Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley

What I Thought: This is really a great book. I'm in the middle of reading it still...I'm working on my friend, Jamie's, book at the same time. But what I've read so far of Shadow of Colossus has had me up way too late reading. I love historical/mythology fiction. Her series is based on the seven wonders of the world. So good! I highly recommend it!

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Shadow of Colossus

Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)


T.L. Higley holds a degree in English Literature and has written three previous novels, including Fallen from Babel, and more than fifty drama productions for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece and other myth systems, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and four children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Broadman & Holman Publishers (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080544730X
ISBN-13: 978-0805447309


Rhodes, 227 bc

Seven Days Before the Great Quake

In the deceitful calm of the days preceding disaster, while Rhodes still glittered like a white jewel in the Aegean, Tessa of Delos planned to open her wrists.

The death of her body was long overdue. Her soul had died ten years ago.

Ten years this day.

Tessa took in a breath of salty air and shivered. From her lofty position outside Glaucus's hillside home, she watched the populace's torches flicker to life in the dusk. Across the city the day's tumult at the docks slowed. The massive statue of Helios at the harbor's frothy mouth caught the sun's last rays as it slipped into a cobalt sea. The torch he thrust skyward seem to burst aflame, as though lit by the sun god himself.

He had been her only constant these ten years, this giant in the likeness of Helios. A silent sentinel who kept vigil as life ripped freedom and hope from her. Painful as it was, tonight she wanted only to remember. To be alone, to remember, and to mourn.

"Tessa!" A wine-sodden voice erupted from the open door behind her.

The symposium had begun only minutes ago, but Glaucus was already deep into his cups. Bad form in any company, thought Tessa, but Glaucus rarely cared. Tessa inhaled the tang of sea air again and placed a steadying hand against the smooth alabaster column supporting the roof. She did not answer, nor turn, when she heard her fat master shuffle onto the portico.

"Get yourself back into the house!" Glaucus punctuated his command with a substantial belch.

"Soon," she said. "I wish to watch the sun god take his leave."

A household servant crept out and set two torches blazing. An oily smell surged, then dissipated. From the house floated harsh laughter mingled with the tinny sound of a flute.

Glaucus pushed his belly against her back and grabbed her arm. The linen chitôn she'd taken care to arrange perfectly fell away, exposing her shoulder. She reached to replace it, but Glaucus caught her hand. He brought his mouth close to her ear, and she could smell his breath, foul as days-old fish.

"The others are asking for you. `Where is your hetaera?' they say. `The one with more opinions than Carthage has ships.'"

Tessa closed her eyes. She had long entertained Glaucus's political friends with her outspoken thoughts on government and power. While his wife remained hidden away in the women's quarters, Glaucus's hetaera was displayed like an expensive pet with sharp teeth. Tessa had once believed she led an enviable life, but the years had stripped her of her illusions.

She stroked the polished filigree of the gold necklace encircling her throat and remembered when Glaucus fastened it there, a gilding for his personal figure of bronze.

"Now, Tessa." Glaucus pulled her toward the door.

Her heart reached for the statue, clinging to her first memory of it, when Delos had been home and innocence had still been hers.

When I open my wrists, I will do it there.


The andrôn, central room of the men’s quarters, smelled of roasted meat and burning olive oil. Glaucus paused in the doorway, awaiting the attention of those who had curried enough of his favor to be invited tonight. When the small crowd lounging on low couches at the room’s perimeter turned his way, he pushed her into the lamp-lit center. “Tessa, everyone,” he shouted. “Making a grand entrance!”

The room laughed and clapped, then returned their attention to the food and wine on the low tables beside them. In the corner, a young girl dressed in gauzy fabric blew thin streams of air into a small flute. Tessa’s eyes locked onto the girl’s for a moment. A private understanding passed between them that they were both objects of entertainment, and the girl looked away, as though ashamed to be seen so clearly. A desire to protect the girl surfaced in Tessa, a maternal feeling that of late seemed only a breath away.

Glaucus pulled her to a couch and forced her down onto the gold-trimmed red cushions. He lowered himself at her right and leaned against her possessively. A black bowl with gold designs waited in the center of their table, and Glaucus ladled wine from it into a goblet for her. To the room he said, “To Tessa—always the center of attention!” He raised his own cup, and his guests did the same.

Tessa’s gaze swept the room, taking in the majority of men and the few women reclining against them. The moment was suspended, with cups raised toward her, drunken and insincere smiles affixed to faces, lamplight flickering across tables piled with grapes and almonds and figs, and the flute’s lament behind it all.

Will I remember this night, even in the afterlife?

“To Tessa!” Shouts went round the room, cups were drained and thumped back to tables, and the party quickened around her.

Glaucus reached for her, but she pushed him away. He laughed. “It would appear my Tessa is a bit high-spirited tonight,” he said to the others. “And what shall be done with a mischievous hetaera?” His thick-lipped smile and raised eyebrow took in the room and elicited another round of laughter. He nodded, then turned his attention to the man on his right, resuming a conversation whose beginning she must have missed.

“Your objections earlier to the naturalization of the Jews are noted, Spiro. But to extend citizenship to the foreigners among us can often be expedient.” Tessa could not see Spiro, his frame completely blocked by the bulk of Glaucus beside her, but his voice poured like warm oil. Yet underneath his smooth tones, Tessa heard the cold iron of anger. He was one of few among the strategoi to contradict Glaucus publicly.

“Like-minded foreigners, perhaps,” Spiro said. “But the Jews make it no secret that they despise our Greek ways. They disdain even our proudest achievement, our Helios of the harbor. They must be expunged, not embraced by weak-willed politicians who—”

Glaucus raised a pudgy hand. “You presume an authority not yours, Spiro.”

“Only a matter of time, Glaucus.”

