Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: "The Protector" by Shelley Shepard Gray

Summary from Christianbook.com: When her mother passes away, Ella's forced to auction off her family's farm. Her father died years ago, and she could never manage the fifty acres on her own. But after she moves to town, she can't deny the pain she feels watching the new owner, Loyal Weaver, repairing her family's old farmhouse-everything Ella had once dreamed of doing.

What Ella doesn't know is that Loyal secretly hopes she will occupy this house again . . . as his wife. He begins inviting her over, to ask her opinion on changes he wants to make. As their friendship blooms, Ella starts to wonder about Loyal's intentions, especially when her best friend, Dorothy, hints that Loyal is not who he seems. There's no way the golden boy of their close-knit Amish community could be interested in Ella, long the wallflower, hidden away caring for her ailing parents.

I think that if I were to meet Ella, we would probably be friends. Not the toxic friendship that she has with Dorothy, but real honest to goodness friends. I mean we're both not good with mingling with people, we both wear glasses and we both love reading and worked in libraries. Hmm, this makes it sound like we're both antisocial nerds. Anywho, I really liked Ella's character because for the most part, I felt like I could relate to her.

I loved all the bits involving the library. First off, I'm thrilled to see Ella actually working in a library and mixing with all sorts of people. No one is surprised that she's Amish and she is comfortable being around "worldly" books and technology. I also love how she enjoys reading to children and am very glad at the book choices she made about what to read to them. I mean I've read other books about the Amish where they had no idea what fiction even meant. Here Ella is having a ball reading "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom". It warmed my heart.

It's probably not what the author intended but I kept thinking that Dorothy and Ella's relationship is probably the closest thing we'll get to an Amish lesbian story. Dorothy is extremely possessive of Ella. It goes way beyond being a close and concerned friend. I found it most interesting that Dorothy becomes enraged the most when Ella starts hanging out with Loyal. She constantly says that Ella and her should be together and will spend the rest of their lives together. She doesn't want anyone else to be around Ella either. She also keeps calling her a loose woman in order to soil her reputation. Yes it's mentioned as to what could possibly be a reason as to why Dorothy acts like this, but to be honest I wouldn't have been surprised if she had blurted out that she was in love with Ella. This was an intriguing concept that probably made me see this book in a different light from other Amish readers.

The story also has some subplots involving the point of view of a little girl as well as a storyline involving John, a former Amish man who is torn between two women. I found this plot to be a bit distracting from the main storyline. Also it didn't end the way I wanted it to go unfortunately. Mattie, the girl with cancer from the first book, is shown here again. I believe the final book in the series will focus entirely on her.

Again, this book shows why Gray is my favorite Amish author. Throughout the entire book, the characters who are Amish are just treated like normal people who just happen to be living a different culture. No one really points that they are not like the rest of society and they actually act like normal people! This type of Amish fiction is just what I like: non preachy, character focus and including themes that can be interpreted in different ways. I'm looking very forward to the final book in the series.


The Protector by Shelley Shepard Gray is published by Avon Inspire (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

Other books in the Families of Honor series that I have reviewed:

The Caregiver (Book 1)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Winner

Congrats to the winner of The Art of Forgetting:

Shonda from Me, My Book and My Couch

Book Review: "On Hummingbird Wings" by Lauraine Snelling

Summary from BN.com: "But Mother is always dying," is Gillian Ormsby's sarcastic response when her younger, favored sister tells her that she has to go take care of their hypochondriac mother. Much against her will, since she and her mother never have gotten along, Gillian arrives in California to find the garden and yard dead, the blinds all drawn, and her mother indeed in bed—waiting to die. But when Gillian talks with the doctor, he assures her there's no medical reason behind her mother's state.

Now on a mission to restore her mother to health, Gillian insists Mother get out of bed, eat, exercise and hopefully, choose to live. She also sets about reviving the garden to its former glory, enlisting the help of Adam, a handsome man who owns a family gardening business with his father. Gillian is delighted when a pair of hummingbirds appear, and her friendship with Adam grows. Soon, Mother's health improves, and one day she announces she and her friend Enzio are going on a cruise. Before Gillian has time to turn around, her mother is gone and she is left high and dry again, and wondering, what is she going to do with the rest of her own life?

It always saddens me when a beloved author of mine, writes out of their normal genre and the results are not as favorable. Lauraine Snelling is one of my favorite historical romance authors. I've grown up reading her historical fiction series dealing with the Bjourkland family throughout the years. I love reading those books because Snelling puts a lot of historical detail with heart in those stories. Some of those books are great rereads and every time I read one, it feels like I'm reunited with old friends. However, her contemporary books have not had the same effect on me. This was one of those books.

Gillian has been living in New York City working for a big company when she loses her job. She returns to her family in California to take care of her mother who claims she is dying. Honestly Gillian has the patience of a saint. I probably would have gotten frustrated after the first day with just her mother, let alone her crazy sister. I didn't agree with all the things that she did, but for the most part I highly sympathized with her. I'm glad she found Adam because otherwise I do believe she would have gone bonkers.

It's never really mentioned what exactly was wrong with Dorothy, Gillian and Allie's mother. It's briefly hinted that she was depressed but as far as I could tell, we don't know what triggered it. She shows all the signs of it and it was quite sad that they couldn't help her. I found it very difficult to believe the sudden change in her character near the end of the book. I would have liked more interaction between her and her daughters. Apparently there is a lot from the past that has affected Gillian and Allie due to their mother's treatment of them but it's never fully resolved between the three of them.

Equally as annoying is Allie's character. I found her to be a grown up brat. She has severe passive aggressive issues and obviously has something going on that has been bothering her for years. Again, it's only slightly touched upon but I felt that the explanations that were given were very flimsy. She either has her mother's depression or something else major is going on with her. I hated how she treated her sister and her mother as well. Also I didn't buy her excuses of why she didn't answer her phone. Who keeps turning off their phone all the time? And never checking answering machine messages? And then has the nerve to blame others for not telling them things?

This was also another Christian fiction book where I felt that New York City (or any BIG metropolitan area in the US) is considered as, well not exactly evil, but not somewhere where you will find happiness. I'm getting a bit tired with the whole woman quitting job to find love and happiness in a small town back home plot. It just makes me feel like all these authors are against women being happy while being in a working environment.

As I said, this book is not my favorite of Snelling. I felt that the storyline wasn't concrete enough and the characters were not developed enough or were just plain annoying. It almost felt like the story wasn't fully finished yet there is nothing in the book that hints at a sequel. If you're looking to start with Snelling's book, I would recommend reading her historical fiction books over this one.

On Hummingbird Wings by Lauraine Snelling is published by Faithwords (2011)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Movie Review: "Kung Fu Panda 2"


It's been awhile since I've been to theater. After the Best Picture Showcase where I spent over 12 hours watching movies straight, I was kinda theater tapped out. Plus there hadn't been anything coming out lately that I absolutely had to see. Kung Fu Panda 2 was one that I was excited about but due to trying to conserve funds, I figured that I could wait until it came out on DVD. But then as luck would have it, I had gotten a coupon for a free large popcorn AND a large drink and a GC with about 3 bucks on it. If I went during the early matinee shows, that means I only had to spend $3 bucks on my whole outing. Also my sister had gone to see KFP2 and told me she bawled while watching. Since the two of us tend to cry at the same movie, that totally sold me on going. Yes, I love a good cryfest at the theater.

