Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting in Shape God's Way by Ron Kardashian

Discover the 4 Keys to Get Fit in Body, Mind & Spirit

· Key #1: Revelation—fitness beliefs—let go of the lies and invade your spirit with the real
· Key #2: Declaration—fitness words—speak the right words to influence your mind, volition, and emotions
· Key #3: Application—fitness function—infuse healthy activity for your whole person
· Key #4: Manifestation—fitness lifestyle—increase your quality of life: spirit, soul, and body

Ron Kardashian begins a national tour to promote and empower anyone and everyone who wants to get in shape – physically, mentally and spiritually.
His new book is paired with a DVD and exercise tubing that can be used to get radical results. The 4 keys also work with any diet or fitness plan.

Discover ancient secrets that break the cycle of fitness failure

In his new book, Getting in Shape God’s Way: 4 Keys to Making Any Diet or Fitness Plan Work, author and fitness expert Ron Kardashian reveals the neglected, ancient secrets to making everything else—proper nutrition, exercise, and other healthy principles—work. Kardashian is a certified strength and conditioning coach and a fitness expert with over a decade of experience who has logged over 11,000 hours of one-on-one consulting in the realm of physical fitness and life development/coaching. The amazing results of his integrated, holistic approach have made him a powerful voice for worldwide change among people of every age, religion, and creed—professionals, CEOs of major companies, diplomatic leaders, clergy, and even royalty.

Getting in Shape God’s Way includes several resources designed to help readers maintain a fitness lifestyle. The fitness plan, complete with photos of Kardashian himself demonstrating proper form, is tailored for beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts. Kardashian also offers a companion workout DVD. The food plan features basic principles for healthy eating, suggested meal ideas, and convenient lists of the healthiest foods and the ingredients to be avoided at all costs. Because the words we speak and the things we put in our mouths determine the direction of our lives, Kardashian also includes a list of “mouth fitness Scriptures” that will keep readers focused.

Painting Revelation--the DVD

I've been meaning to post about this DVD forever. I've finally made up my mind to do it. This was INCREDIBLE. Seriously. If you want to study Revelations, you should buy this DVD. Here's the information I was sent about it. I've watched it with my boys. They thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

A Colorful Way to Come to Grips with the End Times One-of-a-kind DVD study portrays Revelation’s prophecy in a whole new light

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—

Revelation is one of the most difficult books of the Bible. Most of us can’t really picture the images the Apostle John describes. We’re often left scratching our heads: Who are all those strange characters? What do they have to do with my life?

Because Revelation is primarily a vision, we need more than words to understand it—we need pictures. Artist and teacher Debby Topliff has painted the scenes described in the last book of the Bible on a 5 x 7 foot canvas in her Saugatuck, Michigan studio. In the DVD study Painting Revelation: A Visual Exploration of the Last Book of the Bible, Topliff tells the story of Revelation by taking the viewer through 29 scenes from the book. The fascinating—and sometimes frightening—visions described in Revelation are unlocked in unique ways as Topliff depicts the apocalypse of John with a spectacular array of colorfully rendered scenes. The DVD-ROM also includes downloadable study guides and discussion questions for individuals and small groups who wish to spend more time with the book.

Debby Topliff holds a master’s degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. Painting Revelation began as an expression of her own personal study of Revelation. “Several years ago, I challenged myself to dive in and swim around in the murky waters until I could sort things out and ‘take the dragon by the tail.’ When I emerged—with charts and drawings in hand—I thought it would be fun to put what I’d learned down on canvas,” she recalls. The resulting work of art, with its vibrant colors and primitive folk art style, is a modern icon that will speak to children and theologians alike.

Painting Revelation has drawn enthusiastic endorsements from Rob and Kristen Bell, founders of Mars Hill Bible Church; John Ortberg, author and teaching pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church; Brad Long, author and executive director of Presbyterian-Reformed Ministries International; and many other pastors and laypeople who have experienced Topliff’s unique view of the book of Revelation.

The 45-minute DVD is divided into five teaching sessions. Each section begins with a personal introduction filmed in the woods surrounding her Michigan home, then moves into her studio. Though the trend among many Revelation buffs has been attempting to decode every event and predict the likely identities of the characters and nations, Topliff clearly tells the story in words and pictures, much like the Apostle John must have experienced it.

“My intention is to show what the Bible actually says so you can uncover its meaning for your own life and receive the blessing promised to those who read and hear the words of this prophecy and take it to heart,” Topliff says.

In addition to the video, the DVD includes a 2-minute preview, a jpeg photo of the entire painting, a visual key and Scripture guide to the painting, and a 6-week study guide with leader’s guide, discussion questions, charts, and worksheets. The DVD is appropriate for all ages and can be used in a variety of ways.

The DVD Painting Revelation: A Visual Exploration of the Last Book of the Bible ($24.95) is available for purchase through Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and A short clip from the video can be viewed on the website, as well as samples of the study materials.

“Debby is an extraordinary person—she lives with this profound sense that every moment matters, every conversation counts, and God might really be here with us, right here, right now. She reminds me that sometimes prophets use paintbrushes.”
—Rob Bell, author and founding pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Deadly Intent by Camy Tang

What I Thought: Wow. I have loved Camy Tang's writing since I opened up her first book, Sushi for One?. This latest book is just as much fun with twice as much thrills! Yes, I read this one very quickly...just could NOT put it down. Not just a chick-lit book, this is a romantic thriller! Three cheers for Camy! Keep writing, girl. You are super talented.

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:

Deadly Intent

Steeple Hill (July 14, 2009)


Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Originally from
Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she writes full time. She is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in book doctoring.

On her blog, she gives away Christian novels, and she ponders
frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $5.50
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (July 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373443471
ISBN-13: 978-0373443475


Chapter One

The man who walked into Naomi's father's day spa was striking enough to start a female riot.

Dark eyes swept the room, which happened to be filled with the Sonoma spa's staff at that moment. She felt his gaze glance over her like a tingling breeze. Naomi recognized him instantly. Dr. Devon Knightley.

For a wild moment, she thought, He's come to see me. And her heart twirled in a riotous dance.

But only for a moment. Sure, they'd talked amiably— actually, more than amiably—at the last Zoe International fund-raising dinner, but after an entire evening sitting next to her, he hadn't asked for her phone number, hadn't asked for any contact information at all. Wasn't that a clear sign he wasn't interested?

She quashed the memory and stepped forward in her official capacity as the spa owner's daughter and acting manager. "Dr. Knightley. Welcome."

He clasped her hand with one tanned so brown that it seemed to bring the heat of the July sun into the airy, air-conditioned entranceway. "Miss Naomi Grant." His voice had more than a shot of surprise, as did his looks as he took in her pale blue linen top and capris, the same uniform as the gaggle of spa staff members gathered behind her. "It's been a few months since I've seen you."

He still held her hand. She loved the feel of his palm— cool and warm at the same time, strong the way a surgeon's should be.

No, she had to stop this. Devon and his family were hard-core atheists, and nothing good would come out of giving in to her attraction. "What brings you here?"

"I need to speak to Jessica Ortiz."

An involuntary spasm seized her throat. Of course. Glamorous client Jessica Ortiz or plain massage therapist Naomi Grant—no comparison, really.

But something in his tone didn't quite have the velvety sheen of a lover. He sounded almost… dangerous. And danger didn't belong in the spa. Their first priority was to protect the privacy of the guests.

"Er… Ms. Ortiz?" Naomi glanced at Sarah, one of the receptionists, whose brow wrinkled as she studied her computer monitor behind the receptionists' desk. Naomi knew she was stalling—she didn't need to look because she'd checked Ms. Ortiz into the elite Tamarind Lounge almost two hours before.

