Friday, February 26, 2010

Bailey’s Cave Adventures by Nina Meier

What I Thought:

I have to say that I am totally biased about this book. It is written by one of my very best friends on earth. Nina and I see each other about twice a week to dance, discuss writing, and play together. So, now that you know that Nina is an AWESOME person, you can now find out that she is also an AWESOME writer.

Nina has made a wonderfully cute and spiritually wise curriculum for Homeschool, VBS, and/or Sunday School. It is for children aged 2-8 years old. The characters are charming, the snacks and activities are creative, and the Biblical lessons are divine. She incorporates the scripture throughout the play (puppet show/skits) and she has a section for studying the verses. Cute coloring pages are included.

If you homeschool or are involved in children's ministry, this book is for you!

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:

Bailey’s Cave Adventures

Tate Publishing (August 5, 2008)

***Special thanks to Nina Meier for sending me a review copy.***


New author Nina Meier is an incredibly talented preschool Sunday school and VBS teacher, having 10 years’ experience in her own church doing just that. Ask anyone under the age of 5 about Miss Nina’s handmade green lizard bag that holds her lessons on love and respect for God’s creation, each other, and ourselves. With fresh, new ideas always at her fingertips, even at a moment’s notice, no child is ever bored in her class, and she is able to laugh and dance them through a Bible lesson effortlessly.

Nina has been enjoying a career in Medical Transcription for the past 15 years, having gone back to school when her 2 sons were both in college. Her husband is a talented wood craftsman and has, on many occasions, brought her VBS ideas to life. He also builds sets for church plays that are of professional quality.

Many of Nina’s lessons on missions come from firsthand experience on the field during short-term mission trips to West Virginia, the interior of Mexico, Moldova near Romania, the Gulf Coast, and an Indian reservation in Ontario, Canada.

With such multi-faceted talent, anything this new author puts her pen to is a guaranteed winner!

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Tate Publishing (August 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1604628766
ISBN-13: 978-1604628760


Bailey’s Cave Adventures

Video/Puppet Show

Scene 1 – Day 1: Bailey comes flying and crashing into the room. When dust settles, you can see him more clearly.

Bailey: “Hi boys and girls, my name is Bailey, and I’m a brown bat. Bet you never saw a bat who was always flying into things! That’s because most bats have sonar. Let me explain what that word means. Bats can see with sound better than light. They send out a sound so high-pitched that human ears can’t hear it! The sound bounces off whatever is in front of them, and comes back to their ears. This happens really fast. That’s how they find food, and keep from flying into things.”

“Well, something went wrong when I was born, and my sonar has never worked! Anyway, it’s okay because my Mom and Dad gave me a seeing-eye dog, you know, the kind blind people use, and he helps me get around, and keeps me from falling, when he’s with me. Sometimes I try to go off on my own and, well, you can imagine. He’s my best friend! Would you like to meet my dog? (Yes!) OK. Here Radar, where are you boy?”

Out from under a curtain Bailey knocked down comes a large black Lab wearing a harness w/handle.

Radar: “I see you’re doing okay, no lumps or bumps? Well, climb on up and grab hold of my harness. I have a few things to tell these boys and girls here.”

Bailey climbs up on Radar’s head, to the harness, hangs onto the handle upside down with a sigh of relief, and falls asleep.

Radar turns to audience and says, “My job is to keep Bailey on the right path, and warn him of danger. Sometimes he listens, other times he goes off on his own without even seeing where he’s going. He has to learn to trust me completely. That’s like what the Holy Spirit does for you. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “ ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’ ”

Bailey wakes up.

Bailey: “Radar, I almost forgot. While I was out flying”--Radar whispers to the audience, “And crashing”-- “I heard some kids talking about going spelunking, that’s cave exploring, and someone who does that is called a spelunker. Anyway, I was thinking I’d make a great spelunker, and I’ve never been very far into the cave, I could go all the way down to the dark zone! It would be a real adventure!” (Getting excited).

Radar: “Now hold on Bailey, that sounds pretty dangerous to me. I’d feel a lot better if you let me go with you.”

Bailey: “Sure, okay, that’d be fun, who’s going to carry the flashlight?” (Turns to audience). “Could you help us with flashlights boys and girls?” (Yes!) “Great, let’s get ready to go then!”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore

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:

So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 2, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Over the past decade, Beth Moore has become an internationally known and respected Bible teacher, teaching over 250,000 women annually in Living Proof Live Conferences and regularly sharing God’s Word with an interdenominational community at her church in Houston; teaching the Bible on the nationally syndicated Life Today with James Robison; and through her best-selling books and Living Proof radio program.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.99

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 2, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1414334729

ISBN-13: 978-1414334721


Mad Enough to Change

I’m seriously ticked. And I need to do something about it. Some people eat when they’re about to rupture with emotion. Others throw up. Or jog. Or go to bed. Some have a holy fit. Others stuff it and try to forget it. I can do all those things in sequential order, but I still don’t find relief.

When my soul is inflating until my skin feels like a balloon about to pop, I write. Never longhand, if I can help it. The more emotion I feel, the more I appreciate banging on the keys of a computer. I type by faith and not by sight. My keyboard can attest to the fact that I am a passionate person with an obsession for words: most of the vowels are worn off. The word ticked really should have more vowels. Maybe what I am is peeved. That’s a good one. How about irrationally irritated to oblivion? Let that one wear the vowels off a keyboard.

The thing is, I’m not even sure exactly who I’m ticked at. I’m hoping to find that out as I hack away at these chapters. One thing is for certain. Once I figure it out, I probably won’t keep it to myself. After all, you know how the saying goes: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And I’m feeling scorned.

