always Christian fiction, there will be a few spotlighted regular fiction titles I will review from time to time.*

Ashley Spencer considers her birthday to be the most important event next to . . well, okay, it's just the most important event, period. Hello. So when the invite list is cast and the custom embossed invitations are sent, it's a who's-who list of San Francisco's best tweens. If people don't yet know whether they are in or out, this party is sure to draw the lines of coolness in the most permanent of inks. Ashley intends to prove that there's a reason she's been at the top of the social food chain her entire life, and she's not about to be unseated by some lame website ranking. She'd also like to solve the problem of losing her boyfriend. Will all her birthday wishes come true? Or is it more like it's her party and she'll freak if she wants to?

Having not read any of the other books in the series, I was worried that I would be completely lost when starting this book. I have read the author's other series, The Au Pairs, and I figured I knew the style of writing that was going to take place. Also I have read several other teen fiction series dealing with the same type of characters. Well, after starting the book I was totally confused at keeping track of who was who. The clique is named The Ashleys due to 3 of the members sharing the same name. Two of them end up with nicknames so not to confuse each other, but to this reader I had trouble keeping track of which was which Ashley. After a while I got it, but it probably would have helped to read the past two books as several events from the past kept getting mentioned. The biggest is probably the entire of reason of why Lauren is in the clique to begin with. Also the way these parents let their kids rule their lives is despicable. I mean, your mother is deadly sick and you're angry at her because she doesn't want you to ride in on a Vespa at a circus party?

However, I actually favored this book as compared to other popular tween offering that is out there, The Clique series. While once again, these girls are living over-extravagant lifestyles with constant label dropping, it's not as annoying. They don't speak in the coded, annoying "Eh my gawd!!!" slang that is on every page in The Clique. What is also refreshing about having younger teens, is that there is no talk about sex. Yes, girls like guys but since they are only 12-13, no one's having sex. Heck, you can't even tell if these girls have even hit puberty yet. Also of noted interest is the diversity of the main characters. The presence of minorities in the main cast is dutifully noted, yet it is cliched that the leader of the pack is blond and blue eyed. This is pretty much like a Mean Girls scenario with a younger set.

If you have a tween, and you want them to stay away from Gossip Girl or the It Girl for the time being, these books are recommended for them. I, myself, might have to go back and find the other two books to catch up on what has happened before.
To the readers of this blog, I would recommend reading Melody Carlson's Carter House Girls series over this book.

Birthday Vicious by Melissa De La Cruz is published by Simon and Schuster Children (2008)

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Encore Effect by Mark Sanborn

Everyone wants to make a difference in the world, but most have no idea how to maximize their impact. In The Encore Effect, best-selling author and leadership expert Mark Sanborn provides the answer. He leads readers in six practices that will move them beyond excellence to distinction and from mundane to memorable. These principles guide readers to draw on their passion and devote themselves to preparation, practice, presentation, polishing, and finally, avoiding pitfalls. When readers follow these principles they will find that people are attracted to them. More importantly, they’ll find that they now have an influence over others that can impact lives for eternity.


By following the six principles of The Encore Effect, readers can:

  • Deliver a remarkable performance in everything they do


  • Elevate the performance of the people they lead and influence


  • Extend and deepen the impact they have on others—even for eternity.

This special edition, distributed through the CBA, will include unique content such as scripture verses, biblical illustrations, and discussion questions.


Mark Sanborn is the best-selling author of The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader. An internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. Having served as president of two national organizations, he regularly keynotes meetings in the United States and abroad—speaking on leadership, team building, customer service, and mastering change. He and his family live near Denver, Colorado.

Sunset by Karen Kingsbury



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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





Today's Wild Card author is:


and her book:


Sunset (Sunrise Series-Baxter 3, Book 4)

Tyndale House Publishers (September 23, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Karen Kingsbury is currently America's best-selling inspirational author. She has written more than 30 of her Life-Changing Fiction titles and has nearly 5 million books in print. Dubbed by Time magazine as the Queen of Christian Fiction. Her fiction has made her one of the country's favorite storytellers, and one of her novels-Gideon's Gift-is under production for an upcoming major motion picture release. Her emotionally gripping titles include the popular Redemption series, the Firstborn series, Divine, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, Oceans Apart, and A Thousand Tomorrows.Karen and her husband, Don, live in the Pacific Northwest and are parents to one girl and five boys, including three adopted from Haiti.

Visit the author's website.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


John Baxter had dreaded this day with everything in him, but the knock at the door told him the time had come. It was the last Tuesday in January, Christmas far behind them and long past time to take this step. He’d made the decision more than a year ago, and now he needed to carry through with it.

“Coming . . .” He walked from the kitchen to the front door and opened it.

“John.” Verne Pick nodded. He was a friend from church whose kids were involved with CKT, and he had a reputation for being one of the best, most thorough Realtors in Bloomington. His expression told John that he knew this was going to be a rough day. “You ready?”

He steeled himself. “I am.” He opened the heavy wooden door and welcomed the man inside. “Let’s move to the kitchen table.” John had brewed a pot of coffee, and he poured cups for both of them.

They made small talk, and after a few minutes, Verne pulled a folder from his briefcase. “We have a standard questionnaire we need to deal with first.”

John blinked, and a memory came over him. When Elizabeth died, it had taken every bit of his strength to walk through the planning of her service. But he remembered this one detail: The young woman from the funeral home who helped him with the process had presented every question couched in concern, as if she wanted to apologize for each step of the ordeal. That’s exactly how Verne was now, his brow raised as he waited for a response.

John motioned to the two closest chairs. “Let’s get the questions out of the way.”

“Okay.” Verne opened the folder and took out the document on top. He drew a long breath. “I guess we better talk about the fire first. It’s bound to come up.”

“Right. Just a minute.” John went to the next room and found a folder on the desk. He brought it back and set it on the table in front of his friend. “The garage has been completely redone, and all the repair work was signed off. Everything’s in the folder.”

“Good.” Verne lifted his chin and sniffed a few times. “No smell of smoke?”

“Not at all.”

“The place is really something.” Verne’s smile was tentative. “Should have it sold by summer, I’m guessing.”

“Yes.” A bittersweet sense of pride welled in John’s chest. “It’s a great house. Held up well through the years even with the fire.”

Verne settled in over the paperwork. “I’ve got some of this filled out already. Let’s do the basics first.” He lifted his gaze, pen poised over the top sheet. “Number of bedrooms?”

John pictured them the way they’d looked twenty years ago. He and Elizabeth in the large room at one side of the house upstairs. Brooke and Kari across from each other at the south end of the hall, Luke in the next bedroom on the left, and Ashley and Erin sharing a room at the north end. He pushed away the memory. “Five.” He took a quick sip of coffee. “Five bedrooms.”

The interview wore on, each question stirring another set of memories and reasons why he couldn’t believe he was selling the place. When they reached the end of the document, Verne bit his lower lip. “The tour comes next. I need to measure each room, get an official square footage.”