Naomi's aunt Becca also stood at the receptionists' desk, stepping aside from her spa hostess duties to allow Naomi to handle Dr. Knightley, but Aunt Becca's eyes had a sharp look that conveyed her message clearly to Naomi: the clients' privacy and wishes come first.

Naomi cleared her throat. "Are you her physician?"

Dr. Knightley frowned down at her, but she kept her air of calm friendliness. He grimaced and looked away. "Er… no."

Naomi blinked. He could have lied, but he hadn't. "If you'll wait here, I can see if Ms. Ortiz is available to come out here to see you." If Jessica declined to come out, Naomi didn't want to think what Devon's reaction would be.

His eyes grew stormier. "Couldn't you just let me walk in back to see her?"

"I'm sorry, but we can't allow nonfamily members into the back rooms. And men are not allowed in the women's lounges." Especially the secluded Tamarind Lounge, reserved only for Tamarind members who paid the exorbitant membership fee.

"Naomi, surely you can make an exception for me?" He suddenly flashed a smile more blinding than her receptionist's new engagement ring.

His switching tactics—from threatening to charming— annoyed her more than his argumentative attitude. She crossed her arms. "I'm afraid not." She had to glance away to harden herself against the power of that smile.

"You don't understand. It's important that I see her, and it won't take long." He leaned closer, using his height to intimidate.

He had picked the wrong woman to irritate. Maybe her frustrated attraction made her exceptionally determined to thwart him. Her jaw clenched and she couldn't help narrowing her eyes. "Joy Luck Life Spa has many high-profile clients. If we let anyone into our elite lounges, we'd lose our sterling reputation for privacy and discretion."

"You don't understand how important this is—"

"Dr. Knightley, so nice to see you again." Aunt Becca stepped forward and inserted herself between the good doctor and Naomi's line of vision. She held out a thin hand, which Devon automatically took. "Why don't I set you up in the Chervil Lounge while Naomi looks for Ms. Ortiz?"

Aunt Becca whirled around faster than a tornado. Her eyes promised trouble if Naomi didn't comply. "Naomi."

Aunt Becca's taking charge of the conversation seemed to drive home the point that although Dad had left Naomi in charge of the spa while he recovered from his stroke, she still had a long way to go toward learning good customer relations. Part of her wanted to be belligerent toward Devon just to prove she was in the right, but the other part of her wilted at her failure as a good manager.

She walked into the back rooms and paused outside the door to the Tamarind Lounge, consciously relaxing her face. Deep breath in. Gently open the door.

Softly pitched conversation drifted into silence. Two pairs of eyes flickered over her from the crimson silk chaise lounges in the far corner of the luxuriant room, but neither of them belonged to Jessica Ortiz. Vanilla spice wafted around her as she headed toward the two women, trying to glide calmly, as the daughter of the spa owner should.

"Good morning, ladies. I apologize for the intrusion."

"Is it already time for my facial?" The elderly woman gathered her Egyptian cotton robe around her and prepared to stand.

"No, not yet, Ms. Cormorand. I've come to ask if either of you have seen Ms. Ortiz."

An inscrutable look passed between them. What had Jessica done to offend these clients in only the couple of hours she'd been at the spa? Jessica seemed to be causing the spa more and more trouble recently.

The other woman finally answered, "No, she left about a half hour ago for her massage. I thought she was with you."

Naomi cleared her throat to hide her start. Jessica's appointment was at eleven, in fifteen minutes, not now.

"Yes, doesn't she always ask for you when she comes?" Ms. Cormorand blinked faded blue eyes at her.

Naomi shoved aside a brief frisson of unease. Jessica should be easy to find. "Which massage therapist called for her?"

"Oh, I don't know." Ms. Cormorand waved a pudgy hand beringed with rubies and diamonds. "Someone in a blue uniform."

Only one of almost a hundred staff workers at the spa.

"Thank you, ladies. Ms. Cormorand, Haley will call you for your facial in fifteen minutes." Naomi inclined her head and left the room, trying to let the sounds of running water from the fountain in the corner calm her growing sense of unease.

Where could Jessica have gone? And an even juicier question: Why did Devon Knightley need to speak to her?

She peeked into the larger Rosemary lounge, which was for the use of spa clients who were not Tamarind members. Several women chatted in small groups, but no Jessica Ortiz. Naomi hadn't really expected Jessica to forgo the more comfortable elite lounge, but the only other option was checking each of the treatment rooms individually.

She headed into the back area where the therapy rooms were located, navigating the hallway scattered with teak and bamboo furniture, each sporting East Asian cushions and throws, artfully arranged by Aunt Becca. Had Jessica switched to a different massage therapist? And had someone forgotten to tell Naomi in the excitement of Sarah's new engagement?

As she moved down the hallway, she started noticing a strange, harsh scent suffusing the mingled smells of san-dalwood and vanilla. Not quite as harsh as chemicals, but not a familiar aromatherapy fragrance, a slightly discordant counterpoint to the spa's relaxing perfume.

She knew that smell, but couldn't place it. And it didn't conjure up pleasant associations. She started to hurry.

She first looked into the women's restroom, her steps echoing against the Italian tile. No sound of running water, but she peeked into the shower area. A few women were in the rooms with the claw-foot bathtubs, and a couple more in the whirlpool room, but no Jessica. No one using the toilets.

The mirrored makeup area had a handful of women, but again no Jessica. Naomi smiled at the clients to hide her disappointment and growing anxiety as she entered. She noticed some towels on the floor, a vase of orchids a little askew, and some lotions out of place on the marble counter running the length of the room, so she tidied up as if she had intended to do so, although the staff assigned to restroom duty typically kept things spic and span.

She peeked into the sauna. A rather loud ring of laughing women, but no Jessica.

Back out in the central fountain area, the harsh smell seemed stronger, but she couldn't pinpoint where it came from. Had a sewage pipe burst? No, it wasn't that sort of smell. It didn't smell rotten, just… had an edge to it.

She entered the locker area, although the Joy Luck Life Spa "lockers" were all carved teakwood cabinets, individually locked with keys. The smell jumped tenfold. Naomi scoured the room. Maybe it came from a client's locker? No. Maybe the dirty laundry hamper?


She flipped open the basketweave lid.

And screamed.


Chapter Two

The scream pierced Devon's eardrums. Beside him, Becca Itoh started. The heavy wooden double doors she'd just opened, leading to the men's lounge, clunked closed again as she turned and headed back down the corridor they'd walked.

"Where—?" He kept up with her, but not easily—for a woman in her fifties, she could book it.

"The women's lounge area." She pointed ahead as she hustled closer. "Those mahogany double doors at the end."

Devon sprinted ahead and yanked open the doors. "Stay behind me."

Becca ignored him, thrusting ahead and shouting, "Naomi!" as they entered a large circular entry area with more corridors leading from it. "Naomi!"

A door to their right burst open and Naomi Grant spilled into the entry room. "Aunt Becca!" Her face was the same shade as the cream-colored walls. "There's blood in the women's locker room.”

“Blood?” Becca reached for her as Devon pushed past her into the room she’d just exited.

Despite the urgency, he couldn’t help but be awed by the fountain in the center of a vast chamber with a veined-tile floor. Scrollwork signs on the walls pointed to “sauna” and “whirlpool” and “locker room.” Luckily, no women appeared. He veered right.

He almost wasn’t sure he’d actually arrived in the right place, but the carpeted room lined with teakwood locking cabinets was in line with the luxurious entry hall of what he realized was the women’s bathroom.

The metallic smell of blood reached him. He followed his nose to the basket hamper in the corner, filled with bloody towels. It reminded him of the discarded gauzes from his orthopedic surgeries, bright red and a lot more than the average person saw.

