Thursday, April 28, 2011

Teacher Tribute: Keith Thomas - ATEMS High School - Abilene News Story - KTXS Abilene

For those of you who have been following for awhile, you know that I lived in Abilene, Texas a few years ago and was a librarian at one of the local middle schools. My dad, Keith Thomas, is an engineering/robotics teacher at the newest high school there.  Recently, one of his students nominated him for a Teacher Tribute.  Click the link below to see the news coverage.

Teacher Tribute: Keith Thomas - ATEMS High School - Abilene News Story - KTXS Abilene

Congratulations Dad!  I'm very proud of you!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy National Karaoke Week!

Since the girls and I are on our trip up in St. Augustine, we are celebrating National Karaoke Week through a "mix tape CD" of some of our favorite 80's hits and singing at the tops of our lungs.  Hope you find a few of your favorites and join in.  Ready?

Madonna--Papa Don't Preach

Cyndi Lauper-She Bop

Bon Jovi--Shot Through the Heart

Police--Every Breath You Take

There are thousands of others, but here are just a few we'll be belting out on our trip.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Spring Break!

It's finally here...Spring Break!  After the year we've all had as teachers, I'm surprised they didn't take it away from us.  Needless to say, I've been using my time goofing off wisely.  I'll be out of town for a few days (going to St. Augustine), so Madison gets to hang out with grandpa in the evenings.  She's pretty excited because grandpa always shares some tuna with her.  I'll catch you when I get back.  Until then, enjoy Little Big Town's  "Boondocks"--brought to you by my friend You Tube.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley

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 Reluctant Detective

Monarch Books (March 1, 2011)

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


Martha Ockley lives in the North-East of England and has close links with the church, having grown up as the daughter of a minister. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction.

Visit the author's website.


Faith Morgan has lived her whole life in Birmingham. Her two careers, first as a policewoman, then as an inner-city parish minister have kept her close to her family, but also painfully close to her past. Now the picturesque country village of Little Worthy needs a new vicar. But Faith’s g trip to Little Worthy to consider if this is God’s will becomes a long-term commitment when the current vicar falls over dead during a communion service.

Faith suspects murder. And when the police are called in, Faith’s past follows her to Little Worthy in the shape of former partner and former boyfriend, Detective Inspector Ben Shorter.

Ben never understood her calling , but he will need her help if he is going to solve this. How will Faith balance her present calling with her past training, and her feelings for Ben? And is Faith in danger herself?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1854249851
ISBN-13: 978-1854249852


“You know I don’t like to complain.” Pat Montesque screwed up her soft cheeks into a fierce smile. “But I’ll tell you, Elsie, I was a tad put out. I’ve always done the altar arrangements – since before Vicar Alistair came. You need a good substantial block of colour and there she was putting up a great waxy lily and a couple of twigs. Striking simplicity! I ask you!”

Elsie Lively tut-tutted sympathetically. She was looking at her dear Arthur’s grave: probably thinking it needed a bit of a tidy, thought Pat. But then it was so difficult to get down on your knees at her age and well nigh impossible to get back up.

“Naturally I pointed out it wouldn’t do – not in that space. Who’s going to notice a single lily? The altar would be as good as bare. He said it was a misunderstanding. She’d only meant to help. Men!” She philosophized aloud. “What they don’t know about women! And as for men of the cloth…”


“What did you say, dear? Didn’t quite catch that.” Pat leaned down to the small, bent woman at her side with all the gracious condescension of a church officer to a valued lay member.

“Charitable – man of the cloth; a good thing.”

Dear Elsie. Always stating the obvious.

Pat was distracted. A stranger was getting out of a little blue car by the gate. It was one of those snub-nosed Japanese things they were forever advertising on the commercial channels.

“Now, who’s that?”

The newcomer was a young woman in her early thirties with glossy brown shoulder-length hair and a healthy outdoor tan. She was dressed in a crisp fifties-looking cotton shirt dress in dove grey. As she turned, the sun caught a discreet cross pinned to her lapel. The churchwarden’s nose twitched. It couldn’t be! The bishop wouldn’t do that to them – would he?

Faith Morgan looked down the path from the wicket gate. A couple of elderly ladies were standing by an evergreen bush, cataloguing her from head to foot. This was supposed to be a low-key visit – she was only investigating options, she told herself. It might lead to nothing but still, it wouldn’t do to get off on the wrong foot with the locals.

The parish church of St James’s in Little Worthy rose sturdy and enduring with its sunlit graveyard at its feet. According to the guidebooks, stones in the tower had been part of a church here since Saxon times. Faith felt a wash of pleasure and peace. This place of worship had served its community for nearly a thousand years. There could hardly be a greater contrast to the gritty, uncertain, challenging chaos of the urban parish she was thinking of leaving. A pang of guilt interrupted her moment of euphoria. The face of her mentor, Canon Jonathan, came to mind, fixing her with one of his wry looks. His tart comment echoed in her head: Little Worthy, Faith? A congregation of eight – if you’re lucky – with an average age of seventy; a fund-raising nightmare to crush the heart of a saint!

