Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010!

Happy New Year everyone! 






I wish you many hours curled up with fabulous books this year :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fresh Encounter



by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King

-information taken from the Phenix Publicity website

From the multi-million bestselling authors of Experiencing God comes Fresh Encounter, a book for church laypersons and leaders that illuminates God’s pattern and plan for personal revival and spiritual awakening.

HENRY BLACKABY is founder and president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries International, an organization built to help people experience God. He and his wife have five children, fourteen grandchildren, and live in Rex, Ga.

RICHARD BLACKABY is president of Blackaby Ministries International and the oldest child of Henry and Marilynn Blackaby. He holds degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dallas Baptist University. Together, Henry and Richard have co-authored more than 20 books including Experiencing God, Hearing God’s Voice and Spiritual Leadership. The father-son pair also work regularly with Christian CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. He lives with his wife and children in Greenville, S.C.

CLAUDE KING is editor-in-chief for undated resources at LifeWay Christian Resources. He holds degrees from Belmont College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and lives with his wife in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

MY REVIEW

Fresh Encounter is a great book. The authors discuss deep topics in a reader-friendly way. The book is easy to read with helps to keep the reader focused- key points highlighted, summaries given regularly, and discussion/reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I think this book would make an excellent small group study. I found it to be very theologically sound and an all around interesting read.

The End of Christianity



by William A. Dembski

-information taken from the Phenix Publicity website

In his latest book, author William A. Dembski draws from his theological and scientific expertise to answer Christianity’s toughest question: how can a good God exist with an evil world? Never one to shy away from the spirited debate over science and religion, Dembski draws from his intimate knowledge of philosophical theology, mathematical information theory and the natural sciences to ultimately arrive at a truth that transcends the tired debates over young- and old-Earth creationism.


With an imposing career as a bestselling author, lecturer and researcher, Dr. William A. Dembski is a leading figure in the intelligent design movement. Dembski has appeared on national programs such as NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” CNN, Fox News, the BBC, PBS (“Inside the Law” with Jack Ford and “Uncommon Knowledge” with Peter Robinson), “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and ABC’s “Nightline,” hosted by George Stephanopoulos.

My Review

This is not a "light reading" book. It reads more like a theology text book meant for the scholars-to-be amongst us than a book for the masses. The author is a professor and you can certainly tell in his writing. I found the book to be well written and I appreciated how Dembski tackles some rather highly debated issues. I also appreciated the way he included scientific information and arguments. If you are looking for a meatier read than The End of Christianity just might be for you.

Dr. Les Parrott


Crazy Good Sex by Dr. Les Parrott

-information taken from the Phenix Publicity website

The combustive force of a man’s sexual drive can incinerate his wedding vows and family commitments. Or, it can ignite a flame of passion within his marriage that brings mind-blowing pleasure to both partners.
In this practical guidebook, psychologist Dr. Les Parrott reveals the truth about six areas that can undermine a man’s confidence, damage his marriage, and leave him struggling unnecessarily with temptation. With man-to-man straight talk, Crazy Good Sex helps readers pave the way for a whole new dimension of sexual pleasure by finally putting to bed popular myths like:
• how much sex women want,
• whether married sex can be truly satisfying and steamy,
• the biological effects of pornography,
• what it really takes to please a woman,
• whether masturbation is harmful or helpful and
• the controlling force behind a man’s sexual drive.

LES PARROTT, PH.D., is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Seattle Pacific University (SPU). Together with his wife, Leslie Parrott, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist, he is the co-founder of RealRelationships.com and the Center for Relationship Development at SPU. He is the co-author of several bestsellers, including Love Talk, Your Time-Starved Marriage and the award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. His work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health and Self, and on CNN, “Good Morning America,” and “Oprah.”

MY REVIEW

This book is geared specifically to men but there is a lot in there that women can learn from. We can always use a little help understanding why our men are the way they are about sex! Parrott also includes a small section specifically for women that I appreciated. The book is well written and easy to follow. I appreciated the honesty and straightforward writing in Crazy Good Sex.

New World Kids




New World Kids: The Parents' Guide to Creative Thinking

Product Description (from Amazon.com)

It is now impossible to imagine what children s career choices will be by the time they are grown. The scale of change, largely driven by technology, is unprecedented in human history. It is the change itself, this re-ordering, this inventing the new world, that will occupy our children s future.

We are entering a time that will call for dedicated innovation across the board. This call will echo throughout all fields; in fact it has already started. The child s counterpart to innovation is creative thinking and creativity is the next literacy.

New World Kids is a comprehensive guide to creative thinking for parents, teachers and caregivers. It is the result of decades of applied research with children examining creativity, media, cognition, play and individuality.


New World Kids contains:
-208 easy-to-read full-color pages, beautifully illustrated and filled with pragmatic ways to understand, acknowledge and support your child s individual strengths
-a map of creativity based on more than half a century of theory-to-practice in education, the arts and cognitive research that deconstructs and makes accessible this very big subject
-a step-by-step guide for parents to mentor their children through the idea-to-form process using everyday occasions and materials
-more than 200 investigative activities for parents and children to do alone and together to help you uncover and exercise unique perspectives and talents
-real life examples that help you connect the dots from child s play to innovation, mastery and success in the grown-up worlds of business and technology, art and science.
MY REVIEW

New World Kids is a fabulous book. I LOVE how it encourages parents to really get to know their kids and the way they think and learn and live and what makes them unique. The book itself is just plain lovely to look at- it has tons of amazing photos and bright colours and eye-catching fonts etc.. I found it very easy to read. The activities are fascinating and relatively easy for any parent to do. I really think this book contains some fabulous information and things that all parents could benefit from!

There is also a New World Kids At School book specific for teachers that looks amazing too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How To Change Someone You Love



About the Book (taken from Amazon.com)

A powerful, ground-breaking book that shows you, in concrete steps, how to stop a loved one from engaging in self destructive behavior. Stop your husband from drinking himself to death. Don't let your brother lose it all to gambling. Get your kid off drugs. Motivate your best friend to lose weight. Make your spendthrift brother-in-law stop maxing out his credit cards. Get your sister out of an abusive relationship. Erase anger in your co-worker. If you're tired of watching your spouse, child, relative, or best friend go downhill, dragging you with them, How to Change Someone You Love will help you turn their lives around. You don't have to endure behavior that is unhealthy, abusive, possibly deadly, and that threatens to unravel relationships. You can change it. Many books will tell you that you can't change anyone. They advise you not to even try. The problem is, they ignore the tremendous power you actually have to change people. If most books about change are written for the addict or troubled person, How to Change Someone You Love reaches out to the loved ones who know that change is critical and urgent. How to Change Someone You Love is not just a self-help book; this is a help-you-act book. "Brad Lamm’s step-by-step approach empowers families and friends to change their loved ones through compassionate, caring and continuing support."-- Dr. Mehmet Oz

Biography

Brad Lamm has been helping others get sober and stay sober for years. Highly motivated and with long-term sobriety himself, he is a Board-Registered Interventionist, a teacher and speaker, and a founder of Intervention Specialists. Previously a news anchor, his TV work today centers on family systems and teaching people how to begin change in their own lives, and in the lives of those they love.

MY REVIEW

This is an interesting book. I am not personally dealing with any intervention-needing situations right now so I am honestly not sure how Lamm's methods would work in real life. I really appreciated the basic premise of this book that people CAN change and that we can help them do so. The book is incredibly straightforward and easy to understand. I found it well written and the addition of tons of anecdotes helped keep my interest. If you are struggling with how to help a loved one change than I would definitely check out How To Change Someone You Love.

Monday, December 28, 2009

When Teacher's Talk



When Teachers Talk by Rosalyn Schnall

Information from the publicist...