If you haven't seen the first Kung Fu Panda movie, I highly recommend watching it. It is probably my family's favorite non Pixar/non Disney animated film. The writing is fresh and funny and all the voices are perfectly done. Plus the movie is so respectful to the Chinese culture and since my family is Chinese (well Dad is honorary) we totally loved it. It's one of those movies we can watch over and over again and never get bored and still laugh hysterically at. For example, I still die every time Po kicks the broken vase that contains the souls of ancient warriors. It's the fact that after the initial moment has passed, he accidentally bumps into it again and they still moan. It's freaking hilarious and it always takes me a while to calm down after seeing it.

Seeing as how sequels can either be a hit or a miss, I was a bit worried when I heard that KFP was going to have a sequel. The first one was so wonderful, how could they possibly top it? Well first off, by adding awesome voice talent including Michelle Yeoh, Gary Oldman (Sirius Black!), and Victor Garber just to name a few. Then you make the story even better and more emotional! Also the animation is top notch and the score is both fun and dramatic at the same time.

Some spoilers ahead but one of them is rather obvious and if you honestly did not figure this out from the first movie, I do not what to do tell you.

There were several scenes that I started crying quite hard. They all involved Po and his connections to his family. The first was when Po confronts his dad, Mr. Ping, about his true parentage. It's a bit hilarious because it's played off that both were under the illusion that Po didn't know that there was no way that a duck could not be the biological dad of a panda. But it's so emotional to see his dad tell the story of how he found Po and decided to raise him as his son. There is a lot of love shown there. At the same time, it's understandable that Po is confused about how he feels and wonders what really happened to his true parents. Mr. Ping is sad now because he's afraid that Po will not come back home after he finds out the truth. Then I started sobbing again when Po finds out what really happened to his parents. The scene with him and his mother is so heartbreaking. Those are sad tears. But then there are happy tears again, when Po comes back to his dad and tells him he loves him and that he IS his son. Seriously, freakin paper napkins were soaked at this point.

The overall movie is fun, adventurous, action pack and shows good teamwork. It's hilarious in all the right places, with a great villain, and shows good friendships. And as I said before, it's extremely respectful to Chinese culture. Don't be afraid of seeing it just because it's animated. It's a downright great movie and I loved watching it and can't wait to see it again. The ending hints a third movie and as long as they follow the same direction as these two, I expect nothing but success.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: "Forever After" by Deborah Raney

Summary from BN.com: Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy’s beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna? Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband’s death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future. Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?

There's quite a few things to like about this book. Firefighters, dogs, romance, conniving in-laws. Ok maybe not so much the last thing, but the other three definitely play a big role in this book. Emotions, anger and tears are what's left of the tragic fire that took so many lives. In this book, we see two more lives that had been affected from that fire as they find new hope in each other.

I really liked Lucas and Jenna's relationship. First, let me say that I was thrilled to see a couple where the woman is older than the man. It's rare in a lot of fiction, Christian or general market, where this type of relationship exists not counting the extreme cougar type. Even though it's only a 2 year age difference and it doesn't get any mention except in the beginning, it's still great to just have it in there. Their relationship starts off a bit rocky because of the fire that caused all those deaths so close to them. Plus there's the fact that Lucas had a thing for Jenna while her husband was still alive. Still the two manage to let the chemistry between them grow. There are lots of ups and downs including a scene where Lucas calls out Jenna for her behavior. It's actually one of the more realistic relationships I've seen in a Christian romance lately.

I was very glad to see Jenna stand up for herself to her in-laws. I was also quite pleased at how quickly she did this. I was afraid that this was going to be a yo-yo effect throughout the book but once she made her final decision, she stuck to her guns. I'm even quite proud of her for getting a little snappish with Clarissa. Yeah yeah, I know the thing about turning the other cheek but honestly that woman was getting on my nerves. I don't condone violence at all so I'll just say she needed a bucket of ice water thrown in her face to get her back to reality. I hated the condescending way she treated Jenna. I understand that she lost her only son. But what good would it have done to treat Jenna the way she did? And her husband has no spine at all. We don't get to see Zach or any flashbacks about his character, but from Jenna's memories about him, I don't think that he was that great of a husband TBH.

Jenna's struggles with trying not to stay poor has to do a lot with pride issues in the beginning but then she eventually lets go and accepts her situation. Once she does this, she realizes that she's happy and lets go of the baggage. Unfortunately her relationship with Clarissa is never fully resolved though I suppose in real life it could be expected. Overall, I enjoyed this book, much better than the first in the series. I'm looking forward to see more from Hanover Falls in the future.

Forever After by Deborah Raney is published by Howard (2011)

This review copy was provided for a blog tour with Glass Road Public Relations

Other books in the Hanover Falls series that I've reviewed:

Forever After (Book 1)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Review: "Unlocked" by Karen Kingsbury

Summary from the publisher: Holden Harris is locked in a prison of autism, bullied by kids who don’t understand his quiet, quirky ways. Ella Reynolds, star of the school drama production takes an interest in Holden after she catches him listening to her rehearse for the school play. Will friendship, faith, and the power of song be enough to unlock the miracle that Holden needs?

If you've ever read a Karen Kingsbury book then you know what to expect when you read this book. If you've never read a Karen Kingsbury book before, well all I have to say is that it's like reading a soap opera. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with soap operas but there's as much drama in this book as you find on daytime TV. Of course it's a Christian soap opera.

Since I've never personally had anyone close to me dealing with autism, I can't fully relate with what the characters are going through. From other accounts that I have read, I am assuming that what Holden's parents and friends are experiencing is what normally happens. There's the frustration and emotion of not being able to communicate with your son. It can even tear a marriage apart as evident in this story. The book also shows the effects of bullying and how it should be stopped, though the quickness of the turnaround in this book was not realistic.

I am a bit appalled at how the ending ends up being. Everything seems to magically all come together just like the ending of the musical that's being performed. For fifteen years Holden's had no communication with his parents or anyone, and then suddenly after one meeting with his old childhood friend he starts talking again? It reminded of another of Kingsbury's books where a character with a life threatening situation is told of a surgery that DOESN'T EXIST in real life that can save him. It kills me that these books have to have a happy ending. It feels like it gives false hope to parents of autistic kids that their child can too become healed immediately. I'm not saying that miracles can happen but what if people believe this and then become obsessed with trying to find a cure for their kids? There is a also a character that commits suicide. It bothered me that, in her author note, Kingsbury said that it was really hard for her to write about it so in order to make herself feel better she made the character change their mind during the last few seconds of their life. So because SHE feels bad, she can't let her character go in peace? Also, I found it annoying at how many times in this book about how handsome Holden is and how if he was "normal" he'd be the catch of every girl in school. I guess it would have been ok to bring it up once, but it's mentioned MANY times throughout the book. One more thing to note: the only news channel mentioned in this story was Fox News. Just wanted to note that.

Yes, this review is bit more snarkier than normal. I'm not that really big of a KK fan, and I'm definitely not on her bandwagon like a bunch of other people are. To be honest I find most of her work to be over emotional, over dramatic and the quality of the writing is not that great. Yet for some reason, thousands of Christian women love her work to death and will do anything for her as evident by the over 600 5 star reviews on Amazon for this book, because KK offered a cruise or something for all her readers who did so. Her work, as far I know, hasn't won any literary awards even in the Christian industry so while her books may be popular with a certain market, overall they aren't being recognized for their writing or literary quality. I sometimes feel like Karen Kingsbury is to Christian fiction as Nicholas Sparks is to romance. They are not really the best examples of the market but everyone seems to make them out to be.

Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury is published by Zondervan (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

My Library Reads No. 16

My Library Reads is a spotlight on the library books that I have read during the previous week. This is not a post on what books I borrowed but books that I read. Since I don't review library books, this is a way to still be able to showcase them on my blog.

BTW, if anyone knows of another meme that is like this on another blog, could you please let me know? I don't know of any myself, but if there is one already in place, I'd like to give credit where credit is due!

Library Books read from 6/19/11 - 6/25/11

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 3/8/11)

YA - This book is a good look at how many teen girls feel. They want to be more than what they are and sometimes don't always look to the best role models when trying to fit in. A lot of it also stems to their own parents and the relationships they have with them. Hubbard does a good job of blending these topics together in a beautifully written book.

I got a bit frustrated at times with Grace because of how much she was willing to sacrifice her own identity just to be accepted. Of course I say this now as an adult, but looking back at my own teen years I probably would have done the same thing. I was wondering how far Grace's infatuation with Mandarin was going to go and there is one scene where I thought things might spark between them. However it dies out as quickly as it happens and no mention is brought up again. I honestly felt really bad for Mandarin as she tries to put up this persona and attitude so that no one can come close to her. The adults in her life are no help, from her parents to her teachers at school, and she just slips further and further away. At least Grace can start over again with her mother. Overall though, it's a really engaging read and I look forward to reading more from the author.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: "Whisper on the Wind" by Maureen Lang

LinkSummary from BN.com: In Brussels at the height of WWI, a small, underground newspaper is the only thing offering the occupied city hope—and real news of the war. The paper may be a small whisper amid the shouts of the German army, but Edward Kirkland will do anything to keep it in print. Meanwhile, Isa Lassone, a Belgian-American socialite whose parents whisked her to safety at the start of the war, sneaks back into the country to rescue those dearest to her: Edward and his mother. But Edward refuses to go, and soon Isa is drawn into his secret life printing the newspaper . . . And into his heart.

I found myself liking this a lot better than the first book in the series. I'm not sure if it was because of the characters seemed more dimensional or because the setting was now in the city as opposed to a small town but either way, it was a more enjoyable read. The story focuses on Edward and Isa, the sister of Charles from the first book. They grew up together and are reunited during the war. Edward runs the underground newspaper and Isa tries to convince him to let her help. What they don't bargain for are sneaking behind German soldiers' backs and right under their noses, being accused of aiding spies or pretending to be a priest in disguise.

While Edward and Isa were an interesting couple who do have very good chemistry, I found Max and Genny keeping more of my interest. It was like a forbidden love with all sorts of factors standing in their way such as him begin a German solider or already having a wife. There was such drama and passion between the two of them but they had to stay apart. I did find the ending to be a bit too convenient for them but overall I was delighted with how their relationship was presented.

If there was a qualm I had with the story is that there were times when I found things to be a bit disjointed in the plot. Edward's story seemed to be the least interesting out of all the subplots. I realized that he had an important job with the paper but compared to what was going on with Isa, it didn't hold my interest. Therefore it was a bit annoying to keep going back to him when all the action was with Isa.

Overall I found the book to be a good historical romance. As with the first book, Lang has done a lot of research for the time period and it's always great to see these wars from the Europeans' point of view. I'm actually glad that America is not featured in this series because too often we are shown as just the heroes who come to save everyone. I'm hoping by the third book, any qualms that I had with the first two will not be present.

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang is published by Tyndale (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Other books in The Great War series that I have reviewed:

Look to the East (Book 1)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Review: "The Wedding Writer" by Susan Schneider

Summary from BN.com: Lucky Quinn writes up weddings for one of the hottest bridal magazines. And it wasn’t easy to get there. From humble beginnings, she outsmarted her way into the center of New York’s glamorous magazine industry – making up for her background with a sharp mind, whip-thin physique, and ceaseless ambition.

Then, in one day, her life is utterly transformed; two of the magazine’s major competitors fold, and Lucky is named Editor-in-Chief, replacing the formidable, but aging Grace Ralston, who had been at the magazine’s helm from day one. Grace taught Lucky everything she knows, but now it seems that she taught her too well…

As the ripples of Lucky’s promotion spread, the intricate lives of four women begin to unfold. Felice, Your Wedding’s elegant and unshakeable Art Director is now being shaken for the first time by troubles at home. Sara, the Fashion Director, is famed for her eagle eye for fashion trends and exquisite hair. But, for all her know-how, “the Angel of Bridal” has never come close to starring in a wedding herself – she’s picked the dress, but where’s the groom? Grace, recovering in the wake of her sudden, humiliating fall from power, must learn to accept herself – and love – after a life dedicated to fulfilling other women’s dreams. And, through it all, Lucky begins to discover just how lonely the top really is.

I don't know about you but I love reading bridal magazines. I'm not a huge fan of the wedding shows on TV but give me a copy of Modern Bride any day. Even old issues are still fun to go through and have tons of useful information. I had a year subscription prior to the year I got married and I've kept all those issues. I still pull them out every now and then for "light reading." Therefore, I was really looking forward to this book which gives the behind the scenes look at what goes on in putting together one of those magazines.

The book is written in the present tense. This might be a bit hard to get used to in the beginning. However I soon found myself pretty much ignoring the tense and actually reading the book in third person past tense which didn't really affect how I viewed the story at all. The story focuses on four women who work or have worked at Your Wedding. I felt that it was a bit awkward at how each women was presented. The chapters would list the name of the woman whose POV we were looking through but then halfway through a chapter it would shift to another woman. This got very confusing at times because I kept mixing up characters and couldn't figure out who exactly was the focus of a chapter. I do wish that all four women actually had time in the book to get together as a group. They splinter off into sections but are never together as a whole.

I still enjoyed learning about Lucky, Grace, Felice and Sara. Throughout the story we learn more about their characters and what led them to working at the magazine as well as their lives outside of their work. They aren't always likable characters, in fact there are times where I sighed heavily due to annoyance at them. However, they all have scenes that show a different side of them that they keep hidden from the rest of the world. Lucky particularly stands out to me, as she has a very dysfunctional family and her relationship with her mother is not a healthy one.

For those readers that are into shows like Say Yes to the Dress or Bridezillas, there is much to squeal about in this book. Schnieder goes inside the wedding industry world as we learn about dresses, shoes, cakes, dining ware, etc. It's fun to be in the photo shoot for the cover of the magazine or attend the fashion shows where the magazine learns about the latest fashions in bridal couture.

Even if you're not into weddings and all that sort of talk, this was still a fun book to read. It's a light read but it's quite informative as well. One thing I found very interesting is how women who were in an authoritative position seemed to treat women below them. Not that you should be giving freebies to your own gender, but it seemed that most of the women felt that they had to be harder on other women and not to men. I also enjoyed learning more about the magazine business. It's a good read when you're in the mood for the not so heavy and a great escape from the hard things in life.

The Wedding Writer by Susan Schneider is published by St. Martin's Griffin (2011)

This ARC was provided by a publicist

I'm able to give away two copies of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form below. This contest is open to US and Canada entrants only. Winner will be picked Friday July 1.

PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: "Double Take" by Melody Carlson

Summary from Christianbook.com: Madison Van Buren is fed up with Ivy League pressure, her parents' marital problems, and her boyfriend's neglect. So she hops in her car and drives west. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Anna Bronner wants to escape her tedious "simple" life. What will happen when a Manhattan socialite and an Amish girl switch places for a week?

