Litfuse- Love On The Line - Review

Monday, October 31, 2011

Deeanne is thrilled to introduce Georgie and Luke to the word in her latest novel, Love on the Line. To celebrate Deeanne's publisher, Bethany House, is hosting the Love on the Line iPad2 giveaway an Author Chat on Facebook! Enter today and follow the link below to RSVP for Deeanne's rip-roarin' Facebook Party!






One fortunate winner will receive:




  • A Brand New iPad2

  • An Autographed Hardback Copy of Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist




Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at Deeanne's Author Chat Facebook Party. Deeanne will be wrapping up the Love on the Line celebration by chatting with friends new and old! So grab your copy of Love on the Line (it's okay if you don't have one yet- you might could win one!) and join Deeanne on the evening of November 8th for a rip roaring book chat, a little trivia and lots of giveaways (books, and Amazon, iTunes & Starbucks gift certificates)!


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends. Hope to see you on the 8th!








One fortunate winner will receive:


  • A Brand New iPad2

  • An Autographed Hardback Copy of Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends. Hope to see you on the 8th!


Enter to win an iPad2 & RSVP for Facebook Party on 11/8!

My Thoughts: What a great, great book! When Deanne writes a book you feel like you are right there! Georgie is quite a character and I just loved her! My Mom was a switchboard operator in Guam when my Dad was stationed over there in the mid sixties, and it was really neat learning about this when it was just starting. I know my Mom is going to love this book! I highly recommend it!

Maggie's Journey With Review

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Maggie's Journey
Realms (October 4, 2011)
by
Lena Nelson Dooley




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 675,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers http://www.acfw.com/ and president of the local chapter, DFW Ready Writers. She’s also a member of Christian Authors Network, CROWN Fiction Marketing, and Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.



Lena loves James, her children, grandchildren, and great grandson. She loves chocolate, cherries, chocolate-covered cherries, and spending time with friends. Travel is always on her horizon. Cruising, Galveston, the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Mexico. One day it will be Hawaii and Australia, but probably not the same year. Helping other authors become published really floats her boat, with fifteen signing their first book contract after her mentoring. Three of her books have been awarded the Carol Award silver pins from American Christian Fiction Writers and she has received the ACFW Mentor of the Year award at their national conference. The high point of her day is receiving feedback from her readers, especially people whose lives have been changed by her books. And she loves chocolate, especially dark chocolate.



Her last release is Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, from Summerside Press recently won the Will Rogers Medallion Award for excellence in publishing western fiction. Lena is currently under two 3-book contracts with Charisma House/Realms.



In addition to her writing, Lena is a frequent speaker at women’s groups, writers groups, and at both regional and national conferences. She has spoken in six states and internationally.



Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and with her internationally connected blog where she interviews other authors and promotes their books. You can check out her books and find out more about her on her blog.



ABOUT THE BOOK







Near her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she's adopted. The spoiled daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed by her real parents and by the ones who raised her. But mystery surrounds her new discovery, and when Maggie uncovers another family secret, she loses all sense of identity. Leaving her home in Seattle, Washington, Maggie strikes out to find her destiny. Will Charles Stanton, who's been in love with her for years, be able to help her discover who she really is?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Maggie's Journey, go HERE.

My Thoughts: I am an adopted child and this book was hard at points and was touching in others. Maggie doesn't understand why her mother Florence treats her so badly. She loves to design dresses and her mother despises that. Florence doesn't even delight in her daughter. Maggie begins to wonder if there is something wrong with her. Just before her 18th birthday party Maggie goes up to the attic to look through old dresses that she knew her grandmother had made for her mother. In searching for the dresses she finds a trunk that holds a picture of a woman that looks just like her with curly hair, and a piece of paper with signatures denoting that she was adopted. She is confused, heartbroken, and betrayed. I found myself along with Maggie bawling. I have always know that I was adopted. I do know others whose parents didn't tell them and I know the pain that caused them. After Maggie's birthday party Maggie goes to Arkansas to see her grandmother and during that trip she gets answers to a lot of questions that most adoptee's have. Lena does a great job with this book in showing the pain that most adoptive kids go through in not knowing who they are. I highly recommend this one!

Maggie's Journey ~ Reviewed - & GIVEAWAY!!!!! In honor of November's Adoption month!!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011




Book Description:
On her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she’s adopted. The spoiled daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed by her real parents and by the ones who raised her. But mystery surrounds her new discovery, and when Maggie uncovers another family secret, she loses all sense of identity. Leaving her home in Seattle, Washington, Maggie strikes out to find her destiny. Will Charles Stanton, who’s been in love with her for years, be able to help her discover who she really is?

My Thoughts: I am an adopted child and this book was hard at points and was touching in others. Maggie doesn't understand why her mother Florence treats her so badly. She loves to design dresses and her mother despises that. Florence doesn't even delight in her daughter. Maggie begins to wonder if there is something wrong with her. Just before her 18th birthday party Maggie goes up to the attic to look through old dresses that she knew her grandmother had made for her mother. In searching for the dresses she finds a trunk that holds a picture of a woman that looks just like her with curly hair, and a piece of paper with signatures denoting that she was adopted. She is confused, heartbroken, and betrayed. I found myself along with Maggie bawling. I have always know that I was adopted. I do know others whose parents didn't tell them and I know the pain that caused them. After Maggie's birthday party Maggie goes to Arkansas to see her grandmother and during that trip she gets answers to a lot of questions that most adoptee's have. Lena does a great job with this book in showing the pain that most adoptive kids go through in not knowing who they are. I highly recommend this one!

I have a giveaway copy. To enter you MUST be a follower of my blog and say so in your comment. To receive an additional entry you can blog about this giveaway and come back and leave an additional comment. You can also tweet about this and come back and leave an additional comment. This is open to U.S. only. This will start today, Saturday, October 29th and I will use a randomizer on Saturday, November 19th.

Good luck!!!!!!

God Makes Lemonade - Reviewed

Thursday, October 27, 2011



Book Description:
God Makes Lemonade True Stories that Sweeten & Inspire

I bet you could use a little good news right about now. We have just the book for you! In God Makes Lemonade™ you'll read stories from everyday folks
who discover unexpected sweetness in the midst of sour circumstances.

Some of these real-life stories are laugh-out-loud funny, others are sobering, and more than a few will have you reaching for a tissue. We sure did!

But these true stories all have one thing in common: hope.
There's no question that life gives us "lemons," like issues with health, employment, and relationships-truly sour circumstances we wouldn't wish on anyone. But when those lemons become lemonade, it's as refreshing as an ice-cold drink on a hot summer day.





About Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson's twenty-five years in publishing included serving as the president and owner of Multnomah Publishers, where he oversaw the production of more than 1000 titles, including the five-million-plus-selling series Stories for the Heart. He's had the pleasure of working with such best-selling authors as Randy Alcorn, Joni Eareckson Tada, Henry Blackaby, Robin Jones Gunn, Karen Kingsbury, Andy Stanley, and Bruce Wilkinson. Don's wife, Brenda, has been mentoring mothers for more than a decade.

Jacobson and his wife are passionate about helping single mothers and their children, so the royalties from God Makes Lemonade will benefit these unsung heroes through the LemonAid Foundation.

My Thoughts: Having been a huge fan of Chicken Soup for the Soul, I was curious to read God Makes Lemonade. I found this book to be very encouraging and full of great stories. This would be a great book to give as a gift to a newly divorced person, widowed, or anyone struggling. When we are hit with life's uncertainties we sometimes wonder if God is who He is, and while the Bible has great encouragement in Psalms & Proverbs, when we read a story from someone else something clicks in our head. That's probably why Jesus taught in parables. I highly recommend this book!!!

Sourcebooks E-book Halloween Specials!

Halloween Spotlight: Plain Fear Forsaken for $2.99!

