Sunday, July 31, 2011

Featured Book: My Dreams, My Choices by Clementine Wamboye Girenge

My Dreams, My Choices: be courageous, do what you have never done, go where you have never been, and you will see the change.The simple act of going to school represents enormous ambition for Felly, the protagonist of this powerful true story about growing up in rural Kenya.

In the town of Mumias lies a small village where Felly’s family is known to everyone. The life of her paternal grandparents is like an open book, a story filled with sorrow and strife that turns her grandmother into a cold and hardened woman.

Felly on the other hand, grows up in a home surrounded by her parent’s love that is based on a very strong foundation, which sets the stage for this brave youngster to make and achieve her goals, one of the most important being to achieve a top-notch education.

My Dreams, My Choices documents Felly’s drive to expand her horizons.

This frank and eye-opening book reveals what it’s like to grow up in Africa today, detailing a life of hardship touched by contemporary African issues. At a young age, Felly witnesses how her family stands against the ordeals that come their way.

As she grows older, she discovers that she will also have to surpass personal struggles blocking her way. There are times when she almost surrenders, refusing to move forward and climb over the barriers. She experiences profound culture shock upon setting sight for the first time on Nairobi.

And she faces down tremendous odds to graduate at the top of her class from one of the best schools in the country.

Richly detailed, this vividly recalled life story will captivate you with a fresh perspective on contemporary Kenyan life and people.

My Dreams, My Choices is about the courage inside us all to reach for what we want and achieve our wildest dreams—despite all that stands in our way.




About the author:

CLEMENTINE WAMBOYE GIRENGE was born in Kenya and raised on a farm. After traveling through many parts of the world in pursuit for change, she has found joy and the simplicity of grace with her family on the West Coast of the United States, where she serves the American people as a Registered Nurse.






Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring FruitSupermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright. But in Tomatoland, which is based on his James Beard Award-winning article, "The Price of Tomatoes," investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry. Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields, but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and tomatoes that have fourteen times more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. How have we come to this point?

Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee, Florida, a.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. He visits the laboratories of seedsmen trying to develop varieties that can withstand the rigors of agribusiness and still taste like a garden tomato, and then moves on to commercial growers who operate on tens of thousands of acres, and eventually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania, where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation's top restaurants.

Throughout Tomatoland, Estabrook presents a who's who cast of characters in the tomato industry: the avuncular octogenarian whose conglomerate grows one out of every eight tomatoes eaten in the United States; the ex-Marine who heads the group that dictates the size, color, and shape of every tomato shipped out of Florida; the U.S. attorney who has doggedly prosecuted human traffickers for the past decade; and the Guatemalan peasant who came north to earn money for his parents' medical bills and found himself enslaved for two years.

Tomatoland reads like a suspenseful whodunit as well as an expose of today's agribusiness systems and the price we pay as a society when we take taste and thought out of our food purchases.



Received from the publicist for review.

This one gets four stars.  As you know, I love Michael Pollan and reading about food and the implications of industrial agriculture so this was perfect for me - especially since I have tomatoes growing in my garden at this very moment!  This was truly fascinating and a wonderful look behind the curtain into a world that many of us do not know exists.  Although the discussion of the "rights" of illegal workers (who the author insists upon referring to as "slaves") in the tomato fields was beyond annoying to me and I skipped the majority of that portion, the remainder of the book was educational and thought provoking.  If you have ever wondered where the pink softball the supermarket insists upon calling a tomato really comes from this is the perfect book for you.  Fellow Michael Pollan fans should find it intriguing as well.

★★★★ = Really Liked It



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Featured Book: Deceit by John Austin Sletten



Deceit: A Novel of Lies, Duplicity, & FraudSletten’s thriller follows a fair haired, golden boy from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., and a job with the FBI. The young Special Agent tries to be a loyal and dedicated patriot, but turns from the hunter into the hunted and ends up paying the ultimate price for his duplicity in a repulsive and malevolent FBI bureaucracy.

Fresh from college, the naive twenty-seven year old from Minnesota arrives in the nation’s capital. A Midwest patriot at heart, he can’t believe he’s going to be working for the prestigious FBI.

Recruited into an audacious undercover operation to break up small business operations, he begins undercover work in newly developed white collar crime section, where no rules have been written, let alone tested, for his activities.

FBI scrutiny continues, and an illegal high life spills over from those watched into the daily patterns of the “good guy” agent watching and infiltrating the corruption. The self-serving rigidity of the FBI organization also becomes impossible for the young agent to deal with, and before he knows it, he finds he is in fear of his own life -- from them.



About the author:

JOHN AUSTIN SLETTEN grew up in Montevideo, a small town in southwestern Minnesota. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota in 1966.

He was a sports writer for the Princeton Packet and has published articles in numerous magazines.

His first published work,Confessions of a Little League Father, was a feature story in the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine and the author was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show for this article.

His first book, The Johnny Callison Story, is a biography of the great Philadelphia Phillies baseball player, whose career traversed three decades. Callison was a Phillies player during the entire decade of the obstreperous sixties.

Sletten has also written Along the James, a historical Civil War novel, and The Keeper and Uncommon Knowledge.

Sletten resides in the Philadelphia area with his wife, Kathy. He now enjoys the time he spends time writing, as well as baseball, mathematics and music.




Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Designing for Growth by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers (Columbia Business School Publishing)Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie educate readers in one of the hottest trends in business: "design thinking," or the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical applications for maximal business growth. Liedtka and Ogilvie cover the mind-set, techniques, and vocabulary of design thinking, unpack the mysterious connection between design and growth, and teach managers in a straightforward way how to exploit design's exciting potential. 


Exemplified by Apple and the success of its elegant products and cultivated by high-profile design firms such as IDEO, design thinking unlocks creative right-brain capabilities to solve a range of problems. This approach has become a necessary component of successful business practice, helping managers turn abstract concepts into everyday tools that grow business while minimizing risk.



ARC received from the publicist for review.

This one gets three stars.  It's certainly a book for business people, as in this was not light reading.  Even with lots of sidebars, case studies and illustrations to explain the material this was still a chore to slog through.  That said, if you can get through it the information is valuable and relevant to today's marketplace.  The authors clearly know their topic and how to best present it to their target audience.


★★☆☆ = Liked It



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Featured Book: Soon Come by Alan Dayno

Soon ComeCast in the complexities of a cultural divide, the tempest of tangled relationships, love and hate, friendship and betrayal are the ingredients in this compelling tale and exploration of human nature.







About the author:

Alan Dayno is a physician, writer, and photographer. His work has taken him to many parts of the world, experiencing the daily challenges of life and the resilience of the human spirit.









Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: A Pecunious Life by M.L. Dolan

A Pecunious LifeThis is a concise book of what we share as individuals and how to get where you want in life, through founded principals given to us through life.













Received from the author for review.
 
