Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: "Presumed Innocent" by Scott Turow

Presumed Innocent
Author: Scott Turow
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 9780446676441
Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller

About the Book:

"Rusty Sabich is a prosecuting lawyer in Chicago who enters a nightmare world when a colleague with whom he has been having an affair is found raped and strangled - and he is accused of the crime. This 'insider' book, by a Chicago lawyer, was one of the great crime novels of the 1980s, and a huge international bestseller as well as a successful film."

My Thoughts:

This book has been difficult for me to both read and review. I found the storyline itself to be fascinating, with twists and turns and a shocking ending. Although I enjoyed the storyline, I had a difficult time with the main character, Rusty Sabich. Rusty came across as a woman hater, very crass and a user, and no matter how much I wanted to enjoy the story, I despised Rusty, and it made the story almost a chore for me to get through.

I had a huge love/hate relationship with this book. It is a good suspenseful read, but I just couldn't get past the dislike for the main character. It produced a lot of strong emotions on my part. All in all, it is still an interesting and captivating book.

Parental note - This book is an adult book. The content is strong in both language, violence and sexuality.

About the Author:

Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of seven best-selling novels: Presumed Innocent (1987), The Burden of Proof (1990), Pleading Guilty (1993), The Laws of Our Fathers (1996), Personal Injuries (1999), Reversible Errors (2002) and Ordinary Heroes (2005). A novella, Limitations, was published as a paperback original in November 2006 by Picador following its serialization in The New York Times Magazine. His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty.

Book was provided by Hachette Book Groups for me to honestly review.

Monday, August 30, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour & Review: "A Love for Tomorrow (Second Chance at Love #2)" by Vanessa Miller

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Love for Tomorrow (Second Chance at Love #2)

Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***


Vanessa Miller is a best-selling author, playwright, and motivational speaker. She started writing as a child, spending countless hours either reading or writing poetry, short stories, stage plays and novels. Vanessa’s creative endeavors took on new meaning in 1994 when she became a Christian. Since then, her writing has been centered on themes of redemption, often focusing on characters facing multi-dimensional struggles. Readers and critics alike have responded with overwhelming affirmation with her work topping several bestsellers lists and receiving numerous awards including “Best Christian Fiction Mahogany Award” and the “Red Rose Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction.” Her first Whitaker House book, Yesterday’s Promise debuted at #1 on the Black Christian News Network’s Bestsellers List.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742085
ISBN-13: 978-1603742085



“Our wedding is next week, Michael. How can you possibly have cold feet now?” Serenity Williams asked her fiancĂ© with her hands on her hips.

“This isn’t about cold feet, Serenity. You’re not listening to me. I’m telling you, I can’t marry you. I’ve been trying to convince myself for weeks that it will work, but I realize now that it won’t.”

This was not happening to her. This was some crazy dream that she was going to wake up from any minute, because there was no way that the good reverend, Dr. Michael Randolph—the man she loved and had been planning to marry for the past three years—could be standing in front of her one week before the wedding, trying to call it off. But, just in case this wasn’t a dream, Serenity decided to play along. “Okay, Michael. Please tell me exactly what I haven’t been listening to.”

Michael took off his black fedora, revealing his full head of wavy, black hair. “Can you sit down on the couch with me so we can talk?”

She didn’t want to sit down and talk; she wanted to get married. Michael owed her a wedding. After all, she had spent five years with this man. They had dated for two years and then gotten engaged. That had been three years ago. She had told her friends that she and Michael had decided to wait until his ministry got off the ground before getting married, but, in truth, it had been Michael’s decision to wait. Now that his ministry was growing, what did he want her to do—wait another five years so he could work on expanding his church so that it reached megachurch status?

Michael sat down on the couch and held out his hand, gesturing for Serenity to join him.

She sat down next to him but said nothing.

“Serenity, the first thing you need to understand is that I love you more than life itself. It is because of how much I love you that I can’t go through with this marriage.”

When am I going to wake up? Serenity held up her hand. “Wait a minute, now. I’m totally confused. Are you really telling me that you can’t marry me because you love me too much?”

“Let me finish, honey,” Michael said. He took a deep breath and then trod on. “We’ve put off our wedding for three years now, because I’ve been hoping you’ll get over your competitive ways. It’s this constant rivalry between us that’s driving me crazy. I’m afraid that the love I have for you will fade because of the competitive spirit you have.”

“The competitive spirit I have?” Serenity exploded as she stood up. “I’m not in competition with anybody. I’m just doing what God has called me to do.”

“That’s what you tell people. But it’s obvious that you are competitive. You wouldn’t be where you are today if you weren’t.”

“Okay, so what if I am a little competitive? What does that have to do with you and me? You’re the pastor of a church. I don’t have a church; I travel all over the world preaching, and I have a television ministry.”

“See? That’s what I mean,” he said, pointing at her. Then, he stood up, too. “You’re always throwing the fact that you have a TV ministry in my face. And you love it when other preachers invite you to speak at their churches. You’ve even been trying to get behind my pulpit for the past year.”

“That is not true. I have never asked to preach at your church. I have more speaking engagements than I can accept in a year, so I certainly don’t need to beg anybody for the opportunity to preach.”

“See, there you go again. Every time you open your mouth, it’s always to say something about what you’re doing in ministry and how you’re in such high demand.”

It wasn’t true. Serenity had never bragged about her ministry. At least, not in the way Michael was making it sound like she did. Yes, she was grateful that God had allowed her ministry to grow in the manner in which it had over the last two years. And, yes, she expressed that gratitude to anyone who would listen. But she wasn’t bragging. She was trying to communicate to others that she understood how blessed she was. Serenity’s father was a bishop who presided over seven megachurches and ten smaller to medium-sized ones. He had often tried to get her to take over one of his churches as a pastor, but she didn’t believe that God was leading her in that direction.

She had stepped out in faith when she’d started her television ministry on a newly developed cable channel. Her television program was part Oprah, part Joyce Meyer in style. She interviewed many pastors and teachers of the gospel. And then, when she was invited to minister, she brought along her camera crew and broadcast those events on her program, as well. She and Michael had discussed the format of her show at its inception. At the time, he had thought it was a great idea. He’d even told her that he could see her show going big time.

He just hadn’t told her that, when it did, he would hold it against her. “Michael, please don’t do this. Maybe we need to see a marriage counselor so we can work this out before the wedding.”

“Don’t you find the fact that we need a marriage counselor before we even get married a bit ludicrous?”

“I don’t know about that. What definitely seems ludicrous to me is the fact that you’re jealous of a ministry that God’s hand is on.” She took a deep breath, tried to calm herself, and said, “Look, Michael. I’m thirty-four years old. You’re forty-two. We both agreed that now is the perfect time for us to have children. I’ve waited for you for five years. Why are you backing out now?”

“I’m sorry, Serenity. I just can’t marry someone whose ministry overshadows my own. The next thing I know, people will be calling me ‘Mr. Williams’ instead of ‘Pastor Randolph.’” He shook his head. “I just can’t deal with that.”