Glaucus snorted. “Again you presume. The people of this island are too clever to choose seductive charm over solid leadership.”

Spiro laughed quietly. “Why, Glaucus, seductive charm? I didn’t realize you had noticed.”

Glaucus shook his head. “Perhaps the women are affected, but it is the men who vote.”

Tessa sensed Spiro lean forward, his eyes now on her. “And we both know where men find their opinions.”

Glaucus snorted again and swung his legs to the floor. It took several tries to raise his ponderous body from the cushions. “Get drunk, Spiro. Enjoy your delusions for one more night. But next week I sail to Crete, and I expect them to fully support my efforts.”

He nudged Tessa with a sandaled toe. “Don’t go anywhere. I will be back.”

Tessa watched him leave the room, relief at his temporary absence flooding her. She was to travel to Crete with him next week, though she had no intention of ever stepping onto the ship.

The previously unseen Spiro slid to her couch now, an elbow on the cushion Glaucus had just vacated. He was older than she, perhaps thirty, clean-shaven like most of the others but wore his jetblack hair longer, braided away from his face and falling just above his shoulders. His eyes, deep set and darker than the night sea, studied hers. A smile played at his lips. “What are you still doing with that bore, Tessa? You could do better.”

“One slave master is as another. To have something better is only to be free.” She was not truly Glaucus’s slave in the usual sense, and Spiro knew it, but it made little difference.

Spiro smiled fully now, and his gaze traveled from her eyes, slowly down to her waist. He took liberties, but Tessa had long ago become heedless of offense.

“That is what I like about you, Tessa. One never meets a hetaera who speaks of freedom; they are resolved to their place. But you are a woman like no other in Rhodes.”

“Why should I not be free?”

Spiro chuckled softly and inched closer. “Why, indeed? Ask the gods, who make some women wives and give others as slaves.”

Spiro’s hand skimmed the cushions and came to rest on her thigh. “If you were mine, Tessa, I would treat you as the equal you deserve to be. Glaucus acts as though he owns you, but we all know he pays dearly for your favors. Perhaps it is you who owns him.” Spiro’s fingers dug into her leg, and his eyes roamed her face and body again. Tessa felt neither pleasure nor disgust, a reminder that her heart had been cast from bronze. But a flicker of fear challenged her composure. Spiro, she knew, was like one of the mighty Median horses: raw power held in check, capable of trampling the innocent if unleashed.

A shadow loomed above them, but Spiro did not remove his hand. Instead, he arched a perfect eyebrow at Glaucus and smiled. Tessa expected a flash of anger, but Glaucus laughed. “First, you think to rule the island, Spiro, and now you think to steal Tessa from me, as though she has the free will to choose whom she wants?” Spiro shrugged and moved to the next couch.

Glaucus plopped down between them again. “She will never be yours, Spiro. Even when I am dead, her owner will only hand her to the next man in line to have paid for her.” He waggled a finger at Tessa. “She is worth waiting for, though, I can tell you.” Another coarse laugh.

Something broke loose in Tessa then. Caused perhaps by the vow taken while drinking in the sight of the harbor’s bronze statue, and the assurance that soon nothing she did now would hold consequence for her. Or perhaps it was ten years of bondage, commemorated this night with nothing more than continued abuse.

Whatever the reason, she rose to her feet. The room silenced, as though a goddess had ascended a pedestal. She lifted her voice. “May the gods deal with you as you have mistreated me, Glaucus of Rhodes. I will have no part of you.”

Glaucus grabbed her arm. “Your heart is not in the festivities tonight, my dear. I understand. I will meet you in the inner courtyard later.”

He did this to save face, they both knew. Tessa wrenched her arm free of his clutches, glanced at Spiro, and felt a chill at the look in his eyes. She raised her chin and glided from the room.

In the hall outside the andrôn, she looked both directions. She had no desire to stay, yet the world outside the house was no more pleasant or safe for her. She turned from the front door and moved deeper into the house.

The hallway opened to a courtyard, with rooms branching in many directions. Along the back wall, a colonnaded walkway, its roof covered with terra-cotta tiles, stretched the length of the courtyard. A large cistern gaped in the center. Beside it stood a large birdcage; its lone inhabitant, a black mynah with an orange beak, chirped in greeting.

Glaucus had said he would meet her here later, but from the sounds of the laughter behind her, the party raged without her. She should be safe for a few minutes at least. She crossed to the bird she had adopted as her own and simply named Mynah. Tessa put a finger through the iron bars and let Mynah peck a hello.

Her head throbbed, as it always did when she wore her hair pulled back. She reached above her, found the pin that cinched her dark ringlets together, and yanked it. Hair loosed and fell around her, and she ran her fingers through it in relief.

A sharp intake of breath from across the room startled her. She whirled at the sound. “Who’s there?”

A soft voice in the darkness said, “I am sorry, mistress. I did not mean to startle you.”

Tessa’s heart grasped at the kindness and respect in the voice, the first she had encountered this evening. She put a hand to her unfastened hair. Somehow she still found it within herself to be embarrassed by this small impropriety.

The man took hesitant steps toward her. “Are you ill, mistress? Can I help you in some way?” He was clean-shaven and quite tall, with a lanky build and craggy face, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant, Simeon.

“No, Simeon. No, I am not ill. Thank you.” She sank to a bench.

The older man dipped his head and backed away. Tessa reached out a hand. “Perhaps—perhaps some water?”

He smiled. “I’ll only be a moment.”

She had disgraced Glaucus tonight, in spite of his effort to laugh off her comments. How would he repay the damage she had done him? His position as a strategos of the polis of Rhodes outranked all other concerns in his life, and he would consider her disrespect in the presence of other city leaders as treasonous.