But not just for myself. I’m feeling ticked for the whole mess of us born with a pair of X chromosomes. My whole ministry life is lived out in the blessed chaos of a female cornucopia. I’ve been looking at our gender through the lens of Scripture for twenty-five solid years, and I have pondered over us, taken up for us, laid into us, deliberated over us, prayed about us, lost sleep because of us, cried for us, laughed my head off at us, and gotten offended for us—and by us—more times than I can count. And after a quarter of a century surrounded by girls ranging all the way from kindergarteners to those resting on pale pink liners inside caskets, I’ve come to this loving conclusion: we need help. I need help. Something more than what we’re getting.

The woman I passed a few days ago on the freeway who was bawling her eyes out at the steering wheel of her Nissan needs help. The girl lying about her age in order to get a job in a topless bar needs help. The divorcĂ©e who has loathed herself into fifty extra pounds needs help. For crying out loud, that female rock star I’ve disdained for years needs help. When I read something demeaning her ex said about her recently—something I know would cut any female to the quick—I jumped to her defense like a jackal on a field mouse and seriously wondered how I could contact her agent and offer to mentor her in Bible study.

Several days ago I sat in a tearoom across the table from a gorgeous woman I love dearly. She has been married for three months, and they did all the right things leading up to that sacred ceremony, heightening the anticipation considerably. After an hour or so of musing over marriage, she said to me, “Last weekend he seemed disinterested in me. I’ll be honest with you. It kind of shook me up. I wanted to ask him, ‘So, are you over me now? That quick? That’s it?’”

I’m pretty certain her husband will perk back up, but what a tragedy that she feels like she possesses the shelf life of a video game.

I flashed back to another recent communication with a magazine-cover-beautiful thirty-year-old woman who mentioned—almost in passing—that she has to dress up in costumes in order for her husband to want to make love to her. I’m not knocking her pink-feathered heels, but I wonder if she is paying too much for them. I’m just sad that she can’t feel desirable as herself.

Then yesterday I learned that a darling fifteen-year-old I keep in touch with slept with her boyfriend in a last-ditch effort to hold on to him. He broke up with her anyway. Then he told. It’s all over her high school now.

I’ve got a loved one going through her third divorce. She wants to find a good man in the worst way, and goodness knows they’re out there. The problem is, she keeps marrying the same kind of man.

I’m so ticked.

If these examples were exceptions to the rule, I wouldn’t bother writing, but you and I both know better than that. I hear echoes of fear and desperation from women day in and day out—even if they’re doing their best to muffle the sound with their Coach bags. Oh, who am I kidding? I hear reverberations from my own heart more times than I want to admit. I keep trying to stifle it, but it won’t shut up. Something’s wrong with us for us to value ourselves so little. Our culture has thrown us under the bus. We have a fissure down the spine of our souls and, boy, does it need fixing.

This morning while I was getting ready for church, my cell phone nearly vibrated off the bathroom counter with six incoming texts from a single friend who was having a crisis of heart. I answered her with what little I had to give, even as I grappled with my own issues. I decided that what I needed was a good sermon to keep me from crying off my eyeliner, so I flipped on the television to a terrific local preacher. Lo and behold, the sermon was about what a woman needs from a man.

Deep sigh.

Actually, it was a great message if anyone had a mind to do what he was recommending, but knowing human nature and feeling uncharacteristically cynical, I could feel my frustration mounting. The preacher had done his homework. He offered half a dozen Scripture-based PowerPoint slides with state-of-the-art graphics describing what men should do for women. “Women want to be told that they are captivating. That they’re beautiful. Desirable.”

I won’t deny that. What woman wouldn’t thrive under that kind of steady affirmation?

But here’s my question: What if no one tells us that? Can we still find a way to be okay? Or what if he says it because he’s supposed to, but to be honest, he’s not feeling it? Are we hopeless? What if a man is not captivated by us? What if he doesn’t think we’re particularly beautiful? Or, understandably, maybe just not every day? Are we only secure on his “on” days? What if he loves us but is not quite as captivated by us as he used to be? What if his computer is full of images of what he finds attractive, and we’re light-years from it? What if we’re seventy-five, and every ounce of desirability is long behind us? Can we still feel adequate in our media-driven society?

Adapted from So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore. Copyright © 2010 by Beth Moore. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

What My Husband Thought:

Although I'm not finished yet, I love this book even more than the first two. It brings together the events and characters from the first two books into one. This is my favorite Christian fantasy book so far, with the exception of Stephen Lawhead's The Song of Albion trilogy.

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:

Raven's Ladder

WaterBrook Press (February 16, 2010)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


Jeffrey Overstreet is the skilled author of Auralia’s Colors, twice-nominated for a Christy Award, and Cyndere’s Midnight. His award-winning film reviews have appeared in Image, Books and Culture, Paste, and Christianity Today, and his “moviegoer’s memoir” Through a Screen Darkly is a popular exploration of faith and film in the U.S. and Europe. His website––––draws many thousands of readers each month. Jeffrey has recently spoken to large audiences in bookstores and universities across the U.S. and The Netherlands, including recent appearances at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing. Jeffrey and his wife Anne live in Shoreline, Washington.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (February 16, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074673
ISBN-13: 978-1400074679




Auralia reached out to Cal-raven. As he approached, the flame of the candle he carried flapped like a flag in a hard wind.

Her smile was mysterious, just as he remembered it. That detail had proved most difficult. Other aspects had come easier as his hands sculpted the stone. Her humble stature. The tiny knob of her chin. Her feet—ten small toes emerging like a row of beads beneath a leafy skirt.

Cal-raven was not a tall man, and yet Auralia, slight for sixteen, had stood only to his shoulder. He could see her open hands pressing through the span of fabric that she offered to any visitor.