This was real—Michael was calling off their wedding—and Serenity felt as if her world was coming to an end. “What do you want me to do, Michael? Do you want me to give up my TV ministry? Is that it?”

He put his hat back on. “No. That won’t work. You’ve created such a following now that, even if you weren’t on TV, preachers would still be calling for you to speak at their conferences.”

“I don’t understand. I thought you loved me.”

Michael didn’t respond. He picked up his car keys and walked out of the house without looking back.

If he had turned around, he would have seen the tears that flowed down Serenity’s face and the longing that she felt way down deep in her heart. But Michael didn’t care about that. He cared only about being “overshadowed.” Why hadn’t she seen this coming? Her best friend, Melinda Marks, had tried to warn her two years ago, when she’d said, “Trying to do the will of God and the will of your man gets hard sometimes.”

At the time, Serenity had thought that Melinda was referring to her relationship with Bishop Steven Marks. Steven and Melinda had been engaged long ago, but Steven had felt that he couldn’t marry a woman who wanted to preach the gospel rather than stay at home and be a wife and mother. So, he’d called off their wedding. But God’s will had prevailed in that situation, and Steven and Melinda had finally gotten married eighteen months ago.

As she wiped the tears from her eyes, Serenity told herself not to worry. Michael would come to his senses, and they would be married on Saturday, as planned.

But on Thursday, her father, Bishop Lawrence Williams, called and informed her that Michael’s secretary was phoning everyone on the guest list and letting them know that the wedding had been cancelled. That’s when Serenity finally faced the fact that Michael wasn’t coming back. He had allowed his ego to override their love, and she was crushed.

“Why didn’t you tell me, sweetheart?” her father asked.

“I thought he would change his mind. I just didn’t believe he was serious.”

Serenity had been calling Michael for the past three days, leaving messages on his answering machine and voice mail, letting him know that she still loved him, and that she still wanted to go through with the wedding. Why should she have to wait ten years for Michael to come to his senses, as Melinda had done with Steven? Serenity was convinced that if they just went ahead and got married, they would be able to work everything out later.

“Why is he doing this?” her father asked, cutting in on her thoughts.

“He says I’m too competitive—that he can’t marry a woman who overshadows him and his ministry.”

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry to hear that. But if that’s the way he feels, then he doesn’t deserve you. I believe that, if you’re meant to marry a preacher, God will send one who can handle your anointing.”

Serenity didn’t respond to her father’s remark, and they brought their conversation to an end. But, by the time she had hung up the phone, she had made a very clear resolution. She wouldn’t waste another minute of her life on another ego-driven preacher.


Pastor Phillip McKnight was a man who had been greatly blessed by God. There was no other explanation for the extraordinary life he’d led. He’d played sixteen years of professional football, being traded only twice and winning a Super Bowl championship with both teams. The last team he’d played for had been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’d been thirty-seven and still fit enough to play, if he’d wanted, when he’d voluntarily retired. But Phillip had other things on his mind. He’d earned millions of dollars from his winning football career, and now he wanted to live out the rest of his life serving God and winning souls for the kingdom.

When he arrived at the new building of the church he pastored, New Destiny, he entered, eager to check on the progress of the construction workers. He had given up a lot to build this church, but he had no regrets. In his lifetime, he had experienced fame and fortune, the likes of which most people only dream about. But none of the things he had accomplished ever truly fulfilled him. Then, one day, he’d met Jesus, and it was as if the blinders came off. He began to see things so much more clearly. He received new direction for his life.

Jimmy Dayton, the foreman for the construction company, met Phillip in the fellowship hall. “I’ve got something to show you,” he told him excitedly.

“Lead the way,” Phillip said, hoping that at least one of the rooms in the church was finally finished. They had been making plans for the building for a year and a half, but construction hadn’t started until nine months ago. Right now, New Destiny was holding its services in a high school gymnasium, and he was getting ready to come home.

Jimmy opened the double doors to the sanctuary, and Phillip walked in, his eyes beholding the beauty of the navy blue wall-to-wall carpet and the matching cushioned pews, which spanned the three-thousand-seat sanctuary. The glass podium he’d ordered was in the pulpit area, waiting for him to stand behind it and preach the Word. He turned to Jimmy. “This looks incredible! What else is finished?”

“Just your office, but the structure is solid enough for your congregation to have services here soon.”

“This is the best news I’ve had all week!” Phillip exclaimed. “I’m glad I stopped by today. How soon can we start holding our services in here?” He couldn’t keep the excitement out of his voice.

“Probably in about two weeks or so,” Jimmy said. “We need to get a couple more things done before the safety inspection.”

“Okay—but hurry up! I can’t wait to have our services in this sanctuary,” Phillip said before heading for his new office, where he sat down behind the desk. He finally felt like they were making progress. That sense of satisfaction enabled him to take out the envelope he’d been carrying around all day in his pocket and put it on his desk. He looked at the envelope for a full ten minutes before picking it up and opening it.

Slowly, he unfolded the divorce decree and stared at it for a few moments before throwing it back on his desk. Then, he leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and prayed for strength.


No, this man is not keeping me waiting like this, Serenity thought as she looked at her diamond-studded Gucci watch. It was one of her favorite accessories. The watch had been priced at two grand, but Serenity had talked the store manager into halving the price. Her father always told her that a woman should treat herself to something special every now and then. So, while she’d been on her honeymoon in the Bahamas—without the groom—she’d purchased this gorgeous watch without a second thought. She loved the look and feel of Gucci on her wrist.

But her beautiful timepiece was telling her that her interviewee was twenty minutes late. The infamous Pastor Phillip McKnight had cancelled the interview they’d scheduled for two weeks ago so that he and a group of evangelists, ministers, and church members could travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to help with the disaster relief efforts after the terrible earthquake that had racked the country and claimed so many lives. Serenity wholeheartedly understood Pastor McKnight’s desire to be in Haiti during the country’s time of need. She had even set up a disaster relief fund on her own Web site, encouraging the viewers of her Christian television show, Walk This Way, to donate money. But Pastor McKnight had been back in the States for three days now. What in the world could have caused him to be late for their rescheduled meeting?

Serenity hadn’t wanted to interview Pastor McKnight in the first place. She was more comfortable with female preachers and teachers on her show, and she thought that her viewership, consisting predominantly of young to middle-aged women, would benefit most from hearing about the accomplishments and visions of other women around their age. But her producer kept telling her that women were also interested in men who served the Lord. So, here she was, being mistreated by another arrogant pastor who thought the world revolved around his inflated head.

Well, enough was enough. Serenity would not wait a second longer. She was going to gather up her camera crew and head back to Chicago. But, as she stood up, the office door opened, and a broad-shouldered man with skin the color of milk chocolate rushed through it. She had seen Pastor McKnight on television when he’d played for Tampa, but that football helmet must have blocked her view, because she had never imagined that the man was this fine in the flesh. Serenity sat back down and tried to process everything she knew about Pastor Phillip McKnight. He was a former football player who’d started building the church he now pastored a year before retiring from the NFL. She also knew that he was divorced.