The hidden crisis in American public schools
New book exposes inept, abusive principals through teacher testimonials

CHICAGO – Theories abound on what’s causing the decline of the American public school system, whether it’s the focus on standardized testing, programs like No Child Left Behind or just lack of proper funding. These may all be contributing factors to the weakening of educational standards; but according to veteran educator, researcher and author Rosalyn Schnall, the root of the problem lies with ineffective and destructive school administrators.

Schnall is a retired elementary school teacher with 35 years experience, serving at seven different schools and under nine principals in the Chicago Public School System. Repeated experiences with unsupportive principals who had a negative impact on both teacher effectiveness and student achievement led her to question whether this was a widespread problem in the Chicago school system—or even around the country.

Based on survey results and personal interviews with 500 Chicago public school teachers between 2000 and 2005, Schnall’s new book, When Teachers Talk (Goldenring Publishing, LLC, November 2009, 978-0-578-00563-8), features hundreds of teacher testimonials that expose the hidden crisis of principal misconduct in America’s schools, and how it’s affecting our children.

“Principal abuse of power and mistreatment of teachers may very well be the most significant underlying cause contributing to the decline of public education in America today,” says Schnall, a Chicago native. “From my study, teachers working under those they deemed as ‘good principals’ proved to enhance teachers’ effectiveness and had a positive effect on students. Those deemed as ‘bad principals’ negatively affected teachers’ mental, emotional and physical health, which has an adverse impact on the children they teach.”

When Teachers Talk gives a voice to often-unheard public school teachers, who share true stories of biased, politically motivated and even openly vindictive principals. Some teach in fear due to lack of safety and security in the classroom; for others, their health is directly affected by poor principals, causing them to transfer schools and even retire early in some cases; still others are instructed by principals to pass children to the next grade who aren’t functioning at the necessary level.

Schnall currently resides in Henderson, Nev., with her husband of 17 years. She is working on a series of multi-cultural children’s books that are designed to help students develop sensitivity, kindness and positive character traits. Visit www.whenteacherstalk.com for more information. Distributed to the book trade by Small Press United/IPG.

MY REVIEW

I found this book very sad- the fact that some teachers are being treated so unfairly is just not cool.  The book was obviously very USA-specific so I am not too sure how much of the information would be accurate in Canada... but I sincerely hope the situation is not that bad here. The book itself is relatively easy to follow but rather emotionally draining. It made me respect teachers even more than I already do... and I think they are amazing.  I hope this book can help change the situation for those teachers in bad situations.

Giveaway Update

I just wanted to remind everyone to enter the giveaways I have going on this week...


  1. Win a Harlem Globetrotter's gift pack HERE. (ends December 30, open to Canada/USA)
  2. Win patterns from YouCanMakeThis.com HERE. (ends December 30, open WORLDWIDE)
  3. Win The Fairytale Collection by The 6 Pence Players HERE. (ends January 2, open to Canada/USA)
  4. Win an Illuminated JetBib HERE. (ends January 4, open to Canada/USA)
  5. Win The Looking Book by P.K.Hallinan HERE. (ends January 5, open to Canada/USA)
  6. Win How To Clean Your Room by Eileen Spinelli HERE. (ends January 6, open to Canada/USA)
  7. Win SafetyTats HERE. (ends January 11, open to Canada/USA)
  8. Win Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo HERE. (ends January 12, open to Canada/USA)

Jane Austen Ruined My Life GIVEAWAY!! CLOSED

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to blueviolet for winning (chosen via random.org).




 Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
-information taken from the website

Drawing on the recent popularity of all-things Jane Austen, award-winning novelist Beth Patillo crafts a fiction title with cross-over potential that offers equal parts humor, intrigue, and romance in a lighthearted chick-lit style dealing with themes of overcoming betrayal and learning to love again.

English professor Emma Grant has always done everything just the way her minister father told her she should - a respectable marriage, a teaching job at a good college, and plans for the requisite two children. Life was prodigiously good, as her favorite author Jane Austen might say, until the day Emma is betrayed by her husband. Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for the foolish dreams they are.

In the end, Emma learns that doing the right thing has very little to do with other people's expectations and everything to do with her own beliefs. Laced with fictional excerpts from the missing letters, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of a woman betrayed who uncovers the deeper meaning of loyalty.

BETH PATTILLO currently resides in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband and two children. Her passion for all-things Jane Austen began when she studied abroad for a semester at the University of London, Westfield College. She has made regular trips across the pond for the past 20 years, the most recent of which took her on a pilgrimage through Hampshire, where she visited many of the sites featured in Jane Austen Ruined My Life. Pattillo is the author of eight popular novels, including The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society (WaterBrook Press, 2008), Earth to Betsy (WaterBrook, 2006) and Heavens to Betsy (WaterBrook, 2005), for which she was awarded the RWA RITA (Romance Writer’s Association) award for Best Inspirational Romance.

MY REVIEW

Jane Austen Ruined My Life is a great book. I really enjoyed reading it and I absolutely LOVED the basic premise of it. I felt like the book was absolutely geared to ME... those of us who grew up in love with the Jane Austen stories. I enjoyed the main characters and the storyline kept me fully engaged the whole way through. I even stayed up exceedingly late last night finishing it! If you are a fiction-lover, especially one who is familiar with Jane Austen's writing, than you will love this book.


Thanks to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a review copy of this book and for sponsoring the giveaway.

Would you like to win this book?

~Leave me a comment here telling me you would like to win! That's it :)

FOR EXTRA ENTRIES


~Subscribe to this blog via email

~ Subscribe to this blog via the reader of your choice

~ Follow this blog

~ Add my button to your site

~ Follow me on Twitter and tweet this giveaway (as many times as you like)

~ Become a Fan of this blog on Facebook

~ Share this giveaway on Facebook, MySpace, a forum or any other social networking site of your choosing (as often as you want)

~ email a couple friends about this giveaway and let me know that you did

~ stumble, digg, tag, bookmark, vote up, thumbs up, favourite, or anything else you can think to do for this site or giveaway (as many as you like- there is a "share" bar at the bottom of this post to make this easier)


This giveaway is open to readers in Canada and the USA. I will choose a winner on January 12, 2010.

Winner will be chosen with random.org and notified by email so please leave me a way to contact you. Winner will have 48 hours to reply to my email or I will choose a new winner.

Don't forget to enter my other great giveaways...

  1. Win a Harlem Globetrotter's gift pack HERE. (ends December 30, open to Canada/USA)
  2. Win patterns from YouCanMakeThis.com HERE. (ends December 30, open WORLDWIDE)
  3. Win The Fairytale Collection by The 6 Pence Players HERE. (ends January 2, open to Canada/USA)
  4. Win an Illuminated JetBib HERE. (ends January 4, open to Canada/USA)
  5. Win The Looking Book by P.K.Hallinan HERE. (ends January 5, open to Canada/USA)
  6. Win How To Clean Your Room by Eileen Spinelli HERE. (ends January 6, open to Canada/USA)
  7. Win SafetyTats HERE. (ends January 11, open to Canada/USA)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to Clean Your Room GIVEAWAY!! CLOSED

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to barbara for winning. Winner chosen randomly.



Product Description

(information taken from Amazon.com)

A delightful adventure emerges as each little boy and girl goes about the task of cleaning his or her room -- a chore that no child likes -- in How to Clean Your Room. First, wade through the clutter of color like an artist. . . what a lovely mess. Next stop at the books teetering by the bed, tottering with words, worlds you have read about, pages you have danced in. . .
Eileen Spinelli spins a glorious tale as she inspires children to clean their rooms -- not in a rush, but with the wildest imaginings and a tender touch. For the bedroom is where you laugh and cry, dream big dreams, and store your precious memories. This book could start a whole movement of children asking to clean their rooms!
Includes special features children love--pop-ups, pulls, flaps, and a spinner. Ages 5-8.