Almost a year had passed since he’d found her in the Abascar dungeon, wrapped in a magnificent cloak. Their fleeting conversation was burned in his memory more vividly than yesterday. Unflinching, Auralia had voiced her faith in phantoms dreamed and legends whispered––like the Keeper, that benevolent creature who haunted dreams, a silent guardian, a listener.

Cal-raven had sculpted, erased, and then reshaped Auralia’s lips, her eyebrows with their question pinched between them, her whole face filled with trembling hope that others would receive and understand her vision. She had been more than human. Or better, she had been more fully human than anyone around her.

The king’s hunting hound, his golden tail wagging, sniffed at the statue’s ankles. “Hagah.” The dog slumped down to the floor and sighed, resigned to wait.

That fabric the statue held––Cal-raven had not even tried to give it the textures and colors of Auralia’s cloak. How could he? Its threads had glimmered with colors no eyes in Abascar had ever seen.

“Tell the Keeper,” he whispered, “that I don’t know where to go from here.” He ran his fingertips along the span that spilled like a waterfall from her upturned hands. “When I was a child, I’d have called out myself. It was easier then to believe.”

Auralia’s expression did not change; it would not unless he changed it. Her polished eyes would not return his gaze for, in the tradition of House Abascar portraiture, they lacked detail. While each statue in the cavern was distinct––the beloved and the burdensome, the wise and the foolish, the soldiers and the miscreants––they shared that same indecipherable gaze, an affirmation of something altogether unnamable, inimitable. The mystery of the heart.

Embarrassed at his habit of addressing this likeness, he knuckle-knocked Auralia’s forehead. “Last visit. Watch over these worn-out people for me, will you?”

Something shifted in the cavern behind him. Hagah lifted his head and followed his master’s gaze through the long rows of statues.

“Wynn?” Cal-raven waited.

Hagah’s huge black nose emerged from flabby rolls of fur and sniffed. Then the dog set his chin back down on the ground.

“You’ll catch our pesky shadow in a dream, won’t you?” Cal-raven said, but he gave another look back.

Why am I so agitated tonight? he wondered.

Because some of them are turning against you, replied his father’s ghostly voice. It’s been almost a year. You’ve mentioned New Abascar, but you still haven’t shown them a plan.

The statues that crowded the Hall of Remembering listened. These extravagant stone monuments gave shape to Cal-raven’s promise that he would never let his people forget the lessons they’d learned and that they would build a new house to honor those lost in Abascar’s cataclysm.

But the name grudgers, once given to those who had rebelled against their previous king’s oppressive ways, now applied to people distrustful of Cal-raven. Grudgers objected to his embrace of the foolish along with the wise; his equal concern for the weak and the strong; his insistence that every person, no matter how “useful,” be fed and shown the care of their healer. Moreover, grudgers grumbled about the way Cal-raven gambled their futures on possibilities revealed to him in dreams.

Tonight Cal-raven had taken the fire walk. Lesyl’s turn had come, but he had offered to patrol the passages for her. He wanted to hear her sing the Evening Verse one last time before his departure the next sundown.

“I’ve written a piece that can only be played by two, ”Lesyl had said when the fire walk brought him to the chamber of Auralia’s gallery. Sitting against the wall decorated by an array of colorful weavings, she tuned the twelve stringed tharpe, a formidable, sonorous instrument. She seemed relaxed, even happy, and oblivious that this was a farewell.

“Here.” She picked up a wooden spiral. “You remember how to play the hewson-pipe, don’t you? Oh, come now, don’t tell me you lack the time. You need the practice. ”When he did not approach, she persisted. “Scared?”

“No,” he laughed. Yes, he thought.

He had torn himself away from that conversation to continue the fire walk for fear of losing his fragile restraint. Not now. Not yet.

So while she sang, he paced that routine progress, ensuring that torches would not spark any mishaps, that candles burned within the spheres prescribed, that everything was in its right place.

He had led these survivors through a hostile winter and a dispiriting spring. Just as they had begun to define a possible departure, a visit from the mage sent him scrambling in another direction. Tomorrow he would slip away and venture north to pursue the vision his teacher had given him.

The day will come, Cal-raven, when you’ll have no choice but to leave Scharr ben Fray’s imagination behind and live in the real world. His father’s fury buzzed in his ear like a skeeter-fly. If you don’t, the ground will crumble beneath you.

Facing his father’s likeness, Cal-raven felt his throat tighten. “Whose inventions plunged into the earth?”

Listen to me, boy!You’re too old for toys.Who will lead the people when I’m gone? Someone whose head is full of children’s stories?

“Show me someone better prepared for the task,” he said. “I do not enjoy the burdens you’ve left me. ”He took the shield from where it was draped over the shoulder of the king’s likeness.

The statue’s lips were parted, and a strange feeling of discomfort crept up Cal-raven’s spine. He did not know what scared him more—the thought of the stone speaking or the thought that his dreams might prove false.

Hagah’s inquisitive nose bumped the edge of Cal-marcus’s shield, and he woofed.

“You’re not waiting for him anymore, are you?”

A rough tongue exploded from the hound’s expansive smile, and his tail thumped against the floor.

“You’ve given up on them both.” Cal-raven’s gaze strayed to the statue of his mother. The runaway.

It was a good likeness, or so he’d been told. Jaralaine’s appearance seemed an echo lost in time’s clamor. But troubled scowls from older folk told him that they recognized this imperious beauty. He did remember occasional tenderness and sighs of insatiable loneliness before her disappearance. He also remembered a fury against any suggestion of a will greater than her own.

He found himself suspended between the gravity of these statues and the forested world beyond, which called to him like a feast to a starving man.

“We’re all ready to be runaways now, Mother. If we don’t leave soon, the bonds that bind us will break.”

Hagah sniffed the base of the queen’s statue.

“No!” Cal-raven shouted.