“The tour?” John looked toward the stove, and he could almost see Elizabeth standing near the kettle. “John’ll give you the tour,” she would say when company came over. “He’s so proud of the place—I like to let him do it.”

“Sure.” John gave his friend a smile. “Let’s start in the living room.”

They worked their way from one part of the house to the next, and as they went, Verne pulled out his measuring tape and captured the length of the walls.

John remained quiet. He wasn’t seeing his friend taking matter-of-fact measurements of the house he so loved. He was seeing Elizabeth, rocking their babies, Ashley learning to walk, Brooke bringing in a bird with a broken wing, and Kari screaming because she thought it might attack her. He could hear the piano, filling the house with hour after hour of not-quite-perfect songs during the years when the kids took lessons, and he could see the grandkids gathered around their tree each Christmas.

Whatever the square footage of the house, it couldn’t possibly measure what these walls had seen or the memories housed here.

They finished the final room, and Verne closed the folder. “Well, that’s about it. Just one more thing and I can get back to the office and list it.” He walked toward the front of the house. “I’ll get what I need from the car.”

John followed him into the entryway, and when he was alone, he slumped against the doorframe. For a heartbeat, he felt like he was no longer attached to his body. What was he doing, selling the house? Certainly one of his kids should’ve wanted it, right? He had six of them in the area, after all. But John had already asked each of them. Brooke and Peter liked the house they lived in because it was easy for Hayley and comfortable. “We have our own memories here,” Brooke had told him. “The Baxter place would be much too big for us.”

Kari had felt the same way about having her own memories. Ryan had designed the log house they lived in, and it had a sort of rugged lodge feel both Kari and Ryan loved.

Ashley had been a possibility at first. She had told him a number of times that she would love to raise the boys here, where she’d grown up. But she wasn’t painting enough to bring in regular money, and the mortgage on the house would be far beyond what Landon could afford, especially with their growing boys.

Once John had even considered calling Dayne, because it would’ve been nothing for him to loan Ashley and Landon the money—maybe at a lower rate or for a longer period of time.

But Ashley had begged him not to. “I don’t want Dayne to think of us like that, using him for his money.”

John could’ve argued with her, but there was no point, really. Ashley was right; the situation would have been awkward.

As for his other kids, Luke and Reagan needed to be close to Indianapolis for Luke’s job, and things were still very shaky between them. They’d found a nearby church, and John was encouraging them to get counseling at a local center. There was no way they’d be interested in moving again.

Last there were Erin and Sam. At first, when Erin called to announce that they were moving back to Indiana, John thought he had his answer, a way to keep the house in the family. But Sam worked long days, and Erin was busy with the kids. Upkeep on a house with acreage was more than they were willing to take on even for the sake of nostalgia. So they were out.

John wandered into the front room and peered through the window at Verne out front. Way down at the end of his driveway, his friend had taken a large For Sale sign from the back of his car. John’s heart swelled with frustration and futility as he watched Verne position the sign not far from the road. The Baxter house . . . for sale. John gritted his teeth and looked away. This was where he’d wanted to live out the rest of his days, so maybe he was wrong. Maybe this was all a mistake. He looked out the window again and narrowed his eyes.

No, there was no mistake in what he was doing. Living in this house into his twilight years meant sharing it with Elizabeth, and since she wasn’t here, the house could go. It had to. He and Elaine Denning were moving ahead with their plans to marry, and they needed a new place to begin their life together and—

The echo of a mallet against a stake resonated deep within him. It was barely loud enough to hear, but John knew the sound. He took a few steps closer to the window as Verne hammered the sign into the ground.

Why, God? Isn’t there some way to save the place?

In response there was only the sound of another blow, another strike of the mallet.

John winced as Verne finished the job. Yes, his years in the Baxter house were over. The time had come to move on, and with God’s help that’s what John would do. He gripped the windowsill and breathed in deeply the familiar smell of his home. He would survive letting go of this place, because he had no other choice.

Even if it all but killed him to say good-bye.

***

Ashley Baxter Blake flung open the bathroom window, braced herself against the sink, and stared at the mirror. Her hands trembled and her heart raced as she glanced at the clock on the bathroom counter—9:31 a.m. Okay, here goes. . . . She marked the second hand and stared at the mirror again. The next minute was bound to drag, and Ashley couldn’t make it go faster by watching the clock.

How could she have lied to herself for so long? She leaned closer, studying her look. Her makeup didn’t cover the dark circles under her eyes. She was dizzy and weary, drained from another morning of dry heaves, and no amount of fresh air staved off the nausea.

Through Christmas she had given herself a dozen reasons why she might be late—busyness and excitement during the holidays, running after Cole and Devin almost constantly, and the heartache of missing baby Sarah. It could take a year after losing a baby before her body found its normal routine of cycles. That’s what her doctor had told her. A year. It hadn’t been nearly that.

But she’d had just one period in the last four months, and finally Ashley had done what she thought about doing weeks ago. She bought a test, and now in less than a minute she’d know the truth. Not that she needed the test at this point. She touched her fingers gently to her abdomen. It wasn’t exactly bulging, but it was slightly rounded and firm, the way she’d always felt when she was in her first few months of pregnancy.

The difference was that every other time she had been ecstatic about maybe being pregnant, ready to rush to the drugstore for a test the moment she suspected she was a day or so late. Even in the weeks after losing Sarah, she and Landon had wanted nothing more than to try for another child. But somewhere along the journey of letting go of her daughter, Ashley had realized something deep within her.

She couldn’t lose another baby.

By God’s grace and with Landon by her side she’d survived losing Sarah, but another child? Ashley wasn’t sure she’d survive. The sound of her too fast heartbeat echoed against her temples, and she blinked at her image in the mirror. Standing here on the verge of having her answer, there was only one way to explain the way Ashley felt. She was terrified.

Her strange and new fears were impacting every area of her life—even her relationship with Landon. By now she should’ve told him about her suspicions, but she’d kept the possibility to herself. Every time she considered telling him, she stopped herself. If she told Landon, then she’d need to visit a doctor and go through the same steps as last time—the tests and ultimately the ultrasound. And that meant she had to be ready to handle the news that something could be wrong again. News she couldn’t face. Not yet anyway.

Besides if she told Landon too soon, he’d get his hopes up and then if . . . if something was wrong, they’d both be crushed. Almost as if by saying something she would instantly open the two of them to all the grim possibilities. Whereas by keeping her concerns to herself, she could avoid giving Landon a false sense of hope, avoid the doctor appointments, and most of all the dreaded ultrasound.

Ashley squinted at the test window. Was it her imagination or was a line forming down the center? The line that would confirm she was carrying another child? She closed her eyes and breathed in sharp through her nose. I can’t do it again, God. I can’t lose another baby. Please walk me through this.

Losing Sarah was the most wrenching pain she’d ever been through. Yes, she and Landon had found the miracle in Sarah’s brief life, and they would treasure forever the few hours they shared with her. But since then, she couldn’t walk past Sarah’s nursery without aching from the loss, couldn’t drive in the direction of the cemetery without seeing her painting, the one of her mother holding Sarah in a field of flowers in heaven.