About the Author

Eileen Spinelli's lyrical verse has graced the pages of more than 35 children's book, most recently Two to Cuddle from CandyCane Press. She is a featured poet in Ideals magazine and lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania, with her husband and fellow author, Jerry. David Leonard's illustrations embody strong concepts and a wit worth stopping for. He splits his time between New Jersey and Rio de Janeiro with his wife and twin girls. This is his second title for Ideals; his first was Daddy's Home!
  
MY REVIEW

How to Clean Your Room is a fun book. My kids all really liked the interactive aspects of peeking, pulling, popping, and turning on each page! Personally I really loved the way the pages look- the layout, the font used, the beautiful illustrations- all worked together very nicely. All three of my kids thought the illustrations were great too. I would certainly recommend this book.

Thanks to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a review copy of this book and for sponsoring the giveaway.

Would you like to win this book?

~Leave me a comment here telling me you would like to win! That's it :)

FOR EXTRA ENTRIES


~Subscribe to this blog via email

~ Subscribe to this blog via the reader of your choice

~ Follow this blog

~ Add my button to your site

~ Follow me on Twitter and tweet this giveaway (as many times as you like)

~ Become a Fan of this blog on Facebook

~ Share this giveaway on Facebook, MySpace, a forum or any other social networking site of your choosing (as often as you want)

~ email a couple friends about this giveaway and let me know that you did

~ stumble, digg, tag, bookmark, vote up, thumbs up, favourite, or anything else you can think to do for this site or giveaway (as many as you like- there is a "share" bar at the bottom of this post to make this easier)


This giveaway is open to readers in Canada and the USA. I will choose a winner on January 6, 2010.

Winner will be chosen with random.org and notified by email so please leave me a way to contact you. Winner will have 48 hours to reply to my email or I will choose a new winner.

Don't forget to enter my other great giveaways...
  1. Win a Whoops Bunny children's dinnerware set HERE. (ends December 23, open to Canada/USA)
  2. Win a Winter Warmer Bandana from Kewt Kids HERE. (ends December 23, open to Canada/USA)
  3. Win a 1-year membership to Ojolie.com ecard site HERE. (ends December 19, open to Canada/USA)
  4. Win a $30 GC to Andrea's Beau. (ends December 23, open to Canada/USA)
  5. Win a personalized photo of Santa or the Tooth Fairy for your child HERE. (ends December 24, open Worldwide)
  6. Win a Harlem Globetrotter's gift pack HERE. (ends December 30, open to Canada/USA)
  7. Win patterns from YouCanMakeThis.com HERE. (ends December 30, open WORLDWIDE)
  8. Win The Fairytale Collection by The 6 Pence Players HERE. (ends January 2, open to Canada/USA)
  9. Win an Illuminated JetBib HERE. (ends January 4, open to Canada/USA)
  10. Win The Looking Book by P.K.Hallinan HERE. (ends January 5, open to Canada/USA)

The Looking Book GIVEAWAY!! CLOSED

This giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to wmmahaney for winning. Winner chosen using random.org .



Product Description 

 (taken from Amazon.com)

A delightful story that encourages children to put down the TV remotes and video-game controllers and take a look at the wonder of the world around them. 'This grass is amazing!' he suddenly said.
'There are all kinds of things here -- brown, yellow, and red!
There are twig-things and rock-things
And dirt-things and string-things,
Along with a whole lot of little black bug things!'

In The Looking Book, author P. K. Hallinan uses lively rhyming verse to entice children to delight in the wonders of the world around them. Given a pair of 'lookers' by their mom, two boys soon realize that the lookers aren't needed at all. They just need to take the time to step outside, and they will see how much fun they can have.


About the Author

P. K. Hallinan has been writing and illustrating books for children since his wife first asked him to create one for their boys more than 35 years ago. Today, P. K. writes inspirational stories about holidays, relationships, and life values. His book, Let's Be Kind, was chosen by Focus on the Family as a top 10 family-friendly picture book. P. K. has over 100 titles to his credit, with more than eight million copies sold. In addition to his writing, P. K. is an ordained minister and a well-known school speaker. Patrice Barton's artistic talents were first discovered at age three, when she was found creating a mural on the dining room wall with a pastry brush and a can of Crisco. Her interest and passion in art grew as she did, and she earned a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas. She has been working as an illustrator ever since.

MY REVIEW

I love The Looking Book! I think it is a delightful story. I read it to my 3 kids and they all really liked it. Hallinan has written in very kid-friendly rhyming language and it captured my kids attention right away. I LOVE that it is a book focused on getting kids to unplug for awhile and enjoy the world around them. The illustrations by Patrice Barton are wonderful and complement the story perfectly.  This book would be a definite asset to any child's home or school library.

Thanks so much to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a copy of this book to review and for sponsoring this giveaway.

Would you like to win this book?

~Leave me a comment here telling me you would like to win! That's it :)

FOR EXTRA ENTRIES


~Subscribe to this blog via email

~ Subscribe to this blog via the reader of your choice

~ Follow this blog

~ Add my button to your site

~ Follow me on Twitter and tweet this giveaway (as many times as you like)

~ Become a Fan of this blog on Facebook

~ Share this giveaway on Facebook, MySpace, a forum or any other social networking site of your choosing (as often as you want)

~ email a couple friends about this giveaway and let me know that you did

~ stumble, digg, tag, bookmark, vote up, thumbs up, favourite, or anything else you can think to do for this site or giveaway (as many as you like- there is a "share" bar at the bottom of this post to make this easier)


This giveaway is open to readers in Canada and the USA. I will choose a winner on January 5, 2010.

Winner will be chosen with random.org and notified by email so please leave me a way to contact you. Winner will have 48 hours to reply to my email or I will choose a new winner.

Don't forget to enter my other great giveaways...
  1. Win a Whoops Bunny children's dinnerware set HERE. (ends December 23, open to Canada/USA)
  2. Win a Winter Warmer Bandana from Kewt Kids HERE. (ends December 23, open to Canada/USA)
  3. Win a 1-year membership to Ojolie.com ecard site HERE. (ends December 19, open to Canada/USA)
  4. Win a $30 GC to Andrea's Beau. (ends December 23, open to Canada/USA)
  5. Win a personalized photo of Santa or the Tooth Fairy for your child HERE. (ends December 24, open Worldwide)
  6. Win a Harlem Globetrotter's gift pack HERE. (ends December 30, open to Canada/USA)
  7. Win patterns from YouCanMakeThis.com HERE. (ends December 30, open WORLDWIDE)
  8. Win The Fairytale Collection by The 6 Pence Players HERE. (ends January 2, open to Canada/USA)
  9. Win an Illuminated JetBib HERE. (ends January 4, open to Canada/USA)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Cost of Dreams





The Cost of Dreams

Synopsis - taken from Gary Stelzer's website


This is a tale about the extraordinary fate and survival of a young woman fleeing the cataclysm of civil war in Central America, and about the strangers who risk everything to rescue and mend her.

Kate Bowman, in her mid-forties, travels to Central America with her brother’s favorite son, a tall handsome 22-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Illinois.  Bowman, a wildlife biologist from the upper Midwest, teaches literacy classes in the midst of a three-week long medical aid mission sponsored by healthcare teams from Chicago and California.  The moment Andrew Gustafson sets foot in the village of Talapa, a young Mayan teen named Flora Enriquez follows his every move, enthralled by him.  The small dark eyed girl demonstrates for Kate Bowman that she already reads, taught by a priest two years prior, even inheriting the deceased clergyman’s books.

