Monday, April 30, 2012

To See the Sun by Peggy Blann Phifer

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:

CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)

***Special thanks to  Peggy Blann Phifer  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Peggy Blann Phifer is an author and columnist, whose work has appeared on various Web sites and writer periodicals both in print and online. She is also an avid reader and loves to escape between the covers of a good book. A retired executive assistant, Peg now makes her home in southern Nevada with husband Jim.


To See the Sun is Peg’s debut novel, released January 2012

Visit her blog, Whispers in Purple.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Pregnant and widowed hadn’t been part of her “happily ever after” dream. And now, someone was trying to kill her . . .

Erin Macintyre never expected to be a widow and a new mother in the same year, anymore than she expected mysterious notes, threatening phone calls, and a strange homeless man who seems to know all about her. The thought of raising a child without a father is daunting enough—worse when you have no idea who might want to harm you. Put an old flame into the mix, and her life begins a tailspin into a world she never knew existed.

When P.I. Clay Buchanan, stumbles upon Erin at her husband's gravesite, he’s totally unprepared for her advanced pregnancy. Her venomous reaction at seeing him, however, was predictable. But Clay can’t let her distrust, or his guilt, get in the way—not when he has evidence that proves Erin’s life is in danger.

With few options left, Erin begrudgingly accepts Clay’s help . . . and it just might be her undoing.



Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1468121081
ISBN-13: 978-1468121087



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Friday, March 26, late afternoon

What a fantastic day. A bid won. A contract signed. The job of a lifetime that would put Stuart and Macintyre at the top of the construction heap, not just in Las Vegas, but all of southern Nevada.
Whistling, Justin Macintyre pressed the keyless remote of his Cadillac Escalade, tossed his briefcase across the console to the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel.
To top it all off, after seven long years, he and his wife, Erin, were going to have a baby. A baby! He laughed aloud at the overwhelming joy of it.
"Hey, world, I'm going to be a daddy!"
He shifted the SUV into gear and pulled out of the Mt. Charleston Lodge area onto Kyle Canyon Road and headed down the mountain to the Las Vegas Valley below. Despite the successful day, Justin couldn't banish his worry over a recent discovery of some irregularities in the company's finances. Nothing concrete, and his Uncle Sebastian, S&M's CFO, assured him everything was fine. Nevertheless, Justin's uneasiness had prompted him to send what little proof he had to his long-time friend, Clay Buchanan, a private investigator in Texas.
Preoccupied with his thoughts, he vaguely registered the yellow and black blind curve warning sign. Too late he saw the stalled car across the center line. No time to stop! He spun the  wheel to the right.
I'm going too fast! God, help me . . .!
###
Seconds passed and silence settled once more over the mountainside. A shadow emerged from behind a Joshua tree and stepped to the edge of the ravine. After a moment, the form walked to the car in the road and drove away.
###
Erin Macintyre stretched her arms along the balcony's balustrade of her twenty-seventh-floor condo above the streets of Las Vegas. Beyond that, the lower edge of the setting sun kissed the still snowy peaks of the Spring Mountain Range and Mt. Charleston.
Justin would be home soon.
"Erin, where's the zester?"
Erin returned to the kitchen. "In the utility drawer."
"Which is the utility drawer?" Magie Gifford, Erin's dearest friend, pulled out drawer after drawer.
Erin giggled and reached across Magie's arm and slid out the utility drawer.
"You changed it." Magie snatched the zester and bumped the drawer shut with her hip. "That's not where it was last time."
Erin wrapped her arms around her friend and hugged. "No, Mags, I didn't change anything." She waited a beat. "Can I interest you in a memory enhancement program?"
"Very funny." Magie pushed Erin aside and proceeded to rub a lemon across the gadget and then whisked the zest into a frothy mixture of olive oil, Italian herbs, and balsamic vinegar. "Okay, just drizzle this over the salad and stick it in the fridge."
That done, Erin checked on the lasagna in the oven. The garlic toast waited on the foil-lined cookie sheet ready to pop under the broiler. Everything was ready.
Erin glanced at the kitchen clock. "He's late."
"Posh. You should know by now how those meetings can drag on."
"Yeah, I know. It's just—"
"Get over here, Erin. He'll be here when he gets here."
Erin joined her friend in the breakfast nook off the kitchen and adjacent to the balcony. She scooped up a dozing Siamese cat from her chair and sat, settling him back on her lap.
"You spoil that critter." Magie brushed off the chair cushion before sitting.
"Yeah, I do. But you love him, too. I saw you sneaking him some treats earlier." Erin smiled. "Not to mention the romp you had with him in the living room when you got here."
"Busted. But he's so much fun, aren't you, Kazimir?"
At the sound of his name, the cat uncoiled, left Erin's lap and jumped onto Magie's. She snorted. "So much for protecting my black slacks."
"Thanks for coming over to help with this meal. I wanted it to be special and I never know when the nausea will hit." She raised an eyebrow. "But you will leave as soon as Justin gets here."
"You think he'll get that bid?"
Erin tapped her heart and nodded. "I know he will."
The first five descending notes of Welcome to My World sang out in the condo's foyer. Justin! No, he wouldn't ring the doorbell. Puzzled, she stepped across the tiled floor and rose on tiptoes to peer through the peephole. She gasped and jumped back.
The doorbell chimed again.
Fingers trembling, Erin released the security lock and opened the door to two uniformed police officers.
"Mrs. Macintyre?"
Erin nodded as Magie moved to her side.
"What is it, officers?"
"I'm afraid there's been an accident, Mrs. Macintyre. Your husband . . ."


My Thoughts:

Written like a seasoned author, I couldn't believe this was a first novel for Peggy Phifer! She sucked me into the novel and kept me captivated throughout and created a novel that was impossible for me to put down.

Erin and Clay were great characters. Erin was hormonal and pregnant so she was a total spitfire at times, and Clay - sigh... Clay is just one of those guys you fall in love with. A cowboy with a huge heart of gold, Clay will do anything for the gal he loves. Then there's Erin's father-in-law, Mr. Macintyre with his Irish Brogue, who uses it to get his own way (and it works!). He adores Erin but has a wife who doesn't.

