Thursday, May 31, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour ~*~ Mary's Blessing by Lena Nelson Dooley, c2012

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:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.   Isaiah 44:3

My Review:
I loved this book. This is a story about how a family grows together, supporting each other through adversity and coming to understand each other. I like how issues are straight forward and not hedged or ignored. Soothing. Advice and explanation helpful to those experiences are an example of real life, facing things head on and not sidestepping what needs to be addressed. Undoing a wrong by helping each other to see ways to backup, retrace their steps, and through clarity, ask forgiveness. Love expressed through listening and untangling misconception is key in any relationship. This is a sweet story of reconciliation and beginning again. Parent to child, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, seeing a need and meeting it without expecting return but with honest affection. I liked how this story helped each person examine themselves by reflection rather than by scolding or zeroing in on where they were coming up short. Especially with her younger sister, Mary led by kindness and when her sister needed to take responsibility, she was able to continue in the way she had been treated.
I highly recommend this series, McKenna's Daughters, and look forward to the final book in the trilogy. It will all come together with a satisfying outcome, and I am eager to find out how! The first chapter of Catherine's Pursuit is in the back of this book. I am not going to read it! I have to wait until 2013 to find out what happens next!!

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 650,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006—DFW Ready Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of over 45 years.

Visit the author's website.


Mary Lenora Murray was adopted by parents who had recently lost a child while on the last wagon train west in 1867. When she is thirteen years old, Mary’s mother and her two older sisters die in the cholera pandemic, leaving her the oldest child with three younger siblings to raise. Her father, in his grief, pours himself into keeping the farm going, leaving the running of the home entirely in Mary’s hands.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616386177
ISBN-13: 978-1616386177


"Pa?” Mary Lenora Murray shouted back over her shoulder as she picked up the heavy picnic basket. “You ready to go?” Why does he always drag his feet when we’re going to church?
Her father came through the mud room into the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. He smelled of heat, hay, and sunshine, with the strong tang of muck from the barn mingled in. By the looks of his clothes, attending church was the farthest thing from his mind. His ratty trousers held smudges of several dark colors. She didn’t even want to guess what they were. And the long sleeves of his undershirt, the only thing covering his torso, were shoved above his elbows. Grayed and dingy, the shirt would never be white again, no matter how hard she tried to get it clean.
Mary bit her tongue to keep from scolding him as she did her younger brothers and sister when they made such a racket entering the house. No doubt he would give her some excuse about having too much work to go to church. Not a big surprise. She’d heard it all before too many times.
He set a bucket of fresh water beside the dry sink and gripped his fingers around the front straps of his suspenders. That always signaled he was about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.
“I’m not going today.” This time he didn’t really make any excuses, just this bald-faced comment.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm her anger. She’d give him a sweet answer even if the words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The new pastor is coming today. We’re having dinner on the grounds after the service. Remember, I told you when we got home last Sunday.” She flashed what she hoped was a warm smile at him and prayed he couldn’t tell it was fake.


Mary’s Blessing

“What happened to the last one? He didn’t last very long, did he?” Pa started washing his hands with the bar of homemade soap she kept in a dish on the shelf. “Don’t understand why that church can’t keep a pastor. Someone musta run him off.”
Mary couldn’t keep from huffing out a breath this time. “I told you about that too.” She clamped her lips closed before she asked the question that often bounced around her mind. Why don’t you ever listen to me? At seventeen she was close enough to being an adult to be treated like one, and she’d carried the load of a woman in this household for years.
“His wife died, and his father-in-law begged him to bring the grandchildren closer to where they live, so he headed back to Ohio. Living in the same community as their grandparents, he’d have a lot of help with the younger ones.”
Mary had never known her own grandparents, none of them. Not her mother’s parents. Not her father’s parents. Not the parents of whoever gave birth to her. She didn’t wonder about any of them very often, but today her heart longed for someone who really loved her.
With bright red curly hair and fair skin that freckled more every time she stepped into the sunlight, she didn’t resemble anyone in this family that had adopted her as an infant. Since they were black Irish, they all had dark hair and striking blue eyes, not like her murky green ones. And none of them had ever wanted to know what she thought about anything—except her mother.
“Well, I’ve gotta lot to do today.” Her father reached for the towel she’d made out of feed sacks. “You and the others go ahead. I might come over that way at dinner time.”
No, you won’t. Mary had heard his statement often enough to know he was trying to placate her so she would leave him alone. So she would.
“Frances, George, Bobby, come on. We don’t want to be late.”