This one gets three stars.  This slim volume provides an interesting approach to self-improvement.  I wasn't overly thrilled by the religious (Christian) messages throughout, but they weren't completely overwhelming enough to make me abandon the book.  Overall I found this intriguing but it just didn't resonate with me.  Others may have better luck with it.

★★☆☆ = Liked It



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Featured Book: The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter by Samuel DiMatteo and Kristin Johnson



The High-Tech Gooseneck PutterMeet Sami DeMani, a Canada gander with a legendary golf game. He’s on track to win the prestigious Waterfowl Tour — and put his nemesis, the ruthless Pete Swan Lake, in his place once and for all. But right as Sami prepares to take a critical swing, a surprise scare changes everything — ruining the shot and putting Sami in the hospital. What happens next dashes any hopes for golf glory — or does it? No longer able to play, Sami throws himself into coaching his nephew, Myles, in the game he loves. Then the golf pro hatches a plan to help his nephew win a tournament with the aid of the specially designed Gooseneck Putter. This breakthrough device has the potential to change everything — including the confidence of the golf prodigy who uses it. But none of them are prepared for what’s about to occur as the tension rises on the course. Along the way, Sami and Myles will learn a powerful lesson regarding sportsmanship, perseverance, love, and what really matters in the game of life. A heartwarming and inspirational tale, The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter is about the power of golf to boost self-esteem, change lives, and bring a community together. 



About the authors:

Samuel DiMatteo spent 22 years as a mechanic for Proctor & Gamble. Since retiring, he has been a watercolor instructor, prize-winning photographer, poet, model maker, and Yoga Laughter Leader. He lives in River Grove, Ill. Kristin Johnson is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Master’s in Professional Writing program. She is an author, journalist, screenwriter and award-winning poet/short story writer whose stage productions have been honored by the Palm Springs Desert Theatre League. She lives in Hawaii.





Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: The Trinity by Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman

The Trinity Secret: The Power of Three and the Code of CreationThe Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Millions of people recognize the Holy Trinity, but few understand that the concept behind it is not limited to a single religion or belief system. What if the Trinity were an ancient code, a formula, a secret so simple yet so powerful, it could change the way we look at our relationship with the Creator and with creation?

The Trinity Secret began with the simple discovery that a trinity or triune nature plays an integral role in all that ever was, is, or will be. From religion, mythology, folklore and psychology to neurophysiology, quantum physics, and even the cutting-edge world of noetics and human consciousness - the concept of a trinity is universal. The number three is a profound and sacred number that speaks of a secret older than humankind.

Just a few of the famous trinities include:


  • Father-Son-Holy Spirit

  • Unconscious-Conscious-Superconscious

  • Earth-Hell-Heaven

  • Maiden-Mother-Crone

  • Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva

  • Birth-Life-Death

  • Newton's Three Laws of Motion

    Join best-selling authors Jones and Flaxman as they embark on a fascinating journey to reveal the secret of the power of three and unlock the code behind the creative force of the universe...a force which each and every one of us has access to.




  • Received from the publisher for review.

    This one gets three stars.  I normally won't touch a book smacking of religion with a ten foot pole, but this intrigued me.  It was very well researched and written and did not focus on a particular religion but covered instances of threes in multiple religions as well as, surprisingly, Paganism.  Some of the discussions were hackle raising for me as they delved into religious doctrine, but the remainder of the book was informative and I now have a new appreciation for the number three!  I had been introduced to the concept most recently by a Discworld novel which discussed the maiden/mother/crone trinity so it was nice to read more about that.  Incidentally, it was pure accident that this ended up being a three star rating!  Really!  I do recommend this to anyone who is interested in the subject as it is a thorough discussion of the topic.

    ★★☆☆ = Liked It



    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Guest Post: Allan Richard Shickman author of Dael and the Painted People

    Allan Richard Shickman, author of the book Dael and the Painted People, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.



    DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE is the third book of the ZAN-GAH series—the sequel to a sequel.  The first of the three, ZAN-GAH: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE, traces the development of the hero, Zan, from his early teens to his achievement of maturity and manhood. The second book, ZAN-GAH AND THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY, focuses on Zan's disturbed and bitter twin brother, and on Zan's efforts to protect him from his own worst impulses.  Even in the near paradise of the Beautiful Country, Dael is unable to find peace and happiness. He finally leaves with the mute girl, Sparrow, in search of peace and some kind of resolution of his life.

    DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE begins at that point.  Tormented by grief and guilt, and fighting to restrain his violence, Dael goes to live with the painted people.  There he finds another kind of paradise—one of generosity and kindness into which he fits but uneasily.  While Dael slowly heals, Sparrow blooms in an unexpected way.  Meanwhile, without knowing it, Dael makes a powerful enemy.  Fortunately Dael has friends too, including a troop of crows.

    In this book I find myself straddling between my desire to be realistic and the fantastic character of events.  Dael becomes a shaman—one who can go into trances in order to communicate with spirits.  Does he really talk with them, influence them, struggle with them?  Does he hold mystic communication with the crow population?  Does it matter if he only thinks he does?

    Dael will perform miraculous cures.  Is DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE a book about miracles?  Maybe the greatest miracles are the ones right under our noses—including those of our lives and loves.

    It is my hope that the ZAN-GAH book series will provide exciting reading experiences for tweens and teens—and move older readers too. In DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE, I am particularly interested in the ways people change.  There is more love interest in this book than the others, and a continuing concern with gender issues.  But the chief concern is with the mysteries and dynamics of the mind—the very ones we share with primitive people.

     


    About the book:

    The thrilling book series continues. Dael seeks peace and restoration with the painted people, but without knowing it, he makes a powerful enemy. An exciting book for young adults. 

    DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE will be available August 30 on line and in book stores.  ISBN 978-0-9790357-6-0

    Pre-order at  www.zan-gah.net





     


    About the author:

    Artist, teacher, author, and historian ALLAN RICHARD SHICKMAN was an art history professor at the University of Northern Iowa for three decades. His first novel, ZAN-GAH: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE, won an Eric Hoffer Notable Book Award, and was a Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award. The series, including ZAN-GAH AND THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY, received the Mom's Choice Gold Seal for Excellence in family-friendly literature.   DAEL AND THE PAINTED PEOPLE is the third of the ZAN-GAH book series.  Shickman has published articles in English Literary Renaissance, Studies in English Literature, Notes and Queries, Colby Quarterly, Art Bulletin, and Art History.


     



    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Featured Book: Christmas Eve Can Kill You by William Marantz




    Christmas Eve Can Kill YouChristmas Eve Can Kill You is a funny, suspenseful, irreverent and moving story that "grabs you immediately and doesn't let go" (Eric Wright, author of the Charlie Salter mystery series).

    When country-singer-turned-talkjock Val Virgo (aka Izzy Miller) receives a phone-in death threat from a self-described aboriginal militant he laughs it off as a sick joke. When he wakes up in a hospital bed he is no longer amused.