Complete with a twists and turns and a few red herrings that totally threw me off, I was totally surprised with the ending. I really didn't see that one coming. With this being the first book in the "Desert Faith Series", I'm eagerly awaiting the next book to see what happens next!!

Release Day Party "Unicorn Keep"



Unicorn Keep
Author: Angelia Almos
Genre: YA Fantasy

About the Book:
Jiline of Ainsley is dismayed when her best friend is selected by the mages to become a unicorn keeper at the Keep, an isolated mountain fortress. Especially since Madelen is in love and engaged to the richest boy in the village. Jiline on the other hand has no prospects of marriage or a trade in their small village. So, she comes up with a plan to take Madelen’s place at the Keep and hopefully flunk out of unicorn keeper training before the mages can discover the deception. Unfortunately, the unicorns have their own plans for her.

Mage Herrick, son of the Keep Mage, returns home to the Keep as the trainee keepers arrive. A chance encounter with Jiline, who he believes is Madelen, on the trail sparks a magical connection between the two. Knowing he can’t feel a magical draw to someone who has no magic, he tries to prove Madelen (Jiline) has magic within her. His attention brings unforeseen complications for both of them.

About the Author:

Angelia Almos formed a lifelong passion for horses at the age of five when she talked her parents into riding lessons. Horses often play a prominent role in her young adult fantasy books. She also write horsey nonfiction and space opera. She lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, two cats, and one pony (she often thinks of bumping that number up to two).
Visit her website: www.angeliaalmos.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/angeliaalmos
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AngeliaAlmosAuthor

Where you can purchase Unicorn Keep:
Print - Create Space - https://www.createspace.com/3840073
Print - Amazon - http://amzn.com/1475222971/thoroughwebpr-20
Ebook - Amazon - http://amzn.com/B007YIWQAS/thoroughwebpr-20
Ebook - Barnes and Noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/unicorn-keep-angelia-almos/1110455362
Ebook - Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/156547

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 27, 2012

40 Questions About the End Times

40 Questions About the End Times
(40 Questions Series)
By author: Eckhard J. Schnabel
Series edited by: Benjamin L. Merkle
Imprint: Kregel Academic & Professional
Price: $17.99
ISBN: 9780825438967
Paperback: 352 pages

About the Book:
Even-handed, biblical, and broadly accessible answers to the most frequently asked questions abuot the return of Christ

This newest contribution to the 40 Questions series continues the tradition of excellent research presented in accessible language and clear writing. Designed for both students and general readers, this resource helps them make sense of one of the Bible's most difficult topics.

Schnabel, a professor at a leading seminary and the author of several major works, looks at the future of the world, the church, and Israel; the return of Jesus; and the millennium and the final judgment. He answers questions related to the rapture, the 144,000, the identity of the two witnesses, Armageddon, how to interpret Revelation, heaven and hell, and so forth.

The result is an even-handed treatment that avoids sensationalism and a "newspaper headline" approach to prophecy, that is, interpreting prophecy according to current events. Rather, Schnabel carefully studies the biblical text in light of its first-century context and draws biblically-based conclusions.
My Thoughts:

This book tackles some difficult questions about the End Times. Each section focuses on one question and delves quite deeply in scripture with many references to substantiate the author's answer.

With charts, many footnotes and questions to reflect on at the end of the chapter, this makes a great study on the End Times, and not just for the Biblical scholar, but for the rest of us as well. This is a book to be studied, contemplated and looked at carefully. It is not one that will be easily or quickly gone through, but instead a book to be used and dissected. If you agree with all or just part, you won't walk away from this book without absorbing something new and interesting!

This uses the New Revised Standard Version along with 10 other versions.

About the Author:

Eckhard J. Schnabel is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1998. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including the two-volume Early Christian History.


I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher for this tour. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.


Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides

Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides
Authors: Kim Messinger, Janine Boyer and Shirley Brosius
Publisher: WestBowPress
ISBN: 9781449732639
Paperback: 208 pages
Where to purchase

About the Book:
Women today are busy, stressed, and guilt-ridden, yet they long to develop their spiritual sides. Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides offers inspirational thoughts based on scripture--brief enough to be read during a television commercial, yet insightful enough to open your eyes to the grace of God on days you change diapers and/or lead corporate meetings. Each reading suggests a "Guilt Trip to Avoid" and ends with a way to "Take the Joy Ride." The book includes six months of daily readings so that you may establish a habit of connecting with God. Readings are listed under the letters G-R-A-C-E, representing God, Relationships, Acceptance, Challenges and Emotions.

The coauthors hope these meaningful readings will help you deal with guilt--both real and imagined. By applying the insights shared in Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, you may develop a calmer, less guilt-ridden life-style and become better equipped to function as wives, mothers and friends. Younger women often develop patterns of thinking and experience feelings of guilt that carry over into their mature years, so women of all ages will find this book helpful.

My Thoughts:

As a woman, I know we carry around guilt - if we intentionally do it or not. Ingrained or taught, guilt seems to just be a part of us. I know there are days I wonder if I could have done more, if I had only visited more, if only... and at times these guilt trips seem to bog down my relationship with God - maybe to the point of feeling unworthy to come to Him.

Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides is a wonderful devotional that focuses on these guilt trips we give ourselves. With 183 days of devotions, you can change how you look at those guilt feelings and change your outlook. These quick devotions won't bog you down, but in just a few minutes a day, you will find your guilt lessening and your relationship with God deepening.

A great devotional for women of any age, Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides is a must have for any woman who has felt the guilt pangs.

About the Authors:

Kim Messinger, Janine Boyer and Shirley Brosius had a common bond of Christian service when Christ drew them together for their first small group meeting in January, 1998.

Since then they have drawn closer through life’s joys and struggles and found God to be sufficient for their every need. They call themselves “Friends of the Heart” because their passion is to help women open their hearts and find joy in Christ.

Kim and Janine supported Shirley in writing Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories About Women Who Made a Difference, which was released by Howard Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster, in 2006. More recently the three women worked together to write another devotional book, Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. They have spoken at women’s retreats and events in five states. All three women live in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. Visit their website for more info.