Her eyes searched the roof line. Bound to be Grade I listed. Maintaining Saxon masonry couldn’t be cheap. It all seemed in good shape. Besides, there were always the heritage funds…

The bells began another peal, and the whiff of vanilla from a nearby shrub struck her with a breath of nostalgia. She had been here more than once as a child with Ruth and Dad on his bell-ringing outings. Those convivial summer Sundays with the dads and their kids and the occasional mother. After church they would go to the pub across the green – still called The Hare and Hounds, she noted happily. The dads would take off their ties and swap stories while she and Ruth sat outside with their lime shandies on benches of sun-warmed wood. You can never go back, she mused, so what was she doing back here?

She rallied. There was nothing wrong with peaceful continuity. Decency deserved to be cherished too.

There was a little time yet before the service began. Faith avoided the main approach and followed a gravel path around the back of the church. A creamy cloud of ivory clematis cascaded over a grey stone wall. Beyond, a solitary pony raised its chestnut head to gaze mournfully at her from a field of weeds. Some way off squatted a group of ramshackle farm buildings.

There was a well-worn track leading from the vestry door. Through a clump of limes she glimpsed the corner of what she thought must be the vicarage.

A dark-haired young man in jeans and a rumpled striped shirt strode out of the church. He had an angular face and the coltish appearance of not having quite grown into his bones. Behind him, a distinguished-looking fifty-something clergyman in surplice and cassock filled the doorway. That must be the incumbent, Alistair Ingram, thought Faith, wondering if she should introduce herself. He called out to the retreating youth, who turned back briefly to make a dismissive pushing gesture with both hands. She was about to step forward when she registered the youth’s expression: disdain, fury, and something else. Triumph? Faith turned away, embarrassed. It felt like a private matter; she shouldn’t be spying. She retraced her steps and entered the church.

The transition from sunlight to cool interior blinded her briefly. In a pool of clarity, Faith saw a service sheet held out in a meaty hand. It belonged to a cheery-looking man in a red waistcoat and a moss-green tweed jacket. He was smiling at her as if they knew one another.

“Fred Partridge,” he pronounced in a carrying voice. “Churchwarden. Pleased to have you with us.” He winked conspiratorially as he turned to greet a couple coming in behind her.

Faith slid into an unoccupied pew. There were twenty or so worshippers scattered about. Not a bad turnout for a small country church on the fifth Sunday in Lent. Her eyes settled on the little bent woman who had been outside as she arrived. She was arranging her hymnal and prayer book on the shelf before her with delicate, twisted hands. Her fine silver hair was folded into a thin bun secured by a network of old-fashioned two-pronged pins.

A presence blocked the light from the door. The formidable-looking lady who had been sizing her up as she arrived was standing in the aisle looking at her with speculating grey eyes. She was solid, with a healthy complexion, probably in her late sixties or early seventies, dressed in what Faith’s mother would refer to as “good clothes”.

“You’ve met my fellow churchwarden, I see,” she said. She had a round face and a hint of Morningside gentility in her voice. “I’m Patricia Montesque, the other one,” she stated brusquely.

Faith gave her best smile and held out her hand to have it clasped briefly in paper-dry fingers.

“I’m pleased to meet you. Faith Morgan. I’m visiting for the weekend – my sister lives locally. I have fond memories of Little Worthy. We used to come here when I was a child.”

“So you like our little church?”

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Faith responded warmly. “So well proportioned, and a lovely, comfortable feel about it.”

They contemplated the nave together.

“That’s a striking arrangement,” Faith remarked, indicating the display of lilacs and ivory viburnum by the altar. It was a deliberate ploy. Pat Montesque seemed the kind who was almost certain to do the flower arrangements. She was right. The churchwarden’s face relaxed into a narrow smile.

“Not one of my best, I’m afraid. I was rather rushed. But lilacs do give a lovely block of colour.” She inclined her perfectly coiffed head in a faintly regal manner. “So you’ve family in the area, then?”

“I was born in Winchester…”

“Winchester! Barely twenty minutes away. You’re almost a native.”


“I’m just a newcomer, of course – hardly been here twenty years!” Pat Montesque gave a hard little laugh. “Not like dear Elsie Lively there.” She nodded in the direction of the silver-haired lady with the bun. “She’s Little Worthy born and bred. Ran the post office for half a century. A close-knit lot, the old families – but we have a very friendly parish here,” she ended firmly.

Faith remembered the post office. They had sold old-fashioned sweets: shell-shaped sherbets and Parma violets. She could almost smell the sugar. Ruth always chose liquorice; not because she particularly liked the taste, but for the way it stained her tongue black.

“So you haven’t met our vicar, Alistair?”

Faith was surprised by the challenge. Pat flicked a significant look at the cross pinned to her dress. So I’ve been rumbled, Faith thought.

“I haven’t had the pleasure,” she said.

“He’s a good pastor. A bit of a liberal, some thought when he first came, but he’s sound enough in the essentials. And very good with the finances.” Pat paused. “He’s leaving us, you know.”

“I had heard something of the kind,” murmured Faith. To think she had meant to slip in and out with being noticed. She should have known better. Rural parishes always had a Pat Montesque.

“Mmm. A bit of a dicky heart. He looks wonderfully well, but…” Her tone implied something more.

A petite woman with smooth, long fair hair, wearing a simple cotton dress came out of the vestry.