(10/25/2011 – 11/03/2011)

Plain Fear Forsaken by Leanna Ellis

Hannah Schmidt pines for Jacob, the boy who saved her life when she drowned, bringing her back from the brink of death by breathing life into her. But Jacob is gone, buried. Levi Fisher loves Hannah. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother Jacob. He also knows the troubling event that took Jacob out of their lives…. So when a stranger named Akiva comes into their community, carrying with him a dark secret, their love and beliefs will be put to the test. And Hannah must choose between light and dark, between the love she vowed to carry with her and a new possibility of love---a decision that will decide the fate of her soul.

Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches, Oh My! Paranormal Romance for $0.99!

(10/28/2011 – 11/03/2011)

Wicked by Any Other Name by Linda Wisdom

Stasi Romanov uses just a little witch magic in her lingerie shop, running a brisk side business in love charms. A disgruntled customer threatening to sue over a failed love spell brings Trevor Barnes to town. Trevor's the best attorney around, and he just happens to be a wizard. Everyone knows that witches and wizards make a volatile combination—sure enough, the sparks fly and almost everyone's getting singed. Add to that Cupid playing a practical joke, a lunar eclipse that nearly precipitates a witch hunt, and some very mysterious goings on at the magical lake, and the feisty witch and gorgeous wizard have more than simply a possible lawsuit on their hands. Can they overcome their objections and settle out of court—and in the bedroom?

Kiss at Your Own Risk by Stephanie Rowe

Trinity Harpswell is a cursed Black Widow--death and mayhem are all part of the job description. If she can manage to go just one more week without accidentally killing someone, she’ll break this killer curse and put her Black Widow days behind her. When sexy Blaine Underhill III shows up at her door and asks for her help rescuing his friend from the clutches of Death’s evil grandma, Trinity gets pulled into a daring high stakes adventure. As Blaine and Trinity join forces to take down a series of underworld assassins, they may just learn that love is the deadliest game of all.

The Wolf Next Door by Lydia Dare

Rogue, Rake…Werewolf. Years ago on a full moon, Lord William Westfield gave way to his inner beast and nearly ruined young Prisca Hawthorne. Knowing he can never trust himself in the arms of the woman he loves, he throws himself into a debauched lifestyle. When Westfield discovers he has a rival for Prisca's love, he decides if she's going to marry a Lycan it damn well better be him. But time is running out as Prisca's other suitor takes an instant and potentially fatal dislike to Westfield.

Merely Magic by Patricia Rice

The daughter of one of the strongest magical lineages, Ninian Malcom Siddons is a powerful witch. Determined to only use her magic for good, she lives a simple, solitary life as a healer in her village, where she meets Drogo… Lord Drogo Ives believes only logic and science can explain the wonders of the universe and doesn’t believe the local folklore about Malcolm witches and Ives men, until he meets Ninian.

Heart of the Wolf by Terry Spear

Devlyn is a beta male werewolf in a pack of grays, Bella is the female red werewolf he rescued as a pup. When the pack’s alpha male tries to rape her, she flees and lives as a lone werewolf until Devlyn comes to bring her back to the pack. The two get embroiled in danger when a local red werewolf goes on a killing spree. While fleeing the murderer and the police, and keeping their whereabouts hidden from the vengeful alpha male of their pack, they find that their love is deep and their mutual attraction irresistible, but Bella knows that if she mates with Devlyn, he’ll have to fight the wicked alpha male, and it’s a fight to the death . .

Strange Neighbors by Ashlyn Chase

When all-star pitcher and shape-shifter Jason Falco buys a small apartment building, he sees it not only as an investment but as a place to escape the demands of major league baseball. That is, until he meets his tenants— a sarcastic unemployed crime-fighter vampire; a wereraven with a morbid sense of humor; a super-friendly salesman werewolf; and two witches with an owl who work as phone sex actresses. Not to mention a beautiful, all-too-human nurse. But with all the hooting, howling, and hollering going on, how's an all-American shapeshifter supposed to sweep a girl off her feet?

Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson

In this hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, screenwriter Wayne Josephson casts Mr. Knightley as one of the most handsome and noble of the gentlemen village vampires. Blithely unaware of their presence, Emma, who imagines she has a special gift for matchmaking, attempts to arrange the affairs her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. But when her dear friend Harriet Smith declares her love for Mr. Knightley, Emma realizes she’s the one who wants to stay up all night with him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightley has been hiding a secret deep within his unbeating heart—his (literally) undying love for her… A brilliant mash-up of Jane Austen and the undead.

The Wild Sight by Loucinda McGary

Haunted by visions of Druid priests and Celtic warriors, Donovan O’Shea left home in Northern Ireland and immigrated to America. With his father ill, he returns to help sell the family property and pub, and now, to his dismay, the “sight” has returned. He inherited the talent from his long-lost mother, who told him to keep it a secret, and he has. He is soon involved in the archaeological excavation on his family’s land and meets American Rylie Powell. Her father walked out on the family when she was a toddler, and she now believes that Donovan’s father is also hers. Donovan knows in his heart this cannot be true as the attraction between them is palpable. In between checking out DNA tests and family histories, the two become involved with murders past and present stemming from the Troubles, a quest that requires Donovan’s gift. Northern Ireland’s violent past combined with supernatural elements add an intriguing twist to this modern love story.


http://www.sourcebooks.com/readers/browse-our-lists/ebook-specials.html

Preview: The 13th Demon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The 13th Demon
Realms (October 4, 2011)
by
Bruce Hennigan




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Bruce Hennigan was born and raised in the isolated countryside of Shreveport, La., a place full of possibilities for the active mind of a young boy. The fertile imagination he cultivated while playing deep in the Louisiana woods would lead to a lifelong love of creative writing.



In 2006, Hennigan pursued the Certified Apologetic Instructor Certificate from the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has become a frequent speaker at regional and state events on apologetics and his strong point is in making these sometimes hard to understand issues easily approachable for the average Christian. Hennigan’s experience in apologetics inspired him to write his new novel, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye, a supernatural Christian thriller that combines science and faith. Now, combining his love for apologetics and his love for the art of writing, Hennigan is pursuing a career as the “Michael Crichton” of Christian fiction building powerful, fast paced stories around the truths of Christian apologetics.



Hennigan currently resides in Shreveport with his wife and daughter. He continues to write and to practice radiology at the Willis Knighton Health Care System. He has secured Jeff Jernigan of Hidden Value Group (www.hiddenvaluegroup.com) as his literary agent and has signed a five book deal with the Realms imprint of Charisma Media for “The Chronicles of Jonathan Steel”.



ABOUT THE BOOK



When Jonathan Steel wakes up on a beach in a raging thunderstorm, naked, beaten, and bleeding, he has no idea who he is or how he got there. But just as he starts to make progress in his slow journey to recovery, tragedy strikes again, taking everything in his new life that he has come to love and rely on.

Filled with rage and a thirst for revenge, he searches the countryside for the entity responsible—an entity called only the Thirteenth Demon. His quest brings him to Lakeside, Louisiana, and a small country church where evil is in control and strange writing on the walls, blood-soaked floors, and red-eyed spiders have appeared in the sanctuary.



As he faces the final confrontation with an evil presence that has pursued him all of his life, he must choose between helping the people he loves or destroying the thirteenth demon.



If you would like to read the first chapter of The 13th Demon, go HERE.

I just got this book, I'll post my review as soon as I read it. It looks AWESOME! Perfect book for the fall season!!!!

Quarter For A Kiss

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:


A Quarter for a Kiss

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

With a touch of romance and a strong heroine, A Quarter for a Kiss offers more of the fast-paced and suspenseful inspirational writing found in A Penny for Your Thoughts, Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels, and A Dime a Dozen. In this fourth book of the Million Dollar Mysteries, Mindy Starns Clark weaves another tale of mystery and God’s touch on the lives of those who seek Him.