See what others on the tour are saying about Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides.


Giveaway!!!

Guilt! She pokes you as you write about your quaint, eccentric aunt. She grabs you as you wander from e-mail to Facebook to laundry instead of focusing on your work. She kicks you as you complain about your husband to a friend.

Have you noticed? Women seem riddled with guilt. And it’s hard to know if guilt is legitimate or simply a product of our imaginations. After all, should we really feel guilty about things over which we have no control?

We are not perfect. We have no control over some things, so it's no use feeling guilty. We can't do it all.

To celebrate the release of Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, Shirley, Janine and Kim are giving away some great prizes during the blog tour. Share your own "guilt trip" or "joy tip" and be entered to win a free life coaching consultation and a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate.

JUST CLICK THIS LINK (http://justforfun.friendsoftheheart.us) and share what trips you up, holds you back or any tips you may have for overcoming guilt and keeping your joy. Fill out the quick form at the link and you'll be entered to win a free life coaching consultation from one of us AND a gift certificate to Amazon.com to use to purchase whatever strikes your fancy!

Contest runs 4/23 - 5/12. Winner announced here on 5/14.






Join the Flock! LitFuse Publicity Group blogger 


I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher for this tour. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You're Transplanted by Carol G. Stratton

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:

Lighthouse Publishing (March 21, 2012)

***Special thanks to Carol Stratton  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carol Stratton has written for several publications, including InTouch magazine and Kyria. She is a contributing writer for Forsyth Woman magazine and has been published in two anthologies, Writing so Heaven Will be Different and Extraordinary Answers to Prayers. She speaks to women's groups such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and at national writers’ conferences. She attended Capenwray Bible School in New Zealand. Carol and her husband live in North Carolina and have four children and two grandchildren. Her website, www.ChangingZipCodes.com, helps women who are relocating.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

When your entire life drives off in a moving van, it’s easy for doubts to flood your mind. Will I ever be organized again? Will I find good friends? Will my children like their new school? Carol Stratton has experienced twenty-two moves and counsels others seeking stability in a culture of change. In Changing Zip Codes, Carol helps readers explore the fun of new possibilities, the magic of new friendships, and the excitement of fresh starts. With humorous stories and biblical insights, Carol reminds us God is in the midst of every move, leading us to new beginnings.

FROM THE BACK COVER:


As the moving van drives off, you have a knot in your stomach. You ask yourself, “Are we moving to a better place? Will my children like their new school? Will I ever make friends?” As a twenty- time mover, I understand the fears and excitements of relocating and have grown a passion to help families who need to change their zip code. My new book, Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted is a forty-day devotional to encourage anyone who need to change addresses or find community.


Product Details:
List Price: $11.95
Paperback: 108 pages
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing (March 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984765557
ISBN-13: 978-0984765553


AND NOW...DAY 1 AND DAY 27:


Day 1

Chains that don’t chafe…

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Philippians 1:12-14 NIV


Chains are chains for one reason—they keep one object tied to another. We understand their usefulness with inanimate objects whether it means securing bicycles to a hitching post or keeping a gate locked at night. But when we feel bound to our circumstances, imaginary chains become a point of frustration. Perhaps one spouse is tied to selling a house while the other has to move ahead to start a new job or a married couple has been called to the mission field and they need to sell their house to help fund their ministry. Maybe we feel imprisoned in an area we don’t like but because of situations with family and jobs, we are not free to leave.

When writing how his imprisonment had given him opportunities to share his faith, the Apostle Paul refused to fight his chains. History tells us that every four hours Paul was chained to a new prison guard and many became believers. The Bible tells us that as a result of what happened to Paul, the gospel was advanced.

Seeing our life chains as a way to anchor us to God, helps us stop chaffing against them. Those miserable, weighty iron links that seem to hold us down might be necessary to make us stop and do something we might not have done otherwise. When we are stuck in one place with few options, God often does his finest work. Being pinned to one place gives us time to think about our lives, to pray more, to communicate with others in our current community, and spend quality time worshipping our Lord.

God might even have a special project for us that we wouldn’t have seen while flitting around in our previous life. A few years ago my husband and I found ourselves unemployed while trying to sell our house. Fourteen months of showing a house in a down market seemed like an eternity when we wanted to move on, but I have a 70,000 word novel to show for my time of house arrest.

Are you bound to your present circumstances? God may have you anchored for a reason. Look around you. Is there someone God wants you to befriend in order to share the good news? Release from anxiety often comes when we respond to our current situation while looking for opportunities to make good out of it.

When we quit fighting our chains, we may find a greater purpose in wearing them.


Day 27

Southern fried speaking

Why don’t you understand the language I use? Is it because you can’t understand the words I use? John 8:43 God’s Word Translation

“Call the police.”
Now I can panic a bit, but when the oil change attendant waved for me to pull up and said, “Call the police,” I hesitated. Did I hear him right? I whipped out my cell phone assuming the previous customer just drove off without payment. Of course I’d be happy to nab that greedy driver who’s not paying and making the bill higher for the rest of us. I rolled down my window to talk to the young man.

“Looks like someone drove off without paying. Or maybe worse, but I figured you look pretty calm for having just been robbed.”

The man shot me a confused look.

Now I was puzzled. “Didn’t you just ask me to call the police?”

“No, ma’am, I just said, ‘Pull up please.’”
I could almost hear his thoughts: “Dumb Yankee…can’t even understand English!”

I’m afraid I had to agree.

Sometimes it seems like God’s plans for us are also lost in translation. It’s as if He is speaking Japanese to us and we just haven’t learned the lesson. Should we move here or stay put? Should we put our children in public school or home-school them? How large a mortgage should we bite off? All these questions are important and we want to hear God’s will for our lives. But fretting seems to keep us from hearing what he wants for us.

As you and I adjust to a move, we need to remember that God wants to communicate with us. James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it and he will give it to us generously. It might take time to translate into your circumstances, but we serve a God who loves to translate his truth into our lives. Today, believe that whatever decisions you are wrestling with, He will have an answer.