She leaned hard against the bathroom countertop, her arms shaking. The doctor had said a repeat diagnosis of anencephaly wasn’t likely, but it was possible.

Landon must’ve known she was worried about having future children, because he’d brought up the subject only once since Christmas. “Do you think about it, Ash . . . having another baby?”

“At first. But lately I try not to.” Her voice had been kind, gentle. But fear put a sudden grip on her throat. “I couldn’t do it again. Go through what we went through with Sarah.”

Landon touched her cheek, her forehead. “My grandpa always told me God never gives us more than we can handle.”

“I know.” Ashley smiled, and in that instant she could see Sarah in her arms, feel that warm little body against her chest. She swallowed, trying to find the words. But they both dropped the subject.

Since then she’d talked briefly with Landon about her fears of having more children. But the truth was, somewhere along the days of pain and grief Ashley had formed a mind-set: better not to have more children than to face the possibility of losing another baby.

The thing was, in her life God had sometimes given her things that He must’ve known she’d survive, and she had indeed come through on the other side. God had always brought her closer to Himself through the process. But she was weary of the heartache, tired of the path of pain God sometimes led her down. If she were pregnant now, she would fight the fear of loss every morning, every hour between now and the birth of her baby. So maybe she hadn’t been crazy to deny the evidence of her body for this long. She simply wasn’t ready to face the sorrow that might be around the next corner.

More than a minute had passed, so whatever was in the test window would be visible by now. Ashley picked up the stick and looked at the two straight lines, both dark and pronounced, and the answer was instantly in front of her. No doubt whatsoever—she was pregnant. Fear tap-danced across the moment, but it was joined by an unexpected partner: the flicker of hope and joy. She was pregnant, and for now, no matter what might lay ahead, a brand-new life was growing inside her. The news was terrifying and thrilling at the same time.

Now it was merely a matter of finding the courage to tell Landon.


Copyright© 2008 by Karen Kingsbury. All rights reserved.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review: "Single Sashimi" by Camy Tang


Camy Tang's Best Book to Date

Venus Chau is a lead developer for a gaming company. She's in prime position to being promoted until her unethical coworkers cause her to start looking elsewhere. She finds herself at another company headed by CEO Drake Yu. There's tension between the two because in the past, Drake used Venus to benefit his company. Venus is still touchy about that especially since she's still uneasy about the dramatic weight loss she had a few years ago. She has to suck up and gain some self confidence however if she plans to help Drake and his new company AND stop her old one from stealing her work.

In my opinion, this was the best book of the series. I have never read any fiction book, secular or non fiction, that has a woman in charge at a video game industry. Most people do not think that girls like to play video games so it was wonderful to see that stereotype broken in this book. Also for once it was so nice to see a female lead in a chick lit book be bossy and taking charge but not being snooty about it. Venus is a professional and it shows in her work ethic. I applauded the way she treated the people at the new company. One cannot start up a new company where everything is a free for all and Venus showed them the correct way to succeed. I loved reading about her relationship with Drake. Right from the get go you could feel the zing in the air between them. This book had some of the sleaziest bad guys I've read in a while. I think what makes it worse is that people like Yardley and Edgar really do exist, with their abhorrent unethical ways. I wanted bad things to happen to them from the beginning. Thank goodness, Grandmother has toned down in this book. If you've read my previous reviews of the series, you know that she was one of my major complaints. Whether Venus is her favorite out of the four, or whatever other reason, she has mellowed out a lot and her demands are almost reasonable. On the other hand, Venus' mom must take after her own mother with the pushy and annoying way she treated Venus. Luckily there's redemption in the future for her.

I would say out of the three books, this is the least Asian-y in the series. There is splashes of Asian American culture thrown in but the focus is mainly on Venus and the video game companies. Personally I much preferred this. It was nice seeing in the first book, Asian culture in full force. However it's also nice just to have an Asian American character just be, without drawing too much attention or making a big deal that she is a minority.


I'm sad to see this series ending. Unfortunately we won't see Jenn getting her own full book but she should be showing up as a short story soon. This has been a breakthrough series in the Christian fiction industry and I am so glad that it was written. I shall miss these cousins, it's pretty much like reading about my own family! HIGHLY recommended.

Single Sashimi by Camy Tang is published by Zondervan (2008)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When the Soul Mends by Cindy Woodsmall


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

When The Soul Mends

WaterBrook Press (September 16, 2008)

by

Cindy Woodsmall



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cindy Woodsmall is a veteran homeschool mom. As her children progressed in age, her desire to write grew stronger. After working through reservations whether this desire was something she should pursue, she began her writing journey. Her husband was her staunchest supporter as she aimed for what seemed impossible.

Her first novel, When The Heart Cries, released in 2006 to much acclaim and became a Christian Book Association best seller. Cindy was a 2007 ECPA Christian Book Award finalist, along with Karen Kingsbury, Angela Hunt, and Charles Martin.

Her last book, When the Morning Comes, hit the New York Times best-sellers extended list and the Christian Book Association best-sellers list.

Cindy’s real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families enrich her novels with authenticity.

Cindy, her husband, their three sons and daughter-in-law reside in Georgia. Her husband is a registered land surveyor and a vice president at an engineering firm. Their oldest son has a bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine and works at a local hospital. Their second son and his wife are both students at the University of Georgia. Their teen-aged son keeps the household energized with his love of music, books, and writing.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Returning to the home she fled in disgrace, will Hannah find healing for the wounds of the past?

After receiving a desperate and confusing call from her sister, Hannah Lapp reluctantly returns to the Old Order Amish community of her Pennsylvania childhood.

Having fled in disgrace more than two years earlier, she finally has settled into a satisfying role in the Englischer world. She also has found love and a new family with the wealthy Martin Palmer and the children she is helping him raise. But almost immediately after her arrival in Owl’s Perch, the disapproval of those who ostracized her, including her headstrong father, reopens old wounds.

As Hannah is thrown together with former fiancé Paul Waddell to work for her sister Sarah’s mental health, hidden truths surface about events during Hannah’s absence, and she faces an agonizing decision. Will she choose the Englischer world and the man who restored her hope, or will she heed the call to return to the Plain Life–and perhaps to her first love?

If you would like to read the first chapter of When The Soul Mends, go HERE

“A skillfully written story of forgiveness and redemption. Woodsmall’s authentic characters illustrate beautifully how wounded souls can indeed be mended.”
Susan Meissner, author of The Shape of Mercy

“Like the stitches on a well-loved quilt, love and faith hold together Cindy Woodsmall's When the Soul Mends, the brilliantly written third story in the Sisters of the Quilt series. With deft plotting and characters that seem to jump off the page, this novel offers the timeless truth that forgiveness is the balm which heals all wounds and a blanket for the soul.”
Kathleen Y’Barbo, author of Beloved Castaway

“What a vibrant, strong, emotional story! When the Heart Cries will grip you and not let go, I promise. Highly recommended!”
Gayle Roper, author of Allah’s Fire and the Seaside Seasons series

“Reaching deep into the heart of the reader, Cindy Woodsmall pens a beautifully lyrical story in her debut novel When the Heart Cries.”
Tamera Alexander, bestselling author of Rekindled

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Snowbound Colorado Christmas and Book Giveaway!