If you have been reading my reviews for a while, then you know how much of a fan of Melody Carlson I am. I've read about 99% of all her adult and YA books and have been thrilled with almost all of them. She is one of those authors that I love to recommend, to both readers of Christian and general market fiction. I pretty much think she can do no wrong in terms of writing. That is until I read this book.

I felt like this book is trying to get into the whole Amish craze that has swept the Christian publishing industry lately. The way it's written is geared more towards older women who are fans of Amish fiction rather than actual YA readers. How is it this evident? Well mainly because Madison does NOT act like a typical teenage girl. I understand that she's fed up with how busy her life is but we never really get to know the real Madison. The one we see acts like she's 50 or something. Anna, I suppose I can excuse because she's Amish. However, even then she's portrayed as someone who lives a sheltered life but it's ok because she's happy about it.

The whole idea of two teen girls switching life like this is extremely imaginative to the point where I just could not buy it. I mean seriously, who does this sort of thing on a whim and actually thinks they can get away with it? There are so many things that neither girl thinks of. For example, what would happen if either Anna or Madison got severely injured or even died during the switch? Who would know how to contact the right parents? Also, I know that they are just teenage girls but would you really entrust your life to a stranger who just happens to look like you? I mean safety first!

Another thing I had a problem with was that the faith of the Amish is never truly explained. It's just implied that there are stricter versions of Amish communities just like in the rest of the world. But I want to know why Rachel chose to live in that way and that her life will not remain miserable. I felt like the only reason why Anna stays Amish is simply because she's a fish out of water and she wants to go back to what's familiar.

This is one of the very few books from Carlson that I haven't liked. Unlike her other YA books which were extremely realistic, this one is just so unbelievable to the point of it's never going to happen. The writing isn't as strong and the characters seemed very one dimensional. Madison is the stereotypical rich girl and Anna is the stereotypical Amish girl. They both never really change throughout the story so I feel like the whole book is rather a waste. I know Carlson can write better than this. I just feel like this book was just trying to cash on the trend but it's going to miss out on the target audience.

Double Take by Melody Carlson is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: "The Art of Forgetting" by Camille Noe Pagan

Summary from BN.com: Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine. Taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy magazine; keeping the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits of being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic, absolutely alpha Julia Ferrar.

And then Julia gets hit by a cab. She survives with minor obvious injuries, but brain damage steals her memory and alters her personality, possibly forever. Suddenly, Marissa is thrown into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory- dredging up issues Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life ten years ago- Marissa's own equilibrium is shaken.

With the help of a dozen girls, she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program. There, Marissa uncovers her inner confidence and finds the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

When I first started reading this book I felt like I was a horrible person. I felt like someone who hates babies or kicks puppies. It's not a good feeling. Why did I feel this way? Because I kept getting annoyed with Julia throughout the story. This is both during the flashback and after she has her injury. I feel bad because I was not liking someone who has a severe injury and cannot control how they act. Then I realized that I was judging Julia based on her past actions. That's when I realized that this book had got me really thinking about not only the story but myself as well.

Marissa has been friends with Julia ever since in school when Julia accepted her in school and took her under her wing. Since then Marissa has stuck by Julia's side through thick and think sometimes even sacrificing things to save their friendship. Then Julia suffers a brain injury and Marissa comes to terms with their friendship. She begins to slowly pull away while at the same time still be true to her best friend. The story fluctuates between the past and present as Marissa reflects on their friendship. Throughout the book, we also see the relationships that Marissa shares with others including her boyfriend, her mother, her assistant and her own self.

During the middle of the story, I found myself getting so frustrated with Marissa and Julia to the point where I was worried that I might force myself to stop reading. I even contemplated throwing the book across the room if a certain event that I didn't want to happen took place. Luckily, I discussed my fears on Twitter and was told to stick out the rest of the book. I'm glad that I did. Even though the story did not go exactly how I would have liked it to have turned out, it was more than satisfying.

I believe that this is Pagan's first novel and I was more than happy to have discovered it. This is a story about friendships, how they can become toxic and how they can stand the hardest test. It's a story about mean girls and how some women never grow out of it. It's also a story bringing attention to brain injuries and how the results can change a person's life forever. Pagan has captured all these topics into a brilliant story. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan is published by Dutton (2011)

This ARC was provided for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours

I'm able to give away one copy of this book provided by the publisher. To enter, you must fill out the form below. This contest is open to US and Canada entrants only. Winner will be picked Wednesday June 29.

PLEASE use the form only to enter the contest. For any comments about the book, review, etc. please use the comments link at the bottom of the post. All information must be filled out correctly or else your entry will not count. (ie. you must use FULL name and list your mailing address). Your info will only be used for this contest and will be deleted after the contest is over.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Winners

Congrats to the winners of Cut by Patricia McCormick!

Naiche from The Book Girl Reads
Anita Y.

Spring Reading Thing Wrap Up



Well it finally has happened. After almost 5 years of completing every one of Katrina's reading challenges, I have failed to complete this one.

Out of the 49 books I said I was going to read during this challenge, I failed to read 8 of them. I can explain this. The books I chose were the books I had scheduled to read for review back in March when the challenge started. I thought that I would be able to read all the books in time since they were scheduled to be reviewed. What I didn't count on was all the other review books that would come in during that time that needed to be reviewed before reading all those books, ie blog tours.

That being said, I did read an additional 35 books bringing my final total to 76 books in 3 months. These books were either additional review books, books I owned or the scant few that I did check out from the library.


Christian Fiction


Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris
To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer
Blood Covenant by Lisa Harris

An Unlikely Suitor by Nancy Moser

Hidden Affections by Delia Parr
Point of No Return by Susan May Warren
Mission: Out of Control by Susan May Warren
Undercover Pursuit by Susan May Warren
A Killer Among Us by Lynette Eason
The Fine Art of Insincerity by Angela Hunt
Hope Rekindled by Tracie Peterson
A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad
A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf
My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren
The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden
Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond
Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson
False Witness by Randy Singer

Chick Lit

Ex-Girlfriends United by Matt Dunn

Contemporary Women's Fiction

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
Semi-Sweet by Roisin Meaney
The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagan

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

The Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker
Super in the City by Daphne Uviller
Hotel No Tell by Daphne Uviller


Christian Non Fiction

The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter

Romance

Wish You Were Here by Phillipa Ashley

YA

Matched by Ally Condie
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
There's No Place Like Home by Jen Calonita
Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer
Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Dark Water by Laura McNeal
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard


What was the best book you read this spring? I have to go with three books - Ex Girlfriends United because it was so freaking funny and then 2 memoirs, Big in China and The Wilder Life because they were just written so well.

What book could you have done without? A Reluctant Queen. I normally love Biblical fiction but I had problems with how much was changed in the story and then other readers insisting that it was still true to the Bible.

Did you try out a new author this spring? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again? Tons. For example am really hoping that Roisin Meaney's other books will be published in the US soon.

If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it? Explained above!

Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones? Well to be honest, I barely remember anyone else's list since mine was already so big!

What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share! Yeah..don't think that your schedule will stick. It will always keep changing.

What was the best part of the Spring Reading Challenge? Just being able to read. Even with work and a busier schedule, I still always make time to read.

Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this spring? Of course!

Any other thoughts, impressions, or comments. Thanks for hosting this Katrina!!!! Can't wait til fall!