As a young widow, Callie Webber finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her growing romance with her employer, Tom Bennett. When their friend and mentor, Eli Gold, is shot, the search for answers as to who and why leads Tom and Callie to the beautiful Virgin Islands. There they face a sinister enemy among the ruins of an old sugar plantation—an enemy who’s willing to do anything to keep his identity secret and the past deeply buried.





Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929592
ISBN-13: 978-0736929592

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“Come on, Callie,” Tom urged. “You can do it. You know how.”

Ignoring the burning in my calves, I kept my gaze on Tom, who had reached the top of the wall almost effortlessly and now waited there for me to join him.

“There’s a grip at two o’clock, up from your right hand about six inches,” he guided, speaking in the low, soothing tones I teasingly called his “rock climbing” voice. Glad for that voice now, I released my handhold and reached upward, my fingers easily finding and grasping the tiny ledge. “Now your foot,” he said. “Slow and easy. You’re almost there.”

As I went I concentrated on all I had learned about rock climbing in the last few weeks. It was Tom’s passion, and we had spent a number of hours practicing on a real rock face while he taught me the basic tricks and techniques. Now we were in an indoor gym, on a simulated rock wall, climbing much higher than we had ever gone in our practice runs. And though I was wearing a safety harness that was roped to the ceiling, that didn’t make it any easier or any less scary—particularly where the wall actually bent outward, pitching me at a difficult angle.

“You are one step away, Cal,” he said, excitement evident in his voice. “Most of the people won’t make it half this far.”

With a final burst of daring, I slid my toes against the next hold and straightened my knees, rising high enough to touch the ceiling at the top of the wall.

“You did it!” Tom cried, and only then did I allow myself to smile and then to laugh.

“I did do it!” I echoed, slapping a high five with Tom and feeling the rush of pleasure and relief he said he experienced every time he finished a challenging climb. Of course, to him “challenging” meant the Red Rocks of Nevada or Half Dome in Yosemite. For me, a big wall in a rock-climbing gym was a pretty good start.

We repelled down together, my legs still feeling shaky once I was on solid ground.

“That was great,” the teenage staffer said as he helped unhook me from the harness. “And to think you were worried. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Not that high and not indoors,” I said.

“Well, you’re a natural.”

“I had a good teacher,” I replied, glancing at Tom, who was busy removing his own harness. He and I had spent the last three weeks together vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. During that time, we had enjoyed teaching each other our favorite sports—climbing and canoeing—though I liked to tease him that my hobby was the superior one, because one false move with a canoe paddle wouldn’t exactly plunge a person hundreds of feet to their death. Tom had replied that if one were canoeing above Niagara Falls, that wouldn’t exactly be true, now would it?

As the teenager moved on to help the next set of climbers, Tom gave me an encouraging smile.

“Hey, what did you say this is called?” I asked him, pointing at my visibly wobbling knees. “Sewing legs?”

“Sewing-machine legs,” Tom replied. “A common climbing malady. Come on. You need to rest for a bit.”

He bought us two bottles of water from the snack bar, and then we found a quiet corner and sat on a bench there, leaning back against the wall. I felt thoroughly spent, as if I had pushed every single muscle in my body to its very limit.

I sipped on my water, feeling my pulse slowly return to normal, looking around at the activity that surrounded us. Across the giant room, a new group of climbers was being instructed by a guide while about ten more people waited in line for their turn. In the front window was a giant banner that said “Climb for KFK,” and beside the cash register was a table where pledges and donations were being accepted for “Kamps for Kids,” a charity that provided summer camp scholarships to impoverished children. Instead of a walk­athon, they were calling this event a “climbathon.” I liked the idea as well as the whole atmosphere of the place, from the easy joviality of the people waiting in line to the upbeat encouragement of the instructors who were manning the ropes and providing assistance as needed.

“So what’s up, Callie?” Tom asked. “You haven’t been yourself all morning.”

I shrugged.

“Sorry,” I said. “This is my work mode, I guess. You have to remember, we’re not just here to have fun. We’re on the job, so to speak.”

Tom nodded knowingly and then leaned closer and lowered his voice.

“So how does this happen, exactly?” he asked. “Do you just walk up to the people and say, ‘Hi, here’s a big whopping check’?”

I smiled.

“Oh, sure, that’s usually how it goes. I call that my Big Whopping Check speech.”

“Don’t be hard on me,” he said, grinning. “I’ve never done this before.”

I leaned toward him, speaking softly.

“Well, first of all, you have to wait for the proper moment,” I said. “Like just before you’re about to leave.”

“Okay.”

“Second,” I continued, “you have to have the full attention of the correct person. You don’t want to give that whopping check to just anybody.”

“Get the big wig. Got it.”

“Finally, the act of presentation takes a little bit of flair. It’s a huge moment for them. You want to help them enjoy it.”

“I think I understand.”

“You also want to bring them back down to earth a little. I actually do have a short speech I give every time I hand over a grant. I remind the recipient where the money’s coming from and what it’s for. That seems to go over well.”

I felt funny explaining how I did my job to Tom, because he wasn’t just my boyfriend, he was also technically my boss. Though he lived and worked on the other side of the country, far from our actual office, Tom was the kind and generous philanthropist behind the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. I worked for the foundation as the director of research, and basically my job was to investigate nonprofits Tom was interested in and analyze their suitability for grants. If they checked out okay, I then had the pleasure of awarding them grant money. That’s what we were doing here today. For the first time ever, Tom was joining me as I gave a little bit of his money away.

“Hey, Tom! Tom Bennett!” a man cried, interrupting my thoughts.

The fellow bounded toward us, grinning widely. He was tall and wiry, with deep laugh lines in a tanned face, and when he reached us, we stood and the two men shook hands warmly. “You said you might come, but I didn’t believe you.”

“I’m glad I was able to work it out,” Tom replied, smiling.

He introduced his friend as Mitch Heckman, owner of the gym and co-organizer of the event. I told Mitch how impressed I was with the gym and with the climbathon concept.

“Most of the credit goes to my wife,” Mitch said, shaking my hand. “I’m just glad we could use the gym to help out a good cause.”

“Have you raised much?” Tom asked.

“Our goal for today was twenty-five thousand dollars,” Mitch said. “You can see how we’re doing on that poster over there.”

He pointed to a drawing of a mountain with a zero at the bottom, amounts written up the side, and $25,000 at the top. Sadly, it had only been colored in about half of the way up—and the event would be over in another hour or two.

“Of course, we had a pretty big learning curve in putting the whole thing together,” Mitch said. “I’m sure we can make up the difference with some bake sales or car washes or something. We’ll get there eventually. Mai pen rai, huh?”

“Yeah, mai pen rai.”

They chatted for a few minutes more, and then Mitch was called up to the front. After he was gone, Tom explained to me their acquaintance, that they had met a few months ago while mountain climbing—specifically, while scaling the limestone cliffs off of Rai Ley Beach in the Krabi Province of Thailand. Tom had been working hard in Singapore and had taken a weekend off to visit the nearby mountain-climbers’ mecca, where he met Mitch atop one of the peaks after a particularly challenging climb. As the two men rested, they talked, and it turned out that they were both avid climbers and eager to explore an unfrequented jungle crag nearby. Together they had hired a guide and ended up having an incredible day of climbing. Though the two men hadn’t seen each other since, they had been in touch off and on ever since via e-mail.

“What were you saying to each other just now? My pen…”

“Mai pen rai,” Tom replied. “That’s Thai for ‘no problem’ or ‘never mind.’ The guides say it to encourage you while you’re climbing, kind of like ‘you can do it.’ ‘Don’t worry.’ Mai pen rai.”

“Does Mitch know about the foundation?”