Andrew quickly discovers his own project, planning and preparing for the installation of a hydroelectric turbine on the village stream to deliver electricity to the remote community in the land of volcanoes.  He declines to travel home with his aunt and the rest of the aid party, insisting on remaining in the dangerous and beautiful jungle highlands.  Sick at heart, Kate boards a plane to return to her home on northern Lake Michigan, terrified for her nephew left behind in a country convulsing in a murderous civil war.

Then the midnight call comes from the aid director in Chicago ten days after her return.   Andrew has gone missing, never to be seen again.  And Kate falls under the blaming cloud of her extended family forever.

Then, some years later, a wretchedly wounded Flora Enriquez unexpectedly reenters Kate’s life, the younger woman having fled the land of volcanoes that erupted in civil conflagration.  The young Mayan, desirous of healing for her horrifying injuries and desperate to restore what remains of her family, reignites a fire in Kate to determine the fate her long lost nephew.

The harrowing journey for the two women on the healing and search mission, and employing a wounded Viet Nam veteran to help them, utterly consumes them.

MY REVIEW

The Cost of Dreams is an emotionally depressing book. The story is intriguing and the plot kept me interested... but it wasn't exactly a 'fun' read. I found the writing occassionally hard to follow but it wasn't that big of a deal. I am sure that stories like this happen in real life all the time but that just made it harder to read! I did like the book overall and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of a deeper novel to read.

The Handy Answer Book for Kids


Product Description taken from the Visible Ink Press website:

Kids ask the darndest things . . . and here are the answers---all in one helpful book!

Anyone who has ever been a kid, raised a kid, or spent any time with kids knows that asking questions is a critical part of growing up. Kids have curious minds and they come up with some very interesting questions. But the truth is adults don't always know the answers. The Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) comes to the rescue. It addresses nearly 800 queries with enough depth and detail to both satisfy the curiosity of persistent young inquisitors and provide parents with a secure sense of a job well done.

Written with a child's imagination in mind, this easy-to-understand book permits kids to help themselves because it's organized by simple topical chapters: Outer Space; Planet Earth and Our Moon; Creatures Big and Small; Plant Life; People around the World; Politics and Government; How Things Work; Math, Measurement, and Time; All about My Body; and Daily Life. Each question posed is given a complete and satisfying answer, going beyond "because" and "it just is" and "I don't know."

· Why do dogs bark? · Why is the sky blue? · Why do people have to grow old? · Why do people speak different languages? · How does my body know to wake up when morning comes?

About Gina Misiroglu

Gina Misiroglu is a fourteen-year veteran of the West Coast publishing industry, specializing in the development and editing of popular culture, reference, and women's studies titles. Misiroglu has edited and developed hundreds of books in her publishing career for a number of presses, including Price Stern Sloan/HP Books, New World Library, Lowell House, Visible Ink Press, Macmillan Reference USA, and Adams Media Corporation. Misiroglu is the author of Girls Like Us: 40 Extraordinary Women Celebrate Girlhood in Story, Poetry, and Song (New World Library, 1999), winner of the New York Public Library's "Best Book for Teens" Award, and Imagine: The Spirit of Twentieth-Century American Heroes (New World Library, 1999).
MY REVIEW

This is a great reference book to have in the house. My sons have asked me dozens of questions I don't know the answer to over the past couple years but the most recent one I was able to find the answer in the Handy Answer Book for Kids. Owen asked me about dinosaurs and since I know basically nothing about dinosaurs I looked it up. Perfect. I especially appreciated the kid-friendly language the book uses- it made giving my son the answer even easier.

I read through a bunch of the book and was able to tell my sons some fun facts that I never could have come up with on my own! I think both of my boys will enjoy this book a lot once they can read a little better. This is definitely a book all school libraries should have and it is perfect for those inquisitive kids out there!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tales of the Heart

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:

Whitaker House (January 2010)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


A prolific writer, Loree Lough has more than seventy-one books, sixty-three short stories, and 2,500 articles in print. Her stories have earned dozens of industry and Reader’s Choice awards. A frequent guest speaker for writers’ organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, corporations, college and high school writing programs, and more, Loree has encouraged thousands with her comedic approach to “learned-the-hard-way” lessons about the craft and industry. Loree and her husband split their time between Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603741674
ISBN-13: 978-1603741675 :

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Magnolia Grange, south of Richmond, Virginia

1866

Chapter One

“It’s hard to believe you’ve been with us four years, Bridget.”

Winking one thick-lashed blue eye, the maid grinned. “Aye, Mr. Auburn.” She blew a tendril of flaming red hair away from her eye and secured a gigantic white satin bow to the railing. “Time has passed like a runaway engine.”

Fumbling with his collar, Chase chuckled. “You’ve always been a joy to have in the house, and your way with words is but one of the reasons.”

Bridget slid the ribbon up and down until it exactly matched the height of the decoration on the other side of the porch. In response to the great gulp of air he took in, she straightened from her work. “Were you this nervous the first time you were a bridegroom, sir?”

He leaned a shoulder against the pillar nearest him. “To tell the truth, I don’t recall.” And, raising both brows imploringly, he pointed at the lopsided knot at his throat. “Would you mind…?”

She stepped up to the man who’d been more of a big brother than an employer to her these past years. “Wouldn’t mind a bit.” And to think that during her long sea voyage from Ireland to Virginia, she’d envisioned him a brute and a monster!

Standing on tiptoe, Bridget repaired the damage he’d done to his black string tie. “There, now,” she said, brushing imaginary lint from his broad shoulders, “that’s got it.”

His hand trembling, he dug a gold watch from his pocket. “The guests will begin arriving soon. Is everything—?”

“All’s well, Mr. Auburn, so I pray ye’ll relax. Else ye’ll need another bath!” Gathering her bow-making materials, Bridget hustled through the front door. From the other side of the screen, she said, “I’ve a few things to see to in the kitchen, and then I’ll be lookin’ in on yer bride-to-be.” She started toward the parlor, then stopped and faced him again. “Mr. Auburn, sir?”

He stopped rubbing his temples to say, “Yes?”

“I set aside a pitcher of lemonade. Might be just the thing to calm your nerves. Now, why don’t you settle down there while I fetch you a nice tall glass?”

As she made her way toward the kitchen, she heard the unmistakable squeak of the porch swing. “Hard to believe you ever thought that dear, sweet man capable of beating his servants bloody.”

“What’s that?”

Scissors, ribbons, needles, and thread flew into the air, then rained down upon her at the sound of the rich, masculine voice. “Goodness gracious, sakes alive!” she gasped, hands flattened to her chest. “You just shaved ten years off m’life!”

“Sorry,” said the tall intruder. “Didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Rolling her eyes, Bridget stooped to retrieve the fallen articles. “No harm done, I suppose.” Then, narrowing one eye, she sent him a half smile. “Provided you help me clean up the mess ye’re responsible for.”

Immediately, he was on his hands and knees, and once they’d untangled the ribbon, she put it all in the linen cupboard. “Don’t recall seein’ you around here before.”

“Just arrived last evening.” He nodded toward the barn. “I’m bunking in the loft. Chase…uh, Mr. Auburn is hoping I can improve the lineage of his quarter horses.”

“Ah,” she said, returning the sewing supplies to their proper shelf, “so you’re the new stable hand we’ve all been hearing about.” Dusting off her hands, she started up the stairs, stopping on the bottom step to give him a quick once-over. “Don’t know why, but I thought you’d be older.”

Leaning both burly arms on the newel post, he frowned slightly. “The proper title is ‘stable master’.”