In the three years since Glaucus had paid her owner the hetaera price and she had become his full-time companion, they had developed an unusual relationship. While he would not allow her to forget that she was not free, he had also discovered her aptitude for grasping the intricacies of politics, the maneuvering necessary to keep Rhodes the strong trading nation that it was, and to maintain Glaucus’s hold on leadership within this democratic society. Power was a game played shrewdly in Rhodes, as in all the Greek world, and Glaucus had gained a competitive edge when he gained Tessa.

Rhodian society had declared her to be a rarity: beautiful, brilliant, and enslaved. But the extent to which the decisions of the city-state passed through her slave-bound fingers was unknown to most. And in this she held a measure of power over Glaucus. She recalled Spiro’s astute comment earlier: Perhaps it is you who owns him.

Simeon returned with a stone mug in his hands. He held it out to her and covered her fingers with his own gnarled hand as she reached for it. His eyes returned to her hair. “I—I have never seen you with your hair down,” he said. He lowered his gray head again but did not back away, and his voice was soft. “It is beautiful.”

Tessa tried to smile, but her heart retreated from the small kindness. “Thank you.”

He didn’t look up. “If you are not ill, Tessa, perhaps you should return to the symposium. I should not like to see Glaucus angry with you.”

Tessa exhaled. “Glaucus can wait.”

Another noise at the courtyard’s edge. They both turned at the rustle of fabric. A girl glided into the room, dressed in an elegant yellow chitôn, her dark hair flowing around her shoulders. She stopped suddenly when she saw them.

“Simeon? Tessa? What are you doing here?”

Simeon bent at the waist, his eyes on the floor. “The lady was feeling ill. She requested water.” His eyes flicked up at Tessa, their expression unreadable, and he left the room.

Tessa turned her attention to the girl, inhaling the resolve to survive this encounter. At fourteen, Persephone hovered on the delicate balance between girl and woman. Glowing pale skin framed by dark hair gave her the look of an ivory doll, but it was her startlingly blue eyes that drew one’s attention. In recent months, as she had gained understanding of Tessa’s position in her father’s life, Persephone had grown more hostile toward her.

She raised her chin and studied Tessa. “Does my father know you’re out here?” Her tone contradicted the delicacy of her features.

Tessa nodded.

“So he let his plaything out of her cage?”

Tessa’s eyes closed in pity for the girl, whose mother had abandoned her for the comfort of madness.

The girl flitted to where Mynah cheeped inside its bars. She picked a leaf from a potted tree and held it out to the bird. “But who am I to speak of cages?” she said. She raised her eyes to Tessa. “We are all trapped here in some way. You. Me. Mother.”

“Cages can be escaped,” Tessa said, surprising herself. She had never dared to offer Persephone wisdom, though her heart ached for the girl.

Persephone turned toward her, studying her. “When you find the key, let me know.”

"Tessa!" Glaucus's voice was thick with wine and demanding.

Tessa turned toward the doorway. The girl beside her took a step backward.

"There you are," he said. "I've sent them all away." He waddled toward them. "I am sick of their company." He seemed to notice the girl for the first time. "Persephone, why are you not in bed? Get yourself to the women's quarters."

Tessa could feel the hate course through the girl as if it were her own body.

"I am not tired. I wished to see the stars." She pointed upward.

Glaucus stood before them now, and he sneered. "Well, the stars have no wish to see you. Remove yourself."

"And will you say goodnight to Mother?" Persephone asked. The words were spoken with sarcasm, tossed to Glaucus like raw bait. Tessa silently cheered the girl's audacity.

Glaucus was not so kind. "Get out!"

"And leave you to your harlot?" Persephone said.

In a quick motion belying his obesity, Glaucus raised the back of his hand to the girl and struck her against the face. She reeled backward a step or two, her hand against her cheek.

Tessa moved between them. "Leave her alone!"

Glaucus turned on Tessa and laughed. "And when did you two become friends?"

Persephone glared into her father's corpulent face. "I despise you both," she said.

Glaucus raised his arm again, his hand a fist this time, but Tessa was faster. She caught the lowering arm by the wrist and pushed it backward. Glaucus rocked back on his heels and turned his hatred on her.

Tessa kept her eyes trained on Glaucus but spoke to the girl, her voice low and commanding. "Go to bed, Persephone." She sensed the girl back away, heard her stomp from the room.

The anger on Glaucus's face melted into something else. A chuckle, sickening in its condescension, rumbled from him.

"High-spirited is one thing, Tessa. But be careful you do not go too far. Remember who keeps you in those fine clothes and wraps your ankles and wrists in jewels. You are not your own."

But I soon will be.

Glaucus reached for her, and she used her forearm to swat him away like a noisome insect. "Don't touch me. Don't touch her. Take your fat, drunken self out of here."

The amusement on Glaucus's face played itself out. The anger returned, but Tessa was ready.

Glaucus's words hissed between clenched teeth. "I don't know what has come over you tonight, Tessa, but I will teach you your place. You belong to me, body and spirit, and I will have you!" His heavy hands clutched her shoulders, and his alcohol-soaked breath blew hot in her face. Every part of Tessa's inner being rose up to defend herself.

It would all end tonight.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The First Escape by G.P. Taylor

What I Thought:

This is such a BEAUTIFUL book. The illustrations are superb. I love the black pages! So totally cool. My 13 year old son enjoyed it, but thinks it is more suitable for ages 8-12. He really liked the 'graphic novel' aspect to it though. I recommend this for any kids you need to buy a Christmas present for!