My Thoughts:

Many people are in the same situation we are: facing a new future in a different location, and it's unsettling and sometimes even scary. This wonderful devotional is designed to help get you through those feelings and get you off to a good start in a new place. Filled with stories one will definitely identify with, you will find yourself nodding and even chuckling at them. The best part is you no longer feel alone, but "have" someone that's been through the same journey you are facing or are in the middle of.

This is a very nice devotional. Each day starts with a Bible verse and then a short reading that is packed with information that will keep you thinking. Each reading is about 2 pages long, making it a quick but welcomed start to each day.

This devotional uses the NIV for it's Scripture.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Great Dog Stories: Inspiration and Humor from Our Canine Companions

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 authors are:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to  Susan Otis, Creative Resources  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

 M. R. Wells is the co-author of Four Paws from Heaven, Purr-ables from Heaven, and Paws for Reflection. She has written extensively for children’s animated television and video programs, including several Disney shows, Adventures from the Book of Virtues and Bibleman. She shares her Southern California home with her cats and dogs Muffin, Bo, Munchie, Becca and Marley.

Connie Fleishauer is a retired teacher and writer, and is the co-author of Four Paws from Heaven, Purr-ables from Heaven, and Paws for Reflection. The wife of a Bakersfield, California farmer, she is a mother of three and grandmother of one. While many cats have warmed her home, currently, she has two dogs.

Kris Young has worked as a screenwriter for more than 20 years and currently teaches screenwriting at the L.A. Film Studies Center and UCLA. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Celine, and son, Skye. He is currently “between dogs” but is hoping to welcome a new one sometime soon.



Visit the authors' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




From the authors of Four Paws from Heaven (over 100,000 copies sold) comes a new collection of devotional tales. In these heartwarming stories, the authors share wisdom gleaned from years of training, guiding, and loving the canines in their lives. Readers will discover powerful spiritual insights, including:

 the blessing of true companionship
 the gift of unconditional love
 the joy of adoption
 the power of obedience
 the comfort of resting in the Master’s arms

Everyone who has loved a dog will find encouragement and hope in these touching stories—reminders that these faithful, devoted companions are part of God’s great plan for their lives.


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736928820
ISBN-13: 978-0736928823



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Fight

Choose Love

Choices are the hinges of destiny.
Pythagoras

When my friend Sue came home from work one summer eve- ning in 2002, the last thing she dreamed of finding on her door- step was a puppy. She loved dogs and had two of her own, but she was cautious. She could tell this pup was a pit bull, and the dog was emaciated. But as she carefully drew nearer, the four-footed stranger smiled and wagged its tail. When Sue sat beside the pup, it climbed on her lap, smothered her with kisses, and wrapped its paws lovingly around her neck.

Since Sue could not remember seeing this pup in the neighbor- hood, she decided to keep it overnight and check for lost dog fly- ers in the morning. She felt it prudent not to put the newcomer in the house with her own dogs. After feeding and watering the hun- gry foundling, Sue made a bed of blankets on her garage floor. The pup immediately curled up and went to sleep. Later that evening a teenage boy knocked on Sue’s door. He was looking for a missing pooch. Since his description fit the puppy perfectly, Sue returned the dog and thought that would be the end of the story.

It was just the beginning! Next evening, the female pit bull puppy was back. The poor thing looked literally “hang-dog,” as if she’d done something wrong and expected to be beaten. Once again, the young pit bull showered Sue with kisses. Sensing the dog was in trouble, Sue called local animal control for advice. After con- firming Sue’s address, they told her there had been reports of people in a nearby house raising pit bulls to fight. The next day arrests were made in the case, and Sue was allowed to keep the loving puppy she named Champagne. “Champ” made instant friends with Sue’s other dogs and has grown into a gentle giant who cuddles under the covers at night and is one of the sweetest canines Sue has ever met.

How Champ knew to flee that fighting environment is a mystery. Why she sought refuge on Sue’s porch is as well. But one thing is clear: this pit bull puppy chose love—just as Sue did by taking her in. Those choices blessed them with each other and changed both their lives forever.

My friends Ruett and Rhonda also chose love. They did so in the face of wrenching tragedy. One night when their sons were small, Rhonda and the boys were at a local park where seven-year- old Evan played in sports leagues. Rhonda was about to drive off with Evan and ten-month-old Alec when gunfire erupted around their car. They were caught in the middle of gang violence. Both boys were hit. Alec suffered loss of vision from metal fragments that penetrated his eye. Evan was fatally shot. Rhonda got in the back with Evan until the paramedics beckoned her to come with them. There are no words I could ever write that would adequately describe the excruciating pain Evan’s parents suffered…and still suffer. It is searing to lose a child under any circumstances. This was a sudden, traumatic, utterly senseless loss. Nevertheless, in the midst of their pain Rhonda and Ruett made an amazing choice.

Tales to Tug Your Heart

They knew Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. They knew that unthinkable as it might be in their human strength, God was call- ing them to forgiveness and reconciliation. They chose love over hate, forgave those involved in their son’s death, and formed the nonprofit Evan Leigh Foster Foundation. Its mission is to reach out to gang members with the message of God’s love and redemption. They have shared that message personally, one on one. They hope and pray that by bringing gang members to faith in the God who can heal and transform them, gang violence will lessen and other children’s lives will be spared. Their choice to love has changed their own and others’ lives eternally and made them a living illustration of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A first-century martyr named Stephen would have understood their choice. He also chose to love those who caused him pain. He was seized and accused of blasphemy because he proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. Stephen chose to affirm his faith and defend it biblically. His accusers responded by ston- ing him. As he was on the brink of death, he prayed for his execu- tioners. Acts 7:60 tells us that he “fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Champ the dog chose to flee fight training and live out her life loving both dogs and people. Rhonda and Ruett chose to reach out in love and forgive. Stephen chose to pray for those who were martyring him, even as their stones were crushing him to death. Though they all suffered, they did not let pain twist and embit- ter them. They chose love, and became a blessing to others. Their choices mattered, and so do ours. If we love and obey the Lord and let His love and forgiveness flow through us, even in our toughest times, who knows what difference we might make?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Consider This:

Have you ever chosen to love in difficult circumstances? How did it affect you and others? Are you struggling with such a choice right now? If so, is there someone you might ask to support you in prayer?