“Is that a fact, Mr. Big-for-His-Britches?” Grinning good-naturedly, she added, “Tack whatever fancy name ye choose to the work. You’re still the hired help, same as me, ’cept you’re likely more at home with a muck shovel in your hand than a mop or broom.”

For a moment, a look of embarrassment darkened his handsome face, but, to his credit, he shook it off. “It’s honest work, and the horses are my full responsibility, so they might as well be my very own.”

She scrutinized him carefully. “All right, then, so you’ve got the master’s horses, but have ye the horse sense to go with ’em?” Halfway up the curving staircase, she leaned over the landing banister. “And what might your name be, Mr. I’m-So-Sure-of-Myself…just so I’m sure to address you properly next time we meet?”

“Lance,” he said. “Lance York.”

Bridget’s smile disappeared. “You’re—you’re English?”

Another nod. “But only half.” The frown above his gray eyes deepened. “Why do you look as though you’ve just smelled something unpleasant? Is there something wrong with being English?”

Only if you’re a poor tenant farmer in County Donegal, Ireland, she thought, continuing up the stairs. Since they both worked for Mr. Auburn, she’d likely run into this fellow often, and she had no intention of behaving like one of those uppity town girls who were so difficult to get along with. “Well,” she said coolly, “I suppose we all have to be something, now, don’t we?”

Her peripheral vision told her he hadn’t budged as she reached the next landing. Bridget would not allow herself to look at him. What, and give him the satisfaction of knowing an Englishman had humiliated yet another Irishman? Not in a million Sundays!

Bridget hurried up the remaining stairs and set her mind on seeing what, if anything, Drewry might need, because in no time at all, she’d become Mrs. Chase Auburn. No doubt she’d be at least as fidgety as her bridegroom.

Funny, she thought, how folks tend to pair off at weddings. Most of the servants had spouses to accompany them to the shindig. All but Bridget and the hired hands’ children. More’s the pity the stableman has the blood of those thievin’ English flowin’ in his veins, she thought, ’cause he’d make a right handsome companion….

***

Bridget watched as the servants and hired hands of Magnolia Grange raced around, putting the finishing touches on the wedding preparations. How handsome they all looked dressed in their regal best, thanks to Chase Auburn’s generosity.

She remembered the day, not so long ago, when he’d stood beside the big buckboard, ushering every member of his staff into the back of the vehicle, oblivious to their slack-jawed, wide-eyed protests. “Magnolia Grange has survived locusts and storms and the Civil War, so I hardly think our little trip into town will cause its ruination.” Grabbing the reins, he’d added, “When we get to Richmond, every last one of you will choose a proper wedding outfit. And remember, money is no object.”

The wagon wheels had ground along the gritty road, drowning out the shocked whispers of his hired help. “Been with that boy since he was born,” Matilda had said behind a wrinkled black hand, “an’ I ain’t never seen him smile so bright.”

“I do believe he done lost his mind, Matty,” Simon had said. “This is gonna cost a fortune.”

“You just worry ’bout tending the fields,” she’d shot back, “an’ let Mistah Chase worry ’bout what he can afford.”

In town, the maid, the housekeeper, the foreman, and the field hands had quickly discovered that every Richmond shopkeeper had been instructed to put the suits, gowns, shoes, and baubles chosen by Auburn employees on Chase’s personal account. At first, they’d shied away from quality materials, picking through the bins for dresses of cotton and shirts of muslin. Until Chase had gotten wind of their frugality, that is.

“You’ll not attend my wedding dressed like that!” he’d gently admonished them, snatching a pair of dungarees from Claib’s hands. Holding some gabardine trousers in front of the tall, thin man, he’d said, “You’ve earned this.” Then, looking at each employee in turn, he had said, “You’ve all earned this. Why, Magnolia Grange wouldn’t be what it is without you!” With that, he’d disappeared into the bustling Richmond street.

Now, Bridget stepped into the full-skirted gown she’d chosen that day at Miss Dalia’s Dress Shop. Ma’s cameo would have looked lovely at the throat, she thought, buttoning its high, lace-trimmed collar. But the pin had long ago been handed over to the ruthless landlord Conyngham when he’d raised the rent yet again.

Slipping into slippers made from fabric the same shade of pink as the dress, Bridget recalled that in one of her mother’s leather-bound volumes—before Conyngham had demanded those, too—she’d seen a pen-and-ink sketch of a ballerina. According to the book, ballet originated in Renaissance Italy, where, as the nobility began to see themselves as superior to the peasantry, they rejected the robust and earthy steps of traditional dance. Emulating the slower, statelier movements of the ballerinas, they believed, accentuated their own elegance. Her arms forming a graceful circle over her head, the beautiful lady’s torso had curved gently to the right. Her dark hair had been pulled back tightly from her face, and on her head had been a tiny, sparkling crown. Long, shapely legs had peeked out from beneath a gauzy, knee-length gown, and on her feet had been satin slippers.

Smiling at the memory, Bridget stood at the mirror. Gathering her cinnamony hair atop her head, she secured it with a wide ribbon that matched her shoes. Lifting her skirt, she stuck out her right foot and, looking about to see if she were truly alone, grinned as mischief danced in her eyes. How long had it been since she’d struck this particular ballerina pose? Five years? Six? Then, feeling both giddy and girlish, Bridget covered her face with both hands and giggled. Ye’d better count yer blessin’s that nobody can see you, Bridget McKenna, for they’d cart y’off to the loony bin, to be sure!

The big grandfather clock in the hall began counting out the hour. Goodness gracious me, she thought, hurrying to the door, how can it be midday already? And with only an hour till the weddin’!

When Bridget entered Drewry’s room, she found the bride standing in front of a big, oval mirror like the one in her own room, smiling as Matilda pinned a white poinsettia in her long, dark hair. “You do make a lovely bride,” said the housekeeper. “Mistah Chase be one lucky fella, gettin’ a wife as fetchin’ as you.”

Blushing, Drewry hugged the woman. “Thank you, Matilda. But I’m the lucky one.”

“Not lucky,” Bridget said, closing the door behind her. “Blessed.”

The curious glances exchanged by the bride and housekeeper told Bridget that her interruption had stunned them. True, she’d never been overly chatty, but lately….

Several months ago, Mr. Auburn had walked into the kitchen as she’d been ciphering. When she’d admitted that she’d saved almost enough to send for her family, he’d promised to find work for her father and four siblings. And just this morning, a little more ciphering told Bridget that in six months, maybe eight, she’d finally have what she needed to bring them here from Ireland. If that didn’t put her in a chatty mood, a wedding was sure to do it!

“You’re so right,” Drewry said, grasping Bridget’s hand. “Luck had nothing to do with it. It was the good Lord who brought Chase and me together.”

“And He’ll keep you together, too.”

“Seems our gal here know as much about the Good Book as anyone,” Matilda said.

Bridget remembered another day, not long after her arrival at Magnolia Grange, when Mr. Auburn had invited her to join the family in prayer. “How many times must I tell you, Bridget McKenna,” he’d thundered, “that it’s not a sin to read the Scriptures!” He’d picked up the large, leather-bound Bible and opened it for the household’s morning devotions. On the other side of the big, wooden table, Bridget had begun to weep. It had been Drewry, the children’s nanny, who had passed her a lace-edged hanky.

“But Mr. Auburn, sir,” she’d cried, “my ma taught us that readin’ the Holy Scriptures is a sin and a crime. Learnin’ like that…it’s only for the clergy, who are blessed by God to understand what they read.” Trembling, she’d hidden her face in Drewry’s hanky. “Oh, please, sir…I don’t want to go to hell!”

