Sunday, May 31, 2009

Graduation Countdown Begins


Exactly one week from today I will be the parent of a high school graduate. I'm wondering how that's possible. I'm pretty positive my "baby" was graduating from Kindergarten only a few years ago.

Brie has turned into a wonderful young lady. She'll be 18 in a couple of months so she's one of the youngest in her grade. She has always done well in school and has loved going. Unlike me, she's been in the same school district since 2nd grade. I'm so thankful my kids have had that stability, especially since out lives have been turned upside down a couple of times.

Lucky girl, Brie's last day is 3 days before the rest of the school district. I wonder what she'll do with herself. She spends her days either at school or at work. Many nights she doesn't come home until 10:30pm. I think that's why I feel like her life has flown by, I never see her. Her school work is 1/2 in high school college courses and 1/2 online college courses. After school she has 2 jobs she works: after school childcare and then at the grocery store.

Trying to keep tabs on this girl has not been the easiest thing in the world. We have a huge calendar on our kitchen wall, but I don't always look at it. I know, nice use of my "helper". Being off to college, I wonder how I'll ever know what she's up to.

Have any of you followers had a child graduate? How did you handle it? Was it hard for you? Does it get easier? Any advice on getting through my first child leaving? It's a huge shift in our family dynamic and since I rely on her so much I'm not sure how I'll manage. I'd appreciate any advice and prayers lifted up during the next couple of months. :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Love to Last Forever by Tracie Peterson

ISBN: 0764201492
Number of Pages: 384
Vendor: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2009
Let me first state that Tracie Peterson is one of my all time favorite authors. She can write an historical novel in any setting. From Alaska to the East Coast, she can capture the essence of that time and location. The same goes for this historical western A Love to Last Forever.

First off I'd like to thank Jim at Bethany House Publishing for sending me this wonderful book. Let's take a look into the 2nd book of The Brides of Gallatin County. In the first book A Promise to Last Forever we meet all 3 sisters: Gwen, Beth, and Lacy, but the story is Gwen's. A Love to Last Forever is Beth's story.

Beth is definitely someone I can relate to. She has moved around all her life. Every time she gets situated her father would uproot the family and move on to someplace new. Now that she's in Gallatin she wants to stay put.

What is Beth to do if she finds her Prince Charming and he doesn't want to live in one place? One of the men who takes an interest in her is Adrian, who works for the railroad. Does he compare to the dashing men she reads about in her dime-store romances? And what about his desire to travel? Would Beth ever be able to leave Gallatin?

Then there's Nick. A man who has been interested in Beth since they first met in Gallatin. She has always kept him at arms length because he would visit the saloon and drink. He has been attending church lately and she knows he has been staying away from Rafe's saloon. Nick is trying to figure out how to be the man he thinks she wants, but he isn't perfect. He's got a past and it finds him as Beth is beginning to see him in a new light. Nick is also given the chance to make things right from his past.

Because of the stories she's read, she has certain ideas of how she will react to a man. Beth expects her heart to go pitter patter the moment she locks eyes with her true love. She also has dreamy thoughts of her own personal Lord Wodehouse and how he will swoop in and save her from any dangers and everything else a fictional character would do. Will she find her true love or will she miss him because of how she's built up her ideas of the perfect man?

To top it all off, Lacy and Beth get into a heap of trouble. It's a nice comic relief with all the other stresses in the story. Those two get into trouble faster than lightening. Reading about them trying to weasel their way out of their schemes is just as amusing. Lacy also continues searching for her father's killer throughout A Love to Last Forever which is a never ending frustration for the Dave, the law in Gallatin.