Lena Nelson Dooley

She shifted the handle of the loaded basket to her other arm. “Frances, you grab the jug of spring water. We might get thirsty.” Her father’s icy blue eyes pierced her. “Pretty warm out today. No sign of rain.”
“We’ll be picnicking in the field between the church and Willamette Falls. It’s cooler there, especially under the trees with the breeze blowing across the water.” She started toward the front door.
“Keep your eyes on the boys.” His harsh command followed her. “Don’t let either of them fall into the river. They could drown. Water’s fast right there.”
She nodded but didn’t answer or look back at him. All he cared about were those boys and getting them raised old enough to really help with the farming. He already worked them harder than any of the neighbors did their sons who were the same ages.
Six long years ago her mother and older sisters contracted diphtheria when they went to help Aunt Miriam and Uncle Leland settle in their house on a farm about five miles from theirs. On the trip to Oregon one of them had contracted the dread disease and didn’t know it until after they arrived. No one knew they were all dead until Pa went looking for Ma, Carrie, and Annette a couple of days later. He saw the quarantine sign someone nailed to a fence post and didn’t go closer until he had help. When he came home, he told Mary she would have to take over the keeping of the house. Six long years ago.
When did my life become such drudgery? Had it ever been anything else? At least not since Ma died, which seemed like an eternity ago.


Mary’s Blessing


Daniel Winthrop whistled while he dressed for church. He looked forward with anticipation to the moment when he would lay eyes on Mary Murray. Even her name had a musical ring to it.
He’d been waiting and planning what to say when he approached her. Today he would start his subtle courting. With the situation at the Murray farm, he knew he would have his work cut out for him to convince her she could start a life of her own with him. After he achieved that, he’d ask her father for her hand.
Visions of coming home to her each night and building a family together moved through his head like the slides of photographs in the Holmes stereopticon they had at home. He loved her already, but more than that, he wanted to get her out of that house, where she was loaded down with so much work and responsibility.
Daniel had often gone with his mother when she bought fresh produce from the Murrays, so he knew what her life had been like since her mother died. Their families came to Oregon on the same wagon train, so he’d known her all his life. He was only three years older than she was, and he had watched her over the last few years as she blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
Mary needed to be appreciated and cared for, and he was just the man to do it.
“Daniel, we’re leaving soon.” His father’s voice prodded him from his dreams.
With a final peek into the tall cheval glass, he straightened his necktie before he headed out the door of his room. “I’m on my way.”
He bounded down the stairs and took their picnic basket


Lena Nelson Dooley

from his mother. “Something really smells good.” He gave a loud sniff. “Do you need me to test and make sure it’s all right?”
He welcomed her playful slap on his hand that crept toward the cover on the basket. Her laughter reminded him of the chimes he had heard in the larger church in Portland.
“Not a single bite until dinner.” Like a queen, she swept out the door Father held open for her.
Their familiar ritual warmed his heart. He looked forward to creating family rituals with Mary. Once more he whistled as he headed toward the brougham. Nothing could cloud his day.
When they pulled up to the Methodist church, his father guided the team toward the back, where a large area paved with fine gravel gave plenty of space for those who arrived in horse-drawn vehicles. While Father helped Mother down from the open carriage, Daniel took the reins and tied them to one of the hitching rails that outlined the space. He chose the rail under a spreading black cottonwood tree where the limbs were just beginning to show the leaf buds.
He scanned the lot, looking for the Murray wagon. Not there. Disappointed, he stared at the ground. Please, God, let Mary come today.
Clopping hoofs and a jingling harness accompanied a wagon taking too fast of a turn into the parking area. Daniel cut his eyes toward the advancing disaster. Two of the wheels did indeed lift from the ground. Before he could get a shout out of his mouth, he heard Mary’s sweet voice.
“Lean to the right, boys!”
George and Bobby, Mary’s brothers, scrambled across the seat, followed by Frances. The wagon wheels settled into the gravel, and Mary pulled on the reins.
“Easy. Settle down.” Even though she spoke to the horses, he heard every word.


Mary’s Blessing

His heart that had almost leapt from his chest also settled down when he realized she was no longer in danger. Thank You, Lord.
The wagon came to a standstill, and Mary put her dainty hand to her chest and released a deep breath. The green cotton fabric, sprigged with white flowers, looked good on her, setting off her red hair, pulled up into a bunch on the top of her head. Without a hat or bonnet covering it, the sun danced across the curls. He loved seeing the wisps frame her face. That’s how he pictured her when he dreamed about their future.
Mary sat a moment without moving. She was probably scared out of her wits. Where was her father? He should have been driving the wagon, not her. How long had it been since the man had attended services? Daniel couldn’t remember the last time. It was not a good thing for a man to neglect his spiritual nature. He’d just have to pray harder for Mr. Murray.
Daniel hurried toward them. “Hi, Mary.”
She looked up, straight into his eyes, fear still flickering in the back of her gaze. “Daniel. Good morning.” Her words came out riding on short breaths.
He took hold of the bridle of the horse nearest him. “I can hitch your team under the trees for you.”
After releasing another deep breath, Mary nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.” She turned toward her siblings. “Frances, you get the picnic basket, and George, you carry the jug of water. Go find us a pew, perhaps near the back of the sanctuary, and put the things under the bench. I’ll be right in.”
The younger children climbed out of the wagon and followed their sister’s instructions. Mary watched them until they’d gone around the side of the building toward the front. Then she stood up.
Before she could try to climb over the side, Daniel hurried to