My Thoughts:

This wonderful devotional will delight any animal lover, but especially those that adore dogs. Starting off with a quotation, this devotional focuses on a story about dogs and usually a correlating human story and ends with scripture and things to think about. Each story drives home a lesson is full of inspiration from our four-legged friends and is guaranteed to warm your heart and stay with you for a long time.

This devotional uses the NIV as well as the NTL, NASB, MSG (The Message), NKJV, and the NIrV (New International Reader's Version).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Need You Now by Beth Wiseman Tour & Review

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:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


 When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, she is confident it will not be the last. She is already making plans to write a second contemporary novel in the near future. Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, two chickens and a single pygmy goat in a small community in South Central Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and watching good movies. Her favorite pastime, however, is spending time with friends and family.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


We all count on the support of those around us when times are tough, but what do we do when those we depend on the most are suddenly gone? How do we cope when life has pulled the rug out from under us and left us with nothing and no one to hold on to? To whom can we turn when it seems no one, not even God, is there? These are the questions best-selling author Beth Wiseman addresses in her first contemporary novel, Need You Now (Thomas Nelson).

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Need You Now’s main character, Darlene Henderson, and her husband Brad choose to move their family from Houston to the dot-in-the-road town of Round Top, Texas; moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them imagined, especially for the middle child, 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and particularly self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple’s marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both begin to wonder if the same shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she is assigned to work with at the school for special needs children where she is employed. Unfortunately, this new attention comes just when she is most vulnerable. If there has ever been a time in her life when she needed God, it is now. But will she allow arising feelings of unworthiness to keep her from seeking Him?

In her first novel not set in an Amish community, Wiseman spins her well-honed characters and setting into a thought-provoking message that not only makes the reader ponder his or her own relationship with God, but also sheds light on the little-known disorders of using self-injury as a way of seeking relief and high-functioning autism. Need You Now is the perfect read for anyone who has ever questioned life and God’s will.





Product Details:
List Price: $ 15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548874
ISBN-13: 978-1595548870