I really enjoy that Tracie completely involves all 3 sisters in each novel even though each book in the series follows one more closely than the other. I can't wait to read her 3rd book that focuses on Lacy. Will she ever allow herself to be loved and will it be Dave? Oh, please let it be Dave!! :) Enjoy the 3rd book A Dream to Call My Own. If you'd like to check them out, you can enter the name of the books or author into the Search box on the right side of the screen in the ChristianBook.com box. That link will take you to the site where you can read more about Tracie's books.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Would Die For You by Brent and Deanna Higgins Interview & Giveaway

I Would Die For You

by Brent and Deanna Higgins

(Tulsa, OK) - "It's an honor just to be nominated": familiar words for Emmy and Grammy nominees. Still, Brent and Deanna Higgins never believed the phrase would pertain to their family. Outreach magazine has recently honored the Higgins' book, I Would Die for You, with a nomination as Outreach Resource of the Year.

That nomination, however, came with a great cost. I Would Die for You chronicles the life and death of their young son, BJ Higgins; along with his faith; his passion for missions and his love for God. Compelling excerpts from personal notes, blog entries school assignments and journals reveal his clear calling and enthusiasm for sharing the gospel of Christ. BJ's challenging words and example combine to inspire readers of all ages.


After returning from his second short-term international mission trip at the age of 15, BJ became seriously ill. Six days before his sixteenth birthday, he died. His story lives on throughout the pages of his parents' book.


In spite of the inevitable grief , Brent and Deanna share their son's message of selfless sacrifice through both I Would Die for You and Awe Star Ministries, the nonprofit ministry that coordinated his mission trips. Their prayer? That countless others will embrace BJ's vision and give their all for the cause of Christ.


Blog Tour Questions


1. Describe how BJ became involved in short-term mission trips. How did these trips impact BJ’s faith?

BJ watched other members of our family participate in church mission trips. He couldn’t wait for his turn! When Brent led a team to Kentucky to serve in a school, BJ went along. At age fourteen, he learned of an opportunity to minister in Peru. He served there with Awe Star Ministries two consecutive summers and his heart broke over the world’s lostness. His mission service ignited a passion to see the Gospel reach the nations.


2. Even as a young boy BJ’s passion for God shone through in his life. How did you see that passion then and as he grew?

In his childhood, his passion sometimes came across as judgmental. When he learned to share out of love, his witness became much more effective. He was bold and unafraid to share the Gospel in any way possible. After his mission trips, his heightened passion led him to spend more time in the Word, in prayer, in fellowship, and worship. BJ could turn almost any conversation to the things of God because he genuinely loved others.


3. Share the story of BJ’s illness and the time when God called him home.

Three weeks after his 2005 Peru trip, BJ became critically ill. On the way to the hospital, he told Brent, “Dad, I know you’re scared. I believe the Lord will deliver me through this. But if he doesn’t, I’m going home to be with him, and that’s okay with me.” Friends began a blog we still maintain, http://www.prayforbj.com/. It received thousands of hits as people across the world prayed for our son. After a six-week battle with a mysterious infection, BJ went to heaven days before his sixteenth birthday.


4. How did BJ’s faith journey become the inspiration for the song, “I Would Die For You” written by MercyMe’s lead singer, Bart Millard?

Within a week of BJ’s hospitalization Bart (a friend from the band’s early years) called Brent. Our oldest daughter had posted some of BJ’s journal entries on our blog and Bart was amazed at his spiritual depth. He emailed fans encouraging them to pray. MercyMe grieved deeply when BJ died. Our son’s life and writings inspired Bart to put words to a tune he already had, now the final song on the “Coming Up to Breathe” CD.


5. BJ’s life and death have touched many people. Which of his qualities and/or experiences seems to impact others the most?

People didn’t realize it was possible to live a life as sold out to Christ as BJ’s. They’re amazed at the boldness he showed when God told him to witness to four Peruvian policemen carrying uzis. As he wrote, he was “mucho scardios,” but all four accepted Christ. His passionate declaration, “I will not be satisfied. I will not let my passion be hid in a bottle” still touches people in deep ways.


6. As you both continue to partner with Awe Star Ministries, what are your hopes and dreams for this ministry? For this book?