I'm giving away a brand new copy of today's book! 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 Tuesday, September 30. US addresses only. Good luck!

Relive the Christmas of 1913 thorough the eyes of young people in love as snow falls in a record-setting blizzard in Snowbound Colorado Christmas. During Christmas the Christmas of 1913, Colorado is buffeted with snow and four couples find that taken refuge also means taking a look at the past and giving love a chance for the future.

Fires of Love by Tamela Hancock Murray

Thalia Bloom looks forward to her party except for seeing heartbreaker Maximilian Newbolt. Sparks fly, and Maximilian is waylaid by an allergy to a strawberry tart and illness means he must linger. Aunt Dorcas is even unhappier than Maximilian, discouraging any newfound love between the couple. Has God used a strawberry tart to free this couple from bondage of fears and insecurities so they can find true happiness in love?

The Best Medicine by Lena Nelson Dooley

When Thomas Stanton shows up at the holiday party of Rose Fletcher’s best friend, his appearance reminds Rose of the infatuation she felt for him when he worked on her father’s ranch. Although her heart wants to continue those long ago feelings, her mind reminds her that he doesn’t share her faith in God. Thomas can’t understand why Rose seems so standoffish. Will it take God’s intervention to show these two people just what He has planned all along?

Almost Home by Susan Page Davis

Patricia Logan leaves Thalia’s party and heads for home at her uncle’s ranch. Her ride is sidelined by the blizzard. A chance meeting with Jared Booker, an old friend, prompts Patricia to beg for a lift. They set out on horseback and become snowbound in a shack for two days with a crotchety midwife and their past. Can they rekindle their old camaraderie and see it transform into lasting love?

Dressed in Scarlet by Darlene Franklin

Natalie Daire, a rich young heiress, has a car accident on the way home from a friend’s holiday party and finds herself snowed in with the other guests at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. Fabrizio Ricci, the mechanic who fixes her car, is also snowbound at the hotel. Can these two people from opposite ends of the social spectrum find true love?

When you aren’t writing or spending time with your family, what is your favorite activity?

Darlene: I suppose reading doesn’t count. Writing and family consume most of my time. I’m also involved with our church choir; music has always been a big part of my life.

Did you find it hard or easy to work within the series framework?

Tamela: I’ve worked on many novella collections with different sets of authors, including the highly acclaimed HIGHLAND LEGACY collection. This set went smoothly for me and I had fun writing it.

Where do you do most of your writing?

Susan: I’m blessed with a whole room for my study. My sisters recently helped me repaint and decorate it, and I love it! It has an eclectic, Americana theme with a Charles Wysocki border and lots of little treasure boxes and other knickknacks on display.

Tell us about your novella.

Lena: Rose Fletcher attends a holiday party given by one of her roommates in boarding school where she meets Dr. Thomas Stanton, the most handsome man she’s ever seen. Later she finds out that they have a history that she has a hard time forgetting.

A native Virginian, Tamela Hancock Murray has been writing all her life. She interned on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Department of State before graduating with honors in Journalism from Lynchburg College in Virginia. An award-winning, bestselling author, Tamela has over 20 fiction and nonfiction books to her credit. Upcoming releases include LOVE FINDS YOU IN MAIDEN, NORTH CAROLINA, and THE MASTER'S MATCH. She has discussed her work on radio and television. Her professional affiliations include Trois Riviere Fiction Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. Tamela enjoys being an agent with Hartline Literary Agency, and she takes turns with her fellow agents writing a column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine http://www.christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/. When she's not writing, Tamela spends wonderful times with her husband and their two daughters, as well as extended family and friends.

Lena Nelson Dooley holds a BA in Speech and Drama, and she completed many graduate hours as well. She has served as a drama director for several churches. In addition, she has been the administrative assistant to two different pastors. Snowbound Colorado Christmas is her 18th book release. Four more books will release in 2009. She is often a speaker at women’s events, writers’ meetings, and conferences. She’s an award-winning, bestselling author. At present she serves as vice-president of DFW Ready Writers, the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She has a website, http://www.lenanelsondooley.com/ . In the monthly newsletter, she gives away copies of her books and features reviews of her recent reads as well as what’s new that month in Christian publishing. Her blog, http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/ , is popular with readers, because she promotes authors and their most recent works.

Susan Page Davis is the author of ten historical novels, six romantic suspense, and two young adult books. She has co-authored a cozy mystery series with her daughter, Megan Elaine Davis. Susan’s historicals have won awards in the Book of the Year and Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contests. She’s a homeschooling mother of six and grandmother of five. She and her husband Jim live in Maine, where Jim is a news editor.



Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin resides in the Colorado foothills with her mother and her Lynx Point Siamese cat Talia. She is the mother of two children. Her daughter has gone ahead of her to glory; her son lives in Oklahoma with his family. She loves music, reading, and writing. She is the author of five novels, and has contributed more than 150 articles to numerous magazines, anthologies, and devotionals. She has also written curriculum for children’s Sunday school.


Be sure to visit http://www.2nd-cup-of-coffee.blogspot.com on September 26 for more information from these authors.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Faking Grace

Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)

by

Tamara Leigh



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After Tamara Leigh earned a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology, she and her husband decided to start a family, with plans for Tamara to continue in her career once she became a mother.

When the blessing of children proved elusive, Tamara became convicted to find a way to work out of her home in order to raise the children she and her husband longed to have. She turned to writing, at which she had only ever dreamed of being successful, and began attending church. Shortly thereafter, her agent called with news of Bantam Books’ offer of a four-book contract. That same day, Tamara’s pregnancy was confirmed. Within the next year, she gave up her speech pathology career, committed her life to Christ, her first child was born, and her first historical romance novel was released.

As Tamara continued to write for the secular market, publishing three more novels with HarperCollins and Dorchester, she infused her growing Christian beliefs into her writing. But it was not enough, and though her novels earned awards and were national bestsellers, she knew her stories were lacking. After struggling with the certainty that her writing was not honoring God as it should, she made the decision to write books that not only reveal Christianity to non-believers, but serve as an inspiration for those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. Her inspirational romances are peopled with characters in varying stages of Christian faith, from mature believers to new believers to non-believers on the threshold of awakening.

Tamara Leigh enjoys time with her family, volunteer work, faux painting, and reading. She lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, David, and two sons, Skyler and Maxen.

Two of her latest books are Splitting Harriet and Perfecting Kate.


ABOUT THE BOOK

All she wants is a job. All she needs is religion. How hard can it be?

Maizy Grace Stewart dreams of a career as an investigative journalist, but her last job ended in disaster when her compassion cost her employer a juicy headline. A part-time gig at a Nashville newspaper might be her big break.

A second job at Steeple Side Christian Resources could help pay the bills, but Steeple Side only hires committed Christians. Maizy is sure she can fake it with her Five-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith–a plan of action that includes changing her first name to Grace, buying Jesus-themed accessories, and learning “Christian Speak.” If only Jack Prentiss, Steeple Side’s managing editor and two-day-stubbled, blue-jean-wearing British hottie wasn’t determined to prove her a fraud.