    Why would any self-respecting “terrorist” plant a bomb in the apartment of glorified disk jockey? In search of the answer to this vexing question our reluctant hero takes a trip down memory lane, to the mean streets of his misspent youth, one step ahead of the mad bomber. The race against time comes to an explosive conclusion when "Izzy Miller" discovers a long-lost enemy virtually on his doorstep—one hour too late.

    You are sure to love Christmas Eve Can Kill You. As a matter of fact, the author GUARANTEES that you will. He has agreed to gladly refund the full purchase price for anyone who doesn't enjoy the book. What have you got to lose?








    About the author:

    William Marantz, a resident of Winnipeg, Manitoba, has worn many hats, robes, costumes and disguises before becoming a published author. He practiced law for over two decades, worked as a part-time judge and even reviewed movies on the radio. He’s written several radio and television dramas for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as well as two feature length screenplays. He dedicated more years than he'd like to admit (re)writing his debut novel, Christmas Eve Can Kill You.





    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Q&A: Robert Morrow author of Ringing True

    Robert Morrow, author of the book Ringing True, stopped by for a Q&A.



    Q: Ringing True is both the title of the book and the name of the religion in the book. Was it your hope that the religion might take off and develop a following?

    A: Not at all. It's been interesting that some of the early readers have responded positively to what is called "The Numbers," the name of the religion's text. One reader remarked about its essential humanity being something people everywhere could agree on. It's very validating, but if you read "The Numbers", the religion isn't about gaining followers. It's about encouraging people to accept responsibility without having to follow anyone or anything. Ringing True is essentially an empowering religion, so my intention is to spread empowerment and encourage people to figure things out for themselves.

    Q: Even though the religion is described as a "world religion," most of the institutions and norms that are satirized in the book are American. Ringing True seems to be a very American novel.


    A: Yes and no. America is so globally influential it's hard to have a discussion about many parts of the world without also describing their relationship to America. For good and ill, our power and culture are omnipresent. One of the characters comes back from South America and says, "We are everywhere." One thing you always hear from natives in other countries is how loud Americans are - and we are, in terms of both volume and in presence. The primary object of the satire is the American media, which is certainly loud enough to be heard around the globe. But, I also take on American corporations, religious zealots, Hollywood and other "American icons" that have a stunningly powerful influence the world over.

    Q: You introduce a bisexual character into the mix. What was behind that?

    A: The simple answer is that I lived in San Francisco for years and learned that loving relationships can come in many forms. Confronting the things that are uncomfortable is part of what gives satire its power. Many Americans are still uncomfortable with non-traditional relationships and, frankly, they need to get over it. Why worry about the ways adults can love each other when we have millions of them killing each other? That's an example of seriously skewed priorities.


    Q: A lot of the book deals with fame. What was your purpose behind this theme?

    A: Fame has to be the most overrated value in the world. With reality television, competition shows and programming like Jerry Springer, it's stunning how many people are willing to humiliate themselves to have their faces on the TV screen. And as far as the truly famous are concerned, I think fame can have the debilitating effect of separating a person from the talent that made him or her famous in the first place. Fame is primarily based on the myth of the power of an individual - sort of a superhero characteristic. This is why actors get all the attention despite the fact that film is an incredibly collaborative enterprise. No actor is going to be remembered for a great performance if the sound is mangled, the lighting wrong, the direction shabby, the make-up applied incorrectly. I think my basic message is similar to that of the religion in the book: let's stop elevating and worshipping others and realize that we all have something valuable to contribute to each other and to our world.

    Q: You certainly take capitalism to task in many ways - lay-offs, waste, politics, jobs without meaning. How would you fix it?

    A: Well, you certainly won't find the answer in more government regulation because all that does is drive the corruption underground and empower the rule-makers. Having been an executive, I can say that too many of my former executive colleagues lack a sense of responsibility to others - one of the three key responsibilities in the book's religion. They can say they're responsible to the shareholders, but that's often a convenient mask for their own self-interests. You can't legislate all irresponsible behavior out of existence; it is more of an issue of moral teaching and character. Maybe we should send a copy of Ringing True to all the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies - or just a copy of "The Numbers".

     


    About the book:

    Ringing TrueRinging True by Robert Morrow takes place in the first few years of the 21st century, a time when America is fighting two off-shore wars while simultaneously protecting its homeland from further terrorist attacks. The hostile environment of the world inspires main characters, Justin Raines and Shelby Mirabeau, to join forces and attempt to improve the current state of the human race - by capitalizing on America's global power and establishing a new world religion!

    Stemming from simple meetings in a Seattle coffee shop, the pair's plans quickly take form and they find themselves penning, The Numbers, the official text that will serve as their religious guide. The book contains twelve statements on various aspects of the human condition and how the religion claims to remedy the world's problems. However, events begin to go awry when Justin and Shelby desire to accelerate spreading the word.

    They soon enlist the services of a techno-geek couple, Theo and Emmy, and, also Matthias, a disciple of hard-core capitalism. Matthias, an antagonist of sorts, sets out to use his connections and questionable ethics to make the new religion a worldwide sensation with profits to match. And when things can't seem to get more complicated, drama waltzes in via a Hollywood actress searching for the meaning of life.

    Alongside its center plotline, Ringing True implements different elements of modern culture including an unconventional love story. Morrow explains his reason for his edgy heroine's orientation:

    "I think making Shelby bisexual had to do with the fact that many Americans
    are still uncomfortable with non-traditional relationships," he says. "Frankly, they need to get over it. Why worry about the ways adults can love each other when we have millions killing one another? Real love allows people to ebb and flow and be who they are. Love takes all forms and none is better than the other."

    Ringing True is a contemporary and thought-provoking novel, filled with humor and vivid characters. It remains true to the message of capable youth taking matters into their own hands to start a modern-day revolution. The book prompts the reader to reflect upon our current state of existence. Furthermore, it provokes readers to engage in conversation regarding what needs to be done to correct our errors - before we lose total sight.



    About the author:
     
    After years of work in the field of organizational development, Robert Morrow decided to explore his creative side. Ringing True marks his second literary effort and he is currently working on two more books. One is a novel set in San Francisco during the Dot Com Boom; the other is a re-construction and enhancement of his nonfiction book on the subject of worklife into a broader exploration of the meaning of work in the 21st century. Aside from writing, he moonlights as a musician, playing the mandolin, guitar and bass. Originally from Northern California, Morrow graduated from San Jose State University with an English degree and from California State University with a Master's in Public Administration. In 2002, he moved to Seattle where he resides with his wife and two children.




    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Review: Eminent Gangsters by James Fentress

    Eminent Gangsters: Immigrants and the Birth of Organized Crime in America"This American system of ours," observed Al Capone, "call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you like, gives to each and every one of us a great opportunity if we can only seize it with both hands and make the most of it."  Capone spoke as a member of a generation who, seizing the opportunities offered by the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibited the manufacture, transport, or sale of alcoholic beverages, enriched himself and laid the basis for modern organized crime in America.  Yet if the story of the eminent gangsters is not the orthodox, rags-to-riches American success story, neither can it be dismissed as merely a crime story, a morality play where evil doers are brought to justice by the forces of law and order.  Their story, rather, is a central and significant chapter in the social and economic history of modern America.