“…decided to take early retirement,” continued Pat.

The blonde had striking long-lashed blue eyes and a neat-featured prettiness that retained an element of youthful innocence, although she might have turned forty – it was hard to tell. She saw the churchwarden looking at her, and gave a little girl lost smile before leaning over a pew to exchange greetings with a young mother trying to hold a squirming toddler in her lap.

Pat turned back to Faith apparently as an afterthought. “You’ll be staying for coffee after the service?” Without waiting for a response, she was gone.

Could this place feel like home? Could these people ever be her people?

Faith studied the faces around her – silver-haired Elsie; the doting mother shadowing her small determined son as he ventured out down the aisle; the ruddy-faced man with the jacket too short in the sleeve, who couldn’t be anything else but an English farmer; a single black family with mother and father and a boy and a girl dressed in smart Sunday clothes. Faith’s eyes drifted up into the barrelled roof. There was such comfortable familiarity about the space. Why should that make her feel guilty?

Guilt. Purpose. Being of use. From the very first, Faith had always known that she wanted to be part of some greater purpose. That desire had led her into the police force. And, for a while, she thought she had found her place: to serve and protect; to bring the guilty to account; to protect the weak. That was what had first brought her and Ben together.

Running away, Faith?

I am not.

Ben always seemed to engage life so directly; he was unflinching, so sure of himself.

She was daydreaming. She could see Ben staring her down. Taking refuge, Faith? Never thought you were a coward.

You know I’m not, she protested the thought.

The rhythm of the old argument circled in her mind; the argument they had recycled so many times. It had moved them further and further apart, until she had left him – Ben, her lover, her mentor, her inspiration, once.

I can’t hold on to your certainties any more.

He had been so hurt. She couldn’t make him understand that it wasn’t about him. It had been something so personal; each step on her path to the ministry had seemed undeniable.

Her eyes came to rest on a stained-glass window panel leaning against the wall in the shadows beyond the pews. She guessed it must have been taken down on its way for repair. A glass section was cracked through and the leading twisted. The echo of the panel’s shape above was boarded up. A haloed lamb stood on a stretch of gaudy emerald grass. The Victorian artist had given the lamb a smiling, enigmatic expression. The Lamb of God.

Running away from reality.

That’s what he’d called it. To Ben, it had been a betrayal. And was he right? Was she seeking refuge from the world?

She looked around the congregation. These were people, individual persons, with their complicated lives, their struggles, their fears, their sins, their souls.

An intelligent, capable woman past thirty – with a degree, no less – buying into this delusion… for what? Ben always challenged her. They’d been a good team, once.

What am I doing?

Finding out.

That voice was somehow neither her own nor Ben’s. God and she often spoke like that. He would enter the conversation in her brain – not exactly unexpectedly. She had a sense he’d always been there. But since she had taken this turn – embraced this risk and embarked on the ministry – the sense of a presence, of an enduring and constant friend, had grown.

Finding out. The sense of opening horizons warmed and excited her. But then, what about Ben? He had moved back to Winchester more than a year ago.

And why should that matter one way or the other? He had his world now and she had hers.

The organist finished up with a self-important chord. The vicar was standing before them. Faith pulled her thoughts back to concentrate on the service.

Alistair Ingram took a step towards the altar draped in its Lenten purple, and the choir embarked on the Agnus Dei. Faith suppressed a smile as Pat Montesque’s forceful soprano rose above the rest.

“Lamb of God,

You take away the sin of the world.”

The vicar’s voice was clear and impressive. Faith wondered briefly if her own lighter tones could ever carry the words so well. Then she was caught up in the familiar comfort of their meaning.

“Jesus is the Lamb of God,

Who takes away the sin of the world.

Blessed are those who are called to his supper.”

Alistair Ingram spread out his arms to encompass his congregation. Sunlight, tinted by the stained glass in the window behind him, painted pastel blue and red on the white linen runner laid on top of the purple cloth.


He picked up the communion cup and drank.

The toddler escaped from his mother and made a break for freedom past the communion rail, his feet pattering in quick uneven steps. What perfect timing. There had to be a life metaphor in that. Faith was pondering how children brought life into a church when her ears registered the choking rasp from the direction of the altar.

Alistair Ingram was staring out at nothing, his eyes wide, his chest heaving. Faith saw in slow motion. The chalice dropped from his hands. It hit the edge of the table. Wine flowed out red over the white cloth and stained the purple black. The empty cup rolled off the altar and struck the stone flags.

Alistair Ingram was no longer standing before them. Clutching at his chest and tearing at his vestments, he sat heavily on the steps.

The mother caught her son up in her arms. She turned his head into her shoulder, covering his face. Alistair slumped sideways. Faith realized that she was standing in the aisle, then she began to run towards the chancel steps.

Dynamic Uno here:  Faith Morgan is quite an interesting character.  She is a former cop turned priest and has quite a quirky sense of humor--even if it is a bit dry (which I love).   

I found it interesting that Faith is allowed to "help" with the murder investigation since she was a former cop and her ex-boyfriend is the lead investigator.  (That's not something that is usually condoned in the States, but since the story takes place across the pond in a small town, maybe there's more leeway given there.) 