“Sorry I’m so late,” he said with an apologetic smile. “I got a flat tire on the interstate and had to change it.”

That explained the dirt smudges she saw on his dress shirt. “I thought you forgot about our interview,” Serenity said, not willing to let him off the hook too easily.

Phillip stretched out his hand, and she took it. As they shook, Phillip said, “I could never forget an appointment with Serenity Williams. Even four flat tires couldn’t keep me away.”

Serenity pulled her hand out of his grip. The man was charming, but he was a preacher, and that made her mistrustful. It also made him off-limits. Ever since that swollen-headed reverend, Michael Randolph, had dumped her because her ministry was more successful than his, she had sworn off preachers. Even her brother, Larry the egomaniac, freely admitted that he wouldn’t be able to handle a wife who made more money or was better known than he. Falling in love with a preacher was for women who looked good in straitjackets and liked padded rooms. Best just to get this interview over with and forget she’d ever met Pastor Phillip McKnight. “So, would you like to talk in here first, or would you like to show the camera crew around the church so they can shoot some footage for the show?”

“Umm…well, I—I guess we could talk first, if—if that’s okay with you,” Phillip said.

“Are you sure, Pastor McKnight? Because, if you’d rather work with the film crew first, I’m okay with that.”

“No, no—please, sit back down. I’d like nothing more than to speak with you right now.” He sat down behind his desk and then said, “I forgot to charge my cell phone.”

What does that have to do with anything? Serenity wondered as she looked at him with questioning eyes.

Phillip pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and set it on his desk. “I would have called to tell you that I was going to be late, but my cell died on me.”

“Okay,” Serenity said. She had already moved on and wished he’d do the same. She pulled her notepad and pen out of her purse. “This is a pretty big church building for such a young ministry. Most preachers begin their ministries in storefronts or other smaller locales. What made you decide to go so big so soon?”

“No small talk, no chitchat; just get straight down to business, huh?”

Serenity put down her notepad. “I wasn’t trying to rush you, Pastor McKnight. It’s just that my father taught me about the value of time, and I try not to waste it.”

“Your father seems like a wise man. That’s why I have a meeting scheduled with him next week. I’ll be sure to let him know that his daughter still follows his advice.”

Serenity’s curiosity was piqued. She wanted to know why Pastor Phillip McKnight would leave the warmth of Tampa, Florida, to come to Chicago during the season of snowstorms and winter chills, but she didn’t ask. Instead, she said, “Make sure to bring a heavy coat and a pair of gloves. They don’t call it the Windy City for nothing.”

“I plan to. Your father already warned me about the weather. But he promised that your mother would fix a warm meal for my trouble.”

With a furrowed brow, Serenity said, “My mother normally tells me when she and my father are hosting out-of-town guests. I’m surprised she didn’t say anything about your visit.” Then, as if shaking off the shocking news, she picked her notepad back up. “Shall we continue, then, Pastor McKnight?”

Phillip put his elbows on his desk and smiled at her. “Would you do me a favor?” he asked.

“That depends. What do you need?” she asked with a wary grin on her face.

“Would you please call me Phillip? I don’t think we need to be so formal, especially since I’ll be meeting your parents next week.”

Okay, the suspense was killing her. There was no way she was going to be able to wait until she was finished with her work to call her mother and find out why Phillip was coming to dinner. “So, why are you and my father getting together next week?”

“I guess I’m kind of looking for a spiritual father, of sorts. I’ve been a pastor for only two years, and I’m getting to the point where I really need some godly guidance and mentoring.”

“Are you saying that you’ve decided to voluntarily bring the church you built under another man’s leadership?”

Phillip shook his head. “I don’t see it as the church I built. This church was built by God and the people of God, and I just want to continue to honor Him in all that we do.”

Most of the pastors Serenity knew weren’t eager to submit themselves to another man’s leadership. Michael, for example, had always complained about the things her father would ask him to do when he’d presided over Michael’s church. Even her thickheaded brother complained about their dad poking his nose into his business from time to time. Serenity had to admit, Pastor Phillip McKnight seemed somewhat different. But there had to be something wrong with him—after all, his ex-wife had left him for some reason, right?

Serenity had finally agreed to do this interview in part because she’d figured it would give her an opportunity to show her viewers how egotistical and pride-filled Pastor McKnight was. This might just be her chance. She leaned closer to Phillip and, in the most innocent voice she could muster, said, “You sound like a reasonable man, Pastor McKnight. One would wonder why your wife divorced you.”

Phillip flinched, then said, “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you wait for me in the sanctuary? I’ll change my shirt, and then we can give the camera crew a tour of the facility while you interview me about the ministry.”

She didn’t miss his emphasis on “about the ministry,” and she was immediately horrified at what she’d said.

Phillip had changed the subject, and she was more than willing to move away from it, as well. “You keep extra shirts at work?” she asked.

Phillip stood up and pointed at the dirt spots on his shirt. “Never know when I’ll get all grimy changing a tire.”

“My father keeps extra clothes at his church office, too.”

“Smart man,” Phillip said.

She laughed as she stood up. “Okay, I’ll wait for you in the sanctuary.”

Before she could turn away, Phillip said, “You have a beautiful smile, Serenity. You should always keep a smile on your face.”

The compliment made Serenity uncomfortable. She turned and headed out the door as quick as her three-inch heels would carry her.


Why did I say that? Phillip wanted to bash himself in the head for speaking like that to a woman who obviously wanted nothing to do with him. Serenity Williams had practically run out of his office, as if he’d told her he had swine flu or something.

Phillip took off his soiled shirt, reached into his closet, and grabbed a blue button-down. As he put it on and then turned to the mirror to examine himself, his thoughts turned back to Serenity. He had been watching her program for more than a month now—not every day, but he made a point to watch whenever he could. Somehow, he’d never imagined that her hazel eyes would sparkle as brightly as they did in person. And that smile of hers almost took his breath away. Actually, Phillip wished it had taken his breath away, for then, he wouldn’t have been able to embarrass himself with stupid talk.

How could he have come on to Serenity like some high school jock with a crush on the prom queen? He lightly slapped his cheeks with his fingertips. “Get yourself together. Go out there and act in a professional manner,” he instructed himself, pointing a finger at his reflection in the mirror.

Phillip left his office, determined to conduct himself in an upright way. Serenity might very well be one of the most beautiful women he’d seen in a long time, but he was a man of God, and he knew how to control himself. “Okay,” Phillip said, clasping his hands together as he stood in the sanctuary, looking from Serenity to the camera crew. “Is everybody ready to get this tour started?”