This was not good.

He returned to the two women. Naomi’s hands were visibly shaking, although her voice remained low and calm. “And I couldn’t find Ms. Ortiz.”

Jessica’s name still caused the reflexive crunching of his jaw. But he’d never wanted any harm to come to her—she wasn’t a bad person, they had just clashed too much on personal matters. And now she was missing, and there was an immense amount of blood in the bathroom. Devon’s heart beat in a light staccato against his throat. She had to be okay.

“Where else have you looked?” He scanned the other corridors leading from the fountain entryway. He’d need guidance or he’d get lost in this labyrinth.

“I haven’t checked the therapy rooms yet.” Naomi nodded toward the larger central corridor, which ended at another set of double doors.

He headed toward them when Becca reached out to grab his arm in a bony but strong grip. “You can’t just barge into private sessions.”

“Why not?” He turned to face the two women. “There’s blood in your bathroom and Jessica Ortiz is missing.”

Naomi’s light brown eyes skewered him. “Do you really think it’s wise to cause a panic?”

“And I suppose you have another option?”

“Sessions don’t last more than an hour or ninety minutes. We’ll wait for those to finish—if Jessica’s just in one of those, there’s nothing to worry about. In the meantime, we’ll check all the empty session rooms,” Naomi said.

Becca turned to leave and said over her shoulder, “I’ll check on the schedule at the receptionists’ desk to find out which rooms have clients and when the sessions end. I’ll call you on your cell.”

Naomi turned down a corridor in the opposite direction, this one lined with bamboo tables draped with shimmery, lavender-colored fabric so light that it swayed as they moved past.

It reminded Devon of the papery silks he’d seen in Thailand, giving the spa a soothing and very Asian atmosphere. His heartbeat slowed. Jessica was probably fine and had accidentally taken someone else’s session in her artless, friendly way. She’d emerge from a facial or a manicure in a few minutes and wonder what all the fuss was about.

A group of three therapists turned a corner. They spied Naomi and immediately stopped chatting amongst themselves, although not fearfully—more out of respect that the boss was suddenly in front of them.

“Girls, have you seen Ms. Ortiz?” Naomi’s smile seemed perfectly natural and warm—inviting a rapport with her staff, yet not too cozy. If Devon hadn’t noticed her fingers plucking at the linen fabric of her pants, he wouldn’t have known how anxious she was.

Two of them shook their heads, but the tall blond woman to his left nodded and pointed directly across the corridor. “I saw her talking to Ms. Fischer about an hour ago before Ms. Fischer went in for her manicure.”

His heartbeat picked up. “An hour ago?”

The blonde eyed him with a hard look, but a quick glance at Naomi seemed to allay her suspicions. He had the impression that if her boss hadn’t been by his side, he’d have been thrown out, even if it took all three women to do it.

Naomi was shaking her head. “Ms. Cormorand saw her leave the Tamarind lounge only thirty minutes ago.”

His hopes popped and fizzled.

The blonde jerked her head at the nearby door. “Ms. Fischer is almost done in room thirty-five if you want to talk to her anyway.”

“That’s a good idea. Thanks, Betsy.”

Betsy nodded, and the silent trio headed down the corridor and around the corner.

Copyright © 2009 by Camy Tang

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

What I thought: Kaye is one of my new favorite authors. I usually don't like romance books...I'm more of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy girl, although I do love Regency books. I loved her Regency novel, Ransome's Honor, so I decided to read this book as well. It is a contemporary romance, but it is so well written that I just couldn't put it down! What fun! I highly recommend this author.

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:

Menu for Romance

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)


Kaye Dacus likes to say she writes “inspirational romance with a sense of humor.” She lives in Nashville and graduated from Seton Hill University’s Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. She is an active member and former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her Stand-In Groom novel took second place in the 2006 ACFW Genesis writing competition.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160260455X
ISBN-13: 978-1602604551


“Happy New Year!”

Her thirty-fourth New Year and still no kiss at the stroke of midnight. . .or any other day or time. Meredith Guidry stood in the doorway leading into Vue de Ciel—the cavernous, sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre, Louisiana—and swallowed back her longing as she watched hundreds of couples kiss.

A short burst of static over the earpiece startled her out of her regrets.

“Mere, we’re going to set up the coffee stations and dessert tables.” The executive chef’s rich, mellow voice filled her ear.

She clicked the button on the side of the wireless headset. “Thanks, Major.” Turning her gaze back to the main room, she tapped the button again. “Let’s slowly start bringing the houselights back up. I want us at full illumination around twelve thirty.” She strolled into the ballroom, the floor now covered with shiny metallic confetti, the hundreds of guests milling about wishing each other a happy New Year. Out on the dance floor, a large group of men stood swaying, arms about shoulders, singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the tops of their lungs, accompanied by the jazz band.

“Let’s make sure tables are bussed.” Pressing her finger to the earpiece to speak over the network made her feel like those secret service agents in the movies who were always talking into their shirt cuffs. “I’m seeing several tables with empty plates and glasses.”

She kept to the perimeter of the room, doing her best to blend in with the starlit sky beyond the glass walls, barely repressing the feeling of being the loner, the schoolgirl no one else paid any attention to. . .the woman no man ever gave a second glance.

“You look like a kid staring through a candy-store window, wishing you could go inside.”

Meredith’s heart thumped at the sudden voice behind her. She turned. Major O’Hara grinned his lopsided grin, his chef’s coat nearly fluorescent with its pristine whiteness.

“How’re you holding up?” He squeezed her shoulder in a brotherly way, his indigo eyes gentle.

She sighed. “You know me—I operate on pure adrenaline at these things no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten the night before. So long as I stay busy and don’t slow down, the fatigue can’t catch up with me.”

“And stopping to grab a bite to eat would have meant slowing down?”


Coldness embraced her shoulder when Major lifted his hand away. “I set aside a few take-home boxes for you—and Anne. I told her I’d be sure to save a little of everything.”

Anne. Meredith’s cousin and best friend. Her inspiration and mentor. Owner of a stellarly successful wedding- and event-planning business, Happy Endings, Inc. And friends with Major O’Hara on a level Meredith could never attain.

“If you see George, tell him I’ve been experimenting with that plum pudding recipe he gave me. I’ll need his expert opinion before I can officially add it to my repertoire.”

“I’ll tell him—but you see him more often than I do.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m glad we convinced Anne to fall in love with him. Finally, having another man’s opinion when we’re all working an event together.” He winked.

Meredith quickly turned her eyes toward the milling crowd so he wouldn’t see how he affected her. It would only embarrass him—and mortify her.

He tweaked her chin. “Come on. Back to work for the bosses.”

Over the next hour, Meredith poured herself into her work to try to keep exhaustion at bay. The last few guests meandered out just after one thirty. Meredith turned on all of the lights, their glare on the glass walls and ceiling nearly blinding her. She tasked her staff to stack chairs, pull linen from tables, and clear the room.

She directed the sorting of the rented decorations and materials into different dump sites around the room. Early Tuesday morning, she would meet all of the vendors here to have their stuff carted away so the building maintenance staff could get in for a final cleaning before resetting the room for lunch service.

“Miss Guidry, are these your shoes?” Halfway across the room, one of the black-and-white-clad workers held aloft a pair of strappy, spike-heeled sandals. Meredith’s medium-height, pointy-toed brown pumps rubbed her feet in a couple of places after six hours—but nothing like the pain those sandals would have caused.

“Lost-and-found,” she called over the music throbbing through the room’s built-in PA system. Not what she would choose to listen to, but it kept the staff—mostly college students—happy and working at a brisk clip. That made three pairs and two stray shoes, five purses, sixteen cellular phones, and one very gaudy ruby ring—and those were only the items Meredith had seen herself. Her assistant would be fielding phone calls for days.