Disappointed, the dog lumbered off through the rows to settle on the lanky figure of a hunter known by his nickname—Arrowhead.

Go ahead, Cal-raven thought. Arrowhead was a grudger. He threatened my father’s life. Wouldn’t hurt him to take some abuse for a change.

Hagah would have merrily complied, but the sound of something slithering sent him bounding back to Cal-raven’s boots, fangs shining beneath his retracting lip. Cal-raven blew out and dropped the candle, held his father’s shield close, and knelt to withdraw the throwing knife at his ankle.

There was only silence. Cal-raven tiptoed through the statues, Hagah stalking low before him.

The dog led him to the western wall, where a corridor ran along the inside of the cliff. Hagah put his snout down to a crack in the floor, noisily drawing in air. His tail stopped wagging.

“What have you found, boy?”

Hagah stiffened. Then he began to back away from the fissure, a low, rolling growl changing into a worried squeal.

“Something nasty?” Scars like burns from rivulets of hot oil marked the floor all about the break. “Let’s go. This place is giving me jitters tonight.”

A puff of wind touched his ear and then––thung! He turned to see an arrow embedded in the wall beside his head.

He sprang forward, leaping over the dog, and ran through the corridor. Down the stairs. Through tiers of tunnels.

In the distance Lesyl sang the Evening Verse. But his pursuer—pursuers, he could hear their footsteps now—did not falter.

Hagah turned around snarling. “No!” Cal-raven knew the dog was no match for an arrow. “Run, boy!” He pointed, and the dog bolted ahead just as he had been trained.

Cal-raven did not follow. He faced the rugged wall, placing his hands against the rock. His fingertips sought hidden inconsistencies, and finding those points, he applied pressure and heat in a way he could never explain.

The stone awakened, rippling in a sudden wind.

Cal-raven’s body clenched like a fist, forcing energy out through his hands. Then he pressed himself through the wavering curtain.

A midsummer evening’s breeze cooled his burning face as the sand sealed itself behind him.

The grudgers are out of patience. He brushed grit from his garments. It would not take long for his hunters to find their own exit. They were watching.Waiting for me to be alone.

“Keeper, protect me,” he murmured. Crouching, he moved away from the cliffs into narrow paths through thorn-barbed thickets that blanketed the plains.

Several turns into that maze, he sat down to catch his breath. I must get back inside where it’s crowded.

He thought about standing up and calling for the guards on the tiers above. But they would not see him here in the brake. And what else might come in answer?

A strange wind moved through the shallow sea of thorns. Bramble bugs skrritch-skrritched across the plains. Something wriggled under his foot. He set his father’s shield aside, tugged off his boot, and shook loose a rock spider.

He looked up through the brambled frame. A shooting star scratched a line across the night’s black dome. As if excited by the mysterious sign, faraway wood dogs shrieked in song.

When he jerked his sleeve free of a bramble and stood, his rustling stirred up a cloud of twilight-suckers. These insects were always a help to hunters, for they uttered tiny shrieks of delight as they descended on fresh dung or carrion.

Sure enough, as the pest cloud dissipated, he saw two copper coins. He knew that reflective stare from a hundred hunts. A lurkdasher. A year ago the sight of this swift, bushy-tailed creature would not have surprised Cal-raven. Lurkdashers were common burrowers in beds of brush. But Abascar’s best hunters had been catching little more than weakened scavengers, rodents lean for lack of prey. Across the Expanse the land had gone quiet, as if emptied by some mass migration.

If Cal-raven had been out for any other purpose, he’d have thrown his knife so fast the dasher would have fallen mid sprint. But he stayed still. Something wasn’t right.

The lurkdasher vanished. Cal-raven stood in the quiet, just another secret in this complicated night.

Then he felt a chill. He could sense a presence, fierce and intent.

He turned his head slightly and drew in a deep breath. Only a stone’s throw to his right an enormous animal, many legged, lurked in the thick web of boughs. He held that breath and waited, eyes slowly translating the contours of darkness and deeper darkness all around him.

Like a mighty hand, the creature clutched the ground, tensing knuckled legs. The bushes around it shivered as the lurkdasher stole away, and like a spider the creature raised two of its front legs from the brambles, bracing the other five against the ground. It was as big as a fang bear. Cal-raven felt a faint tremor. Then he heard a hiss, and the creature shifted its weight slightly, turning those raised limbs toward him.

Considering the sword at his side, he flexed his hand.

A crush of branches sounded to his left. His heart fluttered, a trapped bird, frantic. He turned and saw the second creature—the very same kind—with its feet planted as if it might pounce. In terrified confusion he saw the wind disturb a canvas that the creature drew behind it, a dark black sheet covering the thorns.

He did not know these monstrosities. They looked like they could outrun a viscorcat. And the forest was a long, long run ahead of him through a narrow, winding passage that he could not see clearly. But the cliffs—he might just make it back to the wall. The solid stone wall.

Ever so slowly he planted his hand on the hilt of his sword. He stepped backward, placing his foot down soundlessly.

The creatures stood as still as sculpted metal.

He took another step, drawing his sword half out of its scabbard. No, he thought. The starlight. They’ll see the reflection.

At his third step the creature on the right planted its two raised feet down on the ground, digging in as if it might spring.

He heard movement behind him and felt a blast of air like a bellows. His feeble hopes went out. But something deeper than his mind, stronger than his will, unleashed a cry. He called out, as he had so many times in nightmares, for the Keeper.

The creatures leapt from the brambles and seized him. His sword never escaped the scabbard.

He had a moment to think of Lesyl, interrupted in her song, looking up to receive unexpected news, the hewson-pipe coiled beside her.