Lena Nelson Dooley

help. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it, then looked at his face.
“I’ll help you down.” He gave her his most beguiling smile. For the first time since she arrived, she smiled back, and pink bled up her neck into her cheeks. Her blush went straight to his heart. Oh, yes, he loved this woman.
Mary slipped her slim fingers into his hand. Even through the white cotton gloves, he felt the connection as warmth sparked up his arm like fireworks on Independence Day. She glanced down so she could see the step. When she hesitated, he let go of her hand and both of his spanned her tiny waist. With a deft swing, he had her on the ground in seconds. He wished he had the right to pull her into an embrace. Wouldn’t that just set the tongues a-wagging? He couldn’t do that to her. Mary needed to be cherished for the treasure she was. And as far as Daniel could see, her father really didn’t treat her that way.
He watched her walk toward the front of the building, enjoying the way her skirt swayed with each step, barely brushing the tops of her black patent shoes. That is one beautiful woman. He turned back to her team. Walking beside the horses, he led them toward the hitching rail where his family’s brougham was parked, hoping it would give him the opportunity to help her back up onto the wagon seat. As he crossed the lot, several other conveyances entered, and he waved and exchanged greetings with each family.
The church was the first one established in Oregon City. At that time, it was the Methodist Mission but grew as the town did. Along the way, members of this body had a great influence on what happened in the burgeoning city. And that was still true today. His Winthrop ancestors, who settled nearby, had been instrumental in both the growth of the church and of the town. He felt a sense of pride at being a part of something that


Mary’s Blessing

important, and he wanted to increase the town’s assets, because he planned to raise his own family here. Maybe establish a dynasty of his own, watching his sons and daughters, then his grandchildren, prosper.
His woolgathering slowed the progress of tying the horses to their spot. He needed to hurry so he wouldn’t miss the beginning of the service. As he opened the front door, Mrs. Slidell struck the first chord on the new Mason and Hamlin reed organ. The church had ordered the instrument from the manufacturing plant in Buffalo, New York. When it arrived only a couple of weeks before, the music added a special feeling to the worship and helped most people stay on the right tune better than the old piano did. He hummed along with the introduction to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” his favorite hymn.
Glancing around the room, Daniel finally spied Mary and her siblings sitting on the second pew from the back on the right side of the aisle. He squared his shoulders and confidently approached the wooden bench. He asked if he could sit with them, and she scooted over to make room. Just what he wanted. He would be sitting right beside her.
Throughout the service, Daniel had a hard time keeping his mind on the proceedings. Mary sat close enough for him to touch her if he leaned a little to his right. He was so tempted to bump against her arm, but he held back. He imagined clasping her hand in his and holding it for longer than just a few seconds while helping her down from a conveyance or through a doorway, really wrapping his large fingers around hers and intertwining their fingers. Just thinking about it caught his breath.
He whooshed it out, and she turned toward him, her eyes widening with a question. After flashing a smile at her, he glanced up at Rev. Horton. The man’s delivery was smooth, and his words made a lot of sense. He’d be a good pastor for them, but Daniel


Lena Nelson Dooley

couldn’t keep a single word of his message in his mind. Not while he could feel Mary’s presence with every cell in his body.
Instead, in his mind he searched up and down the streets of Oregon City, seeking a place to turn into a home for him and his beloved. If the right house wasn’t for sale, he could build her one. She could help him choose the design. That’s what he’d do. Build her the home she’d always dreamed of. His heart squeezed with the knowledge of what he planned to do. He could hardly keep the idea to himself. He hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to convince her that they should marry.
He’d even hire servants to help her manage their home. Whatever her heart desired, he’d do everything he could to present her with all she wanted. He only hoped it wouldn’t take too long. At twenty years old, he was ready to move on to the next phase of his life—with Mary by his side.
“Now let us bow our heads in prayer.” Rev. Horton raised his hands to bless the whole congregation.
Daniel dropped his head toward his chest. How had the man finished his sermon without Daniel noticing? Next Sunday he’d have to listen more closely. He really did want to get to know the new pastor and his family.
“Amen.” After the pastor pronounced the word, several other men echoed it.
Daniel watched his father rise from the second pew near the front on the left side of the aisle and take his place beside the new preacher. He placed his arm across the man’s shoulders. “Dear friends, on your behalf, I welcome our new pastor. Now let’s all meet his lovely family.” He waved toward a woman sitting on the front pew. “Mrs. Horton?”
The woman stood and turned toward the congregation. She was pretty, but not as young or as pretty as Mary.
“And,” Father’s voice boomed, “these are their children.”