Vacuum cleaners roared to life—a wonderful sound as it meant they were getting close to quitting time. A couple of guys loaded the last of the large round tables onto a cart and wheeled it down the hall to the freight elevator, followed by several more pushing tall stacks of dark blue upholstered chairs on hand trucks.

Vue de Ciel expanded in all directions around her. She hugged her arms around her middle. She’d survived another New Year’s Eve Masked Ball—and the eight hundred guests seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely. Hopefully her parents would deem it a success.

The soprano of flatware, alto of china, tenor of voices, and bass rumble of the dish sterilizers created a jubilant symphony that thrilled Major O’Hara’s heart.

Simply from the questions the food-and-wine columnist from the Reserve had asked, the review in the morning newspaper wouldn’t be good. It would be glowing.

“Chef, stations are clean, ready for inspection.” Steven LeBlanc, sous chef, wiped his hands on the towel draped over his shoulder. Though Steven’s white, Nichols State University T-shirt was sweat-soaked—much like Major’s own University of Louisiana–Bonneterre tribute—the kid’s blond hair still stood stiff and tall in mini-spikes all over his head.

Major hadn’t yet been able to find anything that would keep his own hair from going curly and flopping down onto his forehead in the heat and humidity of a working kitchen. Yet asking Steven for hair-styling tips—Major grunted. He’d rather slice his hand open and stick it in a vat of lemon juice.

He followed Steven through the kitchen, inspecting each surface and utensil, releasing some of the staff to clock out, pointing out spots missed to others.

“Civilian in the kitchen,” rang out from one of the line cooks.

Meredith, stately and graceful, light hair set off to perfection by her brown velvet dress—like strawberries served with chocolate ganache—swept into the kitchen, drawing the attention of every man present. If she knew she had that effect on his crew, she would laugh her head off and call them all nuts.

“I’m ready to release my staff, unless you need any help in here.” Meredith came over and leaned against the stainless-steel counter beside him. She even smelled vaguely of strawberries and chocolate. . .or maybe that was just his imagination.

He cleared his throat. “I think we’ve got it covered.”

“Dishwashing station cleared, Chef!”

“See?” He grinned at her.

She graced him with a full smile, then covered her mouth as a yawn overwhelmed her. “I’ll let my guys go, then.” She pressed her hands to the base of her neck and rolled her head side to side. “I’ve got to run down to my office to get my stuff.”

“Why don’t I meet you at your office, since I have to come downstairs anyway?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be fine—”

“Mere. Stop. I will come to your office to walk you to your car. You’re lucky I’m not insisting on driving you home myself.”

Her nutmeg eyes flickered as if she were about to argue; then her smile returned. “Thank you, Major. I’d appreciate that.”

Good girl. “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” He limited himself to once again laying his hand on her shoulder instead of pulling her into a hug. “Go on. I’ll make sure all the rest get clocked out and then shut everything down for the night.”

Meredith nodded and departed. Major rounded up the last few stragglers and watched them run their cards through the computerized time clock. Returning their happy-New-Year wishes, he ducked into his office at the rear of the kitchen, grabbed his dry-cleaning bag along with his duffel, turned off his computer and light, and locked the door.

The brass nameplate winked in the bright kitchen light. Major O’hara, Executive Chef. He grimaced. What pride he’d taken eight years ago when Mr. Guidry had offered him the position—saving Major years of working his way up the chain of command in restaurants.

He heaved the two bags over his shoulder. Meredith’s parents had been better to him than he deserved, had given him the flexibility in his schedule to take care of family matters no other employer would have given. They had also given him their blessing—their encouragement—to strike out on his own, to open the restaurant he’d dreamed of since working for Meredith’s aunt in her catering company throughout high school and college. The restaurant he’d already have, if it weren’t for his mother.

Major shut down the houselights, guilt nipping at his heels. Ma couldn’t help the way she was. The mirrored elevator doors whispered shut, and he turned to stare out the glass wall overlooking downtown Bonneterre from twenty-three floors above.

His descent slowed, then stopped. The doors slid open with a chime announcing his arrival on the fifth floor. Before he could turn completely around, Meredith stepped into the elevator.

“How long were you standing in the hall waiting for one of these doors to open?”

Meredith busied herself with pushing the button for the basement parking garage. “Not long.”

“Not long,” he imitated the super-high pitch of her voice. “You’ve never been a good liar, Mere.”

“Fine.” She blew a loose wisp of hair out of her eyes. “I was out there a couple of minutes. I didn’t want you to have to wait for me. Happy?”

“Not in the least. But I appreciate your honesty.” Due to the tenseness around her mouth, he changed the subject. “Your mom invited me to drop by their New Year’s open house. You going?”

Meredith shook her head. “No.” The simple answer held a magnitude of surprise.

“She said she had something she wanted to talk to me about.”

The porcelain skin between Meredith’s brows pinched. “Hmm. No—I don’t usually go over for the open house, just for our family dinner later. Instead, I’m fixing to go home, sleep for a few hours, and then head over to the new house. I’m planning to get the paint stripped from all the woodwork in the living room and dining room tomorrow.”

“In one day?” Major grunted. Meredith’s new house was anything but: a one-hundred-year-old craftsman bungalow everyone had tried to talk her out of buying. “Wouldn’t you rather relax on your holiday?”

“But working on the house is relaxing to me. Plus, it gives me a good excuse to go off by myself all day and be assured no one’s going to disturb me.”

The elevator doors opened to the dim, chilly underground parking garage. Major took hold of Meredith’s arm and stopped her from exiting first. He stepped out, looked around, saw nothing out of the ordinary, then turned and nodded to her. “Looks safe.”

“Of course it’s safe. You lived in New York too long.” She walked out past him.

“Meredith, Bonneterre isn’t the little town we grew up in anymore. Even before Hurricane Katrina, it was booming.” He stopped her again, planted his hands on her shoulders, and turned her to face him. “Please don’t ever take your safety for granted. Not even here in the garage with security guards on duty. If anything happened to you. . .”

Meredith blushed bright red and dropped her gaze.

“Look, I don’t mean to alarm you. But in this day and age, anything could happen.” He kept hold of her a moment longer, then let go and readjusted the straps of the bags on his shoulder.

Meredith released a shaky breath. “So, what are you going to do on your day off?”

“Watch football.” He winked at her over his shoulder as he approached her Volvo SUV. The tinted windows blocked him from seeing inside. Perhaps he had lived in New York too long. But Bonneterre had changed even in the eight years he’d been back. Crime rates had risen along with the population. And he would have done this for any other lady of his acquaintance, wouldn’t he?

He heard the lock click and opened the driver’s-side door for her—taking a quick peek inside just to make sure that the boogey man wasn’t hiding in the backseat.

“Oh, honestly!” Meredith playfully pushed him out of the way and, shaking her head, opened the back door and heaved her large, overstuffed briefcase onto the seat.

Major moved out of the way for her to get in. “Drive safely, okay?”

“I always do.”

“Call me when you get home. Nuh-uh. No arguments. If you don’t want to call, just text message me—all right?—once you’re in your apartment with the door locked.”

“Hey, who died and made you my keeper?” Meredith laughed.

He didn’t let his serious expression crack. “Just call me safety obsessed.”

“Okay, Major Safety Obsessed.” She leaned into his one-armed hug, then settled into the driver’s seat. “Thank you for your concern. I will text you as soon as I arrive safely home, am safely in my house, with my door safely locked.”

He closed the car door and waved before walking over to Kirby, his beaten-up old Jeep, a few spaces down. As he figured, Meredith waited to back out until he was in with the engine started. He followed her out of downtown and waved again as they parted ways on North Street.