“Nope. He thinks I’m just another rock jock.”

“He’s in for a nice surprise, then,” I said. “This is fun, giving a grant to someone who never even applied for one.”

This wasn’t our usual mode for doing business, that was for sure. But this particular charity was so new—and the amount we were donating so relatively small—that the investigation hadn’t been all that complicated. Since KFK had never applied for a grant from us, I hadn’t really had the authority to go in and do an extensive investigation. But they did belong to several good nonprofit watchdog groups, so I had felt confident doing the research from our vacation home in North Carolina, mostly over the internet and on the phone with the foundation’s accounting whiz, Harriet, the day before.

“Anyway, now you’ll finally have the pleasure of making a donation live and in person,” I added. “Something I’ve only been bugging you to do for two years.”

“Almost three years now,” he corrected. “And, yes, I’m hoping this might shut you up for good.”

“Oh, you want me to shut up, do you?” I asked. “What about—”

He silenced me with a finger against my lips, which he allowed to linger there.

“No,” he whispered, gazing a moment at my mouth. “Don’t ever stop talking to me. I want to listen to you forever.”

We looked into each other’s eyes as everything else in the room blurred into the background. My legs shivered again, but not from climbing this time.

“We need to get going,” Tom said gruffly, standing and then helping me to my feet. I squeezed his hand, and then we separated into the men’s and women’s locker areas to get cleaned up.

After a shower I dressed quickly in a pair of black slacks and a soft blue knit shirt. I towel-dried my short hair, combed it out, and took a moment to put on some lipstick and a touch of mascara.

As I looked in the mirror, ready to leave, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. In a few short hours Tom and I would go our separate ways, boarding two different flights to head toward our homes on opposite coasts—him to California and me to Maryland. For three glorious weeks we had done nothing more than shut out the rest of the world and spend time together, but we couldn’t hide out and play forever. Our work and other responsibilities awaited us, and as one week had turned into two and then to three, we had already stretched the length of our available time to the very max. Soon our idyllic vacation together would officially be over, and Tom and I would be back to our long-distance romance as usual.

Slinging my bag onto my shoulder, I decided to take this day moment-by-moment. Despite the difficulty of parting, we still had a job to do. We still had a grant to give out.

I emerged from the locker room to find Tom also showered and dressed, standing nearby and squinting toward the front of the room. He had in his hand a check from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, dated today and made out to the charity, though the amount had been left blank.

“Callie, can you read that figure?” he asked. “I need the exact amount they’ve raised so far.”

I walked a little closer and then came back to report that they were up to $11,043. Quick with numbers, Tom didn’t even hesitate before he filled out the check for $23,957.

“That’s ten thousand more than they need to bring them to their goal,” I said after doing the math in my head, not surprised one bit by his generosity.

“Yeah, but it’s the least we can do, don’t you think?”

He tried to put the check in my hand, but I pushed it back.

“No, you don’t,” I said. “Enjoy the moment.”

Carrying our bags, Tom and I walked to the front of the gym, where his friend Mitch was chatting with a woman that I assumed was his wife. We were introduced, and I liked her firm handshake and the way she looked me directly in the eye. She thanked us for coming and then moved on to speak with someone else.

“We’re going to head out,” Tom said to Mitch, “but I wanted to give you a check first. I talked my company into making a small grant.”

Of course, the way Tom had said it, you’d never know that it was his company, nor his money—nor that he was using “small” as a relative term. Mitch took the folded check without looking at it.

“Listen, buddy, every bit helps. Thank you so much, and thanks for coming.”

The two men shook hands, and then Mitch shook my hand as well. We said goodbye, and Tom and I departed, walking silently through the packed parking lot toward our rental car.

“You were right, Callie,” he said nonchalantly, pressing a button on his key chain to unlock the car. “Giving away the money in person really is kind of fun.”

I was about to reply when we heard Mitch calling Tom’s name. We turned to see the man running toward us, breathless, his eyes filled with disbelief.

“I don’t understand,” he gasped, holding up the check. “This is so much. Is it some kind of joke?”

“No joke, Mitch,” Tom said. “We’re affiliated with the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. That’s a grant.”

“A grant?”

“Yeah, we give them out all the time. Callie, what is it you like to say when you give grants to people?”

I smiled.

“Basically,” I said, going into my spiel, “we want you to know that the best way you can say thanks is to take that money and use it to further your mission. The foundation believes strongly in what you’re trying to accomplish, and we just wanted to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

To my surprise, Mitch’s eyes filled with tears.

“Your generosity leaves me speechless,” he said finally. “Won’t you come back inside? Let me tell my wife. She’ll be so excited. Maybe we can get a picture for the newsletter or the website or something.”

I looked at Tom, but he seemed decidedly uncomfortable.

“Mitch,” I said, “we really prefer to do this in a discreet manner. Just tell Jill that the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation gives the money with love and with God’s blessings. We’d rather not receive any individual recognition.”

Bewildered, he looked back down at the check.

“And you promise this isn’t a joke?” he tried one more time.

“No joke,” Tom laughed. “I give you my word, buddy. It’s for real.”

With a final sincere thanks, Mitch turned and headed back to the building. We stood there and watched until he went inside and the door closed behind him.

On impulse, I turned and threw my arms around Tom’s neck. Startled, after a moment he hugged me back.

“You are such a good man,” I whispered, feeling absolutely, utterly, and completely in love.

He laughed, pulling me in tightly for an embrace.

“Wow,” he replied. “This giving-away-money thing gets better all the time.”

Knowing the clock was ticking closer toward our flight times, we managed to pull apart and get into the car. He started it up and pulled out of the parking lot, driving toward the airport.

We were quiet as we went, both lost in our own thoughts. As we wove our way through traffic, I considered our relationship and the long and winding path my life had taken since my husband’s death. This coming summer would mark four years since Bryan was killed, and in one way it seemed like yesterday, and in another it seemed like decades ago. My husband had been my first true love, the sweetheart I had met at 16 and married at 25. We’d had four wonderful years together as husband and wife, but that had all come crashing to an end that fateful day when we went water-skiing and Bryan was hit by a speedboat. The boat’s driver went to prison for manslaughter, but I also went into a sort of prison myself—a self-imposed prison of mourning, of loneliness.

Only in the last six months had I allowed myself to consider the possibility that there might be life for me beyond my husband’s death. Tom and I had developed a good, strong friendship through our many work-related conversations over the phone, and then, slowly, that friendship had started taking on other dimensions. We finally met in person last fall, when Tom received word that I had been hurt in an investigation and raced halfway around the world to be by my side and make certain I was all right. We had spent a mere 12 hours together—just long enough to begin falling in love—and then we were forced to endure a four-month separation while he went back to Singapore on important business and I healed from my injuries and continued my work with his foundation in the U.S.

Then three weeks ago, in the very heart of spring, we had been joyously reunited. Showing up in a hot air balloon, Tom had swept me away to a gorgeous vacation spot in the North Carolina mountains, where we planned to stay a week or so and give ourselves the opportunity to see if our relationship really could work face-to-face. What we had found was that we were so compatible, so comfortable, and so suddenly and deeply in love that it was nearly impossible to end our vacation and return to our regular lives.

Now, however, our time together had come to an end.

“There’s the car rental return,” Tom said suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. He followed the signs and turned into the lot, but instead of heading straight to the busy rental return area, he veered over to an empty parking spot nestled behind a big truck. He put the car in park but left the motor running.

“Maybe we should say our goodbyes here,” he told me, “instead of out in the middle of the busy airport.”

I nodded, surprised when my eyes suddenly filled with tears. I didn’t want to say goodbye at all. Tom’s cell phone began ringing from his gym bag, but we ignored it.

“Callie, have I told you that the past three weeks have been the happiest weeks of my life?”

The ringing stopped. In the quiet of the car, I held on to his hand, looking deeply into his eyes.