Hot limbs wrapped around him, and his feet left the ground. The creatures were shelled, bone-tough, their bellies cushioned with bundles of hair. He struggled, limbs flailing. He was falling skyward, upside down. The pressure did not increase. Nothing pierced or stung or bit. The ground, faintly chalked in moonlight, spread like the sky over his head, and beyond his feet the heavens glittered like Deep Lake at midnight. The creatures held him suspended, their vast canvases snapping in the wind as if they were wings.

And then he saw that they were wings, spread out from a towering creature.

His captors were not animals at all but hands. He hung unharmed in the clawed clutches of a monster and was carried up toward its massive equine head.

Its eyes, glassy spheres full of stars, were fixed upon the northern horizon. Flames lined its nostrils. Its mane wavered as if it were creating, not surrendering to, the night wind. And the scales on its golden neck caught more than moonlight.

A helpless toy in its hands, he watched its attention turn to him, and his fear turned to confusion.

He recognized this creature. This shape had been fixed in his mind since he first drew breath. It had moved at the edges of his dreams. In nightmares it had come when he cried out for help, and sometimes when he could not call at all. During the long days of learning, he had pillaged his father’s history scrolls and hunting journals for evidence.

Nothing had prepared him for this. The creature drew in a cavernful of air, the shield-plates of its chest separating to reveal a soft lacework beneath. It held that breath. He knew it was reading him, reading the night, the skies. Then the curtains of its eyelids came down.

Are you kind? he thought. Dreams…speak true. Let the Keeper be kind.

The creature was stranger than anything he had sculpted when imagining its shape and dimensions. He felt embarrassed by his simplistic appeals, his feeble prayers. He was a mouse in the talons of a brascle, and as the creature reared up on the pillars of its hind legs, wing upon wing upon wing unfolding from its sides like sails on a great ship, he waited for judgment.

A sound like deep recognition ran tremulous through its form. Calraven thought it spoke his name––not the name given by his mother, but the name given by the powers that had crafted him—and every thread of his being burned with attention. As the eyes opened again, the stars within were moving.

It exhaled a scattering of sparks, but gently. The sound was like the Mystery Sea, roaring as it received the river flowing out through the Rushtide Inlet.

The air about the creature shuddered. A wave of noise beyond the range of Cal-raven’s hearing stunned him, conveying a word as clearly as if the creature had spoken. He would not, in the aftermath, know how to translate such a word. But it provoked in him an immediate resolve, a reverent promise.

He would follow. What else could one do when commanded by the Keeper?

Smoke and spice clouded the air and dizzied him. He was passed from clawed hands at the edges of the creature’s wings to one of its enormous, rough-fleshed feet, which held him like a woman’s hand cradling a bird. The creature set him down within a footprint on the path, and a wind whirled fiercely about him. Squinting up through the storm, he saw that the creature had taken flight.

In the space of a sigh, it was gone, a succession of lights darkening across the sky, northward over the Cragavar forest. Cal-raven lay helpless and numb like a discarded doll in the Keeper’s footprint.

Breath burst back into his lungs. He heaved, folding and fighting, a bird shaking away the shards of a shell.

It came when I called.

Never more invigorated, never more single-minded in purpose, he smiled back toward the cliffs. He had been changed.

In that moment everything changed for House Abascar as well. It began with a jolt, not a tremor.

Tabor Jan had been yawning as he reclined atop a boulder and counted the brightening stars. Sleep, out of reach for many nights, had seemed almost possible.

But then the ground beneath him bucked like a furious steed.He scrambled to the path, unsheathing his sword as if he might smite the earth in reprimand. From deep within Barnashum came a sound like hundreds of drums. The shaking intensified. The refuge exhaled clouds of dust through shielded entryways.

“Not part of the plan,” he muttered.

Rubble spilled down the cliffs in the quiet that followed, dust sighing into the thickets below.

“Cal-raven,” he said. Another name came to mind. Brevolo.

Then came a distant cacophony of voices. Rivers of people were rushing out onto the open ledges.

Even as he scanned the scene for the woman he loved, Tabor Jan pushed his way through the crowds, shouting to soldiers that their first priority was to find Cal-raven.

Hagah bounded suddenly into Tabor Jan’s path. The soldier seized the dog’s flabby neck. “Hagah—Cal-raven!”

Thrilled by the command, the dog turned as if jerked by a chain and almost threw himself off the cliffs. It was all the captain could do to keep up with him.

He found himself running toward the sound of triumphant yelps beyond the base of the cliffs. Dog had found master. The king was alive.

Kneeling among the brambles, Cal-raven embraced Hagah, blinking as if he’d been knocked silly by a falling stone.

“Are you hurt?” Tabor Jan scanned the shadowed ground.

“Didn’t you see it?” Cal-raven pointed north toward the Cragavar.

“See it? I felt it. I think they may have felt it in Bel Amica. We may have cave-ins. I’m taking you back.”

“No, not the quake,” said Cal-raven, exhilarated. “Didn’t you see it?”

Tabor Jan braced himself. “See…what?”Then the exuberance of Calraven’s

expression triggered a spasm of alarm. “No! Don’t say it!”

“But Tabor Jan, I saw—”

“Swallow that story, my lord!” He would have preferred a beast man sighting. “Don’t speak of it to the people. Especially not tonight.”

“Not tonight! What could bring them more comfort than to hear—”

“If the grudgers hear you respond to this quake with some wild description of a phantom on our doorstep—”

“Grudgers attacked me tonight.”

“Did you see their faces?”

“No, but I became acquainted with their arrows.” He laughed. “I also became quite familiar with the Keeper. Nose-to-nose, in fact.”

Tabor Jan scowled. “I haven’t slept for so long I’m having nightmares while I’m awake.”

“It pointed me north, Tabor Jan! We’ve got to ride—”

“We’ll ride tomorrow, Cal-raven. Just as you planned.” He urged Cal-raven back toward the cliffs, and they clambered over piles of rubble newly shaken from the heights. A tumult of voices filled the sky.