I enjoyed meeting the people in the town of Little Worthy and I especially loved the antics of some of the parishioners. I did have my suspicions about "who did it," but didn't understand/know the motive until the very end of the book.  I am definitely interested in reading about more of Faith's adventures with her close-knit community of Little Worthy.

If you like "cozy" mysteries, you'll enjoy reading The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley.  Let me know what you think.  Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Follow by Igniter Media

Happy Easter everyone! 

I went to church services last night with my parents and our pastor showed us the following "mini-movie" from Igniter Media to show how the last week of Christ's like might have looked if social networking was available at the time.

 I hope it has the same impact on you that it did me.  After all, Easter is not about the bunnies and the chocolate (although I do love me some Cadbury Creme Eggs). Easter is about the grisly death of Christ on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and it's about the joyous celebration of the resurrection of Christ. 

He is Risen...He is Risen Indeed!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What is YOUR Accent?

Yup.  I've been surfing again and I came across this "quiz" to determine what type of accent I have.  Having been born in the South and raised in the North, I've tried to adapt to whatever accent happens to be around me at the time.  (On occasion I get into trouble because people think I'm making fun of them, but I come by it honestly--especially when I tried to fit in "up North" where accents were very distinct and crisp as opposed to my "sloppy slang" from the South.)  Here are my results:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland
"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.
The West
The South
North Central
The Inland North
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Where do you fit in?  What type of accent do you have?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Journey (Kentucky Brothers Series) by Wanda E. Brunstetter

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 Journey (Kentucky Brothers)

Barbour Books (April 5, 2011)

***Special thanks to Sharon Farnell, Director, Faith Division, Planned Television Arts for sending me a review copy.***


Wanda E. Brunstetter is a bestselling author who enjoys writing Amish-themed, as well as historical novels. Descended from Anabaptists herself, Wanda became deeply interested in the Plain People when she married her husband, Richard who grew up in a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Wanda and her husband live in Washington State, but take every opportunity to visit their Amish friends in various communities across the country, gathering further information about the Amish way of life.

Visit the author's website.


This is the first book of the new Kentucky Brothers Series by
Wanda Brunstetter. Discover along with Titus Fisher how life can begin anew in Christian County, Kentucky. Moving from Pennsylvania, finding rewarding work, and leaving a broken romance behind is the best decision Titus ever made. But is he ready to consider love again when he meets two women: one who seems perfectly suited for any Amish man and one who challenges long held ideas of the woman’s role. Who will Titus chose, and will it be the right choice?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (April 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602606811
ISBN-13: 978-1602606814


Paradise, Pennsylvania

Titus Fisher liked horses, dogs, and shoofly pie. What he didn’t like was a cat that scratched, and a woman he couldn’t trust. Today he’d dealt with both.

Gritting his teeth, he grabbed his horse’s bridle and led him into the barn, wishing he hadn’t gotten out of bed that morning. The day had started on a sour note when Titus had come to the barn to feed the horses and accidentally stepped on one of Mom’s cats. Five of the irksome critters lived in the barn, and every one of them liked to bite and scratch. Whiskers, the smallest of the five, was the most aggressive. The crazy cat had been so miffed when Titus stepped on her tail that she’d clawed her way right up his leg, hissing and yowling as she went. When Titus had tried to push Whiskers off, she’d let him have it—leaving a nasty scratch on his leg.

Titus pulled up his pant leg and stared at the wound, still red and swollen. It reminded him of the time when he and his twin brother, Timothy, were six years old and had found a wild cat in the woodpile behind their barn. !e mangy critter had bitten Titus’s hand, and when the bite became infected, he’d started running a fever. Mom had taken him to the doctor’s, where he’d been given a tetanus shot and an antibiotic. Ever since then, he’d had an aversion to cats.

“In my opinion, except for catching mice, cats are pretty much worthless,” Titus mumbled as he guided his horse into one of the stalls. When he patted the horse’s ebony-colored flanks, the gelding whinnied and flipped his head around to nuzzle Titus’s hand. “Not like you, Lightning. You’re worth every dollar I paid for you. You’re dependable and trustworthy.” He grimaced. “Wish I could say the same for Phoebe Stoltzfus.”

Titus poured some oats into a bucket, and as his horse ate, he replayed the conversation he’d had with Phoebe on his way home from work that afternoon. . . .

“I’m not ready to join the church yet, and I’m too young to get married.” Phoebe flipped the strings of her head covering over her shoulders and blinked her blue eyes. “Why do you have to put so much pressure on me, Titus?”

“I–I’m not,” he stammered, “but I’ve been waiting a long time for you, and I’d thought that when I joined the church two years ago, you’d join, too.”

“I wasn’t ready then. I was only sixteen and had other things on my mind.”

“How well I know that. You were too busy runnin’ around with your friends and tryin’ out all sorts of worldly things.” Titus groaned. “Figured you’d have all that out of your system by now and would be ready to settle down.”

She shook her head. “Maybe in a few years I’ll be ready.”

“You said that two years ago.”

“Things have changed.” She placed her hand gently on his arm. “My friend Darlene Mast is planning a trip to Los Angeles, and she’s leaving in a few days, so—”

He held up his hand. “Please don’t tell me you want to go with her.”