“We sure are.” Serenity stood up and introduced Phillip to the camera crew, which consisted of two guys. “This is Lenny,” she said as she pointed to a tall, slim Conan O’Brien look-alike. “He’ll be snapping pictures.” She then pointed to a slightly balding African-American man wearing blue jeans and a shirt with palm trees on it. “Bob will be shooting all the footage.”

“Hello, Lenny. Hello, Bob.” Phillip nodded at each man.

“So, where do you want to start?” Serenity asked him.

“Well, you’re already in my pride and joy.” Phillip lifted his arms and did a full circle on the plush carpet of the sanctuary. “This is the first space that was finished, after the office complex. We wanted to be able to have services here, even while the construction crew was pounding their way through the rest of the building.”

Serenity looked from the pulpit to the many pews that lined the first floor and then to the balcony. “This is a beautiful sanctuary. I love the navy and burgundy colors you chose. Very bold, but still warm and inviting.” She turned to Phillip and asked, “How many people can you fit in this sanctuary?”

“It seats about three thousand.”

“For such a young ministry, that is an awful lot of members to have.”

“Oh, we have only about eighteen hundred members, but I believe that we will quickly grow into the place.”

“Sources have said that you put up five million of your own money for this project, but I’m surprised that a bank would loan you the rest of the money you needed without the membership to back it up,” Serenity said.

“I’m still raising capital to finish the building. We’re a work in progress, as you will see.”

“So, the bank wouldn’t loan you the money?”

“We’re in a recession. They loaned me half of what I needed, and I have to come up with the other half.”

“But you’ve already put up so much of your own money. Do you think you’ll get to a point where you’ll say enough is enough?”

Shaking his head, Phillip said, “I would give that and much more to the vision God gave me.” What he didn’t say, though, was that following God’s purpose for his life had already cost him dearly. He had been willing to give the money, but watching his wife walk out the door had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. “Let’s move forward, shall we?”

Phillip led them to the office suite and let them snap pictures of the staff members as they went about their various tasks. Then, he showed them the spaces that would one day be the youth center, additional classrooms, and the fitness room.

“I have never seen a fitness room in a church complex,” Serenity said, signaling Lenny to continue snapping pictures of the equipment.

Phillip picked a fifty-pound weight off the floor and put it back on the rack where it belonged. Although the room was not yet finished, several men in the church had set up the equipment and begun using it, anyway. Guys didn’t need much—just some barbells and a bench press. Ladies, on the other hand, would want to pretty the room up, get rid of the dust and clutter, hang mirrors, and so forth. “I believe in the importance of staying in shape—taking care of God’s temple,” he said.

“I guess you do,” Serenity said with a thoughtful look on her face. Then, she snapped back into professional mode with another question. “So, what does a day in the life of Phillip McKnight look like?”

“I’m not very complex. I get up around six in the morning. I go for a run, then I dig into the Word of God and pray, have a quick breakfast, and come to the church. Once I’m at church, I either plan my sermon or do some other work around here.”

“Speaking of your sermon,” Serenity said, “what time do you want us back here tonight so that Bob can film the message?”

“The service begins at seven, but I normally don’t start preaching until about seven forty-five.”

“Okay,” Serenity said as she held out her hand to shake Phillip’s. “I think we got some good footage today. So, we’ll wrap up for now and finish everything this evening.”

As Phillip took Serenity’s hand in his, he had to remind himself that this was a business meeting and not a first date. He wanted to kiss her hand, but he restrained himself. When he released her hand, he noticed the Gucci watch on her wrist. His ex-wife had liked expensive things, too, and he couldn’t help wondering if Serenity was just like the woman who’d left him and taken half of his hard-earned money with her.


Publisher’s Note:

This novel is a work of fiction. References to real events, organizations, or places are used in a fictional context. Any resemblances to actual persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version, © 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Love for Tomorrow
Book Two in the Second Chance at Love Series

Vanessa Miller


ISBN: 978-1-60374-208-5

Printed in the United States of America

© 2010 by Vanessa Miller

Whitaker House

1030 Hunt Valley Circle

New Kensington, PA 15068


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Miller, Vanessa.

A love for tomorrow / by Vanessa Miller.

p. cm. — (Second chance at love; bk. 2)

Summary: “Christian television show host Serenity Williams is determined never to fall in love with another ego-driven pastor, but then she meets Pastor Phillip McKnight, whose kingdom vision and humble personality begin to change her mind”—Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-1-60374-208-5 (trade pbk.)

1. African American churches—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3613.I5623L68 2010


No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical—including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system—without permission in writing from the publisher. Please direct your inquiries to permissionseditor@whitakerhouse.com.


My Thoughts

Although "A Love for Tomorrow" is the second book of the Second Chance at Love series, it can easily be read as a stand alone book. The characters are well developed and the storyline is so well done, that one doesn't feel like they are missing out on anything.

This book is a bit under 250 pages and is a quick and engrossing read. I enjoyed the struggles of the main character, Serenity Williams. Being a woman pastor, she is in a man's world and finds complications with her chosen career and her love life. She vows never to marry a pastor, because two pastors in the family just don't work. The storyline is very realistic and the struggles and insecurities that surround Serenity really ring true. One gets to see the "other side" of being a pastor from a woman's point of view. Serenity was also a pastor's child, so she brings that point of view in besides, and along with that, the complications and feelings of growing up in the church system.

Vanessa Miller has a wonderful and captivating writing style that I thoroughly enjoyed. I will certainly be reading the first book of the series!

This book was provided by the FIRST Wild Card program for me to honestly review.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review: "A Cup of Jo" by Sandra Balzo

A Cup of Jo: A Maggy Thorsen Mystery (#6)
Author: Sandra Balzo
ISBN: 978-0-7278-6912-8
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery

About the Book:

Maggy Thorsen's heart, uncharacteristically, is swelling with optimism. Sure, her original Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, was destroyed in a freak early May blizzard. But, thanks to friend and new business partner, Sarah Kingston, a perfect location for its successor has been found in a quaint Brookhills railroad station recently revitalized by the creation of a commuter-rail connection between the old depot and the city of Milwaukee, fifteen miles east.

Maggy and Sarah hope to piggyback the grand reopening of Uncommon Grounds on the media coverage of Dedication Day for the train's two terminal points. Maggy even digs deep into her development budget and commissions a giant inflatable Uncommon Grounds coffee cup for the celebrations.

All seems perfectly poised for the great day, until Brookhills' in absentia event manager, JoLynne Penn-Williams, finally makes her appearance - as a corpse in Maggy's piece de resistance. . .

My Thoughts:

This is my first Maggy Thorsen mystery and I must say I enjoyed every second of it. Maggy is witty and charming and just downright funny at times, and I love her character.

The storyline takes place in Maggy's coffee shop that is "re-opening" after her partner was murdered. (This must have been covered in an earlier book in the series). Since this is book 6 in the series, there are things referred to that happened earlier, but doesn't hinder the story. I easily read it as a stand alone with no thoughts of feeling left out or missing something.