We hope to impact students’ lives, discipling and partnering with them in missions. We long for them to realize that surrender to Christ can occur without crossing borders. God calls us to live a missionary lifestyle within our own culture. Our hope for the book is not that our son be glorified but that God multiply his message. We pray that God draws those who read it to embrace their Savior and live for Him as never before.


7. Where can readers learn more about BJ and I Would Die For You? Where can they learn more about Awe Star Ministries?

http://www.prayforbj.com/ contains devotionals, complete archives, pictures, and BJ’s own words. Recently, we posted a video of his life at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRNANk5rI2g. You’ll find I Would Die for You anywhere Christian books are sold. http://www.revellbooks.com/ contains a link for a free companion Bible study. Friend us on Facebook: Brent A. Higgins; Deanna Tucker Higgins.


Visit http://www.awestar.org/ to learn more about international missions opportunities. May God use you to extend BJ’s passion to reach the nations and “raise a revolution” in Him.

About the Authors

As an ordained minister and youth pastor, Brent Higgins continues the faith journey his son, BJ, began a few years ago. He currently serves as Vice President of International Operations for Awe Star Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization committed to equipping believers for life, speaking to more than 25,000 people each year.
As an accomplished musician and elementary school music teacher, Deanna Higgins opens the next chapter of BJ's missionary work by serving alongside her husband to lead mission trips for Awe Star Ministries. Brent and Deanna now reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Parenting Tips from the Higgins



  • Stay in the Word and in prayer if you expect your children to do so. Too many times, parents expect that the youth pastor is going to grow their children. You can’t expect your kids to live a lifestyle you’re not.



  • Be sure you have a firm answer from God before you respond to your child about a request. For example, when BJ first wanted to serve overseas, our initial answer was “no,” but that was a knee-jerk reaction. Parents must be careful to hear from the Holy Spirit and not respond out of pure protectiveness or emotion.



  • If at all possible, have a regular devotional time with your family. This should include prayer, not just rote prayer but significant time with God. This teaches kids how to pray and encourages them in their walk with the Lord.



  • Arrange to have dinner together as a family as often as you can. This gives you an opportunity to share as a family and also allows you to listen to your children. Kids won’t spill unless parents are willing to listen.



  • Don’t be afraid to let your children fail. Sometimes kids need to try things and learn that failure is a part of life. They need all kinds of experiences as they move into adulthood.



  • Encourage your children to be bold in their faith. Do activities as a family—mission trips and other projects—that require boldness. Encourage them to be involved in opportunities to share their faith.



  • Listen, listen, and listen to your children. We say this humbly because we learned from our mistakes. Often your kids are telling you things by what they don’t tell you. (See the note about having dinner together above).



  • When discouraging things happen, don’t remove your child’s opportunities to obey God. Your child’s relationship with God should never be used as a weapon. Opportunities for fellowship(youth group, etc.) shouldn’t be contingent on “good” behavior.



  • If you make a commitment, follow through. If your child makes a commitment, help him or her follow through on it, too. The lesson here: your faithfulness sets an example for others.



  • Practice what you preach to your children. Demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit through your love, kindness, etc. Although we weren’t (and aren’t) perfect parents, we tried to follow through in our lives with the things we taught our kids.

Bonus Content


The New Normal: Facing Life after a Child's Death by Marti Pieper

"Dad, I know you're scared. I believe the Lord will deliver me through this. But if he doesn't, I'm going home to be with him, and that's okay with me."--BJ Higgins, August 5, 2005

Brent and Deanna Higgins clung to these valiant words throughout their son's six-week hospitalization. BJ became ill with a mysterious infection after he returned from his second mission trip to Peru. His death on September 26, 2005, days before his sixteenth birthday, ushered their family (Brent, Deanna, and two college-aged daughters) into what they called the new normal: life without their beloved son and brother. The new normal also meant life without one who served as a role model for many, including his own family members. BJ's story and message of passionate obedience to Christ are chronicled in his parents' best-selling book, I Would Die for You: One Student's Story of Passion, Service, and Faith (Revell, 2008).