Softening his tone, Chase had said, “I hate to disagree with your sweet mother, but I’m afraid she was mistaken.”

His comment had only served to cause a fresh torrent of tears, inspiring Drewry to scoot along the bench and drape an arm around Bridget. “Mr. Auburn is right, Bridget,” she’d said, her dark eyes shining and sweet voice soothing. “Our reading the Scriptures pleases God. Why else would He have given them to us?”

Bridget stopped crying and studied Drewry’s face. “But…how d’ye know for sure that it’s true, ma’am?”

“Because the Lord Jesus Himself said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ “You see, going to church on Sunday and hearing about Jesus is but one way of growing closer to the Lord. Reading His Word for ourselves, why, there’s no better way!” And from that moment on, life at Magnolia Grange had changed for Bridget. Having access to the comfort of God’s Word was a key that unlocked a world of hope.

“So, what you think, li’l Miss Bridget?” Matilda said. “You knows the Bible as good as anybody?”

“Hardly!” she said, laughing. “The more I learn,” she admitted, “the more I realize how little I know.” Then she wagged a finger at the bride. “Now, you’d best be gettin’ yourself downstairs, Miss Drew. Pastor Tillman has arrived, and the guests are gatherin’ in the chapel. It’s a mighty pretty day for a wedding, ’specially for December!”

“I have God to thank for that, too,” Drewry admitted, tugging at the long snug sleeves of her white velvet gown. With arms extended, she took a deep breath as Matilda fastened the tiny pearl buttons on each cuff. After fastening her mother’s cameo at the high, stand-up collar, Drewry picked up the bouquet fashioned of red roses, white poinsettias, and greenery from Chase’s hothouse, which he had delivered at dawn.

“You gonna carry that to the altar, Miss Drew?”

“I most certainly am, Matilda. Perhaps Chase and I will start a trend…bridegrooms delivering flowers to their brides, and brides carrying the bouquets to the altar.” She punctuated her statement with a merry giggle. “Well, I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be, so I suppose we should get this wedding started!”

With Matilda leading the way, the women walked down the wide, curving staircase and onto the porch. Bridget saw that Claib had parked the carriage out front. He’d polished its chassis until the enamel gleamed like a black mirror. The farmhand cut quite a dashing figure in his long-tailed morning suit, and Bridget planned to tell him so the minute they returned to the kitchen to serve the guests at the reception. Bending low at the waist, Claib swept a gloved hand in front of him. “Your carriage awaits, m’lady,” he said, mimicking Pastor Tillman’s English butler.

The sounds of laughter and chatter grew louder as the buggy neared the chapel. “They’re here!” a woman shouted.

“Start the music!” hollered a man.

As the four-piece string ensemble began to play Beethoven’s Ninth, Drewry stood beside her Uncle James at the back of the chapel. Such a lovely bride, Bridget thought. And this little church in the woods is lovely, too. The red holly berries trimming the roof winked merrily, and a soft garland filled the air with the fresh, clean scent of pine. Massive arrangements of red and white poinsettias, along with evergreen boughs, flanked the altar, where Mr. Auburn waited alone.

But not for long.

Bridget and Matilda, in their new store-bought frocks, stepped importantly down the aisle in time to the music and took their places in the Auburn family pew. Chase’s daughter, Sally, stepped up in front of Drewry, one hand in her basket, prepared to sprinkle rose petals along the path that her new mother’s high-topped white boots would take. Behind Sally, her brother, Sam, held the white satin pillow that cushioned the wedding band. Bridget smiled as he tugged at the collar of his shirt and smiled adoringly up at Drewry.

The children love her so, and so does Mr. Auburn, Bridget thought. And it’s plain to see she loves them, too.

Just then, the throbbing strains of the “Wedding March” poured from the organ’s pipes, filling the chapel as Pastor Tillman took his place at the altar. Bridget watched Chase, resplendent in his black suit, as he focused on Drewry, the object of his hopes and dreams and promises soon to be fulfilled. “I love you,” he mouthed to her.

Bridget turned in her seat just in time to see the bride answer with a wink and a smile. Will I ever know love like that? she wondered, facing front again. Sighing, she felt her shoulders sag. Not likely, since all I do is work, work, work and save, save, save…. A feeling of guilt washed over Bridget, and she chastised herself for allowing such self-centered thoughts to enter her head. She had much to be grateful for, and this was Drewry and Chase’s day, after all!

Still, the bride and groom’s for-our-eyes-only communication made her yearn for a love like theirs—a love that reached beyond the bounds of family, binding man to woman and woman to man, cloaking them in trust, friendship, and companionship forever.

A chilly wind blew through the chapel, making Bridget shiver. Hugging herself, she focused on the rough-hewn cross that hung above the altar and, closing her eyes, prayed silently. Dear Lord, if it’s in Your plan, I wouldn’t mind havin’ a bit of love like that, for I’m weary of being cold and alone.

***

Drewry’s Uncle James and his lady friend, Joy, had arrived two days earlier. In many ways, the handsome couple reminded Bridget of Chase and Drewry.

Bridget and Joy had chatted while decorating the mansion. Joy, Bridget discovered, had been raised up north, near Baltimore. “Why, there’s a Baltimore, Ireland, too!” she’d said, excited at all she had in common with her new friend.

Bridget hadn’t had as many opportunities to talk with Drewry’s uncle, so when she saw him during the reception, standing alone under the willow tree, she didn’t know quite how to approach him. His grief was raw and real, that much was plain to see. And she knew precisely what had destroyed his previous high-spirited mood. For as she’d been gathering plates and cups nearby, she’d overheard the conversation….

James had dropped to one knee and taken Joy’s hand in his, then looked deep into her eyes and whispered hoarsely, “Miss Naomi Joy McGuire, will you do me the honor of becoming my bride?”

So romantic! Bridget had thought. She’d been taught better than to eavesdrop, but if she’d made any attempt to move just then, she would have alerted them to her presence, and what if that destroyed the whole mood? Then Joy had blinked, swallowed hard, and stiffened her back. “I can’t, James,” she’d said. Then, snatching back her hand, she’d lifted the billowing blue satin of her skirt and raced across the lawn to the house.

Hours passed before Bridget returned to collect the last of the dishes and glasses scattered about by the guests. Yet he still stood alone where she’d last seen him. “Is there anything I can do for you, sir?”

Without looking up, James shook his head.

“Won’t you come inside and let me brew you a cup of tea?”

But he only shook his head again.

“But sir, ye’re pale as a ghost, and I can’t in good conscience leave you here alone. I’ll make a pest of myself, if I must, to get you inside, where it’s warm.” She gestured toward the yard. “Ye’ll catch yer death if you stay out here.”

When he gave no response, she linked her arm with his and led him to the house, chattering nonstop the whole way about the way Pastor Tillman had nearly choked on a wad of tobacco before pronouncing Drewry and Chase husband and wife; about the perfect weather, the delicious food, the pretty decorations…anything but the ceremony itself. “My name is Bridget, sir,” she said as they approached the front porch. “Bridget McKenna.”

The way he climbed the steps, Bridget couldn’t help but picture the tin soldiers lined up on the shelf at McDoogle’s Store back home. The poor man had found the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his days with, and her refusal had broken his spirit. Surely, Joy had a good reason for saying no, but that didn’t stop Bridget from feeling sorry for him.

Once inside, she stopped at the parlor door. “Why not have a seat there by the fire? I’ll fetch you a nice hot cup of tea.”

“I think I’d rather just go to bed.”

As she opened the door to his room, she said, “If you need anything, anything at all, just ring for me.”

Though he nodded as he stepped into the room, Bridget had a feeling he wouldn’t ring. In fact, something told her she might not see him at all before he returned to Baltimore. “Well,” she muttered as he closed the door, “I don’t suppose all matches are made in heaven….”