Mary’s Blessing

Four stair-step youngsters stood beside their mother. The tallest, a boy. The next, a girl. Then another boy, and the shortest, a cute little girl. As if they had rehearsed it, they bowed toward the people in unison.
Several women across the sanctuary oooed or aahed before a loud round of applause broke out. The three oldest children gave shy smiles, and the youngest tugged at her mother’s skirts. When Mrs. Horton picked her up, the girl waved to the people, clearly enjoying the attention.
“I hope you all brought your blankets and picnic baskets.” Father beamed at the crowd. “We’re going to spread our food together. I believe there are plenty of sawhorse tables set up near the building. And you can pick a spot under the trees to settle for your meal. Just don’t forget to take the time to greet our new ministerial family while you’re here.” Father led the Horton family down the aisle and out the front door.
Daniel turned back toward Mary. “Perhaps you and your brothers and sister could spread your blanket beside my family’s.” A tiny smile graced Mary’s sweet mouth. “If you’re sure your mother wouldn’t mind, I’d like that.”
“Oh, yes. I’m sure.” He stepped into the nearly empty aisle and moved back to let Mary and her family precede him, and he quickly followed behind.
His heartbeat accelerated just thinking about spending special time with the object of his affections. Without thinking, he started whistling a happy tune.
Mary glanced back at him. “I didn’t know you whistled.”
“Oh, yes. I’m a man of many talents.” His heart leapt at the interest he read in her gaze. Things were well on their way to working out just the way he wanted them to.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson FIRST Wild Card Tour 5/29/2012

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:
Darrel Nelson
and the book: The Anniversary Waltz Realms (May 15, 2012)

Darrel Nelson is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, with bachelor’s degrees in English and education. He is a schoolteacher by profession, with thirty-three years of teaching experience, and currently teaches fourth grade at Raymond Elementary School. Nelson has had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and has written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. He won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running and has had one song receive international airplay. Writing has always been a passion, and over the years he has written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but he reads them annually to his fourth-grade students. The Anniversary Waltz is his first novel intended for the adult market. Hometown: Raymond, Alberta, Canada

Visit the author's website.

It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam Carlson has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. Despite the strained relationship with his father, Adam sets out to revive the dilapidated family farm, neglected since his departure overseas four years ago. After some convincing to take a rest from his labors, he attends the town festival, where he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387157
ISBN-13: 978-1616387150


July 1946

Adam Carlson shifted in his seat on the Greyhound bus and stared wearily out the window. He couldn’t remember being this tired, not even during the heaviest part of the fighting in Italy. But he was too excited to close his eyes now. He had finally received his discharge and was almost home. The return voyage across the Atlantic by army transport ship made him seasick, and the four-day journey across the country by train seemed to last forever. But that was all behind him, compartmentalized in his memory along with a thousand other images he would just as soon forget. All that remained was the thirty-mile bus ride north from Great Falls.

Running a hand through his wavy, brown hair, he studied the landscape he hadn’t seen in four years—except in his dreams. And he had dreamed about his hometown of Reunion, Montana, a great deal, especially while lying under the stars at night and smelling the earthy aroma of freshly dug foxholes. Those were the times he wondered if he would ever see the Great Plains again or feel the wind on his face. He ached to see the Rocky Mountains and gaze at the foothills as they merged with the plains and stretched eastward into infinity. This was the country he loved, the country for which he had fought. Big Sky Country—a corner of heaven.

He noticed a hawk in the distance, riding the invisible current on graceful wings, circling above a stand of cottonwood trees. At that moment, he decided, it had been worth it—all of it.

Even though he had enlisted against his father’s wishes.

As the son of Hector Carlson, dry land farmer, Adam hadn’t needed to enlist. But he wanted to satisfy his sense of adventure. He wanted to see the world outside the farm’s boundaries, to answer the call of plain, old-fashioned patriotism. Remember Pearl Harbor! Laborers could be hired to bring in the harvest, he’d told his father, but who was going to go overseas and fight for a cause greater than one family’s run of bad luck?

Hector hadn’t accepted this reasoning, however. He tried to talk Adam into staying and helping run the farm. When his efforts proved futile, he gave up talking to his son at all. He didn’t come to see Adam off, nor did he write once in the four years Adam was away, not even a quick note scribbled at the bottom of the regular letters Adam received from his mother, Maude.

Adam shook the memory away and felt his heart rate quicken as the bus made the last turn leading into Reunion. The anticipation of meeting his parents made him feel strangely nervous. It was dreamlike, as unreal as the world he had just left.

His thoughts went to those who would not be returning. Sixteen of his friends and comrades had fallen in Europe and were now permanent occupants. They would be forever denied the thrill of a homecoming and the anticipation of getting on with their lives. They would never see the mountains again or watch the maturing fields of wheat sway in the wind like a planted ocean. In their memory he closed his eyes, fighting his emotions as the Greyhound turned onto Main Street and headed for the bus stop in front of the Reunion Mercantile.

Several people were waiting on the sidewalk, anxiously craning to see inside the bus. A face appeared in the barbershop window next door to the Mercantile, peering out to study the scene. Two doors down a woman clutching several garments paused before entering Yang’s Dry Cleaners and glanced toward the bus stop. In a small rural community like Reunion, where grain prices and the weather were the main topics of conversation, the arrival of the Greyhound attracted attention.

Inside the bus the driver announced, “Reunion. Please remember to take all your personal belongings. I’ll set your luggage on the curb.” He opened the door, and those who were getting off made their way forward.