“They have been incredible,” I replied. There were many, many moments we had shared that I would relive in my mind in the coming days. “I don’t know if I have the strength to say goodbye to you or not.”

Tom reached up and smoothed a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Such tenderness was in his gaze that I thought it might break my heart.

“Callie, I have something for you,” he whispered. He started to reach into his pocket, and I swallowed hard, wondering what it could be. Then his phone began to ring again.

“You better see who it is,” I said, sighing. “It might be important.”

By the time he got the phone out from his gym bag, the call had been disconnected. Tom was pressing buttons, trying to see who had called, when my phone started ringing from my purse. I dug it out, surprised to see that the number on my screen matched the number that had just called his.

“Hello?” I asked somewhat hesitantly.

“Callie?” a woman’s voice cried from very far away. “Is that you?”

“This is Callie,” I answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Stella,” the voice said. “Stella Gold.”

I put my hand over the phone and mouthed to Tom, It’s Eli’s wife.

Eli Gold was my mentor, a friend of Tom’s, and the person responsible for bringing the two of us together.

“Stella?” I asked, trying to picture a woman I didn’t know very well at the other end of the line. I had met her the day she married my dear friend Eli, but she and I had not really spoken since, except for those times when I called their house and she had been the one to answer the phone. “What’s up?”

“Oh, Callie, I’m so glad I finally reached you. I need you. I need your help. I need Tom Bennett, also, if you know how to reach him.”

“What is it?” I asked, my heart surging.

“It’s Eli,” she sobbed. “He’s in the hospital.”

“In the hospital?”

“Callie, he’s been shot.”

Baby, It's Cold Outside




Five strangers with broken hearts. One
raging blizzard. Brrr, baby, it’s cold
outside! But a warm fire and a string of
Christmas lights just might provide the
perfect remedy.
It's been years since Edith Miller hosted the annual
Snowflake, MN, Christmas Extravaganza. After her
son was killed in the war, some five years ago, her
Christmas spirit died along with him. So she is
more than happy to loan all her Christmas
decorations to Stella Hanson, the new teacher in
town. After all, what does she have to celebrate?
But when the blizzard of the decade traps Stella—
and four other wanderers—in Edith’s home, Edith
finds that by opening her door, she just might open
her heart to a new reason celebrate Christmas.


Warm up to Chrismtas early this year with Susan May Warren's Baby, It's Cold Outside! To celebrate the release of her new Christmas book with Summerside Press, she and the publisher are giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting an early Christmas Party on Facebook!


Read what the reviewers are saying here.



One festive winner will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. Giveaway ends on 10/26!


But, wait there’s more! Join Susan May Warren on 10/27 for merriment and a few early Christmas presents at her Baby, It's Cold Outside Christmas party! Grab your Christmas sweaters, socks and pj’s and join

Susan and a few friends for a fireside chat about her recent books (Heiress & Baby, It’s Cold Outside), holiday traditions, favorite Christmas recipes, a trivia contest and more! Invite your friends and don’t miss the fun!


RSVP here and we'll see you on October 27th at 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST!


Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

My Thoughts: I am a huge fan of Susan May Warren. This book really touched my heart. Dottie's son Nelson died in WWII and she refuses to celebrate Christmas. Violet and Dottie work together at the library and she gets up the courage to ask Dottie if she could use the star that Nelson made for the tree in the library. Then Frost, Minnesota is hit with the worst blizzard ever and five very different people are stuck together in a home to wait out the storm.
Susan did a great job with this book! The characters are full, and rich. It doesn't have to be the holiday season to enjoy this one. Go grab a copy and snuggle up!

The Opposite of Art

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



Book Description:
A great artist is cast into the icy Harlem River by a hit-and-run driver. His heart stops, and he sees something that defies description. Presumed dead by all who knew him and obsessed with the desire to paint the inexpressible, he embarks on a pilgrimage to seek help from holy men around the globe. But is it possible to see eternity without becoming lost within it? After a quarter of a century, when the world begins to whisper that he may be alive, two people come looking for the artist: the daughter he never knew existed, and the murderer who hit him on the bridge all those years ago.



About Athol Dickson

Athol Dickson is the publisher of the popular news website, DailyCristo.com, and the author of seven novels and the bestselling memoir, The Gospel according to Moses. His novels of suspense and magical realism have been honored with three Christy Awards and an Audie Award, and compared to the work of Octavia Butler (by Publisher's Weekly) and Flannery O'Connor (by The New York Times). He and his wife live in Southern California.

My copy of this book just arrived and I will post my review as soon as I read it. It looks great! I have read Athol's books before and if it is anything like his previous books I know it will be one I won't be able to put down!

I Am In Here Reviewed




Book Description:
Elizabeth M. Bonker is a thirteen-year-old young lady with autism who cannot yet speak but who writes deeply revealing poetry, which was featured on PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. She excels in school with an educational aide.

Virginia G. Breen is the mother of three beautiful children, two of whom are profoundly affected by autism. Besides working to heal her children, Virginia is a venture capitalist investing in high-tech companies, and she sits on both corporate and nonprofit boards. She studied computer science at Harvard, business at Columbia, and philosophy in Singapore.

Elizabeth and Virginia live in northern New Jersey.

My Thoughts: This was a very touching book. Having a niece and a nephew with Autism and friends whose children have it as well, I have a special heart for kids with special needs. Elizabeth's poetry is awesome and it is so great that she has found a voice and a way to communicate. The only thing I had a problem with was Virginia's constant insistence on wanting to heal her children. That is not something she can do. We have power through Jesus to heal, yet we can't do it through our own strength and I just didn't get the sense that Virginia got that.

“Available October 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

IN OTHER WORLDS WINNERS!!!!!!!!



CONGRATULATIONS TO:
JESSICA & CYNTHIA WHO WON A COPY OF IN OTHER WORLDS!!!!!!!!

Preview: Attracted To Fire

Monday, October 24, 2011

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Attracted to Fire
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (October 1, 2011)
by
DiAnn Mills


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DiAnn Mills believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” She is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. Her books have won many awards through American Christian Fiction Writers, and she is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005, 2007, and 2010. She was a Christy Award finalist in 2008 and a Christy winner in 2010. DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and is the Craftsman Mentor for the Christian Writer’s Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas. Visit her website at: www.diannmills.com or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diannmills


ABOUT THE BOOK

Special Agent Meghan Connors’ dream of one day protecting the president of the United States is about to come true. Only one assignment stands in her way. After the vice president’s rebellious daughter is threatened, Meghan is assigned to her protective detail on a secluded ranch in West Texas. Unfortunately, working with Special Agent in Charge Ash Zinders may be as tough as controlling her charge. Ash has a reputation for being critical and exacting, and he’s also after the same promotion as Meghan. But when the threats escalate and security on the ranch is breached, it becomes clear this isn’t the work of a single suspect—it’s part of a sophisticated plan that reaches deeper and higher than anyone imagined. And only Ash and Meghan can put the pieces together before it’s too late.

Watch the book trailer:



If you would like to read the first chapter of Attracted to Fire, go HERE.

Refuge on Crescent Hill - Reviewed

Sunday, October 23, 2011




Book Description:
Moving home after a recent job loss was supposed to reassure Camden Bristow and give her time to decide what to do next. But when she arrives in Etherton, Ohio, she discovers that her grandmother, who she hasn't talked to in years, has passed away and "home" is an empty mansion hundreds of years old. Not exactly the comfort Camden was looking for. What happened to the house she played in as a child, the bedtime stories that told of secret passageways and runaway slaves, and all those family memories?
When antiques start disappearing and footsteps are heard, some of those memories start to creep back and Camden wonders if her grandmother's bedtime stories might actually be true. What really happened here . . . at Crescent Hill? How was her grandmother involved? Who still has access to the house? And for what purpose? As she works to uncover the past and present mysteries harbored in her home, Camden also uncovers secrets about her family that could change the town-and her life-forever.