    Received from the publisher for review.

    This one gets two stars.  Any possible enjoyment potential this book promised was severely hindered by the minuscule text packed on each page like sardines.  While the book was informative enough I was unable to read much of it because of the tiny, even vaguely smudgy, text.  The author clearly had a passion for the topic and the book is well researched, but the printer did such a poor job as to make this as unbearable as reading an onionskin dictionary.  Pick this up as an e-book or be prepared to break out your magnifying glass.

    ☆☆= Just Okay



    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Review: Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever by Greg Cox

    Warehouse 13: A Touch of FeverThe Unknown has an address...

    Hidden away in the Badlands of South Dakota, Warehouse 13 is a top-secret repository for historical artifacts imbued with dangerous supernatural properties.  Secret Service agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Berin are ever on the lookout for loose artifacts threatening to ruin the world's day.  Their mission:  "Snag it, bag it, tag it."

    Reports of a genuine psychic healer, along with a simultanous epidemic of mysterious illnesses, lead Myka and Pete on a hazardous investigation that stretches from a carnival sideshow back to the blody history of the Civil War.  But when Pete is infected with a deadly disease, Myka nd the rest of the team, including Artie Nielsen and Claudia Donovan, must track down a pair of cursed gloves - before a madman unleashes a virulent plague upon America!



    Received from the publisher for review.

    This one gets three stars.  I am by no means a hardcore Warehouse 13 fan but I do enjoy the show and found this intriguing.  It was, like most books based on a television series, a solid independent story that was true to the television show and its characters.  This was firmly along the lines of a Doctor Who, Torchwood, or Eureka novel - entertaining and gives you your fix between seasons.  This is highly recommended for fans of the television series.

    ★★☆☆ = Liked It



    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Featured Book: The Story of a Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon



    The Story of Beautiful GirlIt is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: "Hide her." And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.







    About the author:

    Rachel Simon is an award-winning author and nationally known public speaker. She is best known for her critically acclaimed, bestselling memoir Riding The Bus with My Sister, which was adapted for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie of the same name. The book has garnered numerous awards, and is a frequent and much beloved selection of many book clubs, school reading programs, and city-wide reads throughout the country.










    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Review: Changeling Moon by Dani Harper

    Changeling MoonHe roams the moonlit wilderness, his every sense and instinct on high alert. Changeling wolf Connor Macleod and his Pack have never feared anything--until the night human Zoey Tyler barely escapes a rogue werewolf's vicious attack.

    As the full moon approaches, Zoey has no idea of the changes that are coming, and only Connor can show her what she is, and help her master the wildness inside.  With her initiation into the Pack just days away and a terrifying predator on the loose, the tentative bonds of trust and tenderness are their only weapons against a force red in tooth, claw... and ultimate evil.





    Received from the publicist for review.

    The interior of the sprawling old home had been renovated extensively, leaving it open ad airy in design.  It was more like an upscale lodge, with lots of wood and natural elements.  The stone fireplace and large beams in the ceiling lent an earthiness that was relaxing and comfortable.  Connor's house is just like him, Zoey realized.  This was how she felt when she was around him.  Grounded  Centered.

    This one gets three stars.  While not my usual reading fare, I found this intriguing and well written.  I wasn't overly impressed, but found myself really rather neutral about this.  The paranormal/romance combination is vaguely reminiscent of a MaryJanice Davidson.  Fans of Davidson should find this a good fit. 

    ★★☆☆ = Liked It



    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Review: Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts

    Wanna Get Lucky?A young woman plunges from a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter, landing in the Pirate’s lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel in the middle of the 8:30 Pirate Show.  Almost everyone writes her off as another Vegas victim.  

    But Lucky O’Toole smells a rat.  She’s head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, the newest, most opulent mega-casino and resort on the Strip, so she’s got a lot on her plate: the Adult Film industry’s annual awards banquet, a spouse-swapping convention, sex toy purveyors preying on the pocket-protector crowd attending ElectroniCon….  Still, Lucky can’t resist turning over a few stones. 

    When a former flame is one of the snakes she uncovers, Lucky’s certain she’s no longer dealing with an anonymous Sin City suicide.  To top it all off, Lucky’s best friend Teddie—Las Vegas’ finest female impersonator—presses to take their relationship to the next level.  Leave it to Lucky to attract a man who looks better in a dress than she does.

    Lucky must manage the Babylon’s onslaught of outrageous festivities, solve a murder, and struggle to keep her life and libido from spinning out of control… not to mention keep her balance in six inch heels.



    Received from the publicist for review.

    This one gets four stars.  This was my first experience with the author and I was very impressed.  The characters felt real, and quite likable overall.  The idea of a problem solver at a Las Vegas casino, with all its inherent problems (naked drunk guys in weird situations, etc.) is totally fresh and unique and made for an interesting read.  The only thing I had issues with was that the chapters did not begin on a new page, they just began wherever the last chapter ended, which was annoying.  However, the fun, almost Stephanie Plum, feeling made this a perfect read for a hot summer's day.  This is the perfect summer read for any mystery lover and is highly recommended for Janet Evanovich fans.

    ★★★★ = Really Liked It



    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Featured Book: A Life of Love and Courage by Mark S. Foster



    A Life of Courage and Love: The Marcia Murphy Lortscher Story - an Inspiration to AllBy any measure, Marcia Lortscher’s life and legacy were extraordinary, but there were few signs of her exceptionalism in her first three decades She was born and raised in a comfortable middle-class Catholic home in Denver, and her family espoused conservative values. Finishing college before the 1970s feminist revolution, she explored several potential career paths before marrying in her late twenties. Marcia could have settled comfortably into a conventional housewife’s role, but fate intervened. Diagnosed as a diabetic at age ten, her kidneys failed shortly after her marriage. Doctors initially demurred at performing a kidney transplant on anyone whose life expectancy was measured in weeks. However, she was accepted as an experiment and became the world’s longest living diabetic kidney transplant recipient, surviving for thirty-six years. Although she experienced a ceaseless array of harrowing medical problems and went blind in her early forties, she devoted her life to serving others through volunteerism. Marcia and her husband did not have biological children, but they served as surrogate parents to well over one hundred young people whom they called their “kids.” Marcia’s most important efforts provided hope to fellow kidney patients and to the blind, but her tireless work on behalf of other social service groups eventually brought her widespread recognition as one of the nation’s most valued volunteers. Although Marcia was uncomfortable with being singled out for praise and disliked being called an “inspiration,” readers of this book may well conclude that such a label is totally appropriate.