Book Review: "False Witness" by Randy Singer

Summary from Amazon.com: Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife’s life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor’s church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they’re on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

If you're looking for a fast paced, suspense thriller that takes you across the world and deals with torturing this is the book for you. Ok there's not that much torturing but the book also involves dead animals and someone having to wet their pants in a truck. Now that I've gotten your attention, Randy Singer has penned another law suspense novel that will probably keep you turning pages. There's an algorithm that is being hunted down internationally, one that will change the way Internet security is run forever. A bounty hunter and his wife are caught up in this as well as several law students. It was really interesting to see what they went through in order to prevent the mafia and other hit men from getting what was not rightfully theirs.

While I enjoyed most of the story, I felt that there were several bits that really dragged the plot down. I have read several of Singer's law suspense books in the past and really liked how he blended the two together. However in this story, I just got really bored with any scenes dealing with lawyers or the courtroom. I honestly had to force myself from skimming through a lot of these passages. They weren't written bad, I just found them boring this go-round. It's not that I'm not interested in law proceedings. I just thought what was written in the book seemed to keep going on and on. The same goes for a lot of the suspense scenes. I had to reread several chapters over because somehow I had glazed over them and completely missed what was going on.

There also wasn't as much going on in India as I thought there would be. This is a new version of the book which was originally published in 2007. I haven't read that version so I am not really sure about what parts were changed or added. According to the author's note at the end of the book, he spotlights more about the plight in India. However very few of the scenes take place in India and what is mentioned isn't really that noteworthy, at least in my opinion. I felt like the whole algorithm thing seemed to be a red herring. While it was a main focal point of the story, it didn't really feel like it truly mattered.

Overall though, the story is interesting and suspenseful at times. I preferred reading more about Jamie's character than anyone else in the story because she seemed like the only one who got thrown in unexpectedly and then suffers for it. I wouldn't say that this is Singer's best work but it is a good law suspense novel and those who are fans of the genre will enjoy it.

False Witness by Randy Singer is published by Tyndale (2011)

This review copy was provided by a publicist

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: "Look to the East" by Maureen Lang

Summary from BN.com: At the dawn of the First World War, the French provincial village of Briecourt is isolated from the battles, but the century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de Colvilles still rages in the streets. When the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides of the feud must work together to protect stragglers caught behind enemy lines.

Julitte Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls in love with one of the stragglers—a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur—she knows she’s playing with fire. Charles Lassone hides in the cellar of the Briecourt church, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if he’s discovered, it will bring danger to the entire village and could cost Charles his life.

Sometimes I feel like books set during WWI doesn't get as much attention in fiction as WWII stories tend to. I don't know if it's because WWII has more American support or if it was just more "glamorous" but either way I just don't feel like there are enough stories about that time period. Therefore I'm always excited to see books from the European perspective because that's even less tackled area especially in terms of Christian fiction.

The story takes place in France right as WWI is breaking out and deals with several different nationalities in a small village. As with many small villages, there's lots of feuds that are going on with families. Even in the midst of German soldiers raiding their village and forcing them to do things against their will, it's amazing at how some of the families insist on keeping the feuds alive. Instead of joining forces, they are dead set on keeping things apart. The culture of the town is showed in full force and helps to bring the story to life. It is obvious that Lang has done her historical research in creating this story.

Romance is also a big factor in the story as Julitte and Charles find themselves being thrown together during this turbulent time. I honestly didn't really find their romance to be all that interesting. Separately as characters however their stories were much more intriguing as they have to get past the German soldiers in order to survive.

I hate to admit this but I wasn't really a big fan of this book. I normally love Lang's works and have had enjoyable times reading them. However, this book just did not gel with me. I don't know exactly what it was. Maybe I couldn't connect with the character or I didn't feel that they were very developed. It might also have been that I was kind of plopped into the story with not much background. Or maybe it was just my mood at the time. However it wasn't enough to make me stop reading the book. I never felt like I was forcing myself to finish the story.

I did find it overall to be interesting and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. For those who are fans of WWI historical fiction, this gives a different take on the era.


Look to the East by Maureen Lang is published by Tyndale (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Library Reads No. 15

My Library Reads is a spotlight on the library books that I have read during the previous week. This is not a post on what books I borrowed but books that I read. Since I don't review library books, this is a way to still be able to showcase them on my blog.

BTW, if anyone knows of another meme that is like this on another blog, could you please let me know? I don't know of any myself, but if there is one already in place, I'd like to give credit where credit is due!

Library Books read from 6/12/11 - 6/18/11

Semi-Sweet by Roisin Meaney (5 Spot, 4/25/11)

Contemporary Women's Fiction - A book about cupcakes? SOLD. This was a really fun light read. The author is Irish, who has several books out in the UK but this is her first US release and I hope more are on their way. The story deals with many characters which can be a bit confusing at first, but the main character is Hannah, a woman who is about to open a cupcake shop and finds out her husband has cheated on her. Throughout the book we see the lives of all the characters surrounding Hannah and what they are going through. Some of the characters I loved, some I wanted to slap (Nora and Patrick, I'm looking at you), some I thought I hated but then I felt sorry for. It's a good mix. I do wish there had been more cupcake recipes but overall it's a great read and I would love to see a sequel in the future.

Dark Water by Laura McNeal (Knopf Book for Young Readers, 9/14/10)

YA - I can totally see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. It's haunting and beautiful. It's a total coming of age story that's written extremely well. Pearl's character has been hurt by her father and then finds love with a Mexican illegal immigrant. Though the beginning is a bit slow, once you get to the heart of the story it moves as fast as the fire in the book does. This was one of the books I had to read for the Nerds Heart YA tournament and it blew away its competition, hence why we moved it forward as our pick.

Book Review: "Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona" by Miralee Ferrell

Summary from BN.com: Love and second chances aren't easy to come by in a town named Tombstone. When Christy Grey receives an urgent summons to Tombstone, Arizona, she reluctantly leaves her new life in California. The trip goes from bad to worse when three masked men hold up Christy's stage. She finally arrives in Tombstone to find her mother ill and her brother trapped in a life of gambling. Desperate for money to support her family, will Christy bow to pressure from the local saloon owners and return to the life she thought she'd given up for good?

Nevada Keene has problems of his own. He's been dodging bullets for years and wants nothing more than to settle down and get married. But he's on the run from outlaws bent on revenge, and the one woman who captures his interest recognizes him from the stagecoach holdup. Will Christy turn Nevada in to the authorities, or will the outlaws on his trail catch him first?

I have really enjoyed Miralee Ferrell's contributions to the Love Finds You series. I think she has found a great niche in writing historical romances based in actual historic cities. I have found her historical books to be well written, full of engaging characters and a nice blend of fact and fiction mixed together. This one is another nice mix to her growing collection.

Christy and Nevada randomly meet during a stage coach robbery where she gets shot. Even though he's not an outlaw, Nevada happens to be with them during the robbery and aids Christy. They end up meeting again in Tombstone, where Christy has returned home to help her mother and brother. While there, they both find themselves aiding a saloon girl and dealing with life in the American west. It's an interesting look at the going-ons of a mining town, saloons and cowboys. The romance between the two is done well as there is good chemistry between the pair.

I really enjoyed the author's note at the end of the book that told of how Ferrell traveled to the actual town of Tombstone when doing research for the book. She went to many of the locations that she wrote about and was able to give good detail of how the town really was. I appreciated the historical research that she did. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the characters that appeared in the book were actual people and that the story of how Christy and Nevada met was based on a true story. It's always wonderful to find out these things and I'm glad that Ferrell shared with readers what she had learned.