A few fireworks flickered in the distance against the low-hanging clouds. He turned the radio on and tuned it to the Southern Gospel station. Always keyed-up after events, he sang the high-tenor part along with the Imperials. Though it had taken him a while to build the upper range of his voice—having always sung baritone and bass before—when he, George Laurence, Forbes Guidry, and Clay Huntoon started their own quartet, Major had been the only one who could even begin to reach some of the high notes. Sometimes it was still a strain, but he practiced by singing along with the radio as loudly as he could. . .to keep his voice conditioned.

When he pulled into the condo-complex parking lot, his cell phone chimed the new text message alert. He shook his head. Of course she texted instead of calling. He pulled the phone out of the holster clipped to his belt and flipped it open to read the message:

SAFELY home. : - )

happy new year


While Kirby’s engine choked itself off, Major typed out a return message:

home too

sweet dreams


The phone flashed a confirmation that the message was sent, and he holstered it. Grabbing his black duffel from the back, he left the orange dry-cleaning bag to drop off at the cleaners Tuesday.

To blow off some steam and try to relax enough to fall asleep, he turned on the computer and played a few rounds of Spider Solitaire. About an hour later, his whole body aching, eyes watering from yawning every other minute, he grabbed a shower before turning in. At thirty-eight years old, he shouldn’t feel this out of shape—of course, if he still made time to go to the gym every day and didn’t enjoy eating his own cooking as much as he did, he probably wouldn’t be this out of shape. He weighed as much now as he had playing middle linebacker in college. . .except twenty years ago, it had all been muscle.

But who trusted a skinny chef anyway?

Thunder grumbled, and rain pattered against the window. Major kicked at the comforter that had become entangled in his legs during the night and rolled over to check the time.

Eight thirty. What a perfect day to don ratty old sweats, sit in the recliner watching football on the plasma TV, and eat junk food.

If he had a plasma TV. Or any junk food in the condo.

Alas, though, he’d promised Mrs. Guidry he would drop by. Best check the schedule of games, see which he cared least about, and make the visit then. He pulled on the ratty old sweats and an equally ratty ULB T-shirt, though. As he passed down the short hallway, he tapped the temperature lever on the thermostat up a couple of degrees to knock a little of the chill out of the air.

His stomach growled in concert with the thunder outside. The tile in the kitchen sent shockwaves of cold up his legs. Shifting from foot to foot, he yanked open the dryer door, dug through the clothes in it, and found two somewhat matching socks. Sometimes having the laundry hookups here did come in handy, even though they took up more than a third of the space in the small galley kitchen.

The fridge beckoned. Not much there—maybe he should hit the grocery store on the way back from the Guidrys’ open house.

Half an hour later, with the Rose Bowl parade providing ambiance, he sank into his recliner and dug into the andouille sausage, shrimp, potato, mushroom, red pepper, onion, jack cheese, and bacon omelet spread with Creole mustard on top.

Maybe he should consider making a New Year’s resolution to cut back on calories this year. What was missing? Oh, yeah, the grits. He’d left the bowl sitting by the stove.

Halfway to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his breakfast, the phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger as he passed by.


“Mr. O’Hara, this is Nick Sevellier at Beausoleil Pointe Center.”

Major stopped. So did his heart.

“I’m sorry to bother you on a holiday, sir, but your mother has had an episode. She’s asking for you.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1) by Mike Hamel

My thoughts:

I love this series. I've toured it before, but thought you might like a second peek at it. If you know any 8-14 kids, you won't want to miss getting this for them. :-)

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:

The Sword and the Flute (Matterhorn the Brave Series #1)

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


From Mike's Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with over a dozen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed, Executive Influence and Giving Back.

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 35 years, Susan.

In July of 2008 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer—Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of the Diffuse Large B-Cell kind. I started this blog to chronicle my journey toward the valley of the shadow of death. I wanted to de-mystify the disease by sharing what I was learning and experiencing.

After several rounds of chemo I was tumor free for the first few months of 2009, but the cancer has returned so the adventure continues.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of introspective writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

Mike's Blog, OPEN Mike, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please email the author at

His website: Matterhorn the Brave Website is temporarily down.



Personalized Autographs

Matterhorn Readers – In addition to lowering the price on the six books in print, I am making the last two volumes available as e-books for the same low price of $7.

AMG is not going to publish books 7 and 8 but I will no longer keep my readers in suspense while I look for a new publisher.

E-books of volumes 7 and 8 are now available at

#7 – Tunguska Event

Matterhorn and his friends travel to Siberia to try and prevent the largest natural disaster in history: The Tunguska Event! But despite help from a legion of fairy folk, they fail to stop the blast, which hurtles Matterhorn and Nate into the distant past.

The Baron, Jewel, Sara, Kyl, and Elok search through the centuries for their missing friends, taking incredible risks that will leave two of them dead! Queen Bea and Rylan return to First Realm to persuade the Curia to send the elite Praetorian Guard to Earth.

The inevitable showdown comes inside the sealed tomb of the Chinese Emperor Zheng. The future of the human race will be determined by what happens inside this eight wonder of the ancient world.

#8 – The Book of Stories

The thrilling conclusion of the struggle to control Earth’s destiny between the heretics from First Realm and the human Travelers: Matterhorn, the Baron, Nate the Great, and Princess Jewel.

The year is 1983. The setting is Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois; location of the most powerful machine in the world, the Tevatron particle accelerator. The heretics plan to use the Tevatron to make Carik the unchallenged ruler of the planet! Learning of this plot, Matterhorn and his friends must save themselves before they can save the world.

The Book of Stories is full of surprises, including the most important revelation of all—the identity of the Tenth Talis!

Order copies of all eight books by emailing the author at as his website,, is temporarily down.

And spread the word!

~Mike Hamel

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cheat Codes for Life by M. C. Pearson

Well, here's chapter one of my WIP (Work-in-Progress), Cheat Codes for Life. I'm at 12,000 words now. I thought you might enjoy a taste of it. I plan to finish it by the end of summer and start on rewrites in the fall. Hopefully, we can publish this one next year along with F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Be Careful What You Wish For.

Hope you enjoy! Would love to hear what you think. It is in first person, present tense. Let me know if you think it would read better in past tense.

Also keep in mind that this is an unedited version. Thanks!

Chapter One

I’m not your stereotypical make-up crazed, ‘gotta have my cell-phone charged in case he calls’, teenaged girl. So not into the style and gossip scene. If that’s what you’re looking for here, you might as well get a teeny-bopper magazine instead. I’m a gamer. Tomboy to the core, into sci-fi and fantasy. Guess you can blame it on my not having a mom. She died of cancer not long after birthing my Bothersome Baby Brother (The BBB). Being raised by a guy whose claim to fame is that he saw Star Wars: A New Hope on the first day of release after standing in line for six hours in the sun tends to warp a girl. Not that I’m complaining. Okay, I am. But only a little.

“Sarah? Are you coming to your brother’s soccer game or not?” Dad’s voice booms through the house. He must be at the front door.

I pause my typing. “Naw. I have loads of schoolwork to do,” I lie. Well, sort of lie. I do have a pile of unfinished reports and reading, but I do not intend on doing them. Yet.

Corey, the aforementioned BBB, pushes his nosey face into my room. “She’s playing on the computer, Dad.” He sticks out his tongue and runs. As if I’m going to fall for that one. Sheesh.

I quickly type: Where’s the delete key for younger brothers?

Uh-oh. Footsteps are coming down the hall, and they don’t sound like a 7-year-old’s. I shrink the chat room window and flick off the sound. A month-old, unfinished algebra assignment pops up. I keep it there for emergencies such as these.