    About the author:

    Mark S. Foster is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Colorado at Denver, where he taught for 33 years. He was named both teacher of the year and researcher of the year and has published eleven books previously, including works on urban transportation, city planning and the automobile culture in the United States; five biographies, including Henry J. Kaiser, Carl G. Fisher and Quigg Newton; and works on the history of baseball.







    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Review: Flashback by Dan Simmons

    FlashbackThe United States is near total collapse. But 87% of the population doesn't care: they're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows its users to re-experience the best moments of their lives. After ex-detective Nick Bottom's wife died in a car accident, he went under the flash to be with her; he's lost his job, his teenage son, and his livelihood as a result.

    Nick may be a lost soul but he's still a good cop, so he is hired to investigate the murder of a top governmental advisor's son. This flashback-addict becomes the one man who may be able to change the course of an entire nation turning away from the future to live in the past.

    A provocative novel set in a future that seems scarily possible, FLASHBACK proves why Dan Simmons is one of our most exciting and versatile writers.



    ARC received from the publisher for review.

    This one gets four stars.  It immediately draws you right into this alternate world and keeps you enthralled throughout.  Granted, it could be a bit confusing at times with the alternate political and country situations, but everything was explained reasonably well enough that it wasn't overly distracting.  I didn't particularly care for the characters as people, but they were true to their personalities and agendas.  The Flashback drug was just too creepy for words.  It really makes you wonder.  I highly recommend this to the author's fans, as well as anyone looking for a sophisticated and fast paced adventure.

    ★★★★ = Really Liked It



    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Guest Post: Scott Rigby and Richard M. Ryan authors of Glued to Games

    Scott Rigby and Richard M. Ryan, authors of the book Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound, stopped by to share with us a piece they wrote.



    Video Game Addiction: Five Warning Signs for Assessing Risk
    By Scott Rigby and Richard M. Ryan,
    Authors of Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound

    Games are powerfully motivating of deep engagement that can last for hours on end, day after day. The first step to really understanding how to manage gaming in your life (or that of a loved one) -- and to identify when there may be a problem -- is understanding what is really at the root of games strong motivational pull. It's not some mystical force, or a secret desire to blow things up, as many non-gamers might fear. The research we've been doing for the last eight years, has helped to identify the basic psychology of game motivation and engagement. This serves as a critical foundation to understand the incredible "pull" of games, as well as serving as a guide for when addiction may be emerging.


    Simply put, hundreds of motivational studies have demonstrated that we all have basic psychological needs for competence (a feeling of mastery, growth, and efficacy), autonomy (that sense of personal volition and feeling there are many interesting opportunities from which to choose), and relatedness (a feeling that "I matter" to others, and they matter to me). Decades of research have shown these needs are always operating, whether we're playing games, at work, playing sports, or just being social. They are, in other words, fundamental or basic psychological needs.

    Good games draw us in because they are designed to satisfy these needs really, really well. Specifically, they satisfy needs with immediacy, consistency, and density. Let's talk about each of these briefly . . .

    • Immediacy means that games are readily available. I bet all of us could be playing a video game -- either on our phones or computers -- within the next ten seconds if we wanted to. Sure beats the hour of driving just to get back and forth to the movies or out to the soccer field.
    • Consistency means that games give us clear paths to success and achievement, and treat us fairly. A game doesn't tell us we got passed over for promotion because of office politics, or benched during the baseball game unfairly. Games give us the rewards they promise, each and every time. And we can count on them in that way.
    • Density means that games give us a rich field of opportunities to pursue, activities to undertake, and challenges to conquer. While "real life" often seems sparse, games are there to offer us this density as well as instant feedback that makes us feel effective and even important.
    There's nothing inherently wrong with games ability to satisfy us in these ways. In fact, it can make gaming a very rich and meaningful experience. But it is also true that we need to watch out for becoming over-involved with gaming. Since we now know why gaming is so compelling psychologically, we can look out for "warning signs" more effectively. Here are five tips:

    1) Do you see a big "satisfaction gap?" -- When you think about how needs are satisfied in your "real life" versus games, do games come out way ahead? In our research, we consistently find that over-involvement in games goes hand-in-hand with feeling a lack of basic need satisfactions for competence, autonomy, and relatedness in other areas of life, such as school, work, social relationships, and non-gaming hobbies and activities. The data suggest that if our basic needs are too sparsely satisfied by life, there may be a susceptibility to over-involvement in video games. Why might this happen? Well when life isn't meeting our needs, the immediate and dense availability of satisfactions for competence, autonomy, and relatedness in games often become a stronger pull that draws us in too long and too often.

    2) Are Games "Crowding Out?" -- Do you miss deadlines at work or school because of gaming? Do you often choose to game rather than spend time with friends or family? One gamer I know reflected wistfully that he had missed most of the first five years of his daughter's life because he spent so much time gaming. If you're having these kinds of feelings about relationships, or not meeting other responsibilities because of playing video games, it is a sure sign that you might have a problem with too much gaming.

    3) Are you feeling personal pressure, guilt or shame around your gaming? -- It may sound like a funny thing to say that some gamers feel they "pressure" themselves into gaming, but it happens. There is a feeling that games are something you're compelled to do, even if you don't particularly enjoy or want to play at that moment. You may feel a sense of guilt or shame about firing up another game, but do so anyway. If this feels like a common experience for you, it is a sign that you are over-involved in gaming.

    4) Are you playing four or more hours a day? -- A simple rule of thumb is how much time you spend on average every week playing video games. We find that up until about 25 hours, there is no direct association between time spent playing, and negative feelings or decreased well-being. Above that line, however, we see a relationship begin to emerge between 25+ weekly hours, and bad outcomes. So as one quick check: How much time on average are you spending gaming each week? If it equals a half-time job or more -- it really deserves a look.

    5) 
    Is gaming isolating important others? -- While you are running around virtual worlds, perhaps in the company of dozens of other online friends, slaying dragons and completing missions, it is sometimes hard to remember that you are leaving the molecular world -- and often the loved ones that are under your own roof -- alone and isolated from you. If you are immersed in a fantasy world, you aren't in this one. Be sure to check in with family and friends about this. Listen to them if they express concern or even some feelings of abandonment. If you feel you can't respond to their requests to have more of your time, it is sign you are too deeply involved with games.

    © 2011 Scott Rigby and Richard M. Ryan, authors of Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound

     


    About the book:

    Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound (New Directions in Media)With video game sales in the billions and strong opinions about their potential and their peril growing louder, Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound brings something new to the discussion. It is the first truly balanced review of the psychology of video game motivation and engagement, based on years of research with thousands of gamers. The book addresses both the positive and negative aspects of game play by drawing on significant recent studies and established motivational theory to explore the fundamental drivers of engagement, how games satisfy basic psychological needs, and how an understanding of these factors can be applied to controversial topics such as video game violence and game addiction.

    Filled with examples from popular games and the real experiences of gamers themselves, Glued to Games gets to the heart of gaming's powerful psychological and emotional allure--the benefits as well as the dangers. It gives everyone from researchers to parents to gamers themselves a clearer understanding of the psychology of gaming, while offering prescriptions for healthier, more enjoyable games and gaming experiences.
      