When Maizy’s boss at the newspaper decides that she should investigate–and expose–any skeletons in Steeple Side’s closet, she must decide whether to deliver the dirt and secure her career or lean on her newfound faith, change the direction of her life, and pray that her Steeple Side colleagues–and Jack–will show her grace.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Faking Grace, go HERE

“Tamara Leigh takes her experienced romance hand and delights readers with Chick-Lit that sparkles and characters who come alive.” - Kristin Billerbeck, author of The Trophy Wives Club

“A delightful, charming book! Faking Grace has romance, truth, and a dollop of insanity, making Tamara Leigh a permanent addition to my list of favorite authors. Enjoy!”
- Ginger Garrett, author of In the Shadow of Lions and Beauty Secrets of the Bible

“Tamara Leigh does a fabulous job looking at the faults, the love, the hypocrisy, and the grace of Christians in a way that’s entertaining and fun. Maizy Grace is a crazy character I couldn’t help but like. I loved this book and highly recommend it!”
- Camy Tang, author of Sushi for One? and Only Uni

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's All About Us and The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina and Book Giveaway!

I'm giving away a brand new set of BOTH of today's books! 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 Sunday, September 28. US addresses only. Good luck!


It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!





and her books:


It's All About Us: A Novel

FaithWords (May 12, 2008)


and


The Fruit of My Lipstick (All About Us Series, Book 2)

FaithWords (August 11, 2008)


Plus a Tiffany's Bracelet Giveaway! Go to Camy Tang's Blog and leave a comment on the Teen FIRST All About Us Tour and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet that looks similar to the picture below. But the winning FaithWords Tiffany's bracelet will be a double heart charm.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Shelley Adina is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She knows the value of a relationship with a gracious God and loving Christian friends, and she's inviting today's teenage girls to join her in these refreshingly honest books about real life as a Christian teen--with a little extra glitz thrown in for fun! In between books, Adina loves traveling, listening to and making music, and watching all kinds of movies.

It's All About Us is Book One in the All About Us Series. Book Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick came out in August 2008, and Book Three, Be Strong & Curvaceous, comes out in January 2009.

Visit the author's website.

It's All About Us: A Novel




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

SOME THINGS YOU just know without being told. Like, you passed the math final (or you didn't). Your boyfriend isn't into you anymore and wants to break up. Vanessa Talbot has decided that since you're the New Girl, you have a big bull's-eye on your forehead and your junior year is going to be just as miserable as she can make it.

Carly once told me she used to wish she were me. Ha! That first week at Spencer Academy, I wouldn't have wished my life on anyone.

My name is Lissa Evelyn Mansfield, and since everything seemed to happen to me this quarter, we decided I'd be the one to write it all down. Maybe you'll think I'm some kind of drama queen, but I swear this is the truth. Don't listen to Gillian and Carly—they weren't there for some of it, so probably when they read this, it'll be news to them, too.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. When it all started, I didn't even know them. All I knew was that I was starting my junior year at the Spencer Academy of San Francisco, this private boarding school for trust fund kids and the offspring of the hopelessly rich, and I totally did not want to be there.

I mean, picture it: You go from having fun and being popular in tenth grade at Pacific High in Santa Barbara, where you can hang out on State Street or join a drumming circle or surf whenever you feel like it with all your friends, to being absolutely nobody in this massive old mansion where rich kids go because their parents don't have time to take care of them.

Not that my parents are like that. My dad's a movie director, and he's home whenever his shooting schedule allows it. When he's not, sometimes he flies us out to cool places like Barbados or Hungary for a week so we can be on location together. You've probably heard of my dad. He directed that big pirate movie that Warner Brothers did a couple of years ago. That's how he got on the radar of some of the big A-list directors, so when George (hey, he asked me to call him that, so it's not like I'm dropping names) rang him up from Marin and suggested they do a movie together, of course he said yes. I can't imagine anybody saying no to George, but anyway, that's why we're in San Francisco for the next two years. Since Dad's going to be out at the Ranch or on location so much, and my sister, Jolie, is at UCLA (film school, what else—she's a daddy's girl and she admits it), and my mom's dividing her time among all of us, I had the choice of going to boarding school or having a live-in. Boarding school sounded fun in a Harry Potter kind of way, so I picked that.

Sigh. That was before I realized how lonely it is being the New Girl. Before the full effect of my breakup really hit. Before I knew about Vanessa Talbot, who I swear would make the perfect girlfriend for a warlock.

And speaking of witch . . .

"Melissa!"

Note: my name is not Melissa. But on the first day of classes, I'd made the mistake of correcting Vanessa, which meant that every time she saw me after that, she made a point of saying it wrong. The annoying part is that now people really think that's my name.

Vanessa, Emily Overton, and Dani Lavigne ("Yes, that Lavigne. Did I tell you she's my cousin?") are like this triad of terror at Spencer. Their parents are all fabulously wealthy—richer than my mom's family, even—and they never let you forget it. Vanessa and Dani have the genes to go with all that money, which means they look good in everything from designer dresses to street chic.

Vanessa's dark brown hair is cut so perfectly, it always falls into place when she moves. She has the kind of skin and dark eyes that might be from some Italian beauty somewhere in her family tree. Which, of course, means the camera loves her. It didn't take me long to figure out that there was likely to be a photographer or two somewhere on the grounds pretty much all the time, and nine times out of ten, Vanessa was the one they bagged. Her mom is minor royalty and the ex-wife of some U.N. Secretary or other, which means every time he gives a speech, a photographer shows up here. Believe me, seeing Vanessa in the halls at school and never knowing when she's going to pop out at me from the pages of Teen People or some society news Web site is just annoying. Can you say overexposed?

Anyway. Where was I? Dani has butterscotch-colored hair that she has highlighted at Biondi once a month, and big blue eyes that make her look way more innocent than she is. Emily is shorter and chunkier and could maybe be nice if you got her on her own, but she's not the kind that functions well outside of a clique.

Some people are born independent and some aren't. You should see Emily these days. All that money doesn't help her one bit out at the farm, where—

Okay, Gillian just told me I have to stop doing that. She says it's messing her up, like I'm telling her the ending when I'm supposed to be telling the beginning.

Not that it's all about her, okay? It's about us: me, Gillian, Carly, Shani, Mac . . . and God. But just to make Gillian happy, I'll skip to the part where I met her, and she (and you) can see what I really thought of her. Ha. Maybe that'll make her stop reading over my shoulder.

So as I was saying, there they were—Vanessa, Emily, and Dani—standing between me and the dining room doors. "What's up?" I said, walking up to them when I should have turned and settled for something out of the snack machine at the other end of the hall.

"She doesn't know." Emily poked Dani. "Maybe we shouldn't tell her."

I did a fast mental check. Plaid skirt—okay. Oxfords—no embarrassing toilet paper. White blouse—buttoned, no stains. Slate blue cardigan—clean. Hair—freshly brushed.