Dad’s face appears. He looks haggard. Good. Means he won’t ask too many questions. He squints at my computer screen. “Math still giving you trouble?”

“Not too bad. Mrs. Sanders just assigns so much of it.” I sigh pathetically, then point at my real pile of homework. “And English Lit has me doing a paper on Animal Farm.” Note: I haven’t finished reading the stupid book. I mean, really. Who cares about talking pigs in a barnyard?

Dad glances at his watch. I don’t think he’s even heard a word. “All right, sweetheart. The game will last about an hour. Then I’ll run by the pizza place to pick up dinner. We’ll be home around seven-thirty.

I nod. Cool. Two and a half-hours to chat and game. Gotta love the Internet.

Dad walks away. I hear him yell something to Corey about shin guards and a mouthpiece. The door opens and closes. I’m free.

I pull my stringy brown hair into a ponytail, turn the sound back on, and maximize the chat room. Three gamers have already replied. My message is on top of the screen with their comments underneath.

Gamergirl: Where’s the delete key for younger brothers?

Brn2bbad: Just get him into Roving Menace. You’ll never see him again. LOL.

Lnwlf: Some days I wish I had a brother… then I wake up and shiver.

Stan: Go to shamanofthesacredshrine.gam Sending password via e-mail…

Okay, a bit off subject, but I won’t argue about getting a new place to play. I enter the site. Only a black screen with a flashing red cursor.

I hear the beloved ‘ping’ from my inbox. New gaming spot. I’m in. I click on the blue envelope in the right corner of my screen. The message contains only six letters: dltebr. I highlight and right click to copy it.

I paste the password where the cursor flashes and press enter. Strange shapes—stars?—and circles fill the screen. Black, white, and red. Very Gothic. I roll my chair closer.

“Your code has been accepted,” the computer says in a gravelly voice. “Make the world yours… luxuria, gula, avaritia, acedia, ira, invidia, superbia… press the icon you wish to pursue first.”

Seven buttons appear. The first has lips in a kissing pucker. The second has a fork and knife. A dollar sign shows up on the third button. The forth displays three ZZZ’s. Number five looks like old-timey scales. Six is a box with a ribbon around it: a present. An antique hand-held mirror decorates the seventh button. It looks so pretty. I’ve always wanted one of those, reminds me of mom. Choices, choices, choices.

The scales button looks like it had already been selected, highlighted by a darker gray than the other buttons. I decide to investigate by pressing the scales. The screen fades as a new page opens. A man’s voice says, “Ira, 5/6 turns remaining.” The spoken words appear in big red letters near the middle of the screen.

“Huh?” I frown at the screen. “That’s not fair!” Yeah, I sound like Corey, but still. I press the return to choices button on the bottom right corner.

The screen waves in jiggly lines. A question appears as the same gravelly voice asks, “What do you desire?” A cursor flashes red, awaiting my answer.

I type: Explain game rules.

Gravel voice replies, “There are no rules. What do you desire?”

A game without rules. My fingers go quickly: How do I play?

“Input your desires.” Gravel sounds irritated. It freaks me out a bit that his voice says the answers as I read them.

I tap out: What is the purpose of the game?

“To get what you desire.”

I feel like I’m in one of those pre-graphics games that Infocom used to put out. Those ones where you start out in the dark and you have to type in ‘open eyes’ then it gives you some weird description of your surroundings, usually a cave or a labyrinth of some sort. I’m intrigued. Maybe I’m supposed to go through a door?

I type: Look for open door.

Gravel chuckles. Really. He is laughing at me like he’s a real person. “To open doors, input your desire.”

What is he? A philosopher or something? Fine. Okay, I wouldn’t mind being a bit more popular than I am. I’ve always been a tad jealous of Brittany. She seems to have it all: friends, good looks, cute boyfriend…not that I want all that. Well, maybe just a little. Why not? I type: Popularity.

A new screen appears with an IM screen on the bottom. The top is filled with bows. A name appears in the IM box.

“LeviTan: try the code: pplrgl,” a slippery voice says the words.

I feel a chill down my spine. Spooky.

At the flashing red line I type the password.

The seven buttons fade in on the top right corner of the screen. The sixth button, the one with the present, turns dark gray. I press it.

LeviTan’s voice, a very greasy thing, whispers, “Invidia 5/6 turns remaining.”

Aha. So the password takes up a turn. But what does it actually do? I don’t see any change in the game. Maybe I’m not doing it right. I return to the main menu and wait for the IM screen to show. There it is, the red cursor. I type: Show game results.

Gravel is back again. Good. I like his voice a little more than LeviTan’s. That guy reminded me of a snake. “Look around to discover the results.”

Why do I feel like I’m talking to a real person? It’s a game…right? “Look around where?”

“Input your desires.”

Rolling my eyes, they settle on the stack of school assignments. I snicker as I type: I want my homework to be magically finished.

A new IM box appears at the bottom. This one has sheep jumping over a sleeping cartoon guy on a pillow. Some weirdly hypnotic song starts playing. Words pop up and a lazy sounding voice grumpily says, “Belphgr: Type in hmwkdn”

I do it. The button with the ZZZ’s turns a dark gray. Sure enough, when I press it, Grumpy Belphgr says, “Acedia, 5/6 turns remaining.”

Hmm. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions. I go back to the main screen where Stan awaits me in the IM box. I type: Show me what Luxuria means.

My screen darkens and a little movie comes on. The typical guy and girl kissing on the beach, rolling around in the sand kind of thing. When the movie ends, the IM box reappears.

I type: Show me Avaritia.

This time it’s a movie with a woman in a glittery evening gown, lots of jewels, and a mink coat getting into a Porche. Nice ride.

Stan then shows me a movie on Acedia where a guy in a hammock swings and dozes as someone brings him things. I wouldn’t mind that.

Ira is next. Some warlord seeking revenge comes on the screen.

I ask about Invidia. The movie clip is about some chick seeing everyone getting more than she does. In the end, she ends up with it all. Pretty cool.

Superbia’s movie has a guy who hates to be embarrassed and wants to make sure that he is better than everyone else.

Finally I ask about Gula. So much food, desserts, and drinks. Like some all-you-can-eat cooking show.

Yeah, this is getting old. My stomach growls, and I glance at the clock. What? I’ve been piddling around this site for over two hours. That can’t be right. I look at my wall clock. It agrees with my computer. Back at the main screen I type: I’m starving. What I wouldn’t do for a combination pizza, loaded bread sticks, root beer, and a banana split right now.

I’m feeling a bit giddy because this is just the stupidest game I’ve ever been on. I bet it is some Trojan horse deal and some jerk is downloading all my personal information. Too bad I’m a dirt-poor kid. Ha ha.

A loud, almost insanely jolly voice barks out with the message, “Belzbub: A wonderful choice. Type in pzaspt.”

Just because I’m bored, I do it. The fork and knife icon turns a darker shade, and, of course, I press it.

The freakishly happy Belzbub says, “Gula: 5/6 turns remaining.”

Whatever. I’m bummed. I wasted choice gaming time on this crock. I exit, and turn off my computer. Just in time too. Dad’s keys are jingling in the lock. I jump on my bed and grab the nearest assignment from my mammoth pile. I glance it over as I grab for a pencil, but stop in mid stretch. When did I finish this? Hmph. Must’ve been in homeroom. I lift the next assignment. It‘s finished too. What? I grab the entire pile…not an easy feat from a sitting position. It is all finished. Even that dumb Animal Farm report.

Dad’s voice calls out, “Sweetheart? I’m home.”