My Thoughts:
Quite the suspenseful read! I read this a year ago and remembered being drawn into the secrets behind the house on the hill. Camden returns after a photo shoot in Indonesia only to find herself jobless and in debt. She goes to visit her Grandmother only to find that she has passed away and has left her this house that she use to play in. As mysteries and secrets of this house begin to work their way loose will Camden be able to stay in the house and in the town . . . you'll have to read it to find out! This is a great fall book! And starting on October 31st for one week this book will be free on Kindle so look for it!

Wonderland Creek - Reviewed

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Wonderland Creek
Bethany House (October 1, 2011)
by
Lynn Austin




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.



It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.



Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother (age 98), and daughter concerning the change in women's roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve's Daughters.



Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.



Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Five of her historical novels have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. And two of her inspirational fiction books were chosen by Library Journal for their top picks in 2003, and 2005. One of Lynn's novels has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.



ABOUT THE BOOK



Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.



Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.



But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. While Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and myster--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Wonderland Creek, go HERE.

My Thoughts: Alice Grace is a girl after my own heart! She loves books, and reading. She goes to a funeral to honor a gentleman who came to the library that she works at in her town of Blue Island, Ill. During the funeral when different people from the community were giving their eulogies which we all know can drag on and be boring she pulled a book out of her bag and started reading. Her boyfriend, Gordon was so appalled he wouldn't speak to her and ended up breaking up with her. To escape the "talk" of the town over Gordon's break-up she decides to go with her aunt and uncle to the coal mining community of Kentucky and deliver books that she has collected for
them. She was in contact with the librarian from the town there, Leslie. When she arrives she finds that Leslie is not who she thought her to be. Leslie was a man . . and he had Alice all a fumbled mess. Gordon accused Alice of living a fantasy world within her books, when Leslie the librarian is shot she has to start doing what she's only read about in books.
This book had me rolling with laughter just reading the first chapter! It will definitely make my top books for 2011! A must read!

A Dime A Dozen

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:


A Dime a Dozen

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Fast-paced and inspirational, The Million Dollar Mystery series is from bestselling author Mindy Starns Clark.

Attorney Callie Webber investigates nonprofit organizations for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation and awards the best of them grants up to a million dollars. In this series, Callie comes across a mystery she must solve using her skills as a former private investigator. A young widow, Callie finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her relationship with her employer, Tom.

---

In book number three of The Million Dollar Mystery series, Callie suddenly finds herself involved in the life of a young wife and mother whose husband has disappeared…possibly the victim of foul play.

Callie has come to the beautiful Smoky Mountains hoping to award a million-dollar grant to the charity set up in the woman’s late husband’s honor. But in the search for a missing migrant worker, a body is discovered, which puts the grant on hold and her new romance with her mysterious boss in peril. Trusting in God, Callie forges steadily ahead through a mire of clues that lead her deeper and deeper into danger.




Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929584
ISBN-13: 978-0736929585

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I’d never been part of a sting before. Sure, I’d blown the whistle on some defrauders in the past, and I had seen more than one person arrested because of felonious deeds I had brought to light. But this time was different. This time the crime was still in the process of being committed. Worse than that, most of the people at this party were involved.

I stood near French doors that led to the patio, holding a soda in my hand and looking out through the glass at the pool sparkling in the cool March afternoon. Behind the pool was a small lawn dotted here and there with ornamental groupings of shrubbery and plants, all surrounded by a high, thick hedge. I knew that a team of cops was on the other side of that hedge, ready to enter from every direction as soon as I gave the signal.

“Callie, would you like a hamburger? Maybe a hot dog?”

My hostess appeared in front of me bearing a platter of raw meat shaped into patties, and I assumed she was on her way back outside to the grill. My eyes focused on the marbled beef, and then at her expectant face. She was the very picture of charm and hospitality. Oh, and theft.

“No, thank you,” I said, forcing a smile. “I’m fine.”

Her hands were full, so I opened the door to let her out. Music poured into the house, compliments of large speakers mounted under the eaves.

“You should come too,” she urged loudly as she handed the platter off to her husband, Skipper. “It’s a gorgeous day.”

“In a while, perhaps,” I said as I let the door fall shut between us. She turned her attention to a group of guests near the pool, and as she worked the crowd I thought, You don’t want me to go outside, Winnie. The last thing you want me to do is go outside.

I glanced at my watch, wondering how much longer this would take. The police had instructed me to wait until all of the elements had fallen into place, and so far that hadn’t happened. The tension was getting to me, so I set my glass on a nearby countertop and made my way through the small crowd in the kitchen to the upstairs bathroom. I needed to be alone, to catch my breath, to make a call.

Once I was locked inside, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number of the police captain. He knew it was me and that I couldn’t say much on my end for fear of being overheard.

“Looks like things are moving along as expected,” he said.

“Yes.”

“Have they brought out the hamburgers yet?”

“Oh, yes. Everything’s in full swing.”

He chuckled into the phone.

“I hope they’re enjoying it while they can,” he said.

“They seem to be.”

“We’re all set on our end. Soon as the guy shows up, we’ll text you.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“You found the garage?” he asked.

“Yep.”

“Empty?”

“Except for the boxes in the freezer.”

“Perfect. Simply perfect. Hang in there, kid. We’re on the homestretch.”

I hung up the phone and slid it into my pocket, wondering if all would go off as planned. There were so many elements coming into play here, and it was important that they close in at the moment when we could nab the greatest number of guilty parties. I shook my head, marveling at the situation I now found myself in. This wasn’t how I usually spent my Saturday afternoons!

As the Director of Research for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, my job was to investigate charitable organizations in order to verify their suitability for a grant. I had come here to get a closer look at Dinner Time, a food bank and soup kitchen for the homeless in a suburb of San Francisco. I had gone “undercover” by posing as a volunteer to get a good look at the organization from the inside. Almost immediately, however, I realized there was something stinky in the sauce. Dinner Time may have been providing food to the homeless, but it was also providing a handy second income to its founders and many of its employees by way of food donations that were ending up in places other than on Dinner Time’s tables.

Even this party was an appalling, blatant display of theft, and, according to my source, they had similar such events every few months. From the chips and hamburgers to the condiments, most of the food being consumed here today had actually been donated to the charity, intended for the poor. Instead, our hosts had simply loaded many of the boxes into their cars and driven the food home for this impromptu party. Any minute now a local food supplier would show up and collect his share of the take, which was waiting for him in the garage. Unbeknownst to any of them, however, much of the donated food this time was marked, from the codes printed on the bottom of the mustard bottles to the labels on the frozen steaks in the freezer.

A knock on the bathroom door startled me from my thoughts.

“Just a minute,” I called, and then I washed my hands in the sink and glanced at my reflection in the mirror. My own image still surprised me sometimes. Four months ago I had gone from having long hair to short, from wearing my hair in a tight chignon at the back of my neck to having just enough length to frame my face and touch at my collar. I liked the new look, both because of the years it seemed to take from my features and the way it worked with my usual attire of suits and dresses. I’d spent this week in more casual clothes, however, and today was no exception. I had on jeans and a lightly knit tan shirt, and I felt I looked the part I was playing—that of a woman interested in some simple volunteer work at the local soup kitchen. Little did they know that I was something much more threatening: an investigator with a mission to ferret out the bad guys in the nonprofit world and bring them all to justice!

I opened the bathroom door and found a familiar face waiting to get in, an employee of Dinner Time named Clement Jackson.

“Oh, hey, Callie,” he said, “I didn’t realize that was you in there.”

“No problem.”

I moved out of the way so that he could pass me and go into the bathroom. As he closed the door behind him, I made my way back downstairs to the kitchen.