    About the authors:
     
    Scott Rigby PhD, co-author of Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound, is founder and president of Immersyve, Inc., a research and consulting group specializing in the psychology of virtual worlds and interactive technologies. In addition to publishing scholarly research on human motivation, Dr. Rigby has himself developed interactive applications for entertainment (Sony, Warner Brothers), education (The Smithsonian Institute), and health care.

    Richard M. Ryan, PhD, co-author of Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound, is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education at the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. He is cofounder of the Self-Determination Theory and has published well over 300 scholarly articles in the areas of human motivation, personality development, and applied psychology.

    For more information please visit http://www.gluedtogames.com/ and follow the authors on Facebook and Twitter




    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Reading Challenge: The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written



    The Easton Press has a list of the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written.  I've been meaning to read them all, at some point, so I decided I'd start the journey now.

    Yes, I've already read about 40% between high school and college required reading (including, oddly enough, Don Quixote in its original Spanish), but I wanted to give them a fresh go.  And, since 90% are available for free on Kindle I can no longer claim that I don't want to haul heavy, musty books to and from the library and have to return them in a certain time period.

    So, the list and my progress, is posted here and will also appear on my Reading Challenges page.

    I have no idea how long this process will take me since I can just tell that several will be experiences I will have to force myself through, but I'm hoping to finish before 2020!  :)



    So, let me know how many from the list you've read and what you think of my grand idea!  :)



    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Featured Book: Sixty-Nine by Pynk



    Sixty-NineIt's New Year's Eve 2008, and best friends Magnolia Butler, Rebe Richardson, and Darla Clark, all born in 1969, are about to turn the dreaded 4-0 in January 2009. Magnolia, a New Year's Day baby, is childless, and always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Rebe, the mother of a college-aged daughter named Trinity, has just gone through a divorce from a man whose sexual appetite far exceeded her desires and abilities. Darla is also a New Year's Day baby, still mourning her husband's death after five years. After way too many glasses of champagne, Rebe, challenges them to open their minds in a way they'd never done before, daring them to try something new...sexually. SIXTY-NINE is a liberating story about sisterhood and friendship, and about how past experiences and beliefs can influence one's views about life and sex.







    About the author:

    Voted amongst the 2010 Women of Influence in Publishing by Written Magazine, and a 2010 Pink Diamond Award Honoree at the African-American Literary Festival hosted by SistahFriend Bookclub, Marissa Monteilh (Mon-tay) is the best-selling author of eight mainstream novels: May December Souls, The Chocolate Ship, Hot Boyz, Dr. Feelgood, Something He Can Feel, The Six-Letter Word, Hot Girlz, and Make Me Hot. Make Me Hot was an African American Literary Award nominee. She also contributed to an erotica anthology called Morning Noon and Night: Can't Get Enough. An updated version of The Chocolate Ship was released in September 2009, and the follow-up to Hot Boyz, called Hot Girlz, hits the shelves in September 2011.

    Marissa writes erotica under the pseudonym, Pynk - Pynk was the winner of the 2008 YOUnity award for Fastest Rising Literary Star and Author of the Year. Warner Books released the first Pynk title, Erotic City, in November 2008, which was also a finalist for a 2009 African American Literary Award in the category of erotica and was voted one of the Best Reads for 2008 by Black Expressions. Urban-reviews.com gave Erotic City its Top-Shelf review of 5-stars. The second title, Sexaholics, about four women addicted to sex, was released in March 2010, and her third title, Sixty-Nine, pubs on March 25, 2011.

    Marissa now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family and is also trying her hand at playwriting, adapting May December Souls into a stage play. Check out Pynk at www.authorpynk.com.




    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Review: Pompeii: City on Fire by T.L. Higley

    Pompeii: City of Fire: A NovelPompeii, a city that's many things to many people. For Cato, it's the perfect escape from a failed political career in Rome. A place to start again, become a winemaker. But when a corrupt politician wrongfully jails Cato's sister, he must oust the man from power to save her. 

    For Ariella, Pompeii is a means to an end. As a young Jew, she escaped the fall of Jerusalem only to endure slavery to a cruel Roman general. She ends up in Pompeii, disguised as a young man and sold into a gladiator troupe. Her anger fuels her to fight well, hoping to win the arena crowds and reveal her gender at the perfect time. Perhaps then she will win true freedom. 

    But evil creeps through the streets of Pompeii. Political corruption, religious persecution, and family peril threaten to destroy Ariella and Cato, who are thrown together in the battle to survive. As Vesuvius churns with deadly intent, the two must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love, before the fiery ash buries Pompeii, leaving the city lost to the world.



    ARC received from the publisher for review.

    This one gets two stars.  Apparently I am the only person on Earth that did not love this, but it just did nothing for me.  The religiosity of the prologue left a bad taste in my mouth and it just continued to go downhill from there.  Apparently the author really hates Romans for some reason as she spent nearly the entire book constantly crabbing about what horrible people they were.  The author's main character, a Jewish slave girl, was just plain obnoxious with her "holier than thou" attitude towards the Romans.  Her continuous disapproval of their drinking and behavior was just grating.  It really was like reading some sort of rant from the modern day religious fringe.  This may as well have had a giant sticker on it stating "If you liked the cruelty and discrimination of the Bible, you'll love this!".  Unless you're really looking forward to reading about how Jews are wonderful but oppressed and Romans are indulgent and horrible then just give this one a pass.

    And, while we're on the slave topic here let me state yet again that the Egyptian pyramids were not built by slaves for those who are still clinging to that bit of propaganda.

    ☆☆= Just Okay



    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Reminder: Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program for Kids


    Just a quick reminder for those with kids that Barnes & Noble is doing their Summer Reading Program again this year.  You download a reading journal and once your child reads 8 books they bring the journal into the store and get to choose a free book!

    I remember doing something similar when I was a kid where I earned individual pizzas from Pizza Hut.  I thought it was the best thing ever!  Of course, I was already a bookworm then!




    Featured Book: Redemption of Honor by C.J. Grabowski



    "Redemption of Honor," The Story of Ben LoganThis is a Fictional Novel.

    The Story Summary

    Time-span: (1966 - 2006)

    This is a narrative story and the main character’s name is, Ben Logan, and he was born and raised in, Western-Massachusetts. He was raised in a Blue-collar Working-class Family, and he enlists in the full-time active-duty U.S. Coast Guard, just 3 weeks after graduating from High School in 1984, but 4 years later, he learns the hard way that he suffers from alcoholism, and that there is strong evidence of the illness in his family history on both his mother and father’s sides. He is forced to be discharged under Honorable conditions for alcohol abuse, but is issued a strict Re-enlistment Code that prevents him from getting back in.

    Then he goes home to his family and a few years later, he has a spiritual awakening and begins to thoroughly learn the Christian faith and study the Holy Bible. Through Christian faith and sobriety, he eventually works his way through college as a double-major and studies, Criminal Justice and Political Science, and he graduates successfully 6 years later at the age of 34.