How do Brent and Deanna survive the new normal? The Higgins point to their relationship with God as the key. "The level of intimacy one truly has in a relationship with Christ is often reflected through the time of pain, suffering, and loss," says Brent, now vice president for international operations for their son's sending agency, Awe Star Ministries. He and Deanna recommend that others who face the loss of a child draw near to God. "When you do, He promises to draw near to you," Brent explains.

Drawing near to other people is important, too, Deanna says. "It helped to talk to other people about him, to remember who he was. Initially, just holding onto the people around us helped a lot."

Today, the Higgins lead teams of young missionaries like their son to take the Gospel of Christ to people around the world. More recently, God has opened the doors for ministry to others who have lost a child. "No two losses are exactly alike regardless of similar circumstances," says Brent. "I encourage parents to seek the Lord because He always listens."

"Everyone goes through it differently," says Deanna. "We each grieve in our own way, but God can handle our anger. He can handle anything." She urges other hurting parents to recognize the hope beyond their pain. "If you look, you'll find ways He's showing you He cares. He's showing you He's with you through it."

God's presence doesn't eliminate loneliness, however. The Higgins both admit that their work with students often brings back bittersweet memories of their son. "Certain students remind me of BJ in their passion for Christ, their hunger to know more," Brent says. At times, both Brent and Deanna find comfort in their son's journals (excerpted in the book) as well as videos and pictures of him. Music, an integral part of their family life, also serves as a source of strength.

Connecting with God and with others, especially young people like their son, helps them cope. Deanna says the loss of her son has left her more open to see the potential of these young men and women. Brent adds, "Before BJ passed, the things I taught were less experiential and more intellectual. The things the Lord has allowed me to walk through since that time have increased my own intensity and passion for seeing students truly understand what God calls them to do."

As part of a passionate declaration in one of his journals, BJ wrote, "It's time to raise a revolution. God will give me the strength." For his parents, the new normal means a commitment to extend his legacy--even when it hurts.



Along with all the other people doing the blog tour with Kathy Carlton Willis Communications, I am able to send the name of one blessed commenter to enter to win a Gift Basket on June 7th. So, leave a comment here and your EMAIL. Have you ever been on a mission trip or someone in your family? Here's what's in the Gift Basket:



I Would Die for You book - autographed
Rite of Passage Parenting book - autographed (Rite of Passage Parenting by Walker Moore, Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Global Passage Creed sticker
Not Home...Gone Global for Jesus sticker
Awe Star blue ink pen
Red Awe Star luggage tag
Green Global Passage bandana
2 Awe Star drink containers
Blue size L Awe Star 2009 trip T-shirt
Orange size L God's Global Roadie T-shirt

City of the Dead by T.L. Higley ~ FIRST WildCard

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:



City of the Dead (Seven Wonders Series)

B&H Books (March 1, 2009)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:






From her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Jordan to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the Seven Wonders series continues. It’s her hope that in escaping to the past with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through desert sands, explored ancient ruins, and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.





Visit the author's website.



Product Details:



List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0805447318

ISBN-13: 978-0805447316







AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





Prologue



In my dreams, it is often I who kills Amunet. Other nights it is Khufu, in one of his mad rages. And at other times it is a great mystery, destined to remain unknown long after the ka of each of us has crossed to the west.



Tonight, as I lay abed, my dreams reveal all the truth that I know.



Merit is there, like a beautiful lotus flower among the papyrus reeds.



Hemi,” she whispers, using the shortened form of my name in the familiar way I long for. “We should join the others.”



The tufts of reeds that spring from the marsh’s edge wave around us, higher than our heads, our private thicket.



“They are occupied with the hunt,” I say.



A cloud of birds rises from the marsh in that moment, squawking their protest at being disturbed. Merit turns her head to the noise and I study the line of her jaw, the long curls that wave across her ear. I pull her close, my arms around her waist.