Clement was such a dear man, a tireless worker who served full time at the food bank for a salary so low I didn’t know how he managed to make ends meet. He wasn’t aware that I knew his salary rate or anything about him beyond facts he had mentioned to me in casual conversation. He had told me about his lovely wife of 36 years, his five grown children, his eight grandchildren. But the scope of my investigation had included all of the employees and volunteers of Dinner Time, so I also knew his address, his work record, and much more. In the end, he had turned out to be one of only three people connected to the center who apparently weren’t involved in the theft of the food.

I was so glad, because it confirmed what I had felt to be true about him all week, that he was a wonderful person with a true heart for charity. His personal side mission was to collect and distribute free used books to all of the children who came to the food bank and, whenever he had time, to sit and read to them and encourage them to read more for themselves.

“Reading can get you through some mighty tough spots,” I had heard him say more than once this week. “Even if your feet can’t always go somewhere else, your mind sure can.” Poor Clement was going to be stunned when this sting came together, for he believed most people were motivated by the same altruism and good faith he himself possessed.

“Callie, can I get you something to drink?”

This time, Winnie’s husband, Skipper, was playing the host, walking toward me with a newly filled ice bucket.

“No, thanks,” I replied. “My drink’s right over here.”

As if to prove it, I walked to the spot where I had left my soda, picked it up, and swirled the liquid. Skipper’s very presence made me so nervous I didn’t dare speak for fear I would begin to babble. Unfortunately, he persisted.

“How about a little ice then,” he said, using the tongs to load up my drink with ice. Holding my tongue, I watched as he clunked square cubes into the glass I was holding in front of me.

“So what do you think of our weather here in California?” he asked. “Winnie said you just recently moved here, right?”

Actually, I hadn’t told her that. What I had said was that I had never lived in California before, implying, I guess, that I lived here now. It was the kind of half-truth that going undercover necessitated and the very reason I hated playing a role. As a Christian, lying was hard for me to rationalize, even when the ends seemed to justify the means.

“It’s certainly a beautiful day today!” I said, glancing toward the window. I was desperately trying to think of some other sort of socially acceptable patter when I was saved by the bell—or the ring, to be exact, because Skipper’s cell phone began ringing from his hip pocket.

With a smile, he thrust the ice bucket at me, extricated the phone, and turned it on.

“Skipper here,” he said amiably, winking at me as he did so.

Clutching the ice in front of me, I took a step back, wondering if I could seize the moment and get away before his conversation was finished. Unfortunately, it seemed to last all of about 15 seconds. He said, “Yep. Okay. See ya,” and then hung up the phone.

“You’ll excuse me, won’t you, Callie?” he asked smoothly, slipping the phone back into his pocket.

“Of course.”

I held the ice bucket toward him, but he didn’t take it.

“Um, could you bring that ice out to Winnie?” he asked. “I need to get something from the garage.”

Without waiting for a reply, he turned and walked down the hall. I stood there for a moment, knowing I couldn’t do as he had requested without taking a step outside myself. Instead, I passed the bucket off to someone else who was heading that way. As the door fell shut behind him, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket. I moved away from the crowd and went into the empty dining room. Holding my breath, I whipped out my phone, pushed the button, and looked at the screen. As expected, it was a text from the captain: Our guy just turned into the driveway. Give it about two minutes and then take a peek in the garage.

Okay, I texted back.

I then pocketed my phone, glanced at my watch, and waited, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest. For an absurd moment, I wondered if there was any hidden firepower here, if perhaps Skipper and Winnie kept a Colt .45 tucked in the nearest flowerpot or something. Just because their crimes of theft were of a nonviolent nature didn’t mean they didn’t know how to defend themselves when push came to shove. As it was about to.

At one minute, forty-three seconds, I heard my name called from the other room. I looked through the doorway to see Clement just coming down the stairs on the other side of the kitchen. Clement, who could be in the line of fire if things went down in a nasty way. Clement, who was heading toward me with a genial smile, eager to start a chat just when it was time for me to move.

“I need a favor!” I said urgently, walking forward to meet him. “I can’t find my contact lens. I’m afraid it came out in the bathroom. Do you think you could go back up and look for me? Check all over the floor, the sink, you know.”

“Well, I’ll try, Callie,” he said, nodding his head, the tightly curled gray hair a sharp contrast to his brown skin. “But my eyesight’s not so good myself. Come up and we’ll look for it together.”

I glanced at my watch. Two and a half minutes.

“You go on up,” I said. “I’ll be there in just a bit.”

“Okay.”

“And, listen, if you can’t find it, at least stay there and guard the door until I get there. I don’t want someone else stepping on it and breaking it.”

“All right.”

He dutifully trudged back up the stairs as I slipped from the kitchen, walking toward the long side hall Skipper had gone down less than three minutes before. I reached the door of the garage at the end, put my hand on the knob, and turned it.

The door swung open to reveal Skipper and another man lifting boxes into the open trunk of a black Cadillac. Both men looked up to see me, their faces about as guilty as two boys caught dipping their fingers in the peanut butter.

In a way, that’s exactly what they were doing.

The men recovered quickly. Both put the boxes into the trunk, but the man I didn’t know turned and stepped away where I couldn’t see his face. Skipper, on the other hand, took a step toward me, putting on a wide, fake smile.

“Can I help you, Callie?” he asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was looking for some more soda. Maybe root beer?”

“There’s nothing like that out here,” he replied. “Try the pantry, off the kitchen.”

“Okay, thanks,” I said, returning his fake smile before stepping back out of the garage and pulling the door shut.

I turned on my heel and walked up the hall with my heartbeat pounding loudly in my head. Despite the chatter and confusion around me, I made straight for the French doors, opened them, and stepped outside. This was my signal to the police who were in hiding on the other side of the hedge, watching the party, waiting to pounce. Once on the patio, I simply kept walking through the loud music, heading around the pool and toward the backyard.

“Callie, can I help you with something?” I heard Winnie call after me.

Suddenly, before I could reply, there were shouts and screams and the sight of at least 20 police officers descending on the partygoers on the patio. I heard the words “freeze” and “raid” and “you have the right to remain silent.” Once I finally turned around and looked at the scene, all I could do was pray that Clement was safe, that the cops had apprehended the men in the garage before anyone could do anything stupid.

I waited at the back of the yard until I saw the captain come to the kitchen door and give the “all clear” signal to the cops outside. Breathing a great big sigh of relief, I headed toward the house, allowing myself to be herded into the corner of the patio where they were sorting everyone out. Counting heads, I realized they had managed to nab almost every single person who was on the list of those who had either stolen food or accepted food they knew was stolen. The cops didn’t single me out but merely pointed me in the direction of the innocent parties, the few standing near the garden shed who hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on.

Eventually, Clement was sent out from the house to join us. I gave him a big hug, certainly much bigger than our seemingly casual acquaintance would allow. Obviously shaken, he hugged me back even tighter.

When the police told us we were free to leave, I stuck with Clement, offering to take him home. In somewhat of a daze, he accepted that offer. Sitting in the passenger seat of my rental car, he stared blankly ahead as I drove toward his house and gently tried to explain all that he had just seen.

By the time we reached his house, he was still quite shaken. He invited me inside and I accepted, eager to see him safely delivered into the arms of his wife.

She wasn’t home, however, so I insisted that he call one of his children, perhaps Trey, since I knew he lived right down the street and could be here in a matter of minutes. While we waited, I heated some water on the stove for tea and essentially made myself at home in the kitchen. The house was small but tidy, and everything was easy to find in the neatly organized cabinets. As the water began to bubble on the stove, Clement took a seat at the table, silent, his expression blank. As I was setting his tea in front of him, Trey burst through the door, concern evident on his face.

“Pop?”