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Darlene’s chest tightened, and for a few seconds she couldn’t move. If ever there was a time to flee, it was now. She put a hand to her chest, held her breath, and eased backward, sliding one socked foot at a time across the wooden floor of her bed- room. She eyed the intruder, wondering why he wasn’t moving. Maybe he was dead.
Nearing the door, she stretched   her arm behind   her, searching for the knob. She turned it quickly, and at the click of the latch, her trespasser rushed toward her. In one movement, she jumped backward, across the threshold and into the den, slamming the door so hard the picture of the kids fell off the wall. She looked down at Chad, Ansley, and Grace staring up through broken glass, then hurried through the den to the kitchen. Her hand trembled as she unplugged her cell phone and pressed the button to call Brad. Please answer.
It was tax time, so every CPA at her husband’s office was working long hours, and for these last weeks before the April deadline, Brad was hard to reach. She knew she wouldn’t hear from him until after eight o’clock tonight.  And she couldn’t go back in her bedroom. What would she have to live without until then? She looked down. For starters, a shirt. She was later than usual getting dressed this morning and had just pulled on her jeans when she’d noticed she wasn’t alone.
She let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her forehead. Brad answered on the sixth ring.
“Bradley . . .” She only called him by his full name when she needed his full attention.
“What is it, babe?”
She took a deep breath. “There is a snake in our bedroom. A big, black snake.” She paused as she put a hand to her chest. “In our bedroom.”
“How big?”
She’d expected a larger reaction. Maybe her husband didn’t hear her. “Big! Very big. Huge, Brad.”
He chuckled. “Honey, remember that little snake that got in your greenhouse when we lived on Charter Road in Houston? You said that snake was big too.” He chuckled again, and Darlene wanted to smack him through the phone.  “It was a tiny little grass snake.”
“Brad, you’re going to have to trust me. This snake is huge, like five or six feet long.” A shiver ran down her spine. “Are you coming home or should I call 9-1-1?”
“What? You can’t call 9-1-1 about a snake.” His tone changed. “Darlene, don’t do that. Round Top is a small town, and we’ll be known as the city slickers who called in about a snake.”
“Then you need to come home and take care of this.” She lifted her chin and fought the tremble in her voice.
Deep breath on the other end of the line. “You know how crazy it is here.  I can’t leave right now. It’s probably just a chicken snake, and they’re not poisonous.”
“Well, there are no chickens in our bedroom, so it doesn’t have any business in there.”
“Chad can probably get it out when he gets home from school. Maybe with a shovel or something, but tell him to be careful. Even though they’re not venomous, it’d probably still hurt to get bit.”
Darlene sighed. “Our girls are going to freak if they come home to find a snake in the house.”
“Maybe—” Darlene turned toward a sound in the entryway. “I’ll call you back. There’s someone at the door, and I’m standing here in my bra. I’ll call you back. Love you.” She clicked the phone off, then yelled toward the door. “Just a minute!”
After finding a T-shirt in Ansley’s room, she pulled it over her head as she crossed back through the den toward the front door. This was the first visitor she’d had in the two months since they’d moved from Houston.  She peeked around the curtain before she opened the door, realizing that her old city habit would probably linger for a while. Out here in the country, there probably wasn’t much to worry about, but she was relieved to see it was a woman. A tall woman in a cowgirl hat. She pulled the door open.
“Your Longhorns are in my pasture.” The woman twisted her mouth to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “This is the second time they’ve busted the fence and wandered onto my property.”
Darlene thought this cowgirl could have walked straight off the set of any western movie. She was dressed in a long- sleeved denim shirt with her blue jeans tucked into brown boots. She was older than Darlene, possibly mid-forties, but she was gorgeous with huge brown eyes and blonde hair that hung in a ponytail to her waist.
“I’m so sorry.” Darlene shook her head. Brad should have never gotten those Longhorns.  Neither she nor Brad knew a thing about cows, but Brad had said a move to the country should include some Longhorns. Although it didn’t make a lick of sense to her. She pushed the door wide. “I’m Darlene.”
The woman shifted her weight, but didn’t offer a greeting in return. Instead, she stared at Darlene’s chest. Darlene waited for the woman to lock eyes with her, and when she didn’t, Darlene finally looked down. Her cheeks warmed as she sighed. “Oh, this is my daughter’s shirt.” Don’t Bug Me! was scrolled across the white T-shirt in red, and beneath the writing was a hideous picture of a giant roach.  Darlene couldn’t stand the shirt, but twelve-year-old Ansley loved it. “Do you want to come in?” She stepped back.
“No. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to round up your Longhorns and head them back to your pasture. I’ll temporarily repair the fence.” The woman turned to leave, and it was then that Darlene saw a horse tethered to the fence that divided their property. She stifled a smile. This woman really was a cowgirl.
“Know anything about snakes?” Darlene eased onto the front porch, sidestepping a board she knew was loose. The porch was next on their list of things to repair on her grand- parents’ old homestead.
“What?” The woman turned around as she held a hand underneath the rim of her hat, blocking the afternoon sun.
“I have a snake in my bedroom.” Darlene shrugged. “Just wondering if you had any—any experience with something like that?” She padded down two porch steps in her socks. “I’m not sure I got your name?”
“Layla.” She gave a quick wave before she turned to leave again. Darlene sighed. Clearly the woman wasn’t interested in being friends. Or helping with the snake. Darlene watched her walk to her horse and put a foot in the stirrup. Then she paused and twisted her body to face Darlene. “What kind of snake?”
Hopeful, Darlene edged down another step. “A big, black one.”
Layla put her foot back on the ground and walked across the grass toward the porch. Darlene couldn’t believe how graceful the tall blonde was, how out of sync her beauty was in comparison to what she was wearing.
“Only thing you really have to worry about around here are copperheads.” She tipped back the rim of her hat. “Was it a copperhead?”
At five foot two, Darlene felt instantly inferior to this tall, gorgeous, horse-riding, snake-slaying blonde. She wasn’t about to say that she couldn’t tell one snake from the other. “I don’t think so.”
“All I’ve got is a .22 with me.” Layla pointed back to her horse, and Darlene saw a long gun in a holster. “But a .22 will blow a hole through your floor,” Layla added. A surreal feeling washed over Darlene. She thought about their previous home in a Houston subdivision, and a woman with a gun on a horse wasn’t a sight they would’ve seen.
“Do you have a pellet gun?” She stopped in front of Darlene on the steps. Darlene was pretty sure that was all they had— Chad’s BB gun.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Five minutes later, Darlene pushed open the door to her bedroom and watched Layla enter the scene of the invasion. The bed was piled with clean clothes, but at least it was made up. The vacuum was in the middle of the room instead of in the closet under the stairs. It wasn’t the way she wanted a stranger to see her bedroom, but it could have been worse.
Layla got down on her knees and looked under the bed. From the threshold, Darlene did a mental scan of what was under there. Boxes of photos, a flowery hatbox that had belonged to her grandmother, an old, red suitcase stuffed with baby keepsakes from when the kids were young—and a lot of dust. “There he is.” Layla leaned her chest to the floor and positioned Chad’s BB gun. Darlene braced herself, then squeezed her eyes closed as two pops echoed underneath the bed. A minute later, Layla drug the snake out with the tip of the gun. “Just a chicken snake.”
Darlene stepped out of the room, giving Layla plenty of room to haul the snake out. Big, black, ugly. And now dead. Blood dripped all the way to the front door.  Layla carried the snake to the fence and laid it across the timber, its yellow underside up.