I smile. Looks like this is going to be a good night after all.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus

What I Thought:

I really enjoyed this Regency Romance. Like another of Harvest House's authors, Linore Rose Burkard, she reminds me so much of Jane Austen. I really couldn't put this one down. The writing was fun, intriguing, and captivating. It was even well researched. The naval stuff was perfect. Gotta love that! Seriously, this one gets a big endorsement from me. The only thing that I don't like about this book is the cover. The girl looks NOTHING like how I picture Julia Witherington. Other than that, I cannot wait to read the next in the series as well as her other books coming out. Kaye Dacus is an author to keep your eyes on.

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:

Ransome’s Honor

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2009)


Kaye Dacus has a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a minor in history, and a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. Her love of the Regency era started with Jane Austen. Her passion for literature and for history come together to shape her creative, well-researched, and engaging writing.

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Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927530
ISBN-13: 978-0736927536


Portsmouth, England
July 18, 1814

William Ransome pulled the collar of his oilskin higher, trying to stop the rain from dribbling down the back of his neck. He checked the address once more and then tucked the slip of paper safely into his pocket.

He took the four steps up to the front door of the townhouse in two strides and knocked. The rain intensified, the afternoon sky growing prematurely dark. After a minute or two, William raised his hand to knock again, but the door swung open to reveal a warm light.

A wizened man in standard black livery eyed William, bushy white brows rising in interest at William’s hat, bearing the gold braid and black cockade of his rank. “Good evening, Captain. How may I assist you?”

“Good evening. Is this the home of Captain Collin Yates?”

The butler smiled but then frowned. “Yes, sir, it is. However, I’m sorry to say Captain Yates is at sea, sir.”

“Is Mrs. Yates home?”

“Yes, sir. Please come in.”

“Thank you.” William stepped into the black-and-white tiled entry, water forming a puddle under him as it ran from his outer garments.

“May I tell Mrs. Yates who is calling?” The butler reached for William’s soaked hat and coat.

“Captain William Ransome.”

A glimmer of recognition sparkled in the butler’s hazy blue eyes. In the dim light of the hall, he appeared even older than William originally thought. “The Captain William Ransome who is the master’s oldest and closest friend?”

William nodded. “You must be Fawkes. Collin always said he would have you with him one day.”

“The earl put up quite a fight, sir, but the lad needed me more.” Fawkes shuffled toward the stairs and waved for William to join him. “Mrs. Yates is in the sitting room. I’m certain she will be pleased to see you.”

William turned his attention to his uniform—checking it for lint, straightening the jacket with a swift tug at the waist—and followed the butler up the stairs.

Fawkes knocked on the double doors leading to a room at the back of the house. A soft, muffled voice invited entry. The butler motioned toward the door. It took a moment for William to understand the man was not going to announce him, but rather allow him to surprise Susan. He turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open.

Susan Yates sat on a settee with her back to him. “What is it, Fawkes—?” She turned to look over her shoulder and let out a strangled cry. “William!”

He met her halfway around the sofa and accepted her hands in greeting. “Susan. You’re looking well.”

Her reddish-blonde curls bounced as she looked him over. “I did not expect you until tomorrow!” She pulled him farther into the room. “So—tell me everything. When did you arrive? Why has it been two months since your last proper letter?” Susan sounded more like the girl of fifteen he’d met a dozen years ago than the long-married wife of his best friend. “Can you stay for dinner?”

“We docked late yesterday. I spent the whole of today at the port Admiralty, else I would have been here earlier. And I am sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot stay long.” He sat in an overstuffed chair and started to relax for the first time in weeks. “Where is Collin? Last I heard, he returned home more than a month ago.”

Susan retrieved an extra cup and saucer from the sideboard and poured steaming black coffee into it. “The admiral asked for men to sail south to ferry troops home, and naturally my dear Collin volunteered—anything to be at sea. He is supposed to be back within the week.” She handed him the cup. “Now, on to your news.”

“No news, in all honesty. I’ve been doing the same thing Collin has—returning soldiers and sailors home. I only received orders to Portsmouth a week ago—thus the reason I sent the note express, rather than a full letter.”

“But you’re here now. For how long?”

“Five weeks. I’ve received a new assignment for Alexandra.”

“What will you do until your new duty begins?”

“My crew and I are on leave for three weeks.” And it could not have come at a better time. After two years away from home, his crew needed some time apart from each other.

“Are you going to travel north to see your family?”

“At the same time I sent the express to you announcing my return to Portsmouth, I sent word to my mother telling her of my sojourn here. When I arrived ashore earlier today, I received a letter that she and Charlotte will arrive next Tuesday.”

“How lovely. Of course, you will all stay with us. No—I will brook no opposition. We have three empty bedchambers. I could not abide the thought of your staying at an inn when you could be with us.”

“I thank you, and on behalf of my mother and sister.”

“Think nothing of it. But you were telling me of your assignment. Your crew is not to be decommissioned?” Susan asked.

“No. I believe Admiral Witherington understands my desire to keep my crew together. They have been with me for two years and need no training.”

“Understands?” Susan let out a soft laugh. “Was it not he who taught you the importance of an experienced crew?”

William sipped the coffee—not nearly as strong as his steward made it, but it served to rid him of the remaining chill from the rain. “Yes, I suppose Collin and I did learn that from him…along with everything else we know about commanding a ship.”

Susan sighed. “I wish you could stay so that I could get out of my engagement for the evening. Card parties have become all the fashion lately, but I have no skill for any of the games. If it weren’t for Julia, I would probably decline every invitation.”

“Julia—not Julia Witherington?” William set his cup down on the reading table beside him. He’d heard she had returned to Portsmouth following her mother’s death, but he’d hoped to avoid her.

“Yes. She returned to England about eight months ago and has become the darling of Portsmouth society, even if they do whisper about her being a ‘right old maid’ behind her back. Although recently, Julia’s presence always means Lady Pembroke—her aunt—is also in attendance.” The tone of Susan’s voice and wrinkling of her small nose left no doubt as to her feelings toward the aunt.

“Does Admiral Witherington attend many functions?”

“About half those his daughter does. Julia says she would attend fewer if she thought her aunt would allow. I have told her many times she should exert her position as a woman of independent means; after all, she is almost thir—of course it is not proper to reveal a woman’s age.” Susan blushed. “But Julia refuses to cross the old dragon.”

“So you have renewed your acquaintance with Miss Witherington, then?” The thought of Miss Julia Witherington captured William’s curiosity. He had not seen her since the Peace of Amiens twelve years ago…and the memory of his behavior toward her flooded him with guilt. His own flattered pride was to blame for leading her, and the rest of Portsmouth, to believe he would propose marriage. And for leading him to go so far as to speak to Sir Edward of the possibility.

“Julia and I have kept up a steady correspondence since she returned to Jamaica.” The slight narrowing of Susan’s blue eyes proved she remembered his actions of a dozen years ago all too well. “She was very hurt, William. She believes the attentions you paid her then were because you wished nothing more than to draw closer to her father.”

William rose, clasped his hands behind his back, and crossed to the floor-to-ceiling window beside the crackling fireplace. His reflection wavered against the darkness outside as the rain ran in rivulets down the paned glass. “I did not mean to mislead her. I thought she understood why I, a poor lieutenant with seeming no potential for future fortune, could not make her an offer.”

“Oh, William, she would have accepted your proposal despite your situation. And her father would have supported the marriage. You are his favorite—or so my dear Collin complains all the time.” Silence fell and Susan’s teasing smile faltered a bit. “She tells the most fascinating tales of life in Jamaica—she runs her father’s sugar plantation there. Collin cannot keep up with her in discussions of politics. She knows everything about the Royal Navy—but of course she would, as the daughter of an admiral.”