They couldn't be talking about me personally, in which case I didn't need to hear it. "Whatever." I pushed past them and took two steps down the hall.

"Don't you want to hear about your new roommate?" Vanessa asked.

Roommate? At that point I'd survived for five days, and the only good things about them were the crème brulée in the dining room and the blessed privacy of my own room. What fresh disaster was this?

Oops. I'd stopped in my tracks and tipped them off that (a) I didn't know, and (b) I wanted to know. And when Vanessa knows you want something, she'll do everything she can not to let you have it.

"I think we should tell her," Emily said. "It would be kinder to get it over with." "I'm sure I'll find out eventually." There, that sounded bored enough. "Byeee." "I hope you like Chinese!" Dani whooped at her own cleverness, and the three of them floated off down the hall.

So I thought, Great, maybe they're having dim sum today for lunch, though what that had to do with my new roommate I had no idea. At that point it hadn't really sunk in that conversation with those three is a dangerous thing.

That had been my first mistake the previous Wednesday, when classes had officially begun. Conversation, I mean. You know, normal civilized discourse with someone you think might be a friend. Like a total dummy, I'd actually thought this about Vanessa, who'd pulled newbie duty, walking me down the hall to show me where my first class was. It turned out to not be my first class, but the teacher was nice about steering me to the right room, where I was, of course, late.

That should've been my first clue.

My second clue was when Vanessa invited me to eat with them and Dani managed to spill her Coke all over my uniform skirt, which is, as I said, plaid and made of this easy-clean fake wool that people with sensitive skin can wear. She'd jumped up, all full of apologies, and handed me napkins and stuff, but the fact remained that I had to go upstairs and change and then figure out how the laundry service worked, which meant I was late for Biology, too.

On Thursday Dani apologized again, and Vanessa loaned me some of her Bumble and bumble shampoo ("You can't use Paul Mitchell on gorgeous hair like yours—people get that stuff at the drugstore now"), and I was dumb enough to think that maybe things were looking up. Because really, the shampoo was superb. My hair is blond and I wear it long, but before you go hating me for it, it's fine and thick, and the fog we have here in San Francisco makes it go all frizzy. And it's foggy a lot. So this shampoo made it just coo with pleasure.

You're probably asking yourself why I bothered trying to be friends with these girls. The harrowing truth was, I was used to being in the A-list group. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't fit in with the popular girls at Spencer, once I figured out who they were.

Lucky me—Vanessa made that so easy. And I was so lonely and out of my depth that even she was looking good. Her dad had once backed one of my dad's films, so there was that minimal connection.

Too bad it wasn't enough.

jolie.mansfield L, don't let them bug you. Some people are
threatened by anything new. It's a compliment
really.

LMansfield You always find the bright side. Gahh. Love you,
but not helping.

jolie.mansfield What can I do?

LMansfield I'd give absolutely anything to be back in S.B.

jolie.mansfield :(

LMansfield I want to hang with the kids from my youth group.
Not worry about anything but the SPF of my sun
block.

jolie.mansfield It'll get better. Promise. Heard from Mom?
LMansfield No. She's doing some fundraiser with Angelina.
She's pretty busy.

jolie.mansfield If you say so. Love you.



Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Adina


&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

The Fruit of My Lipstick (All About Us Series, Book 2)




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

chapter 1


Top Five Clues That He’s the One

1. He’s smart, which is why he’s dating you and not the queen of the snob mob.

2. He knows he’s hot, but he thinks you’re hotter.

3. He’d rather listen to you than to himself.

4. You’re in on his jokes—not the butt of them.

5. He always gives you the last cookie in the box.

THE NEW YEAR. . . when a young girl’s heart turns to new beginnings, weight loss, and a new term of chemistry!

Whew! Got that little squee out of my system. But you may as well know right now that science and music are what I do, and they tend to come up a lot in conversation. Sometimes my friends think this is good, like when I’m helping them cram for an exam. Sometimes they just think I’m a geek. But that’s okay. My name is Gillian Frances Jiao-Lan Chang, and since Lissa was brave enough to fall on her sword and spill what happened last fall, I guess I can’t do anything less.

I’m kidding about the sword. You know that, right?

Term was set to start on the first Wednesday in January, so I flew into SFO first class from JFK on Monday. I thought I’d packed pretty efficiently, but I still exceeded the weight limit by fifty pounds. It took some doing to get me and my bags into the limo, let me tell you. But I’d found last term that I couldn’t live without certain things, so they came with me. Like my sheet music and some more of my books. And warmer clothes.

You say California and everyone thinks L.A. The reality of San Francisco in the winter is that it’s cold, whether the sun is shining or the fog is stealing in through the Golden Gate and blanketing the bay. A perfect excuse for a trip to Barney’s to get Vera Wang’s tulip-hem black wool coat, right?

I thought so, too.

Dorm, sweet dorm. I staggered through the door of the room I share with Lissa Mansfield. It’s up to us to get our stuff into our rooms, so here’s where it pays to be on the rowing team, I guess. Biceps are good for hauling bulging Louis Vuittons up marble staircases. But I am so not the athletic type. I leave that to John, the youngest of my three older brothers. He’s been into gymnastics since he was, like, four, and he’s training hard to make the U.S. Olympic team. I haven’t seen him since I was fourteen—he trains with a coach out in Arizona.

My oldest brother, Richard, is twenty-six and works for my dad at the bank, and the second oldest, Darren—the one I’m closest to—is graduating next spring from Harvard and going straight into medical school after that.

Yeah, we’re a family of overachievers. Don’t hate me, okay?

I heard a thump in the hall outside and got the door open just in time to come face-to-face with a huge piece of striped fiberglass with three fins.

I stood aside to let Lissa into the room with her surfboard. She was practically bowed at the knees with the weight of the duffel slung over her shoulder, and another duffel with a big O’Neill logo waited outside. I grabbed it and swung it onto her bed.

“Welcome back, girlfriend!”

She stood the board against the wall, let the duffel drop to the floor with a thud that probably shook the chandelier in the room below us, and pulled me into a hug.

“I am so glad to see you!” Her perfect Nordic face lit up with happiness. “How was your Christmas—the parts you didn’t tell me about on e-mail?”

“The usual. Too many family parties. Mom and Nai-Nai made way too much food, two of my brothers fought over the remote like they were ten years old, my dad and oldest brother bailed to go back to work early, and, oh, Nai-Nai wanted to know at least twice a day why I didn’t have a boyfriend.” I considered the chaos we’d just made of our pristine room. “The typical Chang holiday. What about you? Did Scotland improve after the first couple of days?”

“It was fre-e-e-e-zing.” She slipped off her coat and tam. “And I don’t just mean rainy-freezing. I mean sleet-and-icicles freezing. The first time I wore my high-heeled Louboutin boots, I nearly broke my ankle. As it was, I landed flat on my butt in the middle of the Royal Mile. Totally embarrassing.”

“What’s a Royal Mile? Princesses by the square foot?”