“Belly up should bring rain.” Layla was quickly up on her horse. “Maybe tell your husband that I’m patching the fence up, but he really needs some new cross planks.”
“I will. And thank you so much for killing that snake. Do you and your husband want to come for dinner tonight? I’d like to do something for you.”
“I’m not married. And I can’t come to dinner tonight. Thanks, though.” She gave the horse a little kick in the flank, then eased through a gate that divided her acreage from Brad and Darlene’s. She closed it behind her from atop her horse and headed toward the large house on top of the sloping hillside. Coming from town, the spacious estate was fully visible from the road and her youngest daughter called it the “mansion on the hill.” The rest of the family took to calling it that too.
In comparison to their rundown farmhouse, Darlene sup- posed it was a mansion. Both homes were probably built in the late 1800s, but Layla’s was completely restored, at least on the outside, with fresh, yellow paint and white trim.  A split-rail, cedar fence also surrounded the yard, and toward the back of the property, a bright red barn lit up the hayfield not far from a good-sized pond. A massive iron gate—that stayed closed most of the time—welcomed  visitors down a long, winding drive- way. And there were lots of livestock—mostly Longhorns and horses. If the wind was blowing just right, sometimes Darlene could hear faint music coming from the house.
She was hoping maybe she could be friends with Layla, even though she wasn’t sure she had anything in common with her. Just the same, Darlene was going to pay her a visit. Maybe take her a basket of baked goodies, a thank-you for killing that snake.
Brad adjusted the phone against his ear and listened to Darlene’s details about her snake ordeal, then she ended the conversation the way she always did. “Who do you love?”
“You, baby.”
It was their thing. Nearly twenty years ago, at a bistro in Houston,  Brad wanted  to tell Darlene that  he loved her—for the first time—and he was a nervous wreck, wondering if she felt the same way. He’d kept fumbling around, and the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d seen it in his eyes, but she’d reached over, touched his hand, and smiled. Then in a soft whisper, she’d asked, “Who do you love?” His answer had rolled off his tongue with ease. “You, baby.” Then she’d told him that she loved him too, and the who-do-you-love question stuck. Darlene asked him all the time. He knew it wasn’t because she was insecure; it was just a fond recollection for both of them. That night at the bistro, Brad had known he was going to marry Darlene.
He flipped his phone shut and maneuvered through the Houston traffic toward home.  He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with a snake when he got there, but he was amused at Darlene’s description of the tall, blonde cowgirl who shot it with Chad’s BB gun.
He had four tax returns to work on tonight after dinner. All these extra billable hours were bound to pay off. He needed the extra income if he was going to make all the renovations to the farm that he and Darlene had discussed. Brad wanted to give her the financial freedom to make their home everything she dreamed it could be. Cliff Hodges had been dangling the word partner in front of him for almost two years, and Brad was sure he was getting close to having his name on the door.
If they hadn’t been in such a rush to move from Houston, Brad was sure they could have held out and gotten more for their house. As it turned out, they’d barely broken even, and just getting the farmhouse in semi-livable shape had taken a chunk of their savings. Buying out Darlene’s brother for his share of the homestead had put a strain on their finances too, but it was worth it if Darlene was happy. She’d talked about restoring her grandparents’ farm for years. The original plan had been to fix the place up over time so they could use it as weekend getaway. But then they’d decided to make the move as soon as they could, even if the house wasn’t in tip top shape.
Forty-five minutes from his office, he’d cleared the bustle of the city, and the six lane freeway narrowed to two lanes on either side of a median filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Nothing like spring in Texas to calm his mind after crunching numbers all day long, but leaving the office so late to head west put the setting sun directly in his face. He flipped his visor down, glad that the exit for Highway 36 was only a few miles. Once he turned, he’d get a break from the blinding rays. Then he’d pass through the little towns of Sealy and Bellville before winding down one-lane roads to the peaceful countryside of Round Top. It was a long commute, almost an hour and a half each way, but it was worth it when he pulled into his driveway. Small-town living was better for all of them. Especially Chad.
Brad could still recall the night Chad came stumbling into the house—drunk.  His seventeen year old son had been running around with a rebellious group of friends in Houston. And sometimes Chad’s glassy eyes had suggested more than just alcohol abuse. He shook his head to clear the recollections, knowing he would continue to pray that his son would make better choices now that he had some distance from his old buddies.
Brad felt like a blessed man. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly twenty years, and he had three amazing children. He wanted to spend his life being the best husband and father he could be. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t thank the Lord for the life he’d been given, and it was Brad’s job to take care of his family.
Darlene finished setting the table. She regretted that her mother couldn’t see her enjoying her grandmother’s dining room set. Darlene had been surprised to find the oak table and chairs still in the house when they’d moved in. The antiques had been dusty and in dire need of cleaning, but they were just as sturdy as ever. She could remember many meals with her parents and grandparents in this house, at this table.
She still missed her grandparents—and her parents.  Dad had been gone almost six years, and two years had passed since her mother’s death. Her parents had started their family late in life, both of them in their late thirties when she was born, and
Dale was born two years after Darlene. She was glad her brother hadn’t wanted the farm. It had been a struggle to buy him out, but no regrets. Someday, they too would have a “mansion on the hill,” like Layla’s. She cast her eyes downward, frowning at the worn out wooden floors. She’d be glad when they could afford to cover the original planking with new hardwood.
Thinking of Layla brought a smile to her face as she mashed steaming potatoes in a pot on the stove. She couldn’t help but wonder what the tall blonde was doing all alone on that estate. Darlene had never even been on a horse or owned a pair of cowgirl boots. Several of her friends back in Houston sported a pair of high-dollar, pointy-toed boots, but they didn’t particularly appeal to Darlene. Her friend, Gina, had told her it was un-Texan not to own a pair of boots.
She missed Gina. They’d been friends since their daughters had started Girl Scouts together, but after Gina’s divorce, they’d drifted apart.  Gina’s interests had changed from Girl Scout and PTO meetings to going out with new single friends.
She left the dining room and went back to the kitchen, glad that the aroma of dinner covered up the dingy old-house smell that lingered, despite her best efforts to conceal it with air fresheners.
“Mom! Mom!” Ansley burst into the kitchen with the kind of enthusiasm that could mean either celebration or disaster; with Ansley you never knew. At twelve, she was the youngest and the most dramatic in the family.
Darlene gave the potatoes a final stir before she turned to face her. “What is it, Ansley?”
“Guess what?” Ansley rocked back and forth from heel to toe, and Darlene could tell by the grin on her daughter’s face that the news was good. “I did it. Straight C's and above!”
Darlene brought her hands to her chest and held her breath for a moment, smiling. When Ansley was in grade school, early testing indicated she was going to struggle, and Darlene and Brad knew she was a bit slower than other kids her age.
Not so thrilling was what Brad had promised Ansley if she received a report card without any failing grades.  “Sweetie, that’s great. I’m so proud of you.” She hugged her daughter, knowing it was highly unlikely Ansley wouldn’t remember her father’s promise. Ansley eased out of the hug.