Adam remained in his seat, looking out the window. He watched as each person emerged and was immediately engulfed by waiting arms. It was heartwarming to see people embrace, cry, and laugh all at the same time. He wondered if his father would be this demonstrative, but he already knew the answer to that.

The bus driver reappeared in the doorway a few minutes later. “Isn’t this your stop, soldier?” He smiled sympathetically. “Sometimes it’s as hard coming home as it is leaving, isn’t it?”

Adam nodded and eased his six-foot frame out of the seat. He put on his service cap and adjusted his uniform before making his way up the aisle.

“Good luck,” the driver said, patting him on the shoulder.

Adam stood in the door of the bus for a moment, watching the happy scene. A woman in a blue cotton dress made her way through the crowd. It took Adam a moment to recognize his mother. She had aged during the past four years and looked so frail that he wondered how she got through the crowd without being snapped like a dry twig.

“Adam . . . Adam!” she called, her voice filled with so much emotion she could hardly speak. Tears formed in her eyes and ran down her cheeks as Adam quickly descended the bus steps. She took him in her arms and embraced him with surprising strength. “Oh, my son, God has answered my prayers and brought you back to me.”

Adam held her for a long time, his eyes closed, his lips quivering. Maude silently wept on his shoulder and rubbed the tears with the back of her thin hand. Finally she held him at arm’s length as if unable to believe her eyes. Adam smiled reassuringly and gazed out over the crowd.

“He didn’t come,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question.

Adam looked into his mother’s face. “But at least you came.” She reached up and stroked his cheek, her hand trembling.

“Of course I came. Wild horses couldn’t—” She changed the topic abruptly, likely realizing it would only serve to emphasize her husband’s absence if she didn’t. “Where’s your luggage?” she asked. “Let’s get you home so you can rest. You look exhausted.”

So do you, he wanted to say, but he just smiled at her. It was obvious that the intervening years had taken their toll on her too. Adam led her toward the passengers who were sorting through the luggage, which was now sitting on the curb. He had no difficulty identifying his two suitcases. They bore little resemblance to the ones he’d purchased four years earlier at the Mercantile. They were now held together by rope and packaging tape, and both of them showed evidence of journeys they’d taken aboard buses, trains, ships, army trucks, jeeps, and, on one occasion, an Italian farmer’s hay cart.

Maude had no difficulty identifying her son’s luggage either. As she reached for one of the suitcases, Adam quickly intercepted her. “I’ve got them, Mom,” he said, picking up the suitcases and adjusting his grip on the sweat-stained leather handles.

“The truck’s parked in front of the dry cleaners,” Maude said, taking hold of his arm and leading him through the crowd.

Adam nodded to the bus driver, who gave him a thumbs-up gesture, and followed his mother down the sidewalk, answering her questions and asking a few of his own. He realized the words of greeting he practiced on the bus were unnecessary. He hoped it would be the same when he finally met his father. But somehow he doubted it.

As the farm came into view, Adam drew in a deep breath. The surrounding fields of wheat and barley, a vibrant green beneath a robin’s egg sky, were a pastoral setting of majesty and peacefulness. But in many ways, returning home was like riding into enemy territory. Several times during the war, he had run into an ambush and barely escaped with his life, using every skill possible to survive. Today he felt like there was no refuge. He could only proceed directly into the line of fire and hope for the best.

His mind raced wildly as the pickup truck rattled through the gate and stopped in front of the house. He reached for the door handle but hesitated, taking everything in one more time in case it suddenly vanished . . . like a dream upon awakening.

The farmyard had changed. The two-story, clapboard house looked tired and faded, and several shutters hung at odd angles. The veranda tilted slightly to the south, and the railing was missing several spindles. The pump out in the yard had only a stub of a handle, and the clothesline beside it sagged noticeably. The woodshed and the barn were badly weathered, and the poplar tree near the garden now held only remnants of the tree house that he and his father had built years earlier.

Perhaps the farmyard had always looked like this and he hadn’t noticed. But a fresh coat of paint would do wonders to hide the wrinkles and blemishes, and he resolved to paint every building before winter. He would shore up the clothesline, repair the front step, fix the shutters, replace the handle on the pump . . . A burst of energy surged through him. He would make it up to his father by getting the farm back in shape. It would be like he had never left. He would show his father that he did care.

Maude put her hand on his. “Before we go in, there’s something I want to say. Despite your father not coming to meet you today, he does love you.”

Exhaling slowly, Adam turned toward her. “He has a funny way of showing it.”

“He has a hard time expressing his feelings sometimes, that’s all.”

“He didn’t write once in four years.”

Maude stared out of the truck window, focusing on nothing in particular. She seemed to be searching for the right words. “I can’t say I agree with how he’s handled things, son. And I’m not trying to make excuses for him. But it’s been hard on him too. I just wanted you to know that.” She patted Adam’s hand. “I just hope the two of you can let bygones be bygones.”

Adam leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek. “You’re a good woman, Maude Carlson.”

She smiled in appreciation, but her smile faded as the barn door opened and her husband stepped out into the sunlight. She glanced over at her son, who squared his shoulders and pulled on the door handle.