“This big broad avenue that goes through the old part of Edinburgh toward the queen’s castle. Good shopping. Restaurants. Tourists. Ice.” She unzipped the duffel and began pulling things out of it. “Dad was away a lot at the locations for this movie. Sometimes I went with him, and sometimes I hung out with this really adorable guy who was supposed to be somebody’s production assistant but who wound up being my guide the whole time.”

“It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.”

“I made it worth his while.” She flashed me a wicked grin, but behind it I saw something else. Pain, and memory. “So.” She spread her hands. “What’s new around here?”

I shrugged. “I just walked in myself a few minutes ago. You probably passed the limo leaving. But if what you really want to know is whether the webcam incident is over and done with, I don’t know yet.”

She turned away, but not before I saw her flush pink and then blink really fast, like her contacts had just been flooded. “Let’s hope so.”

“You made it through last term.” I tried to be encouraging. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?”

“It made one thing stronger.” She pulled a cashmere scarf out of the duffel and stroked it as though it were a kitten. “I never prayed so hard in my life. Especially during finals week, remember? When those two idiots seriously thought they could force me into that storage closet and get away with it?”

“Before we left, I heard the short one was going to be on crutches for six weeks.” I grinned at her. Fact of the day: Surfers are pretty good athletes. Don’t mess with them. “Maybe it should be, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes your relationship with God stronger.’”

“That I’ll agree with. Do you know if Carly’s here yet?”

“Her dad was driving her up in time for supper, so she should be calling any second.”

Sure enough, within a few minutes, someone knocked. “That’s gotta be her.” I jumped for the door and swung it open.

“Hey, chicas!” Carly hugged me and then Lissa. “Did you miss me?”

“Like chips miss guacamole.” Lissa grinned at her. “Good break?”

She grimaced, her soft brown eyes a little sad. Clearly Christmas break isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in anybody’s world.

“Dad had to go straighten out some computer chip thing in Singapore, so Antony and I got shipped off to Veracruz. It was great to see my mom and the grandparents, but you know . . .” Her voice trailed away.

“What?” I asked. “Did you have a fight?” That’s what happens at our house.

“No.” She sighed, then lifted her head to look at both of us. “I think my mom has a boyfriend.”

“Ewww,” Lissa and I said together, with identical grimaces.

“I always kind of hoped my mom and dad would figure it out, you know? And get back together. But it looks like that’s not going to happen.”

I hugged her again. “I’m sorry, Carly. That stinks.”

“Yeah.” She straightened up, and my arm slid from her shoulders. “So, enough about me. What about you guys?”

With a quick recap, we put her in the picture. “So do you have something going with this Scottish guy?” Carly asked Lissa.

Lissa shook her head, a curtain of blonde hair falling to partially hide her face—a trick I’ve never quite been able to master, even though my hair hangs past my shoulders. But it’s so thick and coarse, it never does what I want on the best of days. It has to be beaten into submission by a professional.

“I think I liked his accent most of all,” she said. “I could just sit there and listen to him talk all day. In fact, I did. What he doesn’t know about murders and wars and Edinburgh Castle and Lord This and Earl That would probably fit in my lip gloss tube.”

I contrasted walking the cold streets of Edinburgh, listening to some guy drone on about history, with fighting with my brothers. Do we girls know how to have fun, or what? “Better you than me.”

“I’d have loved it,” Carly said. “Can you imagine walking through a castle with your own private tour guide? Especially if he’s cute. It doesn’t get better than that.”

“Um, okay.” Lissa gave her a sideways glance. “Miss A-plus in History.”

“Really?” I had A-pluses in AP Chem and Math, but with anything less in those subjects, I wouldn’t have been able to face my father at Christmas. As it was, he had a fit over my B in History, and the only reason I managed to achieve an A-minus in English was because of a certain person with the initials L. M.

Carly shrugged. “I like history. I like knowing what happened where, and who it happened to, and what they were wearing. Not that I’ve ever been anywhere very much, except Texas and Mexico.”

“You’d definitely have liked Alasdair, then,” Lissa said. “He knows all about what happened to whom. But the worst was having to go for tea at some freezing old stone castle that Dad was using for a set. I thought I’d lose my toes from frostbite.”

“Somebody lives in the castle?” Carly looked fascinated. “Who?”

“Some earl.” Lissa looked into the distance as she flipped through the PDA in her head. Then she blinked. “The Earl and Countess of Strathcairn.”

“Cool!”

“Very. Forty degrees, tops. He said he had a daughter about our age, but I never met her. She heard we were coming and took off on her horse.”

“Mo guai nuer,” I said. “Rude much?”

Lissa shrugged. “Alasdair knew the family. He said Lady Lindsay does what she wants, and clearly she didn’t want to meet us. Not that I cared. I was too busy having hypothermia. I’ve never been so glad to see the inside of a hotel room in my life. I’d have put my feet in my mug of tea if I could have.”

“Well, cold or not, I still think it’s cool that you met an earl,” Carly said. “And I can’t wait to see your dad’s movie.”

“Filming starts in February, so Dad won’t be around much. But Mom’s big charity gig for the Babies of Somalia went off just before Christmas and was a huge success, so she’ll be around a bit more.” She paused. “Until she finds something else to get involved in.”

“Did you meet Angelina?” I asked. Lissa’s life fascinated me. To her, movie stars are her dad’s coworkers, like the brokers and venture capitalists who come to the bank are my dad’s coworkers. But Dad doesn’t work with people who look like Orlando and Angelina, that’s for sure.

“Yes, I met her. She apologized for flaking on me for the Benefactors’ Day Ball. Not that I blame her. It all turned out okay in the end.”

“Except for your career as Vanessa Talbot’s BFF.”

Lissa snorted. “Yeah. Except that.”

None of us mentioned what else had crashed and burned in flames after the infamous webcam incident—her relationship with the most popular guy in school, Callum McCloud. I had a feeling that that was a scab we just didn’t need to pick at.

“You don’t need Vanessa Talbot,” Carly said firmly. “You have us.”

We exchanged a grin. “She’s right,” I said. “This term, it’s totally all about us.”

“Thank goodness for that,” she said. “Come on. Let’s go eat. I’m starving.”


RStapleton I heard from a mutual friend that you take care of people at midterm time.

Source10 What friend?

RStapleton Loyola.

Source10 Been known to happen.

RStapleton How much?

Source10 1K. Math, sciences, geography only.

RStapleton I hate numbers.

Source10 IM me the day before to confirm.

RStapleton OK. Who are you?

RStapleton You there?


BY NOON THE next day, I’d hustled down to the student print shop in the basement and printed the notices I’d laid out on my Mac. I tacked them on the bulletin boards in the common rooms and classroom corridors on all four floors.


Christian prayer circle every Tuesday night 7:00 p.m., Room 216 Bring your Bible and a friend!


“Nice work,” Lissa told me when I found her and Carly in the dining room. “Love the salmon pink paper. But school hasn’t officially started yet. We probably won’t get a very good turnout if the first one’s tonight.”