I enjoyed this book so much, that I'm putting the rest of the series on my must-read list. Make sure you add this one to yours as well!!!

About the author:

Sandra Balzo turned to mystery writing after twenty years in corporate public relations, event management and publicity. Balzo's novels have been nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity awards and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. In addition to her books about coffee- maven Maggy Thorsen, Balzo writes short stories, two of which have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, winning the Macavity, Derringer and Robert L. Fish awards. Balzo's second series, Main Street Murders, will debut in 2011 and will alternate with the Maggy Thorsen mysteries.

Book was supplied by Bostick Communications for me to honestly review.

Friday, August 27, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour - "That’s Where God Is" by Dan and Ali Morrow

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:

That’s Where God Is

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Dan and Ali Morrow are parents of two wonderful daughters. When they’re not writing children’s books, they like to go on adventures around their Colorado home.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764346
ISBN-13: 978-1434764348

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on the pictures to see them larger):

Please note: Although I did not sign up to participate in this tour or to review this book, I just had to share. This looks like a fantastic book to share with a little one!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour & Review - "The Devil in Pew Number Seven" by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Devil in Pew Number Seven

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

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


Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

Becky Alonzo never felt safe as a child. Although she lived next door to the church her father pastored, the devil lived across the street. This tormented man terrorized her family with rifle shots and ten bombings. When these violent acts didn't scare them away, he went even further. During dinner one evening, seven-year-old Becky and her younger brother watched as their parents were gunned down. Today Becky speaks about betrayal and the power of forgiveness. She is a graduate of Missouri State University and has been involved in ministry, including a church plant, youth outreach, and missions, for thirteen years. She and her husband, along with their two children, live in Franklin, Tennessee.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414326599
ISBN-13: 978-1414326597


Walking, Crawling, Dead or Alive

I ran.

My bare feet pounding the pavement were burning from the sunbaked asphalt. Each contact between flesh and blacktop provoked bursts of pain as if I were stepping on broken glass. The deserted country road, stretching into the horizon, felt as if it were conspiring against me. No matter how hard I pushed myself, the safe place I was desperate to reach eluded me.

Still, I ran.

Had a thousand angry hornets been in pursuit, I couldn’t have run any faster. Daddy’s instructions had been simple: I had to be a big girl, run down the street as fast as my legs could carry me, and get help. There was nothing complicated about his request. Except for the fact that I’d have to abandon my hiding place under the kitchen table and risk being seen by the armed madman who had barricaded himself with two hostages in my bedroom down the hall. I knew, however, that ignoring Daddy’s plea was out of the question.

And so I ran.

Even though Daddy struggled to appear brave, the anguish in his eyes spoke volumes. Splotches of blood stained his shirt just below his right shoulder. The inky redness was as real as the fear gnawing at the edges of my heart. I wanted to be a big girl for the sake of my daddy. I really did. But the fear and chaos now clouding the air squeezed my lungs until my breathing burned within my chest.

My best intentions to get help were neutralized, at least at first. I remained hunkered down, unable to move, surrounded by the wooden legs of six kitchen chairs. I had no illusions that a flimsy 6 x 4 foot table would keep me safe, yet I was reluctant to leave what little protection it afforded me.

In that space of indecision, I wondered how I might open the storm door without drawing attention to myself. One squeak from those crusty hinges was sure to announce my departure plans. Closing the door without a bang against the frame was equally important. The stealth of a burglar was needed, only I wasn’t the bad guy.

Making no more sound than a leaf falling from a tree, I inched my way out from under the table. I stood and then scanned the room, left to right. I felt watched, although I had no way of knowing for sure whether or not hostile eyes were studying my movements. I inhaled the distinct yet unfamiliar smell of sulfur lingering in the air, a calling card left behind from the repeated blasts of a gun.

I willed myself to move.

My bare feet padded across the linoleum floor.

I was our family’s lifeline, our only connection to the outside world. While I hadn’t asked to be put in that position, I knew Daddy was depending on me. More than that, Daddy needed me to be strong. To act. To do what he was powerless to do. I could see that my daddy, a strong ex–Navy man, was incapable of the simplest movement. The man whom I loved more than life itself, whose massive arms daily swept me off my feet while swallowing me with an unmatched tenderness, couldn’t raise an arm to shoo a fly.

To see him so helpless frightened me.

Yes, Daddy was depending on me.

Conflicted at the sight of such vulnerability, I didn’t want to look at my daddy. Yet my love for him galvanized my resolve. I reached for the storm-door handle. Slow and steady, as if disarming a bomb, and allowing myself quick glances backward to monitor the threat level of a sudden ambush, I opened the storm door and stepped outside. With equal care, I nestled the metal door against its frame.

I had to run.

I shot out from under the carport, down the driveway, and turned right where concrete and asphalt met. The unthinkable events of the last five minutes replayed themselves like an endless-loop video in my mind. My eyes stung, painted with hot tears at the memory. Regardless of their age, no one should have to witness what I had just experienced in that house—let alone a seven-year-old girl. The fresh images of what had transpired moments ago mocked me with the fact that my worst fears had just come true.

I had to keep running.

Although I couldn’t see any activity through the curtains framing my bedroom window, that didn’t mean the gunman wasn’t keeping a sharp eye on the street. I hesitated, but only for a moment more. What might happen gave way to what had happened. I had to get help. Now, almost frantic to reach my destination, I redoubled my efforts.

I ran on.

To get help for Momma and Daddy. To escape the gunman. To get away from all the threatening letters, the sniper gunshots, the menacing midnight phone calls, the home invasions—and the devil who seemed to be behind so many of them.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

My Thoughts:

I have no idea how many times I had to stop reading this book and give myself a little time to grasp what I had read. Did you ever hear that saying, "Truth is stranger than fiction"? This book definitely fits that category. If this had been a fiction book, I would have said the author was really stretching things - this would never happen in real life. But this book is nonfiction, and it really did happen.

I am still trying to find the words to express my mortification of all the events that took place. A family is terrorized by the neighbor across the street, and nothing is done about it. Why? He's a person of affluence and influence and without LOTS of solid proof, a case can't be made against him. For years, the local police try to build a case, and finally, they have enough to bring in outside help, like the FBI and ATF.

To imagine the horror the family went through - even after reading it, I cannot even fathom the terror that this family dealt with. The choice for them not to leave, is a stunning one, and one that the father will question for years to come. What happens to the family comes as a total surprise, because they face their largest test by becoming victims of an unsuspected act of violence - one that I never saw coming.

The final surprise is how the daughter of the family (and the author of this book) follows her father's example and forgives those that have ruined her life. She explains why and how that happens and how it has helped her move on.

This book is truly jaw-dropping and an absolutely amazing read!

Parental Note - This book is disturbing and shouldn't be read by children. If you are thinking about giving it to your teen, please read it first before deciding if it is appropriate.