Hurrying down a steep ridge, an enormous guard came stumbling to meet them.

“Bowlder, how many are hurt?”

“Cave-in!” he wheezed. “Must…dig out…three people.”

“I assume you’ve called for Say-ressa. Without her healing hands we…” Tabor Jan stopped, stricken as he read Bowlder’s expression.

He turned to Cal-raven, but the king was strangely preoccupied with the moon above the northern horizon.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Celtic Treasure by Liz Babbs

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:

Celtic Treasure

Lion UK; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Liz Babbs is an award-winning author, performer, broadcaster and retreat leader. She has written many books on the subject of spirituality, including The Celtic Heart, The Pilgrim Heart and Into God’s Presence.

Visit the author's website.
Visit the book's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.95
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Lion UK; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0745953557
ISBN-13: 978-0745953557



Friday, February 05, 2010

Katy’s New World (The Katy Lambright Series) by Kim Vogel Sawyer

My Thoughts:

Okay, I usually run away--FAST--when I see a female in a white bonnet on the cover of a book. I just don't like books about the Amish/Mennonites. Not that I have anything against the real people, I just don't enjoy reading about them for 'fun'. So, when I saw this cover I sighed and almost put it in my give-away to the Library pile. But the girl's eyes were just so cute--so scared and fascinated-- that I thought I'd peek into the book. I am SO glad that I did. This book is adorable. I couldn't put it down. Really! You know a book is great when all you can think about is getting back to it to find out what happens next. I highly recommend this series. It is a Teen Fiction book, but I think anyone would love it.

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:

Katy’s New World (The Katy Lambright Series)

Zondervan (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Bridgette Brooks of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***


Bestselling, award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer wears many hats besides “writer.” As a wife, mother, grandmother, and active participant in her church, her life is happily full. But Kim’s passion lies in writing stories of hope that encourage her readers to place their lives in God’s capable hands. An active speaking ministry assists her with her desire. Kim and her husband make their home on the beautiful plains of Kansas, the setting for many of Kim’s novels.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310719240
ISBN-13: 978-0310719243


Like wisps of smoke that upward flee,
Disappearing on the breeze,
Days dissolving one by one . . .
Time stands still for no one.

Katy Lambright stared at the neatly written lines in her journal and crinkled her brow so tightly her forehead hurt. She rubbed the knot between her eyebrows with her fingertip. What was wrong? Ah, yes. Two uses of “one” on the final lines. She stared harder, tapping her temple with the eraser end of her pencil. What would be a better ending?

She whispered, “Time’s as fleeting as the —”


Just like the poem stated, her thought dissipated like a wisp of smoke. Dropping her pencil onto the journal page, she smacked the book closed and dashed to the top of the stairs. “What?”

Dad stood at the bottom with his hand on the square newel post, looking up. “It’s seven fifteen. You’ll miss your bus if we don’t get going.”
Katy’s stomach turned a rapid somersault. Maybe she shouldn’t have fixed those rich banana-pecan pancakes for breakfast. But she’d wanted Dad to have a special breakfast this morning. It was a big day for him. And for her. Mostly for her. “I’ll be right down.”

She grabbed her sweater from the peg behind her bedroom door. No doubt today would be like any other late-August day —unbearably hot —but the high school was air conditioned. She might get cold. So she quickly folded the made-by-Gramma sweater into a rough bundle and pushed it into the belly of the backpack waiting in the little nook at the head of the stairs.

The bold pink backpack presented a stark contrast to her simple sky blue dress. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips, while at the same time a twinge of uncertainty wiggled its way through her stomach. She’d never used a backpack before. Annika Gehring, her best friend since forever, had helped her pack it with notebooks and pencils and a brand-new protractor—all the things listed on the supply sheet from the high school in Salina. They had giggled while organizing the bag, making use of each of its many pockets.

Katy sighed. A part of her wished that Annika was coming to high school and part of her was glad to be going alone. If she made a fool of herself, no one from the Mennonite fellowship would be there to see. And as much as she loved Annika, whatever the girl saw she reported.

“Katy-girl!” Dad’s voice carried from the yard through the open windows.

Would Dad ever drop that babyish nickname? If he called her Katy-girl in front of any of the high school kids, she’d die from embarrassment. “I’m coming!” She yanked up the backpack and pushed her arms through the straps. The backpack’s tug on her shoulders felt strange and yet exhila-rating. She ran down the stairs, the ribbons from her mesh headcovering fluttering against her neck and the backpack bouncing on her spine —one familiar feeling and one new feeling, all at once. The combination almost made her dizzy. She tossed the backpack onto the seat of her dad’s blue pickup and climbed in beside it. As he pulled away from their dairy farm onto the dirt road that led to the highway, she rolled down the window. Dust billowed behind the tires, drifting into the cab. Katy coughed, but she hugged her backpack to her stomach and let the morning air hit her full in the face. She loved the smell of morning, before the day got so hot it melted away the fresh scent of dew.

The truck rumbled past the one-room schoolhouse where Katy had attended first through ninth grades. Given the early hour, no kids cluttered the schoolyard. But in her imagination she saw older kids pushing little kids on the swings, kids waiting for a turn on the warped teeter-totter, and Caleb Penner chasing the girls with a wiggly earthworm and making them scream. Caleb had chased her many times, waving an earthworm or a fat beetle. He’d never made her scream, though. Bugs didn’t bother Katy. She only feared a few things. Like tornadoes. And people leaving and not coming back.

A sigh drifted from Dad’s side of the seat. She turned to face him, noting his somber expression. Dad always looked serious. And tired. Running the dairy farm as well as a household without the help of a wife had aged him. For a moment guilt pricked at Katy’s conscience. She was supposed to stay home and help her family, like all the other Old Order girls when they finished ninth grade.