The only thing that I wasn't a big fan of was how Christy's family treated her. She herself was fine. I was not a big fan of her mother and brother however. Her mother seemed to be going through depression or having bipolar episodes or something that was causing all these mood swings. She's also quite loathing to Christy for no apparent reason. Her brother has a gambling addiction that magically clears up by the end of the book. It was just too tidy of a wrap up for me.

If you haven't read the first book that features Christy (LFY in Last Chance, CA) don't worry because this book can be read as a standalone. To be honest, even though I read the other book, I honestly cannot remember her character. That shouldn't deter you though from reading because in this book you will remember Christy for what she does. I'll be looking forward to more of these books from Ferrell in the future.

Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona by Miralee Ferrell is published by Summerside Press (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Review: "Chasing Sunsets" by Eva Marie Everson

Summary from BN.com: Kimberly Tucker's life hasn't turned out the way she thought it would. A divorced mother of two, Kim resents her ex-husband for moving on with his life and living it up while she struggles to understand what went wrong. When her sons end up spending five weeks of summer vacation with their father, Kim's own father suggests a respite in the family vacation home on tiny Cedar Key Island. As Kim revisits her childhood memories and loves, she soon discovers that treasures in life are often buried, and mistakes—both past and present—become redeemable in God's hand.

Sometimes the beach is the best place to escape from life. If the beach is someplace you always go to however, it can bring back lots of memories - both pleasant and painful. That's exactly what Kimberly Tucker does when her divorced husband wins a court order to have her sons stay an extra week with him during summer. Her husband is the type of guy that I hate. He cheated on her, pretty much wants to live a playboy life, and yet still does everything in his power to make her life miserable. When he tells his reasoning for why he did it later on in the book, it comes out flimsy and just shows the type of man he truly is. Truth be told, Kim is better off without him but since he's been a part of her life, he's there and it hurts. It's interesting though that she realizes how much she still wants to have control over that part of her life, including what he does.

When Kim goes to the beach she reunites and meets with several old and new friends. Among the new is an older woman named Patsy who shares a heartbreaking story as well as tips on Facebook. The old involves her childhood friend who gives the cold shoulder to Kim as well as her first love. Steven's story is revealed through flashbacks from both his and Kim's points of view. I felt quite sorry for him when all is told. Their relationship from when they first met to now is handled very well. There's a lot of passion without having to use sex but enough romantic tension to keep it interesting. I also am glad to see that there are more books showing that it's ok for Christians to remarry after divorcing.

I was pleasantly surprised that the topics of addiction, alcoholism and enabling were brought up in this book. These are topics that are rarely seen in Christian fiction because a lot of readers like clean, tidy reads to escape. Realistic topics like these don't allow for pleasant reading. As I have had experience with these topics in my own life, it was very welcomed to read about them. Everson shows all sides of family members who struggle with loved ones who are addicts. There are people like Kim's brother in law who are admitting that their family member has a problem and gets help to treat themselves as well. Then there are people like Kim's father who has put up with it his entire life and still tries to hide it. Then there's people like Kim, who has been in denial all these years and cannot understand the problem. I think all portrayals are done well and it's very sad to see how any type of addiction problem hurts and can destroy an entire family.

If there is anything that I had a problem with in the book is that I felt it ends rather abruptly. I don't know if we will be revisiting again with Kimberly's sisters in the rest of the series but I feel like Heather's story is left hanging. I also want to know more about Patsy's and Rosa's stories as well. I think the next book will feature Patsy so hopefully there will be some closure on that part.

I really enjoyed reading this story. I have always been a big fan of Everson's works and this one is no exception. The publisher has categorized this story as a contemporary romance but it reads more as women's fiction with a splash of romance. There's a lot to talk about in this novel - divorce, addiction, hurtful relationships, enabling - that I feel that it can't really be classified as a true romance. Either way, this is a really good read and I can't wait to get my hands on more of it.

Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson is published by Revell (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review: "Ex-Girlfriends United" by Matt Dunn

Summary from BN.com: Ever wish you could let the world know just what you think of your ex?

Thanks to SlateYourDate.com, Dan Davis has discovered that long after he's dumped them, ex- after ex-girlfriend is dumping on him-all over the Internet. And it's ruining his dating life.

Faced with the prospect of a lifetime of singledom, Dan must track down his many exes in order to put things right. Along the way, he discovers he has much to learn about himself. Particularly when he meets up again with Polly-and realizes he wants her back. Can Dan convince his former love he's changed? Can his friend Ed convince him he needs to change in the first place? And can the two friends use their newfound knowledge to help other men in the same boat?

As The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook was one of the funniest books that I've read this year, I was thrilled to see another book featuring those lovable characters again. If you are a fan of British chick lit and are interested in seeing how things are from a guy's point of view you will love this book. I would recommend reading Ex-Boyfriend first because it really gives good background info about the characters that is crucial to understanding them in this volume. Plus it's a hilarious read.

From the description of the book, I thought this story was going to be focused solely on Dan and told from his point of view about his relationships with women. Instead the book is still mostly about Edward and his relationships with some focus on Dan, his past relationships and how he tries to change himself. I have no problem with this because I enjoy Edwards POV, but I still think it would have been interesting to see things from Dan's side. Then again the thought process we get from him through Edward seems a bit illogical at times so maybe it's best we don't.

To be honest, when the ending of the book comes around, I still don't really think that Dan has changed all that much. Yes he's come to understand that he's been a real jerk and he's learned the reason of why he does act like this towards women. But as for actually changing his entire personality and how he will treat women in the future remains to be seen.

What I love best about this book is that Dunn's writing is so funny and fresh. Edward, Dan, Sam and all the others literally leap off the pages and take you into their lives. There were many, many, many times when I burst out laughing while reading. There were also many times when I groaned because I couldn't believe after everything that happened from the last book, Edward is still that dense. It really does help to explain how guys think though. Dan has the knowledge, but he's a jerk. Edward is a nice guy with good intentions, but he's absolutely clueless. Put them together minus the bad bits and you have the perfect guy?

Since I love these characters so much, I was thrilled to see that there's a third book featuring all of them again, but as of now I believe it's only published in the UK. Hopefully soon it'll be in the US because I cannot wait to read it. I honestly feel like the author had a fun time writing this book because the story just moves along so fluidly and characters say things that make you guffaw. I had such a fun time reading it and if you share any of my tastes at all, I believe you will as well. HIGHLY recommended.

Ex-Girlfriends United by Matt Dunn is published by Sourcebooks Landmark (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Indelible

WaterBrook Press (May 3, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kristen Heitzmann’s gift of crafting stories has ranked her as the award-winning and best-selling author of two historical series and twelve contemporary, psychological and romantic suspense novels including Indivisible. As an artist and musician, Kristen lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and a continuous stream of extended family, various pets, and wildlife.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Award-wining and best-selling author Kristen Heitzmann brings another suspense story to life in Indelible (WaterBrook, May 3, 2011).

Follow Trevor MacDaniel, a high country outfitter, as he rescues a toddler from the jaws of a mountain lion. Discover how he can’t foresee the far-reaching consequences of his action, how it will entwine his life with gifted sculptor, Natalie Reeve—and attract a grim admirer.

Find out how Trevor’s need to guard and protect is born of tragedy, prompting his decision to become a search and rescue volunteer. And how Natalie’s gift of sculpting comes from an unusual disability that seeks release through her creative hands.