Adam was struck by how much his father had aged. His hair was much thinner, and his sun-hardened, wrinkled skin was stretched like tanned hide on a pole frame. His complexion resembled buckskin, rough side out, and his leanness added a sharp edge to his features. A permanent scowl creased his forehead, and his mouth sagged at the corners.

Hector remained motionless, as though he was a gargoyle guarding the farmyard. His expression looked equally sullen and fierce, and Adam slowly approached him. Staring down the enemy in the fields and streets of Italy had not been this hard.

Maude hurried toward her husband. “Hec, it’s our boy! Adam’s home!”

Adam studied his father’s face, looking for any sign of welcome . . . or forgiveness. But Hector’s granite-like countenance remained unchanged. Adam stopped several paces away and stood before his father like a disobedient child.

Hector met his son’s eyes momentarily, and then his gaze wandered over Adam’s uniform. The silence deepened and Adam felt the tension increase.

Maude narrowed her eyes. “Well, Hec, say something.”

Hector scratched his stubbled chin and cleared his throat. “They treat you okay?”

What a strange question, Adam thought. Was his father referring to the army or the enemy? In all honesty, neither of them had treated him well. The army had removed four years of his life with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, and the Germans had been far less subtle than that. They had tried to kill him.

Adam felt numb as the memories of the past four years flooded his heart, a trickle at first and then a gush. The experience had been more overwhelming than he ever expected. And with one question his father had reduced it to insignificance.

“You know I don’t agree with what you did,” Hector said. “But I’m glad you didn’t go and get yourself killed.”

Adam forced a smiled. “I’m glad I didn’t either.”

Maude looked anxiously from one to the other. “Hec, this calls for a feast of the fatted calf. Get some beet greens from the garden, and I’ll cook a roast with all the trimmings.”

Hector remained motionless.

She shooed him away from the barn. “You go on, now.” Embracing Adam, she said, “Go have a bath and get some rest, son. I’ll call you for dinner. There’s so much to talk about.”

Adam glanced at the retreating figure of his father and returned to the truck to get his luggage, aware that his mother was reverting to her proven formula for restoring peace on earth, good will toward men: a delicious meal. In the past, good food had settled more arguments in the family than had any line of reasoning, logic, or argument. The way to a man’s heart . . . 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Book 1! Maggie's Journey by Lena Nelson Dooley

What a beautiful story! How am I ever going to write a review without giving it away? I will tell it best by telling you about the character and integrity of the people in Maggie's Journey.

I liked that they shared their food on the train.

    Georgia pulled the picnic basket from under their seat. "Is anyone besides me hungry?"

    Charles dropped back onto his bench. "I could do with some food about now. What do we have?"

    "Knowing Mrs. Jorgensen, probably enough to feed an army." Maggie lifted the hinged lid and enticing aromas of roast beef and something spicy permeated the air around them.

    She looked up and noticed that the people sitting near them glanced longingly toward the food. She lowered her voice. "We can't eat in front of these people. I wouldn't feel right about it."

    Georgia made a quick scan of the car. "There are less than a dozen people, counting us. Maybe some of them have been on the train for quite a while. Do you think we have enough to share?"
    Maggie nodded. "But what will we do for food after it's all gone?"

    Charles raked his long fingers through his hair. "The train will have to stop to take on fuel and water. Usually we can buy food where it stops. Besides, some of this will spoil before we can eat all of it."

    "Then let's divide what we have." Maggie lifted the tea towel covering the food.

Right away, I liked them!!

Their kindness is reciprocated at their first stop for food. Replenished by a refill for their basket, they are told to choose what they would like from a restaurant supply room. Fresh fruit and canned goods, in addition offered a can opener, extra biscuits and ham. This doesn't just happen! Favor.

Throughout there is kindness and listening, making right choices when there could have been bitterness. Harboring ill feelings and imagining others' intent could have soured relationships. Open communication restored what protective walls never could have achieved.

This is the first story I have read by author, Lena Nelson Dooley. Very well written, I connected with Maggie's story and it was a quick read for me. I would like to go beyond this segment of their lives!

~*~ In the beginning, it took me a while to warm up to Charles. He seemed scattered and unsure, but real. After experiencing a couple of setbacks, he realized his need to look outside himself to God's plan for his life.

~*~ I would have liked Georgia explored more. She showed great wisdom with Charles and Maggie individually and I would have liked to have gotten to know her better. I would like them revisited in a few years!

~*~ I liked the growth in Maggie's parents as they became reacquainted and shared their hearts. Sometimes a marriage grows stale by inactivity in each other's life and they need to rediscover themselves. It enriches all they come in contact with.

~*~ I am glad for Maggie's future and the part her family and friends will play in it. Maggie is very enjoyable and has strength and character beyond her years!

~*~ Maggie's grandmother shared her love and acceptance, and was vital in this portion of Maggie's life. All of them blended in growth and learning to understand each other. Expressing themselves, listening and forgiveness were key.