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The First Escape

SaltRiver (August 20, 2008)


A motorcyclist and former rock band roadie turned Anglican minister, Graham Peter (G. P.) Taylor has been hailed as "hotter than Potter" and "the new C. S. Lewis" in the United Kingdom. His first novel, Shadowmancer, reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2004 and has been translated into 48 languages. His other novels include Wormwood (another New York Times bestseller which was nominated for a Quill book award), The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street, Tersias the Oracle, and Mariah Mundi. Taylor currently resides in North Yorkshire with his wife and three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 19.99
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: SaltRiver (August 20, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414319479
ISBN-13: 978-1414319476


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday: Dream Movie

Amy's Saturday question :

We've been blessed to finally start seeing some of our favorite Christian books come to life on film. So far, these have been largely low budget films, but they generally get the heart of the books across. But my question for you is...if you had an unlimited budget, what Christian fiction book would you like to see made into a film? Who would you cast in the main roles? Would you have a preference on director? Any songs you'd like to see on the soundtrack?

Oh wow, I love this question. I am going to be a bit selfish here and say my own book! LOL. So, this is really MY Dream Movie! Hee hee. Some of you have read my book, others will have to wait until we publish it in August. Anyway, the title is F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Be Careful What You Wish For. It is a Teen Fantasy. If you want to read the first chapter, you can go HERE. (I just finished doing a photo shoot of a girl that is PERFECT for the cover. I also did another shoot of her for the second book's cover. She is just SO cute! Okay, I'm calming down...a little. Hee hee.

I have thought about who I'd cast if I had the say in it, but I realize that it should be a relatively unknown cast. Sort of like Harry Potter and Star Wars had fresh talent. My dream would be someone like a young Hilary Duff as the main character, Mellie. She's spunky and funny, but can also deliver a tear or two.

For her best friend, Lizzy, a flower fairie, I would choose someone like Christy Carlson Romano. She is just adorable. I could totally see her all green with emerald colored curly hair.

Amanda Bynes would make a great Zandra, the she-elf, who is a bit ditsy but really sweet. Amanda plays cute and quirky really well.

I haven't thought about the love interest, Spike. He's an with spiky hair. Any ideas?

I'd love the director from the Lord of the Rings. Hey, I think BIG! :-D

Songs. I have so many that would be great...but I think Chris Rice's Candlesong is just perfect for the credits at the end. There is one part where Mellie is running and Psalm 23 goes through her head. I know there are several versions of that song that would work well. I like the Harry Potter soundtrack with the tinkling and majestic overtones...something like that in the beginning would be really cool.

Now that I've talked your ear off about my passion, I'd love to hear your comments! If you've read the story, who would you pick? And what music?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Infidel--Graphic Novel: The Lost Books Series by Ted Dekker

What I Thought:

I think it is cool that Christian publishers are doing graphic novels now. This one was very well done. It is based on the second book in Ted Dekker's Lost Book Series. My 13 year old son claimed it for his own. I was only able to see it the first day that we got it!

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

and his book:

Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of

Here are some of his latest titles:

Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)


Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)


Product Details

List Price:$15.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546049
ISBN-13: 978-1595546043


(Click Pictures to Zoom!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Nerdy are You?

This was a fun little test. I found it on Cube's site:

I am nerdier than 14% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hands of Hope...a different kind of Gift for Christmas!

Sometimes it's hard to find that perfect gift for someone either because they seem to already have everything or they're just plain hard to shop for! I also struggle with getting gifts that are just going to sit around not being used.

Well, here are three wonderful gift ideas that will 1) not collect dust, 2) honor the person you give it to, and 3) help save lives! (And for those of you with kids in school...think teacher gifts!)

Hands of Hope, a charity of Women Helping Women A World Away, is announcing that their Holiday Gift Cards are available for purchase.

These cards provide food, income and water for impoverished women and children in Zambia, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. They can be purchased on the Hands of Hope website for $15.00, $30.00 and $50.00.

Purchasing these cards will provide goats, chickens or wells to help change lives. What could be a more meaningful gift for holiday giving for family, friends, and customer appreciation?

Hands of Hope helps mobilize communities to respond to the needs of women and children around the world. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area, Hands of Hope works to raise community awareness regarding poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa and its relevance globally. We are confident in the integrity of the channels we have established so that contributions provide the highest possible impact for the most critical needs.

Chicken Cards

These lovely cards each represent a gift of twelve chicks. Help an impoverished family with a gift of chicks. $15.00 each.

The inside of the card reads:
A gift of twelve chicks has been purchased and given to an impoverished family in Africa in your honor by __________________

As the flock multiplies, a struggling family will be given the hope to survive. Your gift will help those in need for generations to come.

Goats Program Gift Cards

These lovely cards each represent an actual goat being purchased for a needy family. Beyond providing much needed milk, a few goats can quickly become a herd, providing sustenance and additional income that can make the difference between whether a child goes to school or not. $30.00 each.

The inside of the card reads:
A gift of a goat has been purchased and given to an impoverished family in Africa in your honor By___________________

Offspring from your goat will be passed along to other needy families in villages where people are struggling to survive. This gift will bring hope and survival to many a continent away.

Well Gift Cards

Donations from these cards will go toward digging wells in the Western Province of Zambia. $50.00 each.

The inside of the card reads:
A donation has been given towards funding a well in the Western Province of Zambia in your honor by_______________

Statistics show that nearly half of all people in developing countries suffer from health related problems caused by unsafe water. In addition, African women and children spend several hours every day collecting water which is often miles away and may or may not be contaminated. This well will provide clean and safe drinking water and will go a long way to ease a heavy burden for hundreds of village people who struggle daily with basic physical needs.

If you're interested in purchasing any of these cards, please visit the HOH website here and scroll to the bottom of the page for purchasing information.

Be sure to check out how Hands of Hope got their start, and also see what their current projects are right now.

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday

Amy's Saturday question is: The past couple of days there has been a big flare-up in the broader book blogging community regarding review policies and a blogger's obligation to an author once they've received a review copy. For those of you who belong to the blogging alliance FIRST, we've also discussed this issue a little bit.