But the familiar spiral of longing —to learn more, to see what existed outside the limited expanse of Schell-berg—wound its way through her middle. Her fingernails bit into the palms of her hands as she clenched her fists. She had to go. This opportunity, granted to no one else in her little community, was too precious to squander.

“Dad?” She waited until he glanced at her. “Stop worrying.”

His eyebrows shot up, meeting the brim of his billed cap. “I’m not worrying.”

“Yes, you are. You’ve been worrying all morning. Wor-rying ever since the deacons said I could go.” Katy under-stood his worry.

She’d heard the speculative whispers when the Menno-nite fellowship learned that Katy had been granted permis-sion to attend the high school in Salina: “Will she be Kath-leen’s girl through and through?” But she was determined to prove the worriers wrong. She could attend public school, could be with worldly people, and still maintain her faith. Hadn’t she been the only girl at the community school to face Caleb’s taunting bugs without flinching? She was strong.

She gave Dad’s shoulder a teasing nudge with her fist. “I’ll be all right, you know.”

His lips twitched. “I’m not worried about you, Katy-girl.”

He was lying, but Katy didn’t argue. She never talked back to Dad. If she got upset with him, she wrote the words in her journal to get them out of her head, and then she tore the page into tiny bits and threw the pieces away. She’d started the practice shortly after she turned thirteen.

Before then, he’d never done anything wrong. Sometimes she wondered if he’d changed or she had, but it didn’t mat-ter much. She didn’t like feeling upset with him —he was all she had —so she tried to get rid of her anger quickly.

They reached the highway, and Dad parked the pickup on the shoulder. He turned the key, and the engine splut-tered before falling silent. Dad aimed his face out his side window, his elbow propped on the sill. Wind whistled through the open windows and birds trilled a morning song from one of the empty wheat fields that flanked the pickup. The sounds were familiar—a symphony of nature she’d heard since infancy—but today they carried a poi-gnancy that put a lump in Katy’s throat.

Why had she experienced such a strange reaction to wind and birds? She would explore it in her journal before she went to bed this evening. Words —secretive whispers, melodious trill—cluttered her mind. Maybe she’d write a poem about it too, if she wasn’t too tired from her first day at school.

Cars crested the gentle rise in the black-topped high-way and zinged by—sports cars and big SUVs, so differ-ent from the plain black or blue Mennonite pickups and sedans that filled the church lot on Sunday mornings in Schellberg. When would the big yellow bus appear? Katy had been warned it wouldn’t be able to wait for her. Might it have come and gone already? Her stomach fluttered as fear took hold.

Dad suddenly whirled to face her. “Do you have your lunch money?”

She patted the small zipper pocket on the front of the backpack. “Right here.” She hunched her shoulders and giggled. “It feels funny not to carry a lunchbox.” For as far back as she could remember, Katy had carried a lunch she’d packed for herself since she didn’t have a mother to do it for her.

“Yes, but you heard the lady in the school office.” Dad drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “She said the kids at this school eat in the cafeteria or go out to eat.”

Embarrassment crept over Katy as she remembered the day they’d visited the school. When the secretary told Dad about the school lunch program, he’d insisted on reading the lunch menu from beginning to end before agreeing to let his daughter eat “school-made food.”

Truthfully, the menu had looked more enticing than her customary peanut butter sandwich, but Dad had acted as though he thought someone might try to poison her. She’d filled three pages, front and back, in her journal over the incident before tearing the well-scribbled pages into min-iscule bits of litter. But —satisfaction welled—Dad had purchased a lunch ticket after all.

The wind tossed the satin ribbons dangling from the mesh cap that covered her heavy coil of hair. They tickled her chin. She hooked the ribbons in the neck of her dress and then brushed dust from the skirt of her homemade dress. An errant thought formed. I’m glad I’ll be eating cafeteria food like a regular high school kid. It might be only way I don’t stick out.

Dad cleared his throat. “There she comes.”

The school bus rolled toward them. The sun glared off the wide windshield, nearly hiding the monstrous vehicle from view. Katy threw her door open and stepped out, carrying the backpack on her hip as if it were one of her toddler cousins. She sucked in a breath of dismay when Dad met her at the hood of the pickup and reached for her hand.

“It’s okay, Dad.” She smiled at him even though her stomach suddenly felt as though it might return those ba-nana-pecan pancakes at any minute. “I can get on okay.”
The bus’s wide rubber tires crunched on the gravel as it rolled to a stop at the intersection. Giggles carried from in-side the bus when Dad walked Katy to the open door. Katy cringed, trying discreetly pull her hand free, but Dad kept hold and gave the bus driver a serious look.

“This is my daughter, Katy Lambright.”

“Kathleen Lambright,” Katy corrected. Hadn’t she told Dad she wanted to be Kathleen at the new school instead of the childish Katy? Dad wasn’t in favor, and Katy knew why. She would let him continue to call her Katy—or Katy-girl, the nickname he’d given her before she was old enough to sit up—but to the Outside, she was Kathleen.
Dad frowned at the interruption, but he repeated, “Kathleen Lambright. She is attending Salina High North.”

The driver, an older lady with soft white hair cut short and brushed back from her rosy face, looked a little bit like Gramma Ruthie around her eyes. But Gramma would never wear blue jeans or a bright yellow polka-dotted shirt. One side of the driver’s mouth quirked up higher than the other when she smiled, giving her an impish look. “Well, come on aboard, Katy Kathleen Lambright. We have a schedule to keep.”

Another titter swept through the bus. Dad leaned to-ward Katy, as if he planned to hug her good-bye. Katy ducked away and darted onto the bus. When she glanced back, she glimpsed the hurt in Dad’s eyes, and guilt hit her hard. This day wasn’t easy for him. She spun to dash back out and let him hug her after all, but the driver pulled a lever that closed the door, sealing her away from her father.