See how in each other they learn strength and courage as they face an incomprehensible foe…a twisted soul, who is drawn by the heroic story of the child’s rescue. One who sees Trevor as archangel and adversary, and threatens their peaceful mountain community—testing Trevor’s limits by targeting their most helpless and innocent.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



A veined bolt of lightning sliced the ozone-scented sky as Trevor plunged down the craggy slope, dodging evergreen spires like slalom poles. Rocks and gravel spewed from his boots and caromed off the vertical pitch.

“Trevor.” Whit skidded behind him. “We’re not prepared for this.”

No. But he hurled himself after the tawny streak. He was not losing that kid.

“He’s suffocated,” Whit shouted. “His neck’s broken.”

Trevor leaped past a man—probably the dad—gripping his snapped shinbone. Whit could help there. Digging his heels into the shifting pine needles, Trevor gave chase, outmatched and unwavering. His heart pumped hard as he neared the base of the gulch, jumping from a lichen-crusted stone to a fallen trunk. The cougar jumped the creek, lost its grip, and dropped the toddler. Yes.

He splashed into the icy flow, dispersing scattered leaves like startled goldfish. After driving his hand into the water, he gripped a stone and raised it. Not heavy, not nearly heavy enough.

Lowering its head over the helpless prey, the mountain lion snarled a spine-chilling warning. There was no contest, but the cat, an immature male, might not realize its advantage, might not know its fear of man was mere illusion. Thunder crackled. Trevor tasted blood where he’d bitten his tongue.

Advancing, he engaged the cat’s eyes, taunting it to charge or run. The cat backed up, hissing. A yearling cub, able to snatch a tot from the trail, but unprepared for this fearless challenge. Too much adrenaline for fear. Too much blood on the ground.

With a shout, he heaved the rock. As the cat streaked up the mountainside, he charged across the creek to the victim. He’d steeled himself for carnage, but even so, the nearly severed arm, the battered, bloody feet… His nose filled with the musky lion scent, the rusty smell of blood. He reached out. No pulse.

He dropped to his knees as Whit joined him from behind, on guard. He returned the boy’s arm to the socket, and holding it there with one trembling hand, Trevor began CPR with his other. On a victim so small, it took hardly any force, his fingers alone performing the compressions. The lion had failed to trap the victim’s face in its mouth. By grabbing the back of the head, neck, and shoulder, it had actually protected those vulnerable parts. But blood streamed over the toddler’s face from a deep cut high on the scalp, and he still wasn’t breathing.

Trevor bent to puff air into the tiny lungs, compressed again with his fingers, and puffed as lightly as he would to put out a match. Come on. He puffed and compressed while Whit watched for the cat’s return. Predators fought for their kills—even startled ones.

A whine escaped the child’s mouth. He jerked his legs, emitting a highpitched moan. Trevor shucked his jacket and tugged his T-shirt off over his head. He tied the sleeves around the toddler’s arm and shoulder, pulled the rest around, and swaddled the damaged feet—shoes and socks long gone. Thunder reverberated. The first hard drops smacked his skin. Tenderly, he pulled the child into his chest and draped the jacket over as a different rumble chopped the air. They had started up the mountain to find two elderly hikers who’d been separated from their party. Whit must have radioed the helicopter. He looked up. This baby might live because two old guys had gotten lost.

In the melee at the trailhead, Natalie clutched her sister-in-law’s hands, the horror of the ordeal still rocking them. As Aaron and little Cody were airlifted from the mountain, she breathed, “They’re going to be all right.”

“You don’t know that.” Face splotched and pale, Paige swung her head. Though her hair hung in wet blond strands, her makeup was weatherproof, her cologne still detectable. Even dazed, her brother’s wife looked and smelled expensive.

“The lion’s grip protected Cody’s head and neck,” one of the paramedics had told them. “It could have been so much worse.”

Paige started to sob. “His poor arm. What if he loses his arm?”

“Don’t go there.” What good was there in thinking it?

“How will he do the stuff boys do? I thought he’d be like Aaron, the best kid on the team.”

“He’ll be the best kid no matter what.”

“In the Special Olympics?”

Natalie recoiled at the droplets of spit that punctuated the bitter words.

“He’s alive, Paige. What were the odds those men from search and rescue would be right there with a helicopter already on standby?”

“We shouldn’t have needed it.” Paige clenched her teeth. “Aaron’s supposed to be recovering. He would have been if you weren’t such a freak.”

“What?” She’d endured Paige’s unsubtle resentment, but “ freak” ?

“Let me go.” Paige jerked away, careening toward the SUV.

Natalie heard the engine roar, the gravel flung by the spinning tires, but all she saw was the hate in Paige’s eyes, the pain twisting her brother’s face as he held his fractured leg, little Cody in the lion’s maw, the man leaping after…

She needed to clear the images, but it wouldn’t happen here. Around her, press vans and emergency vehicles drained from the lot, leaving the scent of exhaust and tire scars in the rusty mud. Paige had stranded her.

“Freak.” Heart aching, she took a shaky step toward the road. It hadn’t been that long a drive from the studio. A few miles. Maybe five. She hadn’t really watched—because Aaron was watching for her. Off the roster for a pulled oblique, he had seen an opportunity to finalize her venture and help her move, help her settle in, and see if she could do it. She’d been so thankful. How could any of them have known it would come to this? Trevor’s spent muscles shook with dumped adrenaline. He breathed the moist air in through his nose, willing his nerves to relax. Having gotten all they were going to get from him, most of the media had left the trailhead, following the story to the hospital. Unfortunately, Jaz remained.

She said, “You live for this, don’t you?” Pulling her fiery red hair into a messy ponytail didn’t disguise her incendiary nature or the smoldering coals reserved for him. He accepted the towel Whit handed him and wiped the rain from his head and neck, hoping she wouldn’t see the shakes. The late-summer storm had lowered the temperature enough she might think he was shivering.

“Whose idea was it to chase?”

“It’s not like you think about it. You just act.” Typing into her BlackBerry, she said, “Acted without thinking.”

“Come on, Jaz.” She couldn’t still be on his case.

“Interesting your being in place for the dramatic rescue of a pro athlete’s kid. Not enough limelight lately?”

“We were on another search.” She cocked her eyebrow. “You had no idea the victim’s dad plays center field for the Rockies?”

“Yeah, I got his autograph on the way down.” He squinted at the nearly empty parking lot. “Aren’t you following the story?”

“What do you think this is?”

“You got the same as everyone. That’s all I have to say.”

“You told us what happened. I want the guts. How did it feel? What were you thinking?” She planted a hand on her hip. “Buy me a drink?” He’d rather go claw to claw with another mountain lion. But considering the ways she could distort this, he relented. “The Summit?”

“I’d love to.” She pocketed her BlackBerry and headed for her car. Whit raised his brows at her retreat. “Still feeling reckless?”

“Sometimes it’s better to take her head on.”

“Like the cat?” Whit braced his hips.

“The cat was young, inexperienced.”

“You didn’t know that.”

“There was a chance the child wasn’t dead.”

“What if it hadn’t run?”

“If it attacked, you’d have been free to grab the kid.”

“Nice for you, getting mauled.”

“If it got ugly, I’d have shot it.”

“Shot?”

He showed him the Magnum holstered against the small of his back.

Whit stared at him, stone-faced. “You had your gun and you used a rock?”

“I was pretty sure it would run.”

“Pretty sure,” Whit said. “So, what? It wouldn’t be fair to use your weapon?”

It had been the cat against him on some primal level the gun hadn’t entered into. He said, “I could have hit the boy, or the cat could have dropped him down the gulch. When it did let go, I realized its inexperience and knew we had a chance to scare it off. Department of Wildlife can decide its fate. I was after the child.”