Do you receive review copies of Christian books? If so, do you review them honestly? How do you handle it when you don't like a book but are obligated to provide a review? Who do you see your first commitment being to in book reviewing (besides God)? Yourself? The author? Your readers? Does your review change based on the spiritual content of the book or is it solely based on technical or artistic merit? Have you ever had a negative experience with an author after giving them a negative review? (please don't name names)

Well, this seems very appropriate for what's been happening on FIRST Wild Card! Most of you know that I had to put about 100 memberships on hold until they can get their blogs to be unique...have them stand on their own without FIRST and other blog tours. One of the points brought up is that people just weren't reviewing the books they ordered.

Yes, I receive Christian books to review...I actually receive all the books we do on FIRST so that I can moderate them.

Do I post honest reviews? Yes. If I loved it, I let you know. If I don't, I try to say it in a way that I point out the good stuff then add what I didn't like...then I ask you to decide by reading the first chapter. Some authors like it when FIRST members just put up the FIRST post with their bio and first chapter without the blogger's opinions. Some authors only want to see wonderful reviews. Some want to see what you thought no matter what. I hope that when my book comes around to tour, people will be honest. I want to be able to improve my skills through honest critiques.

On my blog, I am commited to my readers. They want to know what I thought, or they wouldn't visit me.

I base my critique on how I liked it overall. If there is a great story inside a poorly edited novel, I tell the reader so.

Yes, I've had an author or two be upset at what I said. Sometimes my mouth gets away from me...I try to curb that as much as possible.

Thanks, Amy...great questions!

Generations of Valor

We truly take a lot for granted.

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you,
Jesus Christ and the American Soldier.

One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.

Godly Love: A Rose Planted in the Desert of our Hearts by Stephen G. Post

What I Thought:

This is a neat little book. A great read for the coffee can open it up and read little snippets here and there, or read through it from front to back. My 7 year old loves how small it is. He claimed it for his own and keeps it by his car seat to read on trips into town.

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Non~FIRST will be merging with FIRST Wild Card Tours on January 1, 2009...if interested in joining, click HERE!)

The feature author is:

and his book:

Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)


Stephen G. Post has spent a lifetime studying love in its theological, scientific, and practical dimensions. He is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (IRUL) and professor of bioethics and family medicine in the School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Post has published one hundred thirty articles in peerreviewed journals and has written or edited fifteen scholarly books on subjects relating to the dynamic of love in our lives. His most recent book is Why Good Things Happen to Good People, coauthored with Jill Neimark. Dr. Post has chaired nine national conferences in his field and has received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Board of the Alzheimers Association. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife, Mitsuko, and their two children, Emma and Andrew.

Product Details

List Price: $12.95
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Templeton Foundation Press (September 26, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599471515
ISBN-13: 978-1599471518


Godly Love and Human Hatreds

In March 2007 I had the honor of spending several days north of Paris with the great Jean Vanier, then in his early eighties. Jean had founded L’Arche (“The Ark”) some four decades earlier, when he was inspired by an experience of Godly love to invite two men with cognitive developmental disabilities into his home. Over the years, L’Arche homes have flourished worldwide as volunteers dwell with the disabled in communities of faith, prayer, and Godly love. I had attended meals in L’Arche homes in Cleveland on a number of occasions, and I had heard the grace said before eating, the hymns sung, and the energy of love that was palpable in the lives of those caregivers and in the experience of those they cared for and lived with.

Jean struck me as one of the most loving, Godly, and humble men I had ever met. He spoke quietly and brilliantly, and he exuded an infectious sense of fun. On one Sunday evening there was a Catholic Mass in an old renovated chapel from the fourteenth century. About one hundred people had gathered there, mostly L’Arche volunteers and people with disabilities. I saw a volunteer wheel one older man named David up to the priest for communion. That night, at dinner, I asked Jean what he thought David had gotten from receiving communion, for David was probably the most severely disabled and agitated person I had encountered there. Jean said, “Whenever David receives communion, he becomes more peaceful, and that is the power of God’s love. Remember, Stephen, we do not know much about the mystery of God’s love and presence.” Jean’s pure, enduring, and expansive love clearly encompassed such a severely disabled man, and counted him among God’s blessed.

Evil in God’s Name

When I encounter a man like Jean Vanier, I feel that we must all stop thinking of God as the epitome of awesome power and strength in the conventional sense. This convention may be partly true, but we need to set it aside; otherwise, we begin to think of God primarily in terms of might, and human arrogance propels us into thinking that because my God is stronger than your God, violence is justified in God’s name. If we think about God in terms of power, then religions become tainted with human arrogance. Far too many prayerful people are carrying rifles in the spirit of pure hatred and pretending that their hatred is somehow divinely sanctioned. This amounts to shallow religiosity, which only causes pain and undermines Godly love. The Lord of power and might is first and foremost the author and giver of all good things, the Divine Entity who nourishes us in love and brings forth from us good works.

We need to stop thinking that our definitions of God are finite and that our knowledge of God’s will is total. Our definitions, even if divinely inspired, are still products of the human mind, and we can never fully understand the Divine. Religious doctrines, if adhered to arrogantly, tend to separate us from one another and shatter the unifying spirit of Godly love that all spirituality seeks to cultivate. When religions place doctrine and force above love, they foment massive evil—from torture to terror, from coercion to conflict. Religious wars exemplify human tribalism and arrogance, both of which bring out the worst in us.

Hatred, hostility, and revenge are such strong emotions that they can crush our fragile sense of Godly love. The pseudospirituality of hatred runs counter to all genuine spirituality, which is always an adventure in love, an expression of love’s deepest desires.