Suddenly the reality of what she was doing —leaving the security of her little community, her dad, and all that was familiar—washed over her, and for one brief moment she wanted to claw the doors open and dive into the refuge of Dad’s arms, just as she used to do when she was little and frightened by a windstorm.

“Have a seat, Kathleen,” the driver said.

Through the window, Katy watched Dad climb back into the pickup. His face looked so sad, her heart hurt. She felt a sting at the back of her nose —a sure sign that tears were coming. She sniffed hard.

“You’ve got to sit down, or we can’t go.” Impatience colored the driver’s tone. She pushed her foot against the gas pedal, and the bus engine roared in eagerness. More giggles erupted from the kids on the bus.

“I’m sorry, ma’am.” Katy quickly scanned the seats. Most of them were already filled with kids. The passen-gers all looked her up and down, some smirking, and some staring with their mouths hanging open. She could imagine them wondering what she was doing on their bus. She’d be the first Mennonite student to attend one of the Salina schools. She lifted her chin. Well, they’ll just have to get used to me.
Katy ignored the gawks and searched faces. She had hoped to sit with someone her own age, but none of the kids looked to be more than twelve or thirteen. Finally she spotted an open seat toward the middle on the right. She dropped into it, sliding the backpack into the empty space beside her.

The bus jolted back onto the highway with a crunch of tires on gravel. The two little girls in the seat in front of Katy turned around and stared with round, wide eyes. Katy smiled, but they didn’t smile back. So she raised her eyebrows high and waggled her tongue, the face she used to get her baby cousin Trent to stop crying. The little girls made the same face back, giggled, and turned forward again.
Throughout the bus, kids talked and laughed, at ease with each other. Katy sat alone, silent and invisible. The bus bounced worse than Dad’s pickup, and her stomach felt queasier with each mile covered. She swallowed and swallowed to keep the banana-pecan pancakes in place. Think about something else . . .

High school. Her heart fluttered. Public high school. A smile tugged on the corners of her lips. Classes like botany and music appreciation and literature. Literature . . .

When she’d shown Annika the list of classes selected for her sophomore year at Salina High North, Annika had shaken her head and made a face. “They sound hard. Why do you want to study more anyway? You’re weird, Katy.”

Remembering her friend’s words made her nose sting again. Annika had been Katy’s best friend ever since the first grade when the teacher plunked them together on a little bench at the front of the schoolroom, but despite their lengthy and close friendship, Annika didn’t understand Katy.

Katy stared out the window, biting her lower lip and fighting an uncomfortable realization. Katy didn’t under-stand herself. A ninth grade education seemed to satisfy everyone else in her community, so why wasn’t it enough for her?

Why were questions always swirling through her brain? She could still hear her teacher’s voice in her memory: “Katy, Katy, your many questions make me tired.” Why did words mean so much to her? None of her Menno-nite friends had to write their thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook to keep from exploding. Katy couldn’t begin to explain why. And she knew, even without asking, that was what scared Dad the most. She shook her head, hug-ging her backpack to her thudding heart. He didn’t need to be worried. She loved Dad, loved being a Mennonite girl, loved Schellberg and its wooden chapel of fellowship where she felt close to God and to her neighbors. Besides, the deacons had been very clear when they gave her permission to attend high school. If she picked up worldly habits, attending school would come to an abrupt and per-manent end.

A prayer automatically winged through her heart: God, guide me in this learning, but keep me humble. Help me remember what Dad read from Your Word last night during our prayer time: that a man profits nothing if he gains the world but loses his soul.
The bus pulled in front of the tan brick building that she and Dad had visited two weeks earlier when they enrolled her in school. On that day, the campus had been empty except for a few cars and two men in blue uniforms standing in the shade of a tall pine tree, smoking ciga-rettes. Dad had hurried her right past them. Today, how-
ever, the parking lot overflowed with vehicles in a variety of colors, makes, and models. People—people her age, not like the kids on the school bus —stood in little groups all over the grassy yard, talking and laughing.

Katy stared out the window, her mouth dry. Most of the students had backpacks, but none sporting bold colors like hers. Their backpacks were Mennonite-approved colors: dark blue, green, and lots and lots of black. Should she have selected a plain-colored backpack? Aunt Rebecca had clicked her tongue at Katy’s choice, but the pink one was so pretty, so different from her plain dresses . . . Her hands started to shake.

“Kathleen?” The bus driver turned backward in her seat. “C’mon, honey, scoot on off. I got three more stops to make.”

Katy quickly slipped her arms through the backpack’s straps and scuttled off the bus. The door squealed shut behind her, and the bus pulled away with a growl and a thick cloud of strong-smelling smoke. Katy stood on the sidewalk, facing the school. She twisted a ribbon from her cap around her finger, wondering where she should go. The main building? That seemed a logical choice. She took one step forward but then froze, her skin prickling with awareness.

All across the yard, voices faded. Faces turned one-by-one—a field of faces —all aiming in her direction. She heard a shrill giggle—her own. Her response to nervousness.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the pull on the other kids faded. They turned back to their own groups as if she no longer existed. With a sigh, she resumed her progress toward the main building, turning sideways to ease between groups, sometimes bumping people with her backpack, mumbling apologies and flashing shy smiles. She’d worked her way halfway across the yard when an ear-piercing clang filled the air. The fine hairs on her arms prickled, and she stopped as suddenly as if she’d slammed into the solid brick wall of the school building.

The other kids all began moving, flinging their back-packs over one shoulder and pushing at one another. Katy got swept along with the throng, jostled and bumped like everyone else. Her racing heartbeat seemed to pound a message: This is IT! This is IT! High school!