This book was provided by the FIRST program for me to honestly review.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: "One Child" by Jeff Buick

One Child
Author: Jeff Buick
Publisher: Enthrill Entertainment, Inc.
ISBN: 9780986619908
Genre: fiction, thriller

About the book (taken from the back cover):

"Halima, a small girl in Kandahar, Afghanistan, dreams she changes the world.

A Wall Street MBA learns the business world can be an ugly monster.

A soldier and an embedded reporter search for answers in war-torn Afghanistan.

U2, the most popular rock band in the world, prepares to take the stage in Moscow.

There is no apparent connection between the two, yet the threads of destiny are pulling them together. And when they collide, people across the globe watch in fascination.

One Child is a reflection of how our world is now, and how it could be. It digs beneath the surface of war-torn Afghanistan through Halima’s eyes. It exposes the cost of greed. It shares the anguish of a young American soldier and the tenacity of a Wall Street MBA who learns that the business world can be an ugly monster.

From the day you meet Halima, to the moment U2 walks onstage, One Child will rock your world.

My Thoughts:

After finishing the last page, I closed "One Child" and sat in reflective silence for quite a period of time. This powerful, fast paced and emotional story held me captive until the very end. There were times when I had to put it aside to do some necessary tasks, but as soon as I had a chance, I was right back to reading to find out what was going to happen next. With the twists and turns and the ending that totally caught me off guard, I found myself finishing the book in no time - wishing it didn't have to end.

Jeff Buick is an amazing writer. He developed a very gripping storyline that hits very close to home. When he follows 4 different and seemingly totally unrelated characters, he pulled me into the story and never once did it seem awkward or make me wonder where things were going. Buick hauled me in hook, line and sinker.

The characters were fascinating and well developed with my favorite being Halima. She captured my heart from the very beginning. I enjoyed all the characters, but Halima is a character that will be carried with me for a long time.

Parental note - I won't have any problems giving this book to my older teens. It does contain some offensive language and violence. The overall message is a good one, and brings to light the realities of both war and corruption.


When asked to review this book, I was present with what I thought would be a fantastic concept. "One Child" was to be presented online for a month and each day a portion of the book would be released. It would contain biographies and pages of each of the characters, an indepth look at them and a section to get to know them better - including interaction. There would also be media that would would coincide with the book, ie: videos, news casts, etc. to make it more real. Plus, you could also interact with other readers and discuss the reading of the day. Truly a really interesting aspect to make reading this story more fascinating.

Sadly, I cannot comment much on this, as my review book and password to access these areas arrived yesterday - no fault of the publisher or author. It appears the postal system must have done an inspection with my package, and it was cut opened, then taped, and some sort of inspection label was stamped on the outside - smudged so I really couldn't read it to know exactly what happened. With that said, I was worried I wouldn't get this book done, or that I wouldn't be able to get my review up in time. However, with Buick's captivating writing style, it was not difficult to meet today's deadline.

With that said, I wasn't able to participate in the online section much. The first few days were free, and I did get a sampling. I enjoyed the extra media that went with the book, but I really hated being tied to this big old clunk of a computer to have to read each day's portion of the book. I would have appreciated the option to download each day to my ereader, and then use the interactive chapters to look things up. Personally, that is my only complaint. I thought the interactive chapters were a cool idea, and brought the book to life. Please realize that I can only comment on the first 8 days.

To find out more about One Child, you can visit the web page at www.onechildonline.com. Starting today, you have the option of purchasing this book in regular binding or ebook format.

If you would like to learn more about the author or find out what other books Mr. Buick has written, you can visit his site at: http://jeffbuick.com/

Book was provided by the publisher for me to honestly review.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Giveaway & Blog Tour with Review - "Captured by Desire" by Kira Morgan

Today we are hosting Kira Morgan and her new book "Captured by Desire". To celebrate, Hachette books is giving away a copy of Kira's book to 5 lucky readers of this blog!! (see details below)

Captured by Desire
Author: Kira Morgan
Publisher: Forever Books - Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 9780446548182
Genre: Adult fiction, Historical Romance

About the Book: (from the publisher):

In 16th century Scotland, young Miss Florie Gilder runs away from her drunken foster father to find her real father and her noble heritage. Along the way, she is accused of theft, becomes a fugitive hiding in a forest, and is accidentally wounded by a handsome local huntsman. The huntsman--a Robin-Hood figure who poaches wild game from the landowner's estate to feed the starving poor--carries the beautiful maiden to a church where she is guaranteed 40 days of sanctuary from the law. During that time, he learns her true story, falls in love with her, and helps her in her quest, at the risk of his own life. Smitten with him, she worries more for his survival. But enemies of the state are seeking to overturn the Catholic royals, while a vicious noblewoman is out to destroy Florie.

My Thoughts:

From the very first page, one is drawn in with a flight scene that sets the pace for this fast moving and captivating read. Kira Morgan has an exciting way of telling her tale, and creates both a rich setting as well as interesting characters.

This is a book where I absolutely fell in love with the strong, tough but sensitive hunter, Rane. He is thrown together under unusual circumstances with Florie, who is another strong character. She's one tough cookie, and she's on the run and out for revenge. Another strong female character was Lady Mavis (her poor husband!) and she was certainly a woman you could love to dislike!

I enjoyed how there was a set time frame of 40 days. It really added a growing suspense, because you knew that things had to happen, but where where they going to lead? This really is a page turner, but be warned, there is sexual content.

Five Fun Facts

1. For a refreshing change from the nobles found in most medieval romances, in Captured by Desire, Kira chose to make the hero and heroine common folk — Florie is a goldsmith, and Rane is the sheriff's huntsman.

2. Kira created the character of Rane MacAllister by combining two legendary heroes of archery — Robin Hood and Legolas.

3. Due to the legal limits of sanctuary imposed upon fugitive Florie when she seeks refuge in a church, Kira was faced with the daunting prospect of having only 40 days to convince Florie to fall in love with the man who just shot her.

4. Since her Scottish hero, Rane MacAllister, is the son of Viking invaders, Kira studied Norse mythology to come up with epithets unique to his ancestry.

5. To do historical research for Captured by Desire, Kira commandeered Scotland's purportedly haunted Roslin Castle for several days! (To see photos from her adventures, go to Kira's website or her Facebook page).

This book was provided by Hachette Books for me to honestly review.


Thanks to Anna at Hachette Book Group, five lucky readers of this blog will have a chance to win a copy of "Captured By Desire"!!!

To enter:

1. You must be a follower of this blog.
2. You must leave a comment WITH your email address.
3. US and Canada only - no PO boxes.

BONUS Entries !! For extra entries (you must leave links for each):

* Follow me on Twitter - see sidebar for link
* Tweet about this contest (once per day)
* Follow me on Facebook - see sidebar for link

Contest ends September 8, 2010 at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond. If no response, another winner will be drawn. Book will be shipped directly from the publisher.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Still House Pond by Jan Watson - Review

Still House Pond
Author: Jan Watson
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Paperback: 400 pages
ISBN: 9781414323862

About the Book:
Lilly Gray Corbett loves living on Troublesome Creek, but she would much rather play with her best friend than watch her little brother and the twins. Her mama, Copper, is often gone helping to birth babies, and Lilly has to stay home. When Aunt Alice sends a note inviting her to visit in the city, Lilly is excited to go, and Copper reluctantly agrees to let her. Later, when they hear the news that the train crashed, Copper and her husband, John, rush to find out if their daughter is injured . . . or even alive.