“I think it would be fun, and I’ve always wanted to see the Pacific Ocean.” She looked up at him and smiled. “You’re full of adventure and like to try new things. Wouldn’t you like to see California?”

He shrugged. “Maybe someday, but not right now. What I want is for you to join the church this fall so we can get married.”

She shook her head. “I just told you—I’m not ready for that.”

“Will you ever be ready?”

“I don’t know.” She pushed a wisp of soft, auburn hair under her white organdy head covering and turned her gaze away from him. “I—I might not join the church. I might decide to go English.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No, I’m not. I don’t know if I want to be Amish.”

Titus’s jaw tightened as the reality of the situation set in. If Phoebe went to California, she might never come back. If she didn’t join the church, they couldn’t get married. Titus had been in love with Phoebe since he was seventeen years old, but she’d been four years younger than him, and their parents had disapproved. He’d waited patiently until Phoebe turned sixteen. Even then, his folks had been opposed to him courting her because she seemed so unsettled and ran with a wild bunch of kids.

Now Titus, at the age of twenty-two, still wasn’t sure he and Phoebe would ever get married. If she did go English, the only way they could marry would be if he broke his vow to the Amish church, which he did not want to do.

“Can we talk about this later?” he asked. “After you’ve had a chance to think about this some more?”

“There’s nothing to think about. I’m going to California.” She tipped her head and stared up at him. “If you don’t want to come, then I guess it’s over between us.”

“You can’t do this, Phoebe. Are you just going to give up on us like this?”

She shrugged.

“Don’t you love me anymore?”

“I–I’m not sure. Maybe we’re not meant to be together.”

Titus flinched. He felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach by one of his dad’s stubborn mules. He had a sinking feeling that once Phoebe left home she’d never come back. All his years of waiting for her had been for nothing.

Titus’s horse whinnied and nudged his hand, pulling his thoughts back to the present.

“Stop it, Lightning. I’m not in the mood.” Titus kicked at a bale of straw and winced when Lightning whipped his head around and bumped his sore leg.

Lightning whinnied again and stomped his hoof. Then he moved to the other end of his stall and turned his backside toward Titus.

“It’s all right, boy. I’m not mad at you.” Titus stepped up to the horse and reached out his hand. “I’m upset with Phoebe, that’s all.”

As though accepting his apology, Lightning nuzzled Titus’s neck.

Horses and dogs—that’s about all that ever held my interest until Phoebe came along, Titus thought. If there was only some way to get her out of my system. If I could just tell myself that I don’t care anymore.

Pembroke, Kentucky

As Suzanne Yoder stared out the living room window, a sense of discontentment welled in her soul. She enjoyed living in Christian County, especially in the spring when the flowers and trees began to bloom.

I wish I could be outside right now, tilling the garden or even mowing the lawn, she thought with regret. It was too nice to be stuck indoors, yet she knew she needed to work on the quilt she’d started several months ago for her friend Esther Beiler’s twenty-fourth birthday, which was less than a month away.

Suzanne’s gaze shifted from the garden to the woodshop, where her grandfather and twenty-year-old brother, Nelson, worked. Due to painful arthritis, Grandpa’s fingers didn’t work well anymore, so he’d recently decided to look for someone else to help Nelson in the shop. Someone younger and more able-bodied. Someone who knew the woodworking trade.

Grandpa wasn’t one to sit around or take life easy while others did all the work, but Mom had convinced him that he could still have a hand in the business by ordering supplies, waiting on customers, and keeping the books. Grandpa wasn’t happy about it, but at least he wouldn’t be sitting on the porch in his rocking chair all day, wishing he could be in the shop.

“I thought you were supposed to be working on Esther’s birthday present,” Mom said when she joined Suzanne in the living room.

“I was, but my eyes needed a break. I was thinking about going out to the woodshop to see if there’s anything I can do to help out.”

Mom’s dark eyebrows furrowed as she slowly shook her head. “You’ll never get that quilt done if you keep procrastinating, and there’s no need for you to run out to the woodshop, because I’m sure you and Nelson would only end up in a disagreement. You know how he feels about you hanging around the shop.”

Suzanne frowned. No one in the family understood her desire to be in the woodshop, where she could enjoy the distinctive odors of wood being cut, sanded, or stained. It was a shame nobody took her interest in woodworking seriously. Not long ago, Suzanne had borrowed some of Grandpa’s tools so she could make a few birdhouses and feeders to put in their yard. She’d never gotten any encouragement in making them, though. She guessed compared to the cabinets, doors, and storage sheds Grandpa and Nelson made, the birdhouses and feeders were insignificant.

Mom touched Suzanne’s shoulder. “I’m going to plant some peas and lettuce this afternoon, so if you think you’ve worked long enough on the quilt today, I could use your help.”

Suzanne didn’t have to be asked twice. Any chore she could do outdoors would be better than being inside, where it was warm and stuffy. “I’ll meet you outside as soon as I put away my quilting supplies,” she said.

“That’ll be fine.” Mom gave Suzanne’s arm a light tap and disappeared into the kitchen.

Suzanne glanced out the window once more and sighed as her gaze came to rest on the woodshop. “Guess I won’t make it out there today—except to take the men their lunch.”