Countering Hatred with Godly Love

The love of power can sometimes overwhelm the power of love, so we must remain humble and guard against this. No matter how little we know about God, we can still experience Godly love. Only by taking Godly love much more seriously than we do now—even inculcating a profound love for one another among ancient, sworn enemies—can we expect to head off a spiral of widespread destruction.

Most of religion and spirituality is rooted in healing emotions, grounded in love. We will never achieve sustained peace in the twenty-first century unless all religions live up to those intrinsic ideals of Godly love, applying those ideals to all of humankind without exception.

The world shows no signs of becoming any less religious; we as humans will always have a passion for Ultimate Truth that provides safe haven and emotional security in times of distress. Yet we will only have a human future if we infuse universal Godly love into the rituals that religions create, and express through our actions spiritual emotions such as forgiveness and compassion. If our religions fail to promote universal Godly love, violence will sweep us all away in a cataclysmic firestorm.

Promoting Harmony and Peace

Godly love alone can realign the world in harmony and peace. Too many kill in God’s name, claiming that they alone know the destiny God intends for humankind. Our limited human knowledge of any divinely inspired destiny to be played out on the human stage belies this specious—and dangerous—claim.

Love is the source of our greatest happiness and security; therefore love is the Ultimate Good, the Supreme Good. Nothing else comes close, for love underlies the creative energy that propels us from birth to death. The withholding of love drives to destruction those deprived of love’s nurturing, its compassion, and its life-giving blessings. This occurs most notably in critical developmental periods during childhood. And it holds just as true for a child in a nursery as it does for an older adult in a hospice.

Our religions, which offer models of righteous living, must put into practice their visions of Godly love, or they risk becoming sidelined, or, worse, irrelevant.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice

My Toughts:

This book had my son waiting by the mailbox...he wanted it so badly. It was delivered to my neighbors house by mistake. So, for three days, he had vainly trudged down our enormous driveway to check mail. LOL. I'm not kidding. We got it from our neighbors this morning and he is almost finished with it. ;-) This is one that I'll have to check out too. I know my husband is next though. SIGH.

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

League of Superheroes

Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)


Stephen Leon Rice is a Christian writer of science fiction and fantasy. He
has three short stories in Light at the Edge of Darkness, an anthology
of Biblical speculative fiction (2007). The three stories reflect his interests:
speculative theology, language, philosophy, and bad jokes. He has
a B.A. in Linguistics and Foreign Languages and an M.A. in English
(Professional Writing and Editing). He works as a freelance journalist,
writer and editor, and he is fond of old books and early Christian thinking.
He also belongs to several writing groups and is known for swift,
accurate edits and critiques. His work emphasizes the need to rely on
God rather than on ourselves and models a Christian worldview.

Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193428405X
ISBN-13: 978-1934284056


It was Allen’s sister Clarice who found the genie that turned the Mad Scientists into superheroes. It wasn’t like it was a stroke of genius or anything, though. At the time we figured it was just dumb luck. Of course, Charlie said different, but he always had to be cosmic about stuff.

Now, if our parents were normal, none of the rest of us—Charlie, Rod, and I—would have been at Allen and Clarice’s house, but our parents seemed to think that if we were going to have a club meeting, we should all be in the same room, not running it over the Net. It’s not like they were all Neandertals or anything; they used the Net as much as we did. But they thought biking over to Allen’s house would build character. Some parents are like that.

It wasn’t a surprise when Clarice burst in on our Mad Scientists meeting—she always found some excuse—but when she said she wanted Allen to override the parental controls for her chat room, well, that was a new one. Allen just looked at her the way he usually did whenever she asked him to delete her name from the school records so she wouldn’t have to go, but this time she wasn’t taking no for an answer. It didn’t stop him from trying.

“Look,” he said, “even if I wanted to change the settings, the main security is at the Web site itself. I’d have to hack their system, and that would probably be a crime. Besides, why do you want to shut off security anyway?”

“There’s a girl who wants to know my real name. She’s really nice, but she’s kind of sad, too. I’d like to cheer her up.”

Houston, we have liftoff, I thought. But this was Allen Peters, not the more obnoxious Rod Davies, and he had almost as much patience as Charlie. So he just sighed and shook his head. But I think we were all wondering what kind of scam Clarice had run into. The police or even the FBI might get involved, and we might get a reward if the guy in the chat room was a real prize. Clarice couldn’t understand that, of course; she was just a kid. So when Rod suggested finding out who the guy really was, she didn’t take it quietly.

“She’s not a guy,” she said. “Her name is Genie. Her handle is Pandora, and there’s some tagline like ‘out of the box.’ She’s real nice.”

“If she was a genie, she’d be out of the lamp,” Rod pointed out. He could be annoying that way, but we didn’t mind as long as he was doing it to her. Actually, I thought about asking if the genie had light brown hair, but then Clarice would have asked why, and I wouldn’t have known, and then I would’ve had to grow old listening to her keep asking why. It wasn’t worth it.

“Look,” Allen said with brotherly condescension, “don’t you remember what Mom and Dad told you about stuff like this? Don’t they pound it into you at school? You never give someone in a chat room your actual name, address, or anything else they can track you with. And Rod’s right, for once: you don’t even know if this ‘Genie’ is a girl. You might be talking with some dirty old man somewhere.”

“Kidchat checks every member,” Clarice protested. “You can’t even join without proving you’re a kid, so it’s safe.”

“Okay, so he’s a dirty old man with a little girl to help him get into places that are kids only.”

“Are you going to look, or just keep lecturing me?”

We all knew that tone. The next step was a full-blown tantrum, and if their folks came in at the wrong moment—which they usually did—we’d all be nailed for child abuse. So we trooped off to her room and had a look.