My Thoughts:

Centering around three main characters, this amazing piece of historical fiction is bound to draw you in and not let you go until the end. Copper is the local midwife, Lily is Copper's daughter and Manda, their hired help. Quite believable but somewhat slow to start, the book builds up momentum and will hook you in in no time. Get ready for some heart stopping excitement as well as a wonderful heartwarming story. Be warned this is part of a series, so not everything is resolved.

This is the second book of the series, but you can read it pretty much as a stand alone (but believe me, you won't want to because it's really that good!)

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: "How To Survive Your Freshman Year: Fourth Edition"

How To Survive Your Freshman Year: Fourth Edition
Special Editors: Scott C. Silverman, Ed.D. and Frances Northcutt, Ed.M.
Publisher: Hundreds of Heads Books
ISBN: 9781933512310
Genre: Non-fiction

About the Book: (taken from Amazon.com)

How to Survive Your Freshman Year offers incoming college freshmen the experience, advice, and wisdom of their peers: hundreds of other students who have survived their first year of college and have something interesting to say about it. Based on interviews with hundreds of college students at every type of higher-learning institution across the country, this book has insights on every aspect of college life, including, what to take to the dorm, living with roommates, Facebook and other social networks, extracurricular activities, choosing classes, studying, going abroad, finances, food, the social scene, doing laundry, staying in touch with friends and family, and much more. Highly readable, much of the book consists of short snippets with some interesting insight and advice from the college students interviewed. The book also includes expert input from college advisors and officers.

My Thoughts:

This book passed through my teens' hands before I read it, so it was quite interesting being able to discuss this book before posting my review. My son just finished his freshman year of college, and said that this book would have been very useful to him last year. My daughter starts her freshman year next fall, and she was thrilled to find many answers to her questions in this book. She said it is going to be very useful to her.

I was very impressed with "How to Survive Your Freshman Year". It contains tons of useful information from what to take for college to having fun and being safe. It deals with many problems, has lots of great tips and lots of great advice (and some not so great advice). This book was written by other college students who tell the reader what college life is like and what to expect - surviving dorm life, studying, testing, classes, orientation, working, finances, etc. Some advice is given with humor and some is off color, but they come straight from students and are directed to future students. Like everything else, one takes what is useful and leaves the rest behind.

Both of my teens give this a "thumbs-up" and love this book. We all agree that this should be something that everyone entering college should read. Highly recommended!

Make sure to visit www.HundredsOfHeads.com for lots of great information about preparation for college, college life and life after college.

I received this book from The Cadence Group to honestly review.

First Wild Card Tour & Review - "Solitary" by Travis Thrasher

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:


David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings Senior Media Specialist
The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Travis Thrasher is an author of diverse talents with more than twelve published novels including romance, suspense, adventure, and supernatural horror tales. At the core of each of his stories lie flawed characters in search of redemption. Thrasher weaves hope within all of his tales, and he loves surprising his readers with amazing plot twists and unexpected variety in his writing. Travis lives with his wife and daughter in a suburb of Chicago. Solitary is his first young adult novel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764214
ISBN-13: 978-1434764218


1 . Half a Person

She’s beautiful.

She stands behind two other girls, one a goth coated in black and the other a blonde with wild hair and an even wilder smile. She’s waiting, looking off the other way, but I’ve already memorized her face.

I’ve never seen such a gorgeous girl in my life.

“You really like them?”

The goth girl is the one talking; maybe she’s the leader of their pack. I’ve noticed them twice already today because of her, the one standing behind. The beautiful girl from my second-period English class, the one with the short skirt and long legs and endless brown hair, the one I can’t stop thinking about. She’s hard not to notice.

“Yeah, they’re one of my favorites,” I say.

We’re talking about my T-shirt. It’s my first day at this school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think carefully about what I was going to wear. It’s about making a statement. I would have bet that 99 percent of the seven hundred kids at this high school wouldn’t know what Strangeways, Here We Come refers to.

Guess I found the other 1 percent.

I was killing time after lunch by wandering aimlessly when the threesome stopped me. Goth Girl didn’t even say hi; she just pointed at the murky photograph of a face on my shirt and asked where I got it. She made it sound like I stole it.

In a way, I did.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” Goth Girl asks. Hersparkling blue eyes are almost hidden by her dark eyeliner.

“Did the shirt give it away?”

“Nobody in this school listens to The Smiths.”

I can tell her that I stole the shirt, or in a sense borrowed it, butthen she’d ask me from where.

I don’t want to tell her I found it in a drawer in the house we’re staying at. A cabin that belongs to my uncle. A cabin that used to belong to my uncle when he was around.

“I just moved here from a suburb of Chicago.”

“What suburb?” the blonde asks.

“Libertyville. Ever hear of it?”


I see the beauty shift her gaze around to see who’s watching. Which is surprising, because most attractive girls don’t have to do that. They know that they’re being watched.

This is different. Her glance is more suspicious. Or anxious.

“What’s your name?”

“Chris Buckley.”

“Good taste in music, Chris,” Goth Girl says. “I’m Poe. This is Rachel. And she’s Jocelyn.”

That’s right. Her name’s Jocelyn. I remember now from class.

“What else do you like?”

“I got a wide taste in music.”

“Do you like country?” Poe asks.

“No, not really.”

“Good. I can’t stand it. Nobody who wears a T-shirt like that would ever like country.”

“I like country,” Rachel says.

“Don’t admit it. So why’d you move here?”

“Parents got a divorce. My mom decided to move, and I came with her.”

“Did you have a choice?”

“Not really. But if I had I would’ve chosen to move with her.”

“Why here?”

“Some of our family lives in Solitary. Or used to. I have a couple relatives in the area.” I choose not to say anything about Uncle Robert. “My mother grew up around here.”

“That sucks,” Poe says.

“Solitary is a strange town,” Rachel says with a grin that doesn’t seem to ever go away. “Anybody tell you that?”

I shake my head.

“Joss lives here; we don’t,” Poe says. “I’m in Groveton; Rach lives on the border to South Carolina. Joss tries to hide out at our places because Solitary fits its name.”

Jocelyn looks like she’s late for something, her body language screaming that she wants to leave this conversation she’s not a part of. She still hasn’t acknowledged me.

“What year are you guys?”

“Juniors. I’m from New York—can’t you tell? Rachel is from Colorado, and Jocelyn grew up here, though she wants to get out as soon as she can. You can join our club if you like.”

Part of me wonders if I’d have to wear eyeliner and lipstick.