Paradise, Pennsylvania

Titus left the barn and was about to head for the house, when a dark blue pickup rumbled up the driveway. He didn’t recognize the vehicle or the young English man with dark curly hair who opened the cab door and stepped out.

“Is this where Zach Fisher lives?” the man asked as he approached Titus.

“Sort of. My dad owns this place, and Zach and his family live in the house behind ours.” Titus pointed in that direction.

“Oh, I see. Is Zach at home?”

“Nope, not yet. He’s up in Blue Ball, painting the outside of the bowling alley. Probably won’t be home till sometime after six.”

The man extended his hand. “I’m Allen Walters. I knew Zach when he lived in Puyallup, Washington.”

“That was when he thought his name was Jimmy Scott, huh?”

“That’s right.”

“Zach’s my half brother. My twin brother, Timothy, and I were born during the time Zach was missing. He was about six or seven then, I think.”

“My mother and the woman Zach thought was his mother became good friends, so Zach and I kind of grew up together.”

“Zach’s mentioned that,” Titus said. “Sure is somethin’ the way he was kidnapped when he was a baby and never located his real family until he was twenty-one.”

“I really missed Zach after he left Washington, but I’m glad he found his way home.” Allen folded his arms and leaned against the side of his truck. “The last time I saw Zach was before he got married, and that was seven years ago. We’ve kept in touch through letters and phone calls, though.”

“Did Zach know you were coming?”

Allen shook his head. “He doesn’t know I’ve moved from Washington State to Kentucky either.”

“You’re welcome to hang around here until he gets home, because I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see you.”

“Thanks, I’ll do that.”

Just then, Titus’s mother stepped out of the house and started across the yard toward them, her slightly plump figure shuffling through the grass.

“This is my mother, Fannie Fisher.” Titus motioned to Allen. “Mom, this is Zach’s old friend, Allen Walters. He used to live in Washington.”

Mom’s brown eyes brightened as she shook Allen’s hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you. Zach’s told us a lot about you and your family.”

“He’s talked to me about his family here, too.”

“I explained to Allen that Zach’s still at work and said he’s welcome to stay here until Zach gets home.”

Mom bobbed her head. “Why don’t you stay for supper? I’ll invite Zach and his family to join us. I think it would be nice for you to meet his wife and children.”

“I’d like that,” Allen said with an enthusiastic nod.

“If you need a place to spend the night, you’re more than welcome to stay here.” Mom smiled. “Since Titus is our only son still living at home, we have more than enough room to accommodate guests.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I’ve already reserved a room at a hotel in Bird-in-Hand.”

“That’s fine, but the offer’s open if you change your mind.” Mom turned toward the house. “I’d better go back inside and get supper going.”

As Mom headed to the house, Titus motioned to a couple of wooden chairs sitting beneath the maple tree on their lawn. “Why don’t we take a seat?” he said to Allen. “I’m real interested in hearing why you moved to Kentucky.”

Dynamic Uno here:  The Journey is quite an interesting read--especially if you're relatively new to Amish fiction.  Titus is the main character (despite the picture on the front of the book) and it is about his "journey" to finding himself and growing in God's love and wisdom.   

Don't let stereotypes stop you from picking up Wanda Brunstetter's new book, The Journey, because there's a little bit of everything for all types of readers.  There is a bit of romance, a touch of mystery, and (as my students would say) all kinds of "drama."  

Speaking of drama, I can't believe the ending!  Considering everything that happened in the last couple of pages, I did expect it to go on a little further, but I can see why it ended where it did because she left room for book #2 in the Kentucky Brothers series, The Healing, to begin.  (Will Fall 2011 get here soon enough?)

If you want a good read, I think you should go out and get The Journey.  You will not be disappointed.  Let me know what you think.  Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Interview with Author Denise Hunter



Do the secrets from our past affect who we become in the future?

Can the hurts we’ve experienced really prevent us from finding true fulfillment?

In her release, A Cowboy’s Touch, award-winning author Denise Hunter will explore these questions, and readers will discover that “the truth really can set us free.”

As the first book in the Big Sky Romance series, A Cowboy’s Touch is the story about a truthseeker who ends up discovering the real truth and a cowboy who learns to let go of his past. Hunter shines as she draws her readers into an intriguing world of boots, chaps and cowboy hats. This heartwarming romance is a story of love, pain and forgiveness. It has also been named a Women of Faith novel for 2011.

Hunter can also talk about encouraging others to go for their dream of becoming a writer. She talks more about that in her interview below.

An interview with author Denise Hunter:

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you first begin to write?

I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t start dreaming about writing a novel until I was in my early twenties. By then I was married and busy pursuing a degree. I put writing on the back burner until my grandfather became fatally ill. While I was visiting him in the hospital, I was struck by the brevity of life and felt God pressing on my heart to take the first step. I started my first novel a couple weeks later. I had two small children by this time, so I wrote while they napped. I wrote my first four books that way. Even if you can only write a page a day, by the end of a year you’ll have a complete manuscript!

Q: Are you a small town or a city girl? What inspired you to write a book about the life of a cowboy?

I’m a little of both. We live in a country setting just outside the city. It’s the best of both worlds. There’s something very earthy and organic about a cowboy’s life. I was drawn by the idea of living off the land. I think it takes us to a simpler time and place—even though the life of a cowboy is not necessarily simple! And Montana is such a beautiful state. I thought my readers might like to journey there with me through story.