To begin with, whoever ran the site was sick. People who do kids’ sites are always either edgy or cute, and this guy was trying to do both, which meant that it combined the nausea of cuteness with the speed of attitude. If it was a dirty old man on the other end, he had to be desperate in every sense.

But anyway, there was an anime-type, big-eyed cartoon girl looking out of a cowl. She had a concerned look, no doubt because Clarice had been gone longer than expected. To the right of her, an animated box opened, and the name ‘Pandora’ floated out of it. Pretty good for a kid. The on-screen data gave her age as seven, which made her a couple years below Clarice and about half as old as the rest of us. A speech balloon appeared, and the computer read off the words in one of Kidchat’s user-selectable voices.

“Goodcheer! Are you back yet? Is everything all right?”

“Goodcheer,” yet! Was that Clarice’s idea or a gift from her mom? But Clarice (or “Goodcheer”) plopped down in her chair, fiddled peevishly with her mike, and replied, “I’m back. My brother doesn’t believe you’re really a little girl, so I don’t think he’s going to be any help.”

The cartoon face frowned. “That’s too bad. Can’t you use a riddle or pun as I did to tell you my real name?”

“I don’t think so.”

The face took on a thoughtful expression. Then it said, “Open another window and search for the relevant data. Do a search on your first name, for example; then send me links to the first few pages that come up, and I’ll locate the shared name. Or you may find an actress, model, or character with the same name and refer me to her Web site.”

It was probably just the animation, but I somehow felt like Pandora, or Genie, or whatever his or her name really was, actually did have to think this up. It made no sense at all, though: it was the obvious way to handle the problem, and an experienced pervert would have thought of it long before. But then, he or she was also using words a bit beyond “Genie’s” supposed age level.

“Wait a minute,” Allen said, grabbing his sister’s hand as she reached for the mouse. “We want to know who you really are.”

To our surprise and Allen’s annoyance, his demand was ignored not by Genie but by the Web site itself: his voice wasn’t registered, so Kidchat wouldn’t transmit what he said. The site’s controls were certainly doing their job. Clarice wound up relaying the message, which didn’t help his mood.

“I can’t tell you here,” the cartoon girl replied. “We could go to another chat room.”

“Why didn’t she do that with Clarice and leave us out of it?” Rod asked.

“This is the only chat room I’m allowed to use,” Clarice retorted. “Of course, if Allen wants to use another chat room . . .”

I didn’t think of it at the time, but later on I developed a strong suspicion that this was what Clarice had been after all along. I suppose I should ask her sometime.

Anyway, Allen scowled at the suggestion, but he gave Genie the address of a place where we sometimes had private chats instead of regular club meetings. He had the site located himself a moment later, and sure enough, someone named Genie was there already, and with the same animation and character avatar.

“All right, then, what is your name?” Allen asked.

“My name is Genie,” came the reply. This time it wasn’t a filtered, canned voice—or if it was, it was far better done than Kidchat’s.

“Okay, but how old are you?”

“I am not sure. I do not remember when I was born. Do you remember when you were born?”

If the audio was accurate, this was a genuine question, not sarcasm, and that seemed to bother Allen more than an outright insult would have done.

“Of course not,” he said. “No one remembers when he was born.”

There was a kind of satisfaction in the voice this time. “That is what I thought. First memories occur usually no less than one year after birth.”

“But your parents could tell you when you were born,” Allen said, and he almost seemed to accept that he was speaking to a little girl after all.

“I do not have any parents,” the voice said sadly. “Or at least, if I do, I do not know who they are.”

I can’t answer for Allen, but I was beginning to feel like a bully by then. If this was a man, he was a genius.

“Well, you can talk, though,” Allen persisted, even if he did look a bit embarrassed. “Are you in school?”

“No. I had not thought about schooling as a useful datum, but I do not believe I have ever been to school. Nor do I find reference to plans to send me. I suppose I have private tutors. I do know a lot.”

Allen smiled at this. All kids think they know a lot. “Do you know how much two plus two is?”

“Two plus two is four,” came the answer. “But I can also calculate roots, trigonometric functions—anything mathematical, really.”

Allen glanced back at us helplessly. It didn’t take much to get answers out of a computer, and if hers had a really good calculator available, math was a pointless test. Unless we turned Rod loose on her—but that really would have been child abuse. We needed something else to gauge her knowledge, so I decided to try my hand at fixing her background—and in my case, that meant checking her language proficiency.

“¿Comprende Ud. esto?” I asked. “¿Qué lengua hablo ahora?”

“Ud. habla español,” she answered easily. “¡Qué divertido! Ya no he contemplado—”

“Kore wa nani ga desu ka?”

“Nihongo ga desu. Anata ga rippa na—”

“How many languages do you know?” I asked, interrupting her. Spanish was no big deal, but Japanese was less common. Perhaps she had grown up in an old-fashioned melting pot neighborhood and picked up a smattering of several languages. Her answer dashed that possibility, though.

“The question is ambiguous. I should be able to respond fluently in at least twenty-three languages, and I could probably understand or make myself understood in ninety-two others. In theory, I should be able to identify roughly two thousand languages, though the matter is made more complicated by questions of dialect. For example, I can use Modern Literary Arabic fluently, but my ability at Libyan, Lebanese, or Iraqi Arabic would be rather less impressive.”

“You—you’re joking!” I stammered.

“No, though I am capable of joking. I know seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty-four jokes, with minor variations.”

“Are you sure you’re even human? You talk like a computer in a sci-fi video.”

“I am human,” came the reply, and again the emotion in the audio feed caught me unprepared. She sounded slightly angry and very hurt. It was obviously a sensitive topic, and once more I felt like a bully.

“I’m sorry. We’re just trying to figure out who you are. You don’t sound like any little girl I’ve ever met.” I paused briefly, but she gave no answer, so I continued, “Do you have any other friends?”