“Like Drewry and Chase, you mean?”

A tiny shriek escaped her lungs. “Land sakes, man,” she said, recognizing Lance. “Ye’ll be the death of me, sure!” Bridget regarded him with a wary eye. “Ye’ve got cat’s paws for feet. How else can I explain how you slink around without making a sound?”

Chuckling, Lance pocketed both hands. “I wasn’t slinking. You were so deep in thought, a herd of cattle could have thundered through here, and you wouldn’t have noticed until the dust cleared.”

Bridget raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I might’ve noticed a wee bit before then.” Pointing at his feet, she said, “There’d have been the stink of the stuff you’ve tracked across my clean floor to bring me around.” Planting both fists on her hips, she met his eyes. “Perhaps you have been raised as fine as those fancy airs you put on, Mr. York, for no self-respecting stable hand would enter the master’s house without first puttin’ his soles to the boot scrape by the servants’ entrance!”

***

Lance glanced down at his boots and the telltale clumps of mud and horse manure that showed the path he’d taken since entering the foyer. Feeling strangely like an errant child caught sneaking cookies before dinner, he was about to inform her that although this was indeed a grand mansion, it sat upon fertile pastureland. Did she really expect everyone who entered to wipe his boots? And who did she think she was, anyway, scolding him as if he were an ordinary—

Yet the moment he looked into her eyes to deliver his rebuttal, Lance’s ire abated. She was perhaps the loveliest creature he’d ever seen, tiny and feminine and just scrappy enough to be reckoned with. A mass of shining brick-red waves framed her heart-shaped face, and even after a long day of tending to and tidying up after wedding guests, her milky skin glowed with healthy radiance, making the pale freckles sprinkling her nose even more noticeable.

And those eyes! He’d seen her before, both up close and from a distance. Why hadn’t he noticed how large and thickly lashed they were?

“So, there’s another lesson yer ma obviously didn’t teach you. First, you thoughtlessly mess up the floors, and then, you stare like a simpleton.”

Lance blinked, then frowned in response to her anger. “What? I—I wasn’t—”

“You were, and you still are,” she interrupted him, crossing her arms over her chest as she lifted her chin.

If he didn’t know better, he’d say she was daring him to disagree!

Lance had no earthly idea where the thought came from, but, suddenly, he wanted nothing more than to grasp the narrow shoulders she’d thrown back in defiance and kiss her square on those full, pink lips. Sweet Jesus, he prayed, keep me true to my vow….

Newly resolved and strengthened, he straightened to his full five-foot eleven-inch height. “I didn’t mean to track dirt into the house,” he said at last. “If you like, I’ll help you clean it up. And you have my word, it won’t happen again.”

Grinning, she wiggled her perfectly arched brows. “Oh, that won’t be necessary.” Then, “I suppose I could have been a mite gentler with you, now, couldn’t I?” On the heels of a deep breath, Bridget added, “It’s been a long, hard day, not that that’s a good excuse for my harshness.” With one hand up to silence his denial, she continued, “I set aside a bit of cake and lemonade. Will you let me get it for you, as a peace offerin’?”

Truth was, he’d stuffed himself at the reception and had no idea where he’d put another bite of food, so his answer surprised him. “Only if you’ll share it with me.”

She turned on her heel and, wiggling a finger over her shoulder, said, “Then follow me, English.”

He did, too, like a pup on his boy’s heels. As they made their way down the stairs, she said, “What you said earlier….”

Lance fell into step beside her. “In response to your ‘not all matches are made in heaven’ comment?”

Rounding the corner into the kitchen, she nodded. “How’d you know that’s what I meant?”

He straddled a stool and leaned both elbows on the table. No woman had ever willingly served him before, unless he counted roadside tavern maids. Lance rather enjoyed watching Bridget bustling about, preparing the snack that had been her idea. “I overheard what went on between Drewry’s uncle and his lady friend, too,” he said. His smile became a frown. “Sad, the way she treated the bloke.”

Bridget laid a neatly folded napkin near his left elbow and unceremoniously plopped a silver fork atop it. “Now, let’s not be too quick to judge, English. We have no way of knowing why she said what she did.”

By the time she set the tall goblet of lemonade near the tines of his fork, he was all but scowling. “It’s been my experience,” he began, “that women don’t need a reason to be cruel.” He sat up straighter and feigned a dainty pose. “You’re such a darling man,” he sighed in a high-pitched falsetto. “Is that your heart?” he asked, pointing a dainty finger at his imaginary tablemate’s chest. Then, his hand formed an ugly claw as he pretended to tear into the invisible man’s rib cage. “I’ve got it!” he all but shouted, pretending to stuff it into his mouth.

Bridget stood gawking with one hand on her hip and then wrinkled her nose. “After ye’ve learned to wipe yer feet,” she said, sliding the cake plate in front of him, “we’ll have a go at teachin’ you how to make interesting table conversation.” After taking a sip of her own lemonade, she sat down across from him. “A body could only guess from that sorry demonstration that you’ve been wounded a time or two by love.”

“Not really,” he said around a bite of frosting. “And I’m sorry for the outburst.”

Smiling, she pressed a hand to his forearm. “You can apologize for scarin’ the soul from m’body, for dirtyin’ my floor.” Leaning closer, Bridget narrowed her eyes. “But don’t ever let me hear you say you’re sorry for what you feel, English.”

Resting his elbow on the table, Lance let the empty fork dangle from his hand. “What have you got against the English, if you don’t mind my asking?” Slicing off another hunk of cake, he added, “Keep in mind, I’m English only on my father’s side….”

Sighing, Bridget sat back. “Have you ever been to Ireland?”

Lance shook his head.

“And what do you know about the way your people dealt with the Irish during the famine?”

In place of an answer, Lance only shrugged.

She folded her hands on the tabletop. “Now, I’ll warn ye, ’tisn’t a pretty story.” Winking, she looked from side to side, as if in search of a spy. “And there’s a good chance you’ll dislike your folks as much as I do when I’ve finished.” Pausing, she said, “You sure you want me to go on?”

“I’m sure,” he said with a grin.

And for the next hour, she held him spellbound with her tale.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Post by Virginia Smith...


The Book of Your Heart
By Virginia Smith
 
Putting up the Christmas tree at my house is a very special event. I relish the ritual of hanging the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Each one holds a memory. The shiny silver bell engraved with our wedding date. The brightly painted teddy bear with the year of my daughter’s birth painted on his hat. The skiing Santa I bought on our first ski trip. As I lift each treasure carefully out of the box where it has lain hidden from view all year, a precious memory emerges from deep within my heart and finds a place on my tree.
 
I imagine stories are like those ornaments, each one a treasure nestled within the heart of a writer, waiting to be brought out and displayed. Perhaps that’s how we first recognize that we are writers: fictitious people walk and talk and breathe within us, and we burn with the desire to show them to others. A story unfolds with startling clarity in our minds, and we know—just know—that we won’t have a moment’s peace until we’ve set it down on paper and shared it.
 
That burning desire is exactly what enables us to tell a story that stirs the imaginations of others. It is our passion for the story and the characters that causes us to spend hours striving for the precise word or the perfect phrase to relay the vivid images in our heads. For some, the stories conceived in our hearts burst from us full-grown; others hold a story inside, nurturing it in the deep places until it ripens into the thing of beauty we’ve envisioned.
 
Many years ago, a story bloomed in my heart. It was full of adventure and love, and infused with hope—truly, a thing of beauty. I wrote the first draft feverishly, the words pouring onto the page as the plot unfolded in my mind. The characters were so real, their struggles painful and vivid. I studied the craft, intent on telling my tale with artistry. With each new skill I learned, I revised and polished until the story sparkled. If ever a story was born from the heart, it was that one.
 