Q: Can you tell us a little about what you have learned about the cowboy lifestyle while doing research for this book?

I  learned a lot of fascinating details about the workings of a ranch: branding, breeding, cattle disease, etc. But what I came away with is a great respect for cowboys and their families. Those who choose this way of life do it because they love it. It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Q: Abigail’s title at her job is “the Truthseeker.” What is the significance of this title, and what do you think a real truthseeker does?

I thought it would be interesting to write about a protagonist whose job was to seek the truth and have her find out that she was missing the real Truth the whole time. Since Jesus is the Truth, a real truthseeker follows Him.

Q: Forgiveness seems to be a recurring theme in your books. Why do you feel it is so important? Your main characters both dealt with forgiving their past mistakes. Do you think that it is just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive the mistakes of others?

With sin rampant in all of us, this is something we need to get good at! Eventually, someone’s going to do something you struggle to forgive. I think this is partly because forgiveness is easily misunderstood. It’s not saying that what they did is okay. It’s saying that you’re not going to hold it over them anymore. I do think it’s just as important to forgive ourselves as it is to forgive others. Oftentimes, it’s even harder.

Q: Abigail and Wade both threw themselves into their work in order to escape their pasts. Do you believe it is easy to find an escape in work in order to hide from our problems?

No one likes to hurt, so I think the tendency is to avoid it however we can. Throwing ourselves into our work is certainly one way of doing so. But these things have a way of bubbling up to the surface eventually, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

Q: What would you like your readers to take away after reading A Cowboy’s Touch?

Abigail was essentially trying to work off her guilt. She thought if she could just keep exposing other peoples’ wrongs, it would appease her own guilt. I’d like readers to see that only God can redeem us.

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter
Thomas Nelson/ March 29, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59554-801-6/ 320 pages/ paperback/ $14.99

Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B & B Media Group for providing this interview for me to use.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

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 Cowboy's Touch

Thomas Nelson (March 29, 2011)

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


Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

Visit the author's website.


Wade's ranch home needs a woman's touch. Abigail's life needs a cowboy's touch.

Four years ago, rodeo celebrity Wade Ryan gave up his identity to protect his daughter. Now, settled on a ranch in Big Sky Country, he lives in obscurity, his heart guarded by a high, thick fence.

Abigail Jones isn’t sure how she went from big-city columnist to small-town nanny, but her new charge is growing on her, to say nothing of her ruggedly handsome boss. Love blossoms between Abigail and Wade--despite her better judgment. Will the secrets she brought with her to Moose Creek, Montana separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 29, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548017
ISBN-13: 978-1595548016


Abigail Jones knew the truth. She frowned at the blinking curser on her monitor and tapped her fingers on the keyboard-what next?

Beyond the screen's glow, darkness washed the cubicles. Her computer hummed, and outside the office windows a screech of tires broke the relative stillness ofthe Chicago night.

She shuffled her note cards. The story had been long in coming, but it was finished now, all except the telling. She knew where she wanted to take it next.

Her fingers stirred into motion, dancing across the keys. This was her favorite part, exposingtruth to the world. Well, okay, not the world exactly, not with Viewpoint's paltry circulation. But now, during the writing, it felt like the world.

Four paragraphs later, the office had shrunk away, and all that existed were the words on the monitor and her memory playing in full color on the screen of her mind.

Something dropped onto her desk with a sudden thud. Abigail’s hand flew to her heart, and her chair darted from her desk. She looked up at her boss’s frowning face, then shared a frown of her own. “You scared me.”

“And you’re scaring me. It’s after midnight, Abigail—what are you doing here?” Marilyn Jones’s hand settled on her hip.

The blast of adrenaline settled into Abigail’s bloodstream, though her heart was still in overdrive. “Being an ambitious staffer?”

“You mean an obsessive workaholic.”

“Something wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong is my twenty-eight-year-old daughter is working all hours on a Saturday night instead of dating an eligible bachelor like all the other single women her age.” Her mom tossed her head, but her short brown hair hardly budged. “You could’ve at least gone out with your sister and me. We had a good time.”

“I’m down to the wire.”

“You’ve been here every night for two weeks.” Her mother rolled up a chair and sank into it. “Your father always thought you’d be a schoolteacher, did I ever tell you that?”

“About a million times.” Abigail settled into the chair, rubbed the ache in her temple. Her heart was still recovering, but she wanted to return to her column. She was just getting to the good part.

“You had a doctor’s appointment yesterday,” Mom said. Abigail sighed hard.

“Whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”

“Goes out the window when the doctor is your sister. Come on, Abigail, this is your health. Reagan prescribed rest—R-E-S-T—and yet here you are.”

“A couple more days and the story will be put to bed.”

“And then there’ll be another story.”

“That’s what I do, Mother.”

“You’ve had a headache for weeks, and the fact that you made an appointment with your sister is proof you’re not feeling well.”

Abigail pulled her hand from her temple. “I’m fine.”

“That’s what your father said the week before he collapsed.”

Compassion and frustration warred inside Abigail. “He was sixty-two.” And his pork habit hadn’t helped matters. Thin didn’t necessarily mean healthy. She skimmed her own long legs, encased in her favorite jeans . . . exhibit A.