Short but muscular, with his father’s coffee-colored skin and deep brown eyes, Trey was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, both of which were covered with spatters of blue.

“We were painting the baby’s room,” he added, sounding breathless, looking from me to his father. “What’s going on?”

Clement didn’t answer, so I introduced myself and tried to explain the situation as best I could. The place where Clement worked, I said, had been busted for fraud and theft. Clement was in the clear, but he had been fairly traumatized by the whole event.

“And who are you, exactly?” Trey asked, looking at me as if this were all my fault. In a way, it was.

“My name is Callie Webber,” I said, carrying over two more cups of tea and taking a seat at the table. “I’m a private investigator.”

Clement turned toward me, his face suddenly registering disbelief rather than shock.

“You’re a what?   ” he asked.

“A private investigator.”

“Since when?”

“Since I was old enough to get certified in the state of Virginia,” I said. “I’m also a lawyer. I work for the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation out of Washington, DC.”

Clement shook his head, as if to shake off the confusion. Before he could launch into more questions, I continued.

“I live in Maryland now,” I explained, “and I just came to California to investigate Dinner Time on behalf of my employer. Dinner Time had requested a grant, and it’s my job to verify eligibility.”

“You don’t even live here?” Clement asked me, still incredulous. “You mean you’ve been pretending all week?”

“I’m sorry, Clement,” I said. “Sometimes that’s the only way I can really see what’s going on.”

Trey slid into the seat across from me, ignoring the tea I had put there for him.

“So what happened today?” he asked. “I’m still confused.”

“In the course of the investigation of Dinner Time, I uncovered fraud, theft, tax evasion, distribution of stolen property, you name it. I took that information to the police, only to learn that they already knew about it and that they were very close to making some arrests. We worked together on a sting operation, and today we caught most of the guilty parties red-handed.”

“I can’t believe they were stealing food,” Clement said, shaking his head sadly.

“I always told you there was something slick about that Skipper person,” Trey said to his father. “‘Skipper and Winnie,’ good grief. Sounds like a pair of Barbie dolls.”

“Will Dinner Time have to close down?” Clement asked.

“Probably,” I answered. “Even if someone were to try to keep the place up and running, I doubt it would be able to stay open for very long. Between the bad publicity and the incarcerated principals, I think it’ll soon fold. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” Clement said. “I’m sorry I was so blind, so stupid.”

Trey put a reassuring hand on his father’s arm.

“C’mon, Pop,” he said. “You couldn’t know. You were just doing your job.”

“Oh, yeah, my job,” Clement said. “Guess I’m out of a job now.”

“We’ll find you something,” Trey said. “Maybe Tanisha can get you on over at the grocery store.”

“I liked working at a nonprofit,” Clement said, shaking his head. “I liked feeling that my efforts were making just a little difference in the world.”

I reached into my pocket, grasping the familiar square of paper there. I pulled it out and set it on the table in front of me, still folded in half.

“I’d like to talk to you about that,” I said. “And I’m glad Trey is here, because this would involve him too.”

Both men looked at me, their faces somber.

“In the course of my investigation,” I continued, “I had to check into everybody’s background. Including yours, Clement. Your life story paints a picture of a good man, a steady reliable worker who knows the value of a dollar.”

“That’s my dad,” Trey said suspiciously. “But what are you getting at?”

“Well, I’ve watched you this week reading to the children down at the food bank, Clement. I’ve heard you talk about the benefits of reading, of being read to. I want you to think about starting a charity of your own. Something that lets you go around and give away books and have regular reading times with homeless children.”

“Like a bookmobile?” Clement asked.

“Perhaps,” I said. “Or maybe you could get some space in the recreation center or a homeless shelter or another food bank. Somewhere that you could set up a little reading corner filled with books and beanbag chairs and stuffed animals. It’s not hard to get people to donate children’s books to a charity. You could provide reading times, give the books to the children who seem to want them, encourage their parents to read with them…”

I let my voice trail off, seeing that a spark was lighting up behind Clement’s eyes.

“What do I have to do with this?” Trey asked.

“Your father told me that you’re an accountant,” I said. “Maybe you can help him get started and then keep the books for him.”

“Well, yeah, I could do that.”

“And I understand your sister is a graphic artist? Maybe she could put together some brochures and promotional materials. You’d be surprised how many resources are available, usually right at your own fingertips.”

I looked at Trey and then at Clement, surprised to see the fire quickly fading from the older man’s eyes.

“As good as our intentions may be,” he said, shaking his head, “There’s one thing standing in the way. I can’t afford it.”

I smiled, fingering the square of paper in front of me.

“Well, then let me take it a step further,” I said. “My job allows me a certain amount of leeway with small monetary grants. What would you think if I gave you a check to get started? You could get yourself incorporated as a nonprofit, file for federal tax exemption, and cover your basic start-up costs. Once you’ve got that tax exemption, I would encourage you to fill out a grant application from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation for a much larger amount of money. We believe strongly in what you could accomplish, Clement, and we would like to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

I sat back, thinking that in the two and a half years I had worked for the foundation, this was the first time I had to talk someone into taking our money!

“Still, I don’t see how it would work,” Trey said. “He’d need at least a thousand dollars just to get set up.”

“How does five thousand sound?” I asked, unfolding the check and handing it to them. It was already made out to Clement Jackson, who picked it up and studied it as if it were a ticket to somewhere important. “And, like I said, once you’ve got that tax exemption and your policies and procedures in place, you can apply to us for more. I have a feeling we’ll be very generous as long as you can show you’ve got a good business plan.”

The two men looked at each other and grinned, and not for the first time I wished my boss, Tom, the philanthropist behind all J.O.S.H.U.A. grants, could be here to witness their joy. Tom was half a world away right now, and though later I would recount this entire scene for him over the phone, it still made me sad that he wasn’t here experiencing it for himself.

Then again, he never was. Tom always donated anonymously through the foundation and then enjoyed the moment of presentation vicariously through me. I was happy to recreate every word, every detail, but I had never understood why he chose to remain so removed from the whole process.

Of course, he and I talked frequently during every investigation, and in fact it was the time we spent on the phone that had allowed us to become friends and then eventually something much more than friends. Four months ago, after several years of a phone-only relationship, Tom and I had finally been able to meet face-to-face.

At the time, he had been out of the country for his work, but he had surprised me by flying back to the States and showing up at my home. We had spent exactly 12 hours together—12 amazing hours that I had relived again and again in my memories ever since—and then he had to leave, returning to Singapore and the urgent business that awaited him.

Now, four months later, Tom was still in Singapore, though his business there was quickly drawing to a close and soon he would be coming home for good. His home was in California and mine was in Maryland, but our plan was to meet somewhere between the two in exactly seven days at some quiet place where we would finally, finally be able to spend some real quality time together—time getting to know each other even better, time exploring the possibilities of a relationship that had gone from friendship to something much more in the space of one 12-hour visit. I was already counting the minutes until we could be together again, knowing that once he returned, a new chapter in my life would begin in earnest. Tom was handling the logistics of our reunion, and my primary concern was to wrap up my next investigation by the following Sunday, because I didn’t want work or anything else to detract from the time we were going to spend together.

Clement spoke, snapping me out of my thoughts and back to the moment at hand.

“I’ve been praying for something like this for quite a while,” he was saying, looking at his son, and I realized there were tears in his eyes. “For so long,” he repeated, blinking. “I didn’t think the Lord was hearing me. But He was. Because He sent me an angel.”

I held up one hand to stop him, emotion surging in my heart as well.

“Now, don’t—”

“I’m not kidding, girl. You are an angel. A very generous angel.”

“So you’ll take the money and start your own charity?” I asked.

“Oh, thank You, Lord,” he said, grinning up toward the ceiling. Then he looked back at me. “Yes, Callie. Yes. Most definitely yes.”

 
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