A high-pitched voice reciting ships’ ratings rang in William’s memory, and he couldn’t suppress a slight smile. Julia Witherington had known more about the navy at age ten than most lifelong sailors.


“My apologies, Susan.” He snapped out of his reverie and returned to his seat. “Did Collin ever tell you how competitive we were? Always trying to out-do the other in our studies or in our duty assignments.” He recalled a few incidents for his best friend’s wife, much safer mooring than thinking about the young beauty with the cascade of coppery hair he hadn’t been able to forget since the first time he met her, almost twenty years ago.

Julia Witherington lifted her head and rubbed the back of her neck. The columns of numbers in the ledgers weren’t adding properly, which made no sense.

An unmistakable sound clattered below; Julia crossed to the windows. A figure in a dark cloak and high-domed hat edged in gold stepped out of the carriage at the gate and into the rain-drenched front garden. Her mood brightened; she smoothed her gray muslin gown and stretched away the stiffness of inactivity.

She did not hear any movement across the hall. Slipping into her father’s dressing room, she found the valet asleep on the stool beside the wardrobe. She rapped on the mahogany paneled door of the tall cabinet.

The young man rubbed his eyes and then leapt to his feet. “Miss Witherington?”

She adopted a soft but authoritative tone. “The admiral’s home, Jim.”

He rushed to see to his duty, just as Julia had seen sailors do at the least word from her father. Admiral Sir Edward Witherington’s position demanded obedience, but his character earned his men’s respect. The valet grabbed his master’s housecoat and dry shoes. He tripped twice in his haste before tossing the hem of the dressing gown over his shoulder.

She smothered a smile and followed him down the marble staircase at a more sedate pace. The young man had yet to learn her father’s gentle nature.

Admiral Sir Edward Witherington submitted himself to his valet’s ministrations, a scowl etching his still-handsome face, broken only by the wink he gave Julia. She returned the gesture with a smile, though with some effort to stifle the yawn that wanted to escape.

He reached toward her. “You look tired. Did you rest at all today?”

She placed her hand in his. “The plantation’s books arrived from Jamaica in this morning’s post. I’ve spent most of the day trying to keep my head above the flotsam of numbers.”

Sir Edward’s chuckle rumbled in his chest as he kissed her forehead. He turned to the butler, who hovered nearby. “Creighton, inform cook we will be one more for dinner tonight.”

“Aye, sir,” the former sailor answered, a furrow between his dark brows.

That her father had invited one of his friends from the port Admiralty came as no surprise. Julia started toward the study, ready for the best time of the day—when she had her father to herself.

“Is that in addition to the extra place Lady Pembroke asked to have set?” Creighton asked.

Julia stopped and turned. “My aunt asked…?” She bit off the rest of the question. The butler did not need to be drawn into the discord between Julia and her aunt.

The admiral looked equally consternated. “I quite imagine she has somebody else entirely in mind, as I have not communicated my invitation with my sister-in-law. So I suppose we will have two guests for dinner this evening. Come, Julia.”

Once in her father’s study, Julia settled into her favorite winged armchair. A cheery fire danced on the hearth, fighting off the rainy day’s chill. Flickering light trickled across the volumes lining the walls, books primarily about history and naval warfare. She alone knew where he hid the novels.

He dropped a packet of correspondence on his desk, drawing her attention. She wondered if she should share her concern over the seeming inaccuracy of the plantation’s ledgers with her father. But a relaxed haziness started to settle over her mind, and the stiffness of hours spent hunched over the plantation’s books began to ease. Perhaps the new steward’s accounting methods were different from her own. No need to raise an alarm until she looked at them again with a clearer mind.

She loved this time alone with her father in the evenings, hearing of his duties, of the officers, politicians, and government officials he dealt with on a daily basis while deciding which ships to decommission and which to keep in service.

The sound of a door and footsteps in the hallway roused her. “Papa, how long will Lady Pembroke stay?”

Sir Edward crossed to the fireplace and stoked it with the poker. “You wish your aunt to leave? I do not like the thought of you without a female companion. You spend so much time on your own as it is.”

“I do not mean to sound ungrateful. I appreciate the fact that Aunt Augusta has offered her services to me, that she wants to…help me secure my status in Portsmouth society.” Julia stared at her twined fingers in her lap.

“It seems to have worked. Every day when I come home, there are more calling cards and invitations on the receiving table than I can count.” Going around behind his desk, he opened one of the cabinets and withdrew a small, ironbound chest. With an ornate brass key, he unlocked it, placed his coin purse inside, secured it again, and put it away.

“Yes. I have met so many people since she came to stay three months ago. And I am grateful to her for that. But she is so…” Julia struggled for words that would not cast aspersions.

The admiral’s forehead creased deeply when he raised his brows. “She is what?”

“She is…so different from Mama.”

“As she was your mother’s sister by marriage only, that is to be expected.”

Julia nodded. To say anything more would be to sound plaintive, and she did not want to spoil whatever time her father could spare for her with complaints about his sister-in-law, who had been kind enough to come stay.

Sir Edward sat at his desk, slipped on a pair of spectacles, and fingered through the stack of correspondence from the day’s post. He grunted and tossed the letters back on the desk.

“What is it, Papa?”

He rubbed his chin. “It has been nearly a year…yet every night, I look through the post hoping to see something addressed in your mother’s hand.”

Sorrow wrapped its cold fingers around Julia’s throat. “I started writing a letter to her today, forgetting she is not just back home in Jamaica.”

“Are you sorry I asked you to return to England?”

“No…” And yes. She did not want her father to think her ungrateful for all he had done for her. “I miss home, but I am happy to have had this time with you—to see you and be able to talk with you daily.” Memories slipped in with the warmth of the Jamaica sun. “On Tuesdays and Fridays, when Jeremiah would leave Tierra Dulce and go into town for the post, as soon as I saw the wagon return, I would run down the road to meet him—praying for a letter from you.”

His worried expression eased. “You looked forward to my missives filled with nothing more than life aboard ship and the accomplishments of those under my command?”

“Yes. I loved feeling as if I were there with you, walking Indomitable’s decks once again.”

His sea-green eyes faded into nostalgia. “Ah, the good old Indy.” His gaze refocused and snapped to Julia. “That reminds me. An old friend made berth in Spithead yesterday. Captain William Ransome.”

Julia bit back sharp words. William Ransome—the man she’d sworn she’d never forgive. The man whose name she’d grown to despise from its frequent mention in her father’s letters. He had always reported on William Ransome’s triumphs and promotions, even after William disappointed all Julia’s hopes twelve years ago. He wrote of William as if William had been born to him, seeming to forget his own son, lost at sea.

Her stomach clenched at the idea of seeing William Ransome again. “He’s here, in Portsmouth?”

“Aye. But not for long. He came back at my request to receive new orders.”

“And where are you sending him, now that we’re at peace with France?” Please, Lord, let it be some distant port.

Sir Edward smiled. “His ship is to be in drydock several weeks. Once repairs are finished, he will make sail for Jamaica.”

Julia’s heart surged and then dropped. “Jamaica?” Home. She was ready to go back, to sink her bare toes into the hot sand on the beach, to see all her friends.

“Ransome will escort a supply convoy to Kingston. Then he will take on his new assignment: to hunt for pirates and privateers—and if the American war continues much longer, possibly for blockade-
runners trying to escape through the Gulf of Mexico. He’ll weigh anchor in five weeks, barring foul weather.”

Five weeks was no time at all. Julia relaxed a bit—but she started at the thump of a knock on the front door below.

“Ah, that must be him now.” Sir Edward glanced at his pocket watch. “Though he is half an hour early.”


“Aye. Did not I tell you? Captain Ransome is joining us for dinner.”