“I know they scare you, Mom, but having some chickens and roosters will be so much fun! We’ll be like real farmers, and every day after school, I’ll go get the eggs.” Ansley’s dark hair brushed against her straightened shoulders, and her big brown eyes twinkled. “Think how much money you’ll save on eggs!”
Darlene bit her bottom lip as she recalled the chickens her grandparents used to keep on this very same farm. And one very mean rooster. Eight dollars in savings per month was hardly going to be worth it, but a promise was a promise. She’d told Brad before they’d left Houston not to offer such a reward, but Darlene had put it out of her mind. At the time, it seemed a stretch for Ansley to hit the goal and make all C’s.
“Maybe just have laying chickens. You don’t need a rooster.”  Darlene walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a tub of butter.
“Mom . . .”
Darlene set the butter on the table and raised a brow in time to see Ansley rolling her eyes.
“Even I know we can’t have baby chicks without a rooster.” Ansley folded her arms across her chest.
Darlene grinned. “I know you know that, but how many chickens are you hoping to have?” She recalled that on some of her visits to her grandparents’ house, if the wind blew just right, she could smell the chicken coop from the front yard, even though the pens were well over fifty yards away, back next to the barn. When they’d first moved in, Brad had fixed up the old coops as an incentive for Ansley to pull her grades up. Sitting on the porch swing with Brad late in the evenings had become a regular thing, and smelly chickens would be an unwelcome distraction.
“Not too many,” Ansley said as she pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water.
One was too many in Darlene’s opinion, but it was a well- deserved reward. Darlene gave a lot of the credit to the school here. Much to her children’s horror, there were only 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve in the Round Top/ Carmine School District, but Darlene felt like they were getting a better education and more one-on-one attention.  Darlene had been on the verge of homeschooling Ansley before they left Houston, but Ansley threw such a fit that Darlene had dis- carded the idea.
Ansley chugged the water, then put the glass in the sink. “I can’t wait ’til Daddy gets home.”
Darlene smiled. Her youngest was always a breath of fresh air, full of energy, and the tomboy in the family.
She thought about the snake and realized Ansley probably wouldn’t have freaked out after all. She heard Brad’s car rolling up the gravel driveway, and moments later, the front screen door slammed and Ansley yelled, “Daddy! Guess what!”
An hour later, everyone was gathered at the dinner table, except Chad. After about ten minutes, he finally sauntered into the room, slid into his chair, and folded his hands for prayer.
“It’s your turn to offer the blessing, Chad.” Darlene bowed her head.
“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you’ve given us, for this food, the roof over our head, and Your love. And God . . .” Chad paused with a sigh. Darlene opened one eye and held her breath. More often than not, Chad’s prayers included appeals for something outside the realm of what should be requested at the dinner table. Like the time he’d asked for God to help his parents see their way to buying him a better car. Darlene closed her eye, let out her breath, and listened.
“Could you heal Mr.  Blackstone’s cancer and bring him back to school? He’s a good guy.” Darlene’s insides warmed, but then Chad continued.  “Our substitute stinks. Amen.”
“Chad!” Darlene sat taller, then cut her eyes at Brad, who shouldn’t be smiling.
“No, Mom. I mean, really. He stinks. He doesn’t smell good.” Chad scooped out a large spoonful of potatoes. “And he’s like a hundred or something.”
“Even more reason you shouldn’t speak badly about him. Respect your elders, remember?” Darlene passed the meatloaf to Chad, who was shoveling potatoes like he hadn’t eaten in a month of Sundays.
“Grace, how was your day?” Brad passed their older daughter a plate of rolls.
“It was okay.”
Grace rarely complained, but Darlene knew she wasn’t happy about the move from Houston.  Mostly because of the boy she’d left behind.
Ansley turned her head to Darlene, grunted, then frowned. “Mom, why are you wearing my shirt?”
Darlene looked down at the big roach. “Oh, I had to borrow it earlier. I sort of couldn’t go in my room for a while.”
Darlene told the full-length version of the snake story that she’d shortened for Brad on the phone.
“I’ve seen that woman,” Chad said. “And she’s hot.”
“She’s old like Mom, Chad! That’s gross.” Ansley squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then shook her head.
Darlene took a bite of roll. At thirty-eight, when had she become old in her children’s eyes? “I believe Layla is several years older than me, Chad.”
Her son shrugged. “Whatever. She’s still—”
“Chad, that’s enough.” Brad looked in Chad’s direction, and Darlene was glad to see him step in since it seemed like she was the one who always disciplined the children. Brad, on the other hand—well, he promised chickens.
They were all quiet for a few moments before Chad spoke up again.
“Did you know Layla drives a tractor? I’ve seen her out in the pasture on the way to school.” He shook his head. “Seems weird for a woman.” He laughed as he looked to his left at Ansley. “Can you picture Mom out on a tractor plowing the fields?”
Ansley laughed. “No, I can’t.”
“Don’t underestimate your mom.  You never know what she might do.” Brad reached for another roll as he winked at Darlene.
Darlene smiled. She found herself thinking, yet again, that this was a good move for them. They all needed this fresh start. None of the kids had been particularly happy at first, but they were coming around.
“Can I be excused?” Grace put her napkin in her lap and scooted her chair back.
Darlene knew meatloaf wasn’t Grace’s favorite. “Whose night is it to help with dishes?”
Grace and Ansley both pointed at Chad.
“Okay,” Darlene said to Grace. “You can be excused.”
Darlene watched Grace leave the table. Her middle child was tiny like Darlene, and she was the only one in the family who inherited Darlene’s blonde hair and blue eyes. And her features were as perfect as a porcelain doll’s, complete with a flawless ivory complexion.  She looked like a little princess. Chad and Ansley had their father’s dark hair and eyes—and his height. Darlene loved her children  equally, proud  of them  all, but sometimes  it was hard not to favor Grace just a little bit, especially since they’d come so close to losing her as an infant. Grace had come into the world nine weeks’ premature, a surprise  to  everyone, including  Darlene’s  doctor,  since  Darlene had  delivered  Chad  at  full-term  with  no  complications  just two years earlier. Grace struggled those first few weeks with undeveloped lungs and severe jaundice, and twice they were told to prepare themselves for the worst. But their Grace was a fighter, and as her sixteenth birthday approached, Darlene silently thanked God for the millionth time for His grace.
There’d been issues and struggles with both Chad and Ansley from time to time—mostly with Chad. But Grace had never given them one bit of trouble.

My Thoughts:

When I think of Beth Wiseman, the first thing that comes to mind is Amish fiction. In fact, she's one of my favorite writers in that genre. So, when I hear she did a new novel and it was centered around a Christian family and not an Amish family, I knew I had to read it. I was curious to see if this one would be as good as her past novels.

After reading "Need You Now", Beth went from one of my favorite Amish authors to one of my favorite authors in general! She has created an amazing story around a family that's far from perfect. Everyone has their problems and some of those problems Beth incorporates into the story are difficult: cutting, fidelity, secrets, underage drinking and stereotyping, but she handles them brilliantly and realistically.

The characters are real and dimensional and the react to their situations realistically and not idealistically. They make mistakes, they hurt and they forgive (or at least try to) and they try to keep God at the center, but like "real life", it's not always easy. The emotions run high in this book - so much so that I found myself crying at times and giggling at others.

"Need You Now" has ended up on my favorite reads for this year. Make sure to put it on your must read list - you will be glad you did!

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