    Then over a year later, after witnessing the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks on television, he successfully re-enters the military on a special administrative waiver through the Army National Guard as an 11-Bravo Infantry Soldier, for a 4-year contract enlistment. For him personally, it’s not about being a War Monger, but achieving personal "Redemption of Honor." Then much to his surprise and everyone that he knows, Ben Logan comes home from the Iraq War a decorated war hero.

    After he comes home from the Iraq War to his family and friends, he is figuratively at a crossroads, and he must decide what he will do for the rest of his life. Does he try to run for political office, or stay in the military, or does he pursue a new career with the U.S. government??? Time will only tell. Ben Logan knows that he must follow his heart, and that God will embrace him and provide a path of guidance through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    This story has a considerable amount of American History, Government, and Politics, and Christian Faith. The reader will actually walk away very enlightened after reading this book.



    About the author:

    C. J. Grabowski, grew-up and has lived most of his life in, Southwick, Massachusetts. He graduated from West Springfield Public High School in 1984, and entered & served active-duty in the U.S. Coast Guard (1984 - 1990) and received an Honorable Discharge. He attended & graduated from Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) in Winter of 2003, and Westfield State College in Spring of 2006, and he studied Criminal Justice & Political Science. He is not married and has no children. He considers himself politically a “Conservative-Independent.”




    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Excerpt: Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond

    Catherine Richmond, author of the book Spring for Susannah, stopped by to share with us an excerpt from her book.



    Chapter 1


    Please, Lord, let my Susannah be on this train. And give me some fancy talking so she’ll stay.