“Maybe not.” I bit into a succulent California roll and savored the tart, thin seaweed wrapper around the rice, avocado, and shrimp. I had to hand it to Dining Services. Their food was amazing. “But even if it’s just the three of us, I can’t think of a better way to start off the term, can you?”

Lissa didn’t reply. The color faded from her face and she concentrated on her square ceramic plate of sushi as though it were her last meal. Carly swallowed a bite of makizushi with an audible gulp as it went down whole. Slowly, casually, I reached for the pepper shaker and glanced over my shoulder.

“If it isn’t the holy trinity,” Vanessa drawled, plastered against Brett Loyola’s arm and standing so close behind us, neither Carly nor I could move. “Going to multiply the rice and fish for us?”

“Nice to see you, too, Vanessa,” Lissa said coolly. “Been reading your Bible, I see.”

“Hi, Brett,” Carly managed, her voice about six notes higher than usual as she craned to look up at him.

He looked at her, puzzled, as if he’d seen her before somewhere but couldn’t place where, and gave her a vague smile. “Hey.”

I rolled my eyes. Like we hadn’t spent an entire term in History together. Like Carly didn’t light up like a Christmas tree every time she passed a paper to him, or maneuvered her way into a study group that had him in it. Honestly. I don’t know how that guy got past the entrance requirements.

Oh, wait. Silly me. Daddy probably made a nice big donation to the athletics department, and they waved Brett through Admissions with a grateful smile.

“Have any of you seen Callum?” Vanessa inquired sweetly. “I’m dying to see him. I hear he spent Christmas skiing at their place in Vail with his sisters and his new girlfriend. No parents.”

“He’s a day student.” I glanced at Lissa to see how she was taking this, but she’d leaned over to the table behind her to snag a bunch of napkins. “Why would he be eating here?”

“To see all his friends, of course. I guess that’s why you haven’t seen him.”

“Neither have you, if you’re asking where he is.” Poor Vanessa. I hope she’s never on a debating team. It could get humiliating.

But what she lacked in logic she made up for in venom. She ignored me and gushed, “I love your outfit, Lissa. I’m sure Callum would, too. That is, if he were still speaking to you.”

I barely restrained myself from giving Vanessa an elbow in the stomach. But Lissa had come a long way since her ugly breakup with a guy who didn’t deserve her. Vanessa had no idea who she was dealing with—Lissa with an army of angels at her back was a scary thing.

She pinned Vanessa with a stare as cold as fresh snow.

“You mean you haven’t told him yet that you made that video?” She shook her head. “Naughty Vanessa, lying to your friends like that.” A big smile and a meaningful glance at Brett. “But then, they’re probably used to it.”

Vanessa opened her mouth to say something scathing, when a tall, lanky guy elbowed past her to put his sushi dishes on the table next to mine. Six feet of sheer brilliance, with blue eyes and brown hair cropped short so he didn’t have to deal with it. A mind so sharp, he put even the overachievers here in the shade—but in spite of that, a guy who’d started coming to prayer circle last term. Who could fluster me with a look, and wipe my brain completely blank with just a smile.

Lucas Hayes.

“Hey, Vanessa, Brett.”

My jaw sagged in surprise, and I snapped it shut on my mouthful of rice, hoping he hadn’t seen. Since when was the king of the science geeks on speaking terms with the popular crowd?

To add to the astonishment, the two of them stepped back, as if to give him some space. “Yo, Einstein.” Brett grinned and they shook hands.

“Hi, Lucas.” Vanessa glanced from him to me to our dishes sitting next to each other. “I didn’t know you were friends with these people.”

He shrugged. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

“That could change. Why don’t you come and sit with us?” she asked. Brett looked longingly at the sushi bar and tugged on her arm. She ignored him. “We’re much more fun. We don’t sing hymns and save souls.”

“So I’ve heard. Did you make it into Trig?”

“Of course.” She tossed her gleaming sheet of hair over one shoulder. “Thanks to you.”

I couldn’t keep quiet another second. “You tutored her?” I asked him, trying not to squeak.

He picked up a piece of California roll and popped it in his mouth, nodding. “All last term.” He glanced at Vanessa. “Contrary to popular opinion, she isn’t all looks.”

Oh, gack. Way TMI. Vanessa smiled as though she’d won this and all other possible arguments now and in the future, world without end, amen. “Come on, Lucas. Hold our table for us while Brett and I get our food. I want to talk to you about something anyway.”

He shrugged and picked up his dishes while she and Brett swanned away. “See you at prayer circle,” he said to me. “I saw the signs. Same time and place, right?”

I could only nod as he headed for the table in the middle of the big window looking out on the quad. The one no one else dared to sit at, in case they risked the derision and social ostracism that would follow.

The empty seat on my right seemed even emptier. How could he do that? How could he just dump us and then say he’d see us at prayer circle? Shouldn’t he want to eat with the people he prayed with?

“It’s okay, Gillian,” Carly whispered. “At least he’s coming.”

“And Vanessa isn’t,” Lissa put in with satisfaction.

“I’m not so sure I want him to, now,” I said. I looked at my sushi and my stomach sort of lurched. Ugh. I pushed it away.

And here I’d been feeling so superior to Carly and her unrequited yen for Brett. I was just as bad, and this proved it. What else could explain this sick feeling in my middle?

Two hours later, while Lissa, Carly, and I shoved aside the canvases and whatnot that had accumulated in Room 216 over the break, making enough room for half a dozen people to sit, I’d almost talked myself into not caring whether Lucas came or not.

And then he stepped through the door and I realized my body was more honest than my brain. I sucked in a breath and my heart began to pound.

Oh, yeah. You so don’t care.

Travis, who must have arrived during dinner, trickled in behind him, and then Shani Hanna, who moved with the confidence of an Arabian queen, arrived with a couple of sophomores I didn’t know. Her hair, tinted bronze and caught up at the crown of her head, tumbled to her shoulders in corkscrew curls. I fingered my own arrow-straight mop that wouldn’t hold a curl if you threatened it with death.

Okay, stop feeling sorry for yourself, would you? Enough is enough.

“Hey, everyone, thanks for coming,” I said brightly, getting to my feet. “I’m Gillian Chang. Why don’t the newbies introduce themselves, and then we’ll get started?”

The sophomores told us their names, and I found out Travis’s last name was Fanshaw. And the dots connected. Of course he’d been assigned as Lucas’s roommate—he’s like this Chemistry genius. If it weren’t for Lucas, he’d be the king of the science geeks. Sometimes science people have a hard time reconciling scientific method with faith. If they were here at prayer circle, maybe Travis and Lucas were among the lucky few who figured science was a form of worship, of marveling at the amazement that is creation. I mean, if Lucas was one of those guys who got a kick out of arguing with the Earth Sciences prof, I wouldn’t even be able to date him.

Not that there was any possibility of that.

As our prayers went up one by one, quietly from people like Carly and brash and uncomfortably from people like Travis and the sophomores, I wished that dating was the kind of thing I could pray about.

But I don’t think God has my social life on His to-do list.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Adina

This article is used with the permission of Hachette Book Group and Shelley Adina. All rights reserved.