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an editor who shared my passion. Whether due to my lack of skill or the uncertainties of the market for that genre, the story of my heart was rejected over and over. I mourned. I raged. I cried out to God, “Why did You give me this story if You don’t intend me to tell it?” After my rage died, I revised and polished the manuscript again. Finally, when there was not a single word that hadn’t been scrubbed until it shone, I gave up. After all, if there was no place for the story of my heart in the publishing world, maybe there was no place for me there either.
 
That’s when I heard God’s whisper: Do you think I have only one story to give?
 
A few days later, a character waltzed into my mind and began telling me about her life. She became real to me, as real as the characters in my first story. I discovered that there was room in my heart for her, too. In fact, this new tale took on a glimmer and shine all its own. I employed the skills I’d honed on my first, and eventually, God placed a published book in my hands.
 
And then He said: I have more stories to give you.
 
Can you imagine anything sadder than a Christmas tree with only a single ornament? Or a life with only a single precious memory? Or a heart with only a single story?
 
I am convinced that good stories are born in the heart of God, a heart immense and overflowing with creativity. He carefully selects an author for each one and bestows a precious gift – straight from His heart to ours. We write it and polish it and, when the story has become as beautiful as we can make it, we must hang it on the tree and reach into the box for another treasure.
 
 
AUTHOR BIO:
Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including Stuck in the Middle, a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder, a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her newest, Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in her Sister-to-Sister Series, will hit bookstore shelves in January. Learn more about Ginny and her books at www.VirginiaSmith.org.

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Faith Path (press release)


Faith.
Everybody lives by it—even skeptics and atheists!

That’s right. Everyone you know trusts something they believe in but can’t prove or know absolutely. They take it on faith. And if you want to talk to your friends about your faith, it helps to understand what they believe and how they got there. Because badgering people to change their minds just doesn’t work.

Based on Mark Mittelberg’s book Choosing Your Faith, the Faith Path workbook and DVD set builds on Mittelberg’s sensible, evenhanded approach to evangelism. Inside you’ll meet six fascinating people who looked at the world in six different ways before they embraced faith in Christ. Very likely you’ll recognize people you know—and you may even recognize yourself.

Work through Faith Path and you will:

• Understand people who approach life differently from you
• Recognize the danger of paths that lead away from Christ
• Deepen your own faith in Christ and reinforce your reasons for believing
• Gain confidence in talking about Christ with others

Relativists, traditionalists, mystics, authoritarians, and others…they’re all here. And after you understand how these folks think about faith, you can help them find a trustworthy pathway to truth. Because no matter what your friends believe, they still matter to God.

Mark Mittelberg explains the 6 Faith Paths (adapted from an interview with NewManMag.com):

As Christians, we need to understand that the people we’re trying to reach think in differing ways when they consider faith. And if we don’t learn to speak to what they value, it’s almost like we are speaking a different language. For example, if all we want to do is give testimony, but they think like scientists and want the evidence, then we’re not going to connect.

So the best way I know to share about this is to go through the six paths people take when they are considering faith, and the six best ways to help them.

·         First, for example, is the relativistic path. A person on the relativist path basically decides what they want to believe and calls it truth. This one’s popular on college campuses. They decide what they want to believe, and that mystically becomes true for them. Their truth may not be the same as your truth, and they think that’s OK. So what do we say?

What I try to show is that relativism does not work in any other area of life. For instance, try running your investments based on relativistic, wishful thinking. Would you pick a company out of the blue and invest in them without doing any research into their finances or outlook? No, because you would eventually go bankrupt. Your belief does not change reality. If your beliefs don’t change reality in the realm of daily life, why would they change your spiritual life?

·         The second approach is traditional. This one says, “I believe what I believe because that’s what I was taught when I was growing up, period.” How do we respond?

Congratulations on honoring your father and mother, but let’s be honest, someone’s mom and dad were wrong. You’ll never know if your traditions are true unless you test them. Which of your relatives figured it out once and for all for your family? If I look around the table on Thanksgiving, there’s no way I would want to trust my eternity to any of my relatives.

You’ve got nothing to lose by examining your beliefs, because if they prove true, you will only reinforce them, and if they prove not to be true, don’t you want to know? Jesus warned in Mark 7 not to let tradition get in the way of the truth of God.

·         The third path to faith is authoritarian, which is similar to the traditional in that it’s a hand-me-down, but this one has a lot more force. This one says, “You will believe this.” One example, and it’s not the only one, is a friend of mine who was raised in the Muslim faith, where he was taught that Allah is God, Muhammad is His prophet, and you will accept this. He did growing up, but he reached a point where he realized he needed to weigh whether he could trust the authorities that were telling him this.

That’s what we teach—the need to help everyone really evaluate whether they can trust the authorities in their lives. It’s not anti-authoritarian; we just want to make sure we have the right authorities. I think when you compare the religious authorities out there, you will see Jesus that stands up to scrutiny like no one else. That’s what my friend, the former Muslim, found as well, and today he is a follower of Jesus.

·         The fourth is the intuitive faith path. This is the person who says, “I don’t need all your arguments and evidence because I know in my heart what is true.” It’s the Star Wars approach: “I feel the force.” And it’s sort of the Oprah Winfrey approach, where she teaches in her classes to get rid of doctrine and just follow your heart, or your spirit.

The wisest man who ever lived, named Solomon, warned us in the Old Testament that there’s a way that seems right to a person that ends in death. People tell you to follow your heart, but the Bible says that the heart is deceitfully wicked.

Intuition is like a flashing yellow light on a dark intersection at night. It can warn us to pay attention, but it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know. We still have to look around and figure out what the situation is. When it comes to your spiritual life, don’t just look at your heart but look at the information available to you.

·         The fifth one is the mystical faith path. This is the one that says, “I know what to believe based on what God has told me.” Someone in this mindset feels that their spiritual experience trumps everything else.

So what do we say? First, we don’t deny that God can speak to us today. God did not lose His voice 2,000 years ago. I think we need to be seeking His voice and His guidance in our lives daily. But not everything that feels spiritual is from God.

First Thessalonians 5:20-22 says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” That’s a very appropriate warning for this discussion. We shouldn’t ignore something that is from God, but God Himself tells us to test it very carefully and to hold on only to what we know to be from God.

·         The sixth one is evidential faith path. This one can be misused, but when applied correctly, it can lead us into truth and help us test what we’ve come to believe from other faith paths.

I give priority to this one. It relies on two undeniable vehicles of truth: logic and evidence. I say “undeniable” because you can’t argue with logic without using logic. It’s through logic and evidence that we determine truth in every other area of life.

When it comes to spiritual matters, logic and evidence can point us in the right direction. For example, I’m convinced that historical and archeological evidence will support the Bible in ways that don’t support the Quran or Book of Mormon. The evidence for the Resurrection supports the authority of Jesus in ways that make Him unique among all spiritual leaders. The evidence of science points to the reality of a Creator who made us.

About the Author: Mark Mittelberg is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and a leading outreach strategist. He is the author of Choosing Your Faith, coauthor (with Lee Strobel) of The Unexpected Adventure, and coauthor (with Bill Hybels and Lee Strobel) of the Becoming a Contagious Christian curriculum. He previously served as the evangelism director for Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association. Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Heidi, and their two teenage children.

Faith Path (Workbook & DVD) by Mark Mittelberg
David C Cook/October 2009
 Workbook-ISBN: 978-1-4347-6513-0/softcover/141 pages/$12.99   DVD-ISBN: 978-1-4347-6514-7/$24.99

 
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