“I’ve been thinking you should go visit your great-aunt.” Abigail already had a story in the works, but maybe her mom had a lead on something else. “New York sounds interesting. What’s the assignment?”

“Rest and relaxation. And I’m not talking about your Aunt Eloise—as if you’d get any rest there—I’m talking about your Aunt Lucy.”

Abigail’s spirits dropped to the basement. “Aunt Lucy lives in Montana.” Where cattle outnumbered people. She felt for the familiar ring on her right hand and began twisting.

“She seems a bit . . . confused lately.”

Abigail recalled the birthday gifts her great-aunt had sent over the years, and her lips twitched. “Aunt Lucy has always been confused.”

“Someone needs to check on her. Her latest letter was full of comments about some girls who live with her, when I know perfectly well she lives alone. I think it may be time for assisted living or a retirement community.”

Abigail’s eyes flashed to the screen. A series of nonsensical letters showed where she’d stopped in alarm at her mother’s appearance. She hit the delete button. “Let’s invite her to Chicago for a few weeks.”

“She needs to be observed in her own surroundings. Besides, that woman hasn’t set foot on a plane since Uncle Murray passed, and I sure wouldn’t trust her to travel across the country alone. You know what happened when she came out for your father’s funeral.”

“Dad always said she had a bad sense of direction.”

“Nevertheless, I don’t have time to hunt her down in Canada again. Now, come on, Abigail, it makes perfect sense for you to go. You need a break, and Aunt Lucy was your father’s favorite relative. It’s our job to look after her now, and if she’s incapable of making coherent decisions, we need to help her.”

Abigail’s conscience tweaked her. She had a soft spot for Aunt Lucy, and her mom knew it. Still, that identity theft story called her name, and she had a reliable source who might or might not be willing to talk in a couple weeks.

“Reagan should do it. I’ll need the full month for my column, and we can’t afford to scrap it. Distribution is down enough as it is. Just last month you were concerned—”

Her mother stood abruptly, the chair reeling backward into the aisle. She walked as far as the next cubicle, then turned. “Hypertension is nothing to mess with, Abigail. You’re so . . . rest- less. You need a break—a chance to find some peace in your life.” She cleared her throat, then her face took on that I’ve-made-up- my-mind look. “Whether you go to your aunt’s or not, I’m insisting you take a leave of absence.”

There was no point arguing once her mother took that tone. She could always do research online—and she wouldn’t mind visiting a part of the country she’d never seen. “Fine. I’ll finish this story, then go out to Montana for a week or so.”

“Finish the story, yes. But your leave of absence will last three months.”

“Three months!”

“It may take that long to make a decision about Aunt Lucy.”

“What about my apartment?”

“Reagan will look after it. You’re hardly there anyway. You need a break, and Moose Creek is the perfect place.”

Moose Creek. “I’ll say. Sounds like nothing more than a traffic signal with a gas pump on the corner.”

“Don’t be silly. Moose Creek has no traffic signal. Abigail, you have become wholly obsessed with—”

“So I’m a hard worker . . .” She lifted her shoulders.

Her mom’s lips compressed into a hard line. “Wholly obsessed with your job. Look, you know I admire hard work, but it feels like you’re always chasing something and never quite catching it. I want you to find some contentment, for your health if nothing else. There’s more to life than investigative reporting.”

“I’m the Truthseeker, Mom. That’s who I am.” Her fist found home over her heart.

Her mother shouldered her purse, then zipped her light sweater, her movements irritatingly slow. She tugged down the ribbed hem and smoothed the material of her pants. “Three months, Abigail. Not a day less.”

Dynamic Uno here: Anytime I see the word "cowboy" in the title of a book I assume it's going to be good.  After all, cowboys are the epitome of harnessed masculinity, and when paired with romance (sigh)--well, a girl can dream can't she?

Abigail's health is faltering and her doctor (who also happens to be her sister) demands that she take a leave of absence from her writing job at a magazine (that her mom runs) to lessen her stress levels.  Not one to mess with health, Abigail's mother ships her off to spend the summer with her aging aunt in Moose Creek, Montana to do nothing but rest and relax for awhile. 

Abigail soon finds herself bored to tears with nothing to do, so she helps her aunt out in her doll shop in town.  There, Abby meets Maddy, a young girl in tears because her bike had just been stolen.  Not one to back down from a good mystery, Abigail promises to help Maddy find her bike.  An easy friendship is formed between the two, and when Maddy's dad, Wade, finds himself in need of a nanny for the summer, Abigail quickly steps in to apply.  Little does she know that there's a mystery behind her employer and when she finds herself face to face with the facts, will her heart, or his, survive?

I enjoyed reading A Cowboy's Touch.  It was light-hearted enough that I enjoyed the characters, but it brought forth a powerful message about forgiveness, which is hard to forget.   

I hope that since this is the first book in the Big Sky Romance series, that maybe we get to have a more in-depth look at some of the secondary characters in the book like Dylan, Wade's best friend, or even some of the women in the town like Marla or Shay. 

If you like romance stories with a hint of mystery and a coyboy or two, then A Cowboy's Touch is the book for you.  Let me know what you think!  Happy Reading!