“Okay, fine.” With a hard exhale, Whit rubbed his face. “This was bad.”

Trevor nodded. Until today, the worst he’d seen over four years of rescues was a hiker welded to a tree by lightning and an ice climber’s impalement on a jagged rock spear. There’d been no death today, but Whit looked sick. “You’re a new dad. Seeing that little guy had to hit you right in the gut.” Whit canted his head.

“I’m just saying.” Trevor stuffed his shaking hands into his jacket pockets. The storm passed, though the air still smelled of wet earth and rain. He drove Whit back, then went home to shower before meeting Jazmyn Dufoe at the Summit. Maybe he’d just start drinking now. Arms aching, Natalie drove her hands into the clay. On the huge, square Corian table, two busts looked back at her: Aaron in pain, and Paige, her fairy-tale life rent by a primal terror that sprang without warning. She had pushed and drawn and formed the images locked in her mind, even though her hands burned with the strain.

No word had come from the Children’s Hospital in Denver, where the police chief said they’d taken Cody, or from the hospital that had Aaron. Waiting to hear anything at all made a hollow in her stomach. She heaved a new block of clay to the table, wedged and added it to the mound already softened. Just as she started to climb the stepstool, her phone rang. She plunged her hands into the water bucket and swabbed
them with a towel, silently begging for good news. “Aaron?”

Not her brother, but a nurse calling. “Mr. Reeve asked me to let you know he came through surgery just fine. He’s stable, and the prognosis is optimistic. He doesn’t want you to worry.”

Natalie pressed her palm to her chest with relief. “Did he say anything about Cody? Is there any news?”

“No, he didn’t say. I’m sure he’ll let you know as soon as he hears something.”

“Of course. Thank you so much for calling.”

Natalie climbed back onto the stool, weary but unable to stop. Normally, the face was enough, but this required more. She molded clay over stiff wire-mesh, drawing it up, up, proportionately taller than an average man, shoulders that bore the weight of other people’s fear, one arm wielding a stone, the other enfolding the little one. The rescuer hadn’t held both at once, but she combined the actions to release both images.

She had stared hard at his face for only a moment before he plunged over the ridge, yet retained every line and plane of it. Determination and fortitude in the cut of his mouth, selfless courage in the eyes. There’d been fear for Cody. And himself ? Not of the situation, but something…

It came through her hands in the twist of his brow. A heroic face, aware of the danger, capable of failing, unwilling to hold back. Using fingers and tools, she moved the powerful images trapped by her eidetic memory through her hands to the clay, creating an exterior storage that freed her mind, and immortalizing him—whoever he was. The Summit bar was packed and buzzing, the rescue already playing on televisions visible from every corner. With the whole crowd toasting and congratulating him, Jaz played nice—until he accepted her ride home and infuriated her all over again by not inviting her in.

He’d believed that dating women whose self-esteem reached egotistical meant parting ways wouldn’t faze them. Jaz destroyed that theory. She was not only embittered but vindictive. After turning on the jets, Trevor sank into his spa, letting the water beat his lower- and mid-lumbar muscles.

He pressed the remote to open the horizontal blinds and to look out through the loft windows.

Wincing, he reached in and rubbed the side of his knee. That plunge down the slope had cost him, but, given the outcome, he didn’t consider it a judgment error. That honor went to putting himself once more at the top of Jaz’s hate list. He maneuvered his knee into the pressure of a jet. When he got out, he’d ice it. If he got out.

He closed his eyes and pictured the battered toddler. The crowd’s attention had kept the thoughts at bay, easy to talk about the cat, how mountain lions rarely attacked people, how he and Whit had scared it off, how DOW would euthanize if they caught it, how his only priority had been to get the child. He had segued into the business he and Whit had opened the previous spring, rock and ice climbing, land and water excursions, cross-country ski and snowshoe when the season turned.

That was his business, but rescuing was in his blood, had been since his dad made him the man of the house by not coming home one night or any thereafter. At first, the nightmares had been bad—all the things that could go wrong: fire, snakes, tarantulas, tornadoes. They had populated his dreams until he woke drenched in sweat, cursing his father for trusting him to do what a grown man couldn’t.

The phone rang. He sloshed his arm up, dried his hand on the towel lying beside it, and answered. “Hey, Whit.”

“You doing okay?”

“Knee hurts. You?”

“Oh sure. You know—”

“Hold on. There’s someone at the door.”

“Yeah. Me and Sara.”

Trevor said, “Cute. Where’s your key?”

“Forgot it.”

Gingerly, he climbed over the side, then wrapped a towel around his hips, and let them in.

“You mind?” Whit frowned at the towel, although Sara hadn’t batted an eye.

She came in and made herself at home. Whit carried their twomonth- old asleep in his car seat to a resting place. Trevor threw on Under Armour shorts and a clean T-shirt, then rejoined them. “So what’s up?”

“Nice try, Trevor.” Sara fixed him with a look. “I especially like the practiced nonchalance.”

He grinned. “Hey, I’ve got it down.”

“With Jaz, maybe. No claw marks?”

“Too public.”

Whit rubbed his wife’s shoulder. “We knew you’d worry this thing, so Sara brought the remedy.”

She drew the Monopoly box out of her oversize bag with a grin that said she intended to win and would, wearing them down with her wheeling and dealing. “I’ll take that silly railroad off your hands. It’s no good to you when I have the other three.”

He rubbed his hands, looking into her bold blue eyes. “Bring it.”

The mindless activity and their chatter lightened his mood as Sara had intended. She knew him as well as Whit, maybe better. Each time he caught the concern, he reassured her with a smile. He’d be fine.

Whit played his get-out-of-jail card and freed his cannon. “Hear what’s going in next door to us?”

“No.”

“An art gallery.”

“Yeah?” Trevor adjusted the ice pack on his knee.

“Place called Nature Waits.”

“Waits for what?”

Whit shrugged. “Have to ask the lady sculptor.”

“Won’t exactly draw for our kind of customer.”

“At least it won’t compete.” Sara rolled the dice and moved her pewter shoe. “Another outfitter could have gone in. I’ll buy Park Place.”

Both men mouthed, “I’ll buy Park Place.”

She shot them a smile.

Two hours later, she had bankrupted them with her thoughtful loans and exorbitant use of hotels on prime properties. He closed the door behind them, and it hit. He raised the toilet seat and threw up, then pressed his back to the wall and rested his head, breathing deeply. The shaking returned, and this time he couldn’t blame adrenaline. He had literally puffed the life back into that tiny body. If that child had died in his arms…

Midst came their mighty Paramount, and seemed
Alone th’ antagonist of Heaven, nor less
Than Hell’s dread Emperor, with pomp supreme,
And god-like imitated state.

Child snatched from lion’s jaws. Two-year-old spared in deadly attack. Rescuer Trevor MacDaniel, champion of innocents, protector of life. Cameras rolling, flashes flashing, earnest newscasters recounted the tale. “On this mountain, a miracle. What could have been a tragedy became a triumph through the courage of this man who challenged a mountain lion to save a toddler attacked while hiking with his father, center-fielder…”

He consumed the story in drunken drafts. Eyes swimming, he gazed upon the noble face, the commanding figure on the TV screen. In that chest beat valiance. In those hands lay salvation. His heart made a slow drum in his ears. A spark ignited, purpose quickening.

Years he’d waited. He spread his own marred hands, instruments of instruction, of destruction. With slow deliberation, he closed them into fists. What use was darkness if not to try the light?