I am looking forward to reading books 2 and 3 of the McKenna's Daughters Series! I have Mary's Blessing to begin right away.

We are all on a journey... how we choose to treat others determines our daily outcome--detours become special meetings when we truly listen with our heart.

Author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has newly been awarded the Selah Award at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for Maggie's Journey!

You won't want to miss her blog, A Christian Writer's World ~~ Characters who grip your heart, at

Saturday, May 26, 2012

McKenna's Daughters Series by Lena Nelson Dooley

Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

Hello everyone! What are you doing this Memorial Day weekend?? My birthday is the REAL Memorial Day, May 30th, however, this year it is my daughter's celebration on May 28th.


I will be reading two books by Lena Nelson Dooley!! What a fabulous weekend in store for me!!

Book 1, McKenna's Daughters Series

Maggie's Journey

Winning the Selah Award at the Blue Ridge Mountains
Christian Writers Conference this week!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Book 2, McKenna's Daughters Series

Mary's Blessing

I will be reviewing Book 2 on the FIRSTWildCard Tour
on May 31.

I will eagerly be awaiting Book 3! Thank you, Lena Nelson Dooley! Now on to the first two books! Happy reading to me!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Forgiven Duke, Book 2, by Jamie Carie c2012

The Forgiven Duke, A Forgotten Castles Novel by Jamie Carie, continues the travels of Alexandria Featherstone as she searches for her parents amid obstacles and clues. Lord and Lady Featherstone have been reported missing and presumed dead. Alex, given clues to their treasure search, speaks with those who have last seen her parents. She sets out for Iceland, the last place they were heard to be. She is ward of the Duke of St. Easton, Gabriel Ravenwood. She dodges his determination to return her to England.

Gabriel continues his pursuit of her to bring her to safety. He devotes his focus with apprehension and concern, with worries of his own. As her ship drifts out to sea, he is detained and unable to reach her.

Gabriel and Alexandria, corresponding only by letter, finally meet. Will they be able to overcome disaster? Iceland misadventures bring her eventual return. As forgiveness comes, they are ready to embark on a journey of revealed hopes and caring.

The Forgiven Duke releases July, 2012, and is available for preorder.

Book 3, A Duke's Promise, will continue her trail to Italy, this time with the duke. It will necessitate their working together to unravel the mystery in this final book of the trilogy.

I received this book from Propeller in exchange for a review in my own words.

To catch up with these stories, GIVEAWAY BOOK ONE and BOOK TWO. One person will receive a print copy of A Guardian Duke and The Forgiven Duke. Comment below, including your e-mail address.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Amy Clipston Giveaway Contest ~*~ 7 of her books!!

Another chance to win autographed copies of all of Amy Clipston's books!

Passing on her post to you!!

Happy Mother's Day!
Last week was the best response I've had since I started posting contests! Since the response was so wonderful, I'm going to post the same giveaway again! One winner will have a chance to win autographed copies of all of my books, including an advanced copy of Season of Lovethe fifth and final Kauffman Amish Bakery novel!
  ~*~ ~*~ ~*~
One winner will receive each of the following items:
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
In order to enter this contest, you need to leave a comment at her blog:
The contest deadline is 5 p.m. (EST), Friday, May 18. The winner will be announced Saturday, May 19.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Big Sky Novel Series (Book 2 & 3) The Knowlton Nest Giveaway!

Ending soon!! Giveaway is for two books! Copies of Tricia Goyer's Along Wooded Paths and Beyond Hope's Valley, concluding the Big Sky Trilogy, will go to ONE winner! Giveaway ends on May 19th (our 28th wedding anniversary!). Be sure to go over to THE KNOWLTON NEST to sign up and read Shonda's reviews for all three of Tricia Goyer's novels in this series.

Along Wooded Paths by Tricia Goyer
Big Sky Novel: Book 2

Beyond Hope's Valley by Tricia Goyer
Big Sky Novel: Book 3

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yes!!! The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen releases December 2012!

When Mystery and Danger Abound, Who Can She Trust?
Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems- and secrets- of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.

When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame . . . and which brother to trust with her heart? 

"Christy Award winner and RITA nominee Klassen delivers another impeccably crafted romance rich in fascinating details about life both upstairs and downstairs in a country estate. An excellent choice for fans of faith-based fiction and readers who miss traditional Regency romances."-
Booklist about
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

Available December 2012

The Tutor's Daughter 
by Julie Klassen 

Learn More:  

Bethany House Publishers

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vineyard Music Miami LIVE album review, PLUS GIVEAWAY!

Miami Vineyard Live

Good Evening!