“The misfits. The outcasts. Whatever you want to call it.”

“Not sure if I want to join that.”

“You think you fit in?”

“No,” I say.

“Good. We’ll take you. You fit with us. Plus … you’re cute.”

Poe and her friends walk away.

Jocelyn finally glances at me and smiles the saddest smile I’ve ever seen.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified.

I might look cool and nonchalant and act cool and nonchalant, but inside I’m quaking.

I spent the first sixteen years of my life around the same people, going to the same school, living in the same town with the same two parents.

Now everything is different.

The students who pass me are nameless, faceless, expressionless. We are part of a herd that jumps to life like Pavlov’s dog at the sound of the bell, which really is a low drone that sounds like it comes from some really bad sci-fi movie. It’s hard to keep the cool and nonchalant thing going while staring in confusion at my school map. I probably look pathetic.

I dig out the computer printout of my class list and look at it again. I swear there’s not a room called C305.

I must be looking pathetic, because she comes up to me and asks if I’m lost.

Jocelyn can actually talk.

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Where are you going?”

“Some room—C305. Does that even exist?”

“Of course it does. I’m actually heading there right now.” There’s an attitude in her voice, as if she’s ready for a fight even if one’s not coming.


She nods.

“Second class together,” I say, which elicits a polite and slightly annoyed smile.

She explains to me how the rooms are organized, with C stuck between A and B for some crazy reason. But I don’t really hear the words she’s saying. I look at her and wonder if she can see me blushing. Other kids are staring at me now for the first time today. They look at Jocelyn and look at me—curious, critical, cutting. I wonder if I’m imagining it.

After a minute of this, I stare off a kid who looks like I threw manure in his face.

“Not the friendliest bunch of people, are they?” I ask.

“People here don’t like outsiders.”

“They didn’t even notice me until now.”

She nods and looks away, as if this is her fault. Her hair, so thick and straight, shimmers all the way past her shoulders. I could stare at her all day long.

“Glad you’re in some of my classes.”

“I’m sure you are,” she says.

We reach the room.

“Well, thanks.”

“No problem.”

She says it the way an upperclassmen might answer a freshman. Or an older sister, her bratty brother. I want to say something witty, but nothing comes to mind.

I’m sure I’m not the first guy she’s left speechless.

Every class I’m introduced to seems more and more unimpressed.

“This is Christopher Buckley from Chicago, Illinois,” the teachers say, in case anybody doesn’t know where Chicago is.

In case anybody wonders who the new breathing slab of human is, stuck in the middle of the room.

A redheaded girl with a giant nose stares at me, then glances at my shirt as if I have food smeared all over it. She rolls her eyes and then looks away.

Glancing down at my shirt makes me think of a song by The Smiths, “Half a Person.”

That’s how I feel.

I’ve never been the most popular kid in school. I’m a soccer player in a football world. My parents never had an abundance of money. I’m not overly good looking or overly smart or overly anything, to be honest. Just decent looking and decent at sports and decent at school. But decent doesn’t get you far. Most of the time you need to be the best at one thing and stick to it.

I think about this as I notice more unfamiliar faces. A kid who looks like he hasn’t bathed for a week. An oily-faced girl who looks miserable. A guy with tattoos who isn’t even pretending to listen.

I never really fit in back in Libertyville, so how in the world am I going to fit in here?

Two more years of high school.

I don’t want to think about it.

As the teacher drones on about American history and I reflect on my own history, my eyes find her.

I see her glancing my way.

For a long moment, neither of us look away.

For that long moment, it’s just the two of us in the room.

Her glance is strong and tough. It’s almost as if she’s telling me to remain the same, as if she’s saying, Don’t let them get you down.

Suddenly, I have this amazingly crazy thought: I’m glad I’m here.

I have to fight to get out of the room to catch up to Jocelyn.

I’ve had forty minutes to think of exactly what I want to say, but by the time I catch up to her, all that comes out is “hey.”

She nods.

Those eyes cripple me. I’m not trying to sound cheesy—they do. They bind my tongue.

For an awkward sixty seconds, the longest minute of my sixteen years, I walk the hallway beside her. We reach the girls’ room, and she opens the door and goes inside. I stand there for a second, wondering

if I should wait for her, then feeling stupid and ridiculous, wondering why I’m turning into a head of lettuce around a stranger I just met.

But I know exactly why.

As I head down the hallway, toward some other room with some other teacher unveiling some other plan to educate us, I feel someone grab my arm.

“You don’t want to mess with that.”

I wonder if I heard him right. Did he say that or her?

I turn and see a short kid with messy brown hair and a pimply face. I gotta be honest—it’s been a while since I’d seen a kid with this many pimples. Doctors have things you can do for that. The word pus comes to mind.

“Mess with what?”

“Jocelyn. If I were you, I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts.”

Who is this kid, and what’s he talking about?

And what teenager says, “I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts”?

“What thoughts would those be?”

“Don’t be a wise guy.”

Pimple Boy sounds like the wise guy, with a weaselly voice that seems like it’s going to deliver a punch line any second.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, I’m just warning you. I’ve seen it happen before. I’m nobody, okay, and nobodies can get away with some things. And you look like a decent guy, so I’m just telling you.”

“Telling me what?”

“Not to take a fancy with the lady.”

Did he just say that in an accent that sounded British, or is it my imagination?

“I was just walking with her down the hallway.”

“Yeah. Okay. Then I’ll see you later.”

“Wait. Hold on,” I say. “Is she taken or something?”

“Yeah. She’s spoken for. And has been for sometime.”

Pimple Boy says this the way he might tell me that my mother is dying.

It’s bizarre.

And a bit spooky.

I realize that Harrington County High in Solitary, North Carolina, is a long way away from Libertyville.

I think about what the odd kid just told me.

This is probably bad.

Because one thing in my life has been a constant. You can ask my mother or father, and they’d agree.

I don’t like being told what to do.

My Thoughts

This was one creepy page turner! I have never read anything by Travis Thrasher, and after reading this one, I'm going to be looking for more works by him.

The storyline takes place in a small town in North Carolina called Solitary. When 16 year old Chris Buckley moves to Solitary with his mother after his parents divorce, he was not accepted. At first he thought it was because he was the new kid, but found that something much, much darker was at work there. The Solitary residents held a secret that they refuse to share with outsiders. Chris befriended a beautiful girl, Jocelyn Evans, and found that even she kept dark secrets that she was terrified to share with Chris.

Travis Thrasher can certainly spin a terrifying tale! I found that I couldn't put this book aside, and was just mesmerized by it all the way through to the last page. His characters are interesting with many layers making them very realistic and not always what they first appear to be.

I have read the comment that Thrasher could be the Stephen King of Christian fiction. I'm not sure of that, but I do know that he can spin a fantastic tale. I do think that those that like Ted Dekker or Stephen King would enjoy "Solitary". I know I did!!

This book was sent to me through the FIRST Wild Card program for my honest opinion.