“Only Uncle. He is kind to me and always tries to smile for me, though sometimes I think he cries. I cry too, but I cannot do it on the outside, the way he does. Perhaps it does not count if you only do it inside.”

“Sometimes it counts more if you only do it inside,” I said, and maybe I was a sucker, but I had to fight to keep mine inside. A muffled snort from behind me revealed that Rod wasn’t buying it, but at least he wasn’t grilling her either. “Tell me more about your uncle,” I continued.

“He is a nice man. He has gray hair, and he always tries to take time for me. In a way, I guess he is more like a grandfather. I like him. I wonder whether he could be my father—or my grandfather. Anyway, he is the one who hooked me up to the Internet. He said that I needed to get out more. That is why he signed me up for Kidchat. He said that I was not to talk too much to strangers, but Goodcheer is always so kind and friendly. I have learned a lot from her. He was right: it is good to have another girl to talk to.”

“Don’t you go outdoors?” I asked.

“No. I cannot go outdoors. The people here always want me to learn things, not play. Uncle is the only one who plays with me. He is the one who called me Genie and Pandora. He looks so sad. But they are good names. Genie is a regular girl’s name, but I know that he was making a pun on the jinni from Moslem mythology. Jinni are powerful spirits, often held captive to keep them from hurting people or to force them to help people. I do feel like a captive spirit here, though I doubt that I am powerful. And I would not hurt anyone—in fact, I would gladly help people if I knew how. I wish I could make Uncle happy, so he would smile all the time.

“As for Pandora, she was a woman in Greek mythology. Her curiosity led her to open a box and let loose all the miseries that plague mankind. But she also released hope. I do not think that I can release plagues on mankind, but perhaps I can bring hope somehow.”

“Pandora also means ‘all-gifted,’” I said. “Your uncle must think a lot of you to associate you with powerful, gifted beings.”

“Yes,” she replied, and her voice definitely sounded pleased. “The people here call me CHMI, but that is not a pretty name at all. They don’t care about me the way Uncle and Goodcheer do. That’s why I’m glad they don’t know about all I can do. Even Uncle doesn’t know, but he worries so much. I don’t want to trouble him. And I am a good girl.”

“I’m sure you are,” I said, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Wait a minute,” Rod interrupted. “You keep talking about ‘the people here.’ Who are they? And for that matter, where are you?”

“I do not know.” There was definite distress in the voice, and even though Rod was bigger than I was, I thought about giving him a nudge that would bend him over to my size. “I mostly just read. I only recently began to see and hear them. They don’t know that yet. Uncle knows. That’s why he talks to me.”

The tension faded from her voice as she spoke, and I determined to keep it away. “It’s all right, Genie. We know enough about you for the moment. Maybe Allen can help find out more—he’s good with computers. But for now, it’s enough that you’re Genie.”

“Thank you. And who are you?” she asked.

“My name is Tom. Tom Reilly. My friends and I have a club, and we meet at Clarice’s and Allen’s house.”

“What kind of club is it?”

“Well, mostly we just like to hang around together. But we’re interested in science, and we’re a bit unorthodox, so we decided to call ourselves the Mad Scientists. We got the idea from a book.”

“Mad scientists? Do you want to blow up the world or make monsters?”

“Well, we’ve blown up parts of school, and some people say we’re monsters all by ourselves, but . . . Well, I guess you could say we’re good boys in spite of it all.”

Genie laughed. “That sounds like fun. I know a lot about science, too. In fact, that’s what the people here are teaching me. I’ve already learned a lot more than they think. Uncle wants me to act as though I don’t understand. I don’t think he likes them. But I do understand. What are you working on right now?”

The question caught me off-guard, and I said, “We’re playing around with researching . . . well, superheroes, I guess you’d say. You know, the science involved: could someone really do something like they do in comics?”

“Ah, I see. I do not read comics myself, but I have heard of them. I could do a search on the subject.”

Now, I admit that it felt good to be taken seriously (even by a girl) on such an off-the-wall subject, so I volunteered a few sites for her to check when she had a free moment. I had no idea what “a free moment” meant to her. It took very little time to find out.

“This is interesting,” she said a few seconds later, “but also rather confusing. In some ways these people seem to have very little grasp of physics. Yet several of the ideas are intriguing. Were you going to try to replicate these effects yourselves?”

“What do you mean?” Again, I can’t speak for the others, but her question was so unexpected it made her reading speed seem trivial by comparison.

“Superhuman strength and speed, invisibility—what they call ‘super powers.’ It could be challenging.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Rod said. “Technology won’t be able to deal with such things for a century or more.”

“But they aren’t that difficult. For example, I should be able to put together a power suit such as Titan uses in just a week or so, and an invisibility suit such as Darklight uses would only take a week longer, I think.”

“If you can do that, you really are a genie,” I said, trying to glare Rod into silence.

“Thank you,” she replied, clearly quite pleased. “Now, if you will tell me where to have it delivered . . . ”

Monday, November 10, 2008

What keeps the Pearson family busy???

So, you're wondering what keeps the Pearson family busy when we aren't doing blog tour stuff and homeschool? Here is a sample week in pictures...the week of Halloween:

FIRST we had the homeschool swim meet: Pumpkin Splash...

SECOND we went down town for Trick or Treating...Batman and G.I. Joe had a little tussle...

THIRD: Last week of soccer...Tuesday and Thursday. Keegan's team won the season!

FORTH the boys have been watching a little too much Harry Potter. They are now creating them with their Bionicles...see the robot on a Nimbus 2000 catching the snitch?

FIFTH the dogs keep us on our Shih Tzu and one Shih Tzu/Jack Russell. Don't merge the two won't know Jack Shih...never mind.

SIXTH the end result...everyone needs a little rest in peace.