Miami Vineyard LIVE is brought to you from Vineyard Music and is a worship album recorded live from their church in Miami. Sounding like the unique and colorful city it hails from I really hope you will enjoy this very uplifting worship album! Alive and upbeat, it will be received as expressive music for your outdoor celebration or poolside reflecting the streets and beaches of Miami, FL. So put your sandals on and come along! You will want to sing and dance!
Vineyard Music presents Miami Vineyard LIVE
Latin, Gospel, Island & Funk Worship
 1. Holy Spirit Come
 2. Gloria A Dios Solo (With My Whole Heart)
 3. Lord Reign in Me
 4. I Love Your Mercy
 5. At All Times (The Lord is My Rock)
 6. If You Say Go
 7. Everything to Me
 8. With All of My Heart
 9. Your Name is Great
10. You Restored Me
11. Breathe
12. Hallelujah Anyhow
13. How Great is Our God
Chord charts available:
The giveaway of one album will be for a PHYSICAL copy only. Include your e-mail address for contact when you leave a comment below. Enjoy your outdoor cookouts and gatherings with your family and friends!

A physical copy of this music CD was provided  by Propeller for this review and giveaway.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it  on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Key on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson c2012

Historical Fiction! My very favorite genre. The Key on the Quilt is Book 1 of The Quilt Chronicles by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Visit the blog she co-authors at to follow "Footnotes: Novel Inspirations from History."

Enter a historic Nebraskan prison where three women find betrayal, love, and ultimate truth. Jane Prescott is serving a ten-year sentence for murder. Can a broken spirit be healed behind bars? Matron Mamie Dawson feels called to help the wounded women in her charge. Will a guard's attentions keep her from her mission? Warden's wife Ellen Sullivan has changed her preconceptions about these female prisoners. Will it be enough to save her from a life-or-death situation? Will the cryptic quilt connecting their lives expose the truth of one woman's past and ensure a better future for them all?
Author Stephanie Grace Whitson 
Read Chapter 1 here:,8925.aspx?Tab=Books&sj=789

My Review:
This story follows three main characters, Jane Prescott, Mamie Dawson, and Ellen Sullivan, as they find friendship goes beyond circumstance.
I liked this story of forgiveness and acceptance as each learned their value beyond what was seen. I had two favorite minor characters. The first kept popping up throughout the story to be the reconciliator and clarifier of truth in the person of Dr. Max Zimmer. He opens the story, closes it, and fills it in in-between. Definitely, Jane's sweet daughter Rose deserves her own story! She has shown maturity beyond her years as she grows to love within revealed truth that will change her life forever.
The monotony of sameness of every day is strengthened by the resolve of each person as they enrich each other just by being who they are. Can we do this and set differences aside? I liked the writing of the author and look forward to the continued stories in this Chronicle series. Being a quilter myself drew me to this story. I received this book in the mail just before my husband and I were on our way to our family in another state. We stopped at an antique store and I bought an old quilting magazine. Getting back in the car to continue on our long day's drive, I opened the magazine and... the exact same quilt pattern on the back of the book was inside!

I want to thank Barbour Publishing for sending me a print copy of The Key on the Quilt that I was able to take with me on our trip. This review is in my own words. I enjoyed this book and will think on it and its principles long after reading the last page.

The 5 Love Languages of Children, c2012: Review & Giveaways!

A poem, titled simply “Tragedy,” told the story of a young boy who
wanted to buy a balloon at the fair – a red balloon:

I always wanted a red balloon,
It only cost a dime;
But Ma said it was risky,
They broke so quickly,
And beside, she didn’t have time,
And even if she did, she didn’t
Think they were worth a dime.

We lived on a farm & I only went
To one circus and fair,
And all the balloons I ever saw were there:
There were yellow ones & blue ones,
But the kind I liked the best
Were the red, and I don’t see why
She couldn’t have stopped and said
That maybe I could have one –
But she didn’t – I suppose that now
You can buy them anywheres,
And that they still sell red ones
At circuses and fairs.

I got a little money saved;
I got a lot of time,
I got no one to tell me how to spend my dime;
Plenty of balloons – but somehow
There’s something died inside of me,
And I don’t want one now.

(Hazel Felleman, ed., 1936).

I have read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman, and Dr. Ross Campbell's books, How to Really Love Your Child and How to Really Love Your Teenager. Very practical, down to earth, and clearly presented.

This chart, "Mom's Guide to the Five Love Languages of Children," is a good overview of the five languages of love: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, and Acts of Service.

The love language of your child/ren? As you read, the love language your child will hear and respond to from you, will likely be seen.

Find dozens of tips for practical ways to speak your child's love language! For free online study guide, visit

What I liked about this book:
Becoming multilingual, not using one love language to the exclusion of others. This teaches children how to reach out to others with a language different from their own.
As you seek to discover your child's primary love language by listening, you will discover their heart's cry. "Do you see me? Do you really love me? You say you do, but do you show me with your heart?"
At the end of each section there are suggested ways to apply to fill their emotional love tank not allowing it to run dry.
There are additional resources given in the back of the book of other book references that would be a help to parents.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Thank you to Propeller for offering this book to me to read to review in my own opinion.
*** Two Giveaways ***
So graciously I have been offered another copy to give away to one of my readers. Leave a comment below and your e-mail address to be contacted should you be the winner of this copy. The second giveaway is a copy of a book to read to your children: A Perfect Pet for Peyton, a fun hands-on book showing through an interactive story how we give and receive love differently.