    Fourth Siding,” the conductor yelled as he trundled down the aisle. “Your stop, miss.” Susannah peered through the soot-covered window. Nothing. No false-fronted buildings, no hardy pioneer families riding in wagons, no tented gatherings of fur trappers and gold miners. Just drab brownish-green grass waving all the way to the horizon, as it had since Fargo this morning. Dakota Territory had to be the emptiest place on earth.
    She pulled the letter from the pocket of her traveling suit. “Fourth Siding” was scrawled beneath his name, but no further directions. “I’m needing a wife,” he’d written in bold, angular let- ters, a mix of cursive and manuscript. The second page, folded with it for safekeeping, was written by Reverend Mason in precise script, round letters all slanting right.
    Surely this Mr. Jesse Mason would be like his brother the minister—a kindly gentleman with a placid temperament. Susannah stowed the letter.
    The engine swung onto the sidetrack. This was it. Time to make a good first impression. She patted her chignon, tucked in hairpins, straightened her bonnet and veil. She shook out her skirt, smoothed her jacket, and pulled on her gloves.
    Her fluttering drew the attention of the other passengers, two soldiers and a civilian. The civilian, a grizzly bear of a man, shot a stream of tobacco juice in the general vicinity of the spittoon, then swabbed the dregs on the sleeve of his checked shirt. His beard parted, showing a raw space where an upper incisor should be. Susannah shuddered. Poor dentist.
    Please let my husband have all his teeth. And let him be free of the tobacco habit.
    Susannah stopped herself. It was no use praying. If God lis- tened, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. The Almighty wasn’t going to help her, that much was clear. She’d just have to manage in her usual way, without divine intervention.
    With a squeal and jerk of the brakes, the Northern Pacific west- bound run pulled up to a small platform. Late summer sun baked the new wood of a locked shed. No sign of Mr. Mason or anyone else to meet her. No town, no depot, no hotel. Susannah’s heart sank. Well then, she’d ride on, wherever the train went.
    The tobacco spitter stood and stretched, filling the aisle with his bulk. “I’ll fetch your grip.” His bristly paw engulfed the handle of her satchel, which contained her change of collars and cuffs, handkerchiefs, and towel, all in desperate need of laundering.
    “But . . .” She followed, not knowing what else to do.
    He deposited her bag on the platform and handed her down. “Begging pardon, miss, but you’re looking mighty peaked. You all right?”
    As much as she’d paid for her breakfast toast, she would not lose it. “I’m fine, thank you.”
    At the freight car door, the conductor hauled out two trunks, all that was left of her life in Detroit. Susannah needed to inform
    the train crew she wouldn’t be staying; please put her luggage back on. But the grizzly wouldn’t let go.
    “If it don’t work out with Jesse,” he said in a phlegm-thick voice, “you’re welcome over to my place. Across the river at the next siding. Name’s Abner Reece.”
    How did he know she was here to meet Jesse Mason? And was he proposing? Surely she’d done nothing to encourage his attention. She’d avoided even glancing his way. “If you’ll excuse me—”
    The train whistle split the air, and the conductor hustled Mr. Reece back into the passenger car.
    Susannah raised her voice and her arm, abandoning all pre- tense of ladylike behavior. “Wait! Pardon me, sir. There’s no one—” But the pounding steam engine drowned out the conductor’s reply. He pointed north, over her shoulder, to a telegraph pole. When Susannah turned back, the locomotive had huff-huffed west with it two cars. “Wait!”
    A shower of red-hot cinders rained down. She jumped, shak- ing her black serge skirt. When she looked up, the train had grown smaller. It crested the earth and disappeared.
    A bone-deep ache pressed down on her, heavy as the August sun. Her knees shook. A tear slipped out. It wasn’t like she’d answered an advertisement in a hearts-and-hands publication. No, her pastor’s brother had written to her, had asked her to marry him. He should be here.
    Susannah knew what they said about her at Lafayette Avenue Church. With her plain looks and her family’s limited means, she could hardly expect to attract a husband. Her shyness made others uncomfortable. And her interest in her father’s veterinary surgery was highly inappropriate.
    She hadn’t been invited to parties, hadn’t had a proper coming out, hadn’t been courted, not even by the battle-scarred soldiers
    limping home from the War. Becoming a mail-order bride seemed like her best chance, her only chance, for a home and family of her own.
    Susannah removed her veil, wiped her cheeks, and drew in a breath. As she stuffed her gloves into her pockets, her fingers brushed the handkerchief knotted around the last of her funds. After paying for train tickets, hotels, and restaurant meals, she was left with $3.72.
    Not much. Not enough. She had no choice. She would simply take the next train, wherever it went, whenever it came.
    After four days on the train and three nights in noisy, smelly hotels, the platform was a fine place to wait. Fresh, quiet, like a raft floating on a sea of grass.
    A loud thump shook the boards beneath her feet. Susannah spun around, her mind conjuring images of stampeding buffalo, cattle rustlers, Indians on the warpath. Her heel caught on her satchel and she fell.
    As she lay there breathless, she heard heavy boots cross the planks and caught a glimpse of a wide-brimmed straw hat and broad shoulders covered by a faded blue shirt. His open hands car- ried no weapons. He must have been hiding under the platform, holed up like a bandit. But Susannah didn’t have a derringer in her pocket or a bowie knife in her boot or even a next-door neighbor with a fireplace poker.
    “Are you all right?” His low voice cut through the wind.
    Due to the current fashion of bustles and petticoats, Susannah could fall on her backside without injury, but standing was another matter. Gathering the fragments of her dignity, she straightened her back and lifted her chin. “Have we been introduced?”
    The man wiped his palms on his pants and reached for her. “Miss Susannah Underhill?”
    Susannah planted her hands as far down as she could reach, trying to keep the wind from blowing her skirts over her head.
    She’d lived anonymously her entire life in Detroit; now all the inhabitants of Dakota Territory seemed fully informed of her iden- tity and intentions. “How do you know my name?”
    The man sat on his heels. One corner of his mouth curved as if he couldn’t manage a full smile. “I’m Jesse Mason. Your husband.” She looked up into a face that seemed oddly familiar. Then the image changed, like a stereopticon picture coming into focus. The high forehead, prominent nose, and mouth that tilted to the right were the same as his brother’s, but this man was a few years older, his skin weathered. His face was rounder, the cleft in his chin more pronounced. Deep-set eyes—hazel, not blue—
    inspected her. “Guess I gave you a scare. Sorry about that.” He grinned, and
    she was glad to see he did indeed have all his teeth. His wide hands, clean for a farmer’s, enveloped hers, and the touch of his skin reminded her she’d removed her gloves. So much for a good first impression. The only thing worse would be burst- ing into tears, making her nose run and her eyes red. Or losing her breakfast. She clamped her lips together, squeezed her eyes. A small
    hurt sound, accompanied by a tear, got away from her. “You’re crying. Hurting from your spill?” She fumbled in her pocket, but her least dirty handkerchief
    was wrapped around the evidence of her poverty, and she wasn’t ready for him to find out about that just yet.
    He removed his neckerchief, then frowned and stuffed it in his back pocket. “Can’t use a sweaty bandanna on a lady.” One warm, calloused finger skimmed her cheek. “Got you shaking like the cottontail my dog brought me last week.” The planks creaked as he sat beside her. For a moment, they were eye to eye.
    Susannah wanted to say how relieved she was that he came for her, to explain she was crying from nervousness. A word scraped up her throat, past the dry lump of her breakfast. “Hotel?”
    “Closest is a tent with bunks, ten miles west. Half-dollar more fare and no place for a lady. Nearest one with real rooms is fifty miles back in Fargo. You stayed there last night.” His thumbs rubbed her palms. “I got your trunks down below.”
    “You live here?” “No, I—we—have a house south of here a few miles.” “You knew I’d arrive today?” “Matt sent a telegram, and here you are, right on time! Wel-
    come to Fourth Siding, Dakota Territory.” “Is this the town?” Her voice betrayed her with a squeak. “Northern Pacific built the siding this spring. Us New Yorkers
    want to call it Buffalo. Expect naming will have to wait until we get a few more people.”
    What New Yorkers? she wondered.
    “Here, let me help you up.” He pulled her to standing, bring- ing her level with the tuft of brown hair curling from his collarless neckline. “Hey, you’re a little bit of a thing.” He gave her an exten- sive perusal, a farmer inspecting livestock. She might as well have opened her mouth so he could figure her age by her teeth.
    “Gets pretty cold and lonesome out here.” He shook his head, his jaw set in the “not buying” mode.
    Panic shot down her spine. Was he going to send her back before he’d even given her a chance? “I brought warm clothes.” Susannah rose on tiptoes to look taller. “Ellen thought—”
    But she’d already lost his attention. He squinted over her head and whispered, “Dear Lord.” In one swift move he spun away, kicked the shed door, and broke inside. He jerked the pump handle, working it furiously. Water sputtered into a bucket. “Cinder sparked the grass!”
    A tiny puff of smoke spiraled alongside the tracks half a block west. “Fire! Fire!” Susannah yelled. “Where’s the nearest fire department?”
    “Fargo, maybe. Or St. Paul.” He grabbed the sloshing bucket and dashed off the west end of the platform. “Fill the other!”
    Smoke rose above her, tainting the air. A line of flames slithered toward the platform. He swung. Water hit its target, but the fire grew, chewing through the dry grass. At this rate, the whole terri- tory would go up within minutes, taking them with it. Susannah grabbed the pump handle.
    “Hurry!”
    Arms aching, she hauled the full bucket and he swapped it for the empty one. The blaze raced toward them. This time she made it to the edge of the platform before him.
    “One more!”
    He disappeared into grass taller than his head, then popped out nearby, both arms raised. “Hallelujah! Who needs a fire depart- ment? I got you!”
    Susannah leaned against the shed, wheezing like a horse with the heaves. Her bonnet hung on her ear, her chignon drooped on her neck, and her skirt sagged with water. She had passed the glow- ing allotted to ladies and dripped sweat like a horse.
    With one hand he vaulted onto the platform and landed with another loud thud. As their handwriting predicted, this man was nothing like his brother. In spite of the heat, a shiver ricocheted through her, shoulders to toes. “Forgive me for raising my voice.”
    “Shouting is warranted when facing an inferno.” He rinsed his bandanna under the pump, wrung it out, then reached for her.
    What a mess she must be. Susannah raised her hand. “It’s all right. You don’t have to—”
    “I promised God I’d take care of you.” He moved so close she had to shut her eyes. The cool cloth brushed her forehead, wiping from hairline to jaw, then down the other side. “You shouldn’t wear black in summer.”
    “I’m in mourning.”
    “I know,” he said, his tone patient. “But you’ll melt with this sun. Take off your hat and coat.”
    Undress in public? Her corset inexplicably tightened. Her heart beat against her ribs in protest. What kind of man had she married? She had kept her jacket on the entire trip, in spite of the heat, so strangers wouldn’t stare.
    A twitch of a smile crossed his face. “Queen Victoria will never find out. Guaranteed.”
    This stranger was her husband. She’d promised to obey him. Susannah nodded. He helped her out of her redingote. She untied the ribbons from her neck and lifted off her bonnet. The breeze wove cool fingers through her hair.
    “Better?”
    “Fine, thank you.” Truth was, she felt exposed. Without the protection of her hat’s brim, her words vanished on the wind. Her blouse flapped in an unseemly manner. She crossed her arms to maintain some particle of modesty and hide her frayed cuffs.
    He looked her up and down. “Prettier than I thought.” He made a sound in the back of his throat, somewhere between a groan and a cough, then glanced at the sun. “We’d best head for home.”

     


    About the book:

    Spring for SusannahHundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.


    When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.


    Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her-and his faith in God's perfect plan-slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.


    When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.


    She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.
     


    About the author:

    I was busy raising a family, working as an occupational therapist, and trying to remember where I hid the chocolate, when a song sparked a story within me. The journey to publication has been long, but full of blessings. I couldn’t have done it without ACFW, RWA, and FHL, the inspirational chapter of RWA – and lots of chocolate!