Her body is stiff at first, then melts against mine.



Hemi, you must let me go.”



Some nights in my dreams I am a better man.



“Merit.” I bury my face in her hair, breathe in the spicy scent of her. “I cannot.”



I pull her into my kiss.



She resists. She pushes me away and her eyes flash accusation, but something else as well. Sorrow. Longing.



I reach for her again, wrapping my fingers around her wrist. She twists away from my grasp. I do not know what I might have done, but there is fear in her eyes. By the gods, I wish I could forget that fear.



She runs. What else could she do?



She runs along the old river bed, not yet swollen with the year’s Inundation, stagnant and marshy. She disappears among the papyrus. The sky is low and gray, an evil portent.



My anger roots me to the ground for several moments, but then the potential danger propels me to follow.



“Merit,” I call. “Come back. I am sorry!”



I weave slowly among the reeds, searching for the white flash of her dress, the bronze of her skin.



“Merit, it is not safe!”



Anger dissolves into concern. I cannot find her.



In the way of dreams, my feet are unnaturally heavy, as though I fight through alluvial mud to reach her. The first weighted drops fall from an unearthly sky.



And then she is there, at the base of the reeds. White dress dirtied, head turned unnaturally. Face in the water. My heart clutches in my chest. I lurch forward. Drop to my knees in the marsh mud. Push away the reeds. Reach for her.



It is not Merit.



It is Amunet.



Amunet!” I wipe the mud and water from her face and shake her. Her eyes are open yet unfocused.



I am less of a man because, in that moment, I feel relief.



Relief that it is not Merit.



But what has happened to Amunet? Khufu insisted that our royal hunting party split apart to raise the birds, but we all knew that he wanted to be with Amunet. Now she is alone, and she has crossed to the west.



As I hold her lifeless body in my arms, I feel the great weight of choice fall upon my shoulders. The rain pours through an evil gash in the clouds.



Khufu is my friend. He is my cousin. He will soon wear the Double Crown of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt. And when Khufu is Pharaoh, I will be his grand vizier.



But it would seem that I hold our future in my hands now, as surely as I hold this girl’s body.



I lower Amunet to the mud again and awake, panting and sweating, in my bed. I roll from the mat, scramble for a pot, and retch. It is not the first time.



The sunlight is already burning through the high window in my bedchamber.



The past is gone. There is only the future.



And I have a pyramid to build.









1



In the fifth year of Khufu, the Golden Horus, Great in Victories, Chosen of Ra, as the pyramid rose in the desert like a burning torch to the sun god himself, I realized my mistake and knew that I had brought disorder.



“Foolishness!” Khons slapped a stone-roughened hand on the papyri unrolled on the basalt-black slab before us, and turned his back on the well-ordered charts to study the workforce on the plateau.



I refused to follow his gaze. Behind me, I knew, eight thousand men toiled, dragging quarry stones up ramps that snaked around my half-finished pyramid, and levering them into beautiful precision. Below them, intersecting lines of men advanced with the rhythm of drumbeats. They worked quickly but never fast enough.



My voice took on a hard edge. “Perhaps, Khons, if you spent more time listening and less blustering—”



“You speak to me of time?” The Overseer of Quarries whirled to face me, and the muscles in his jaw twitched like a donkey’s flank when a fly irritates. “Do you have any idea what these changes mean?” He waved a hand over my plans. “You were a naked baboon at Neferma’at’s knee when he and I were building the pyramids at Saqqara!”



This insult was well-worn, and I was sick of it. I stepped up to him, close enough to map every vein in his forehead. The desert air between us stilled with the tension. “You forget yourself, Khons. I may not be your elder, but I am grand vizier.”



“My good men,” Ded’e interrupted, his voice dripping honey as he smoothed long fingers over the soft papyrus. “Let us not quarrel like harem women over a simple change of design.”



“Simple!” Khons snorted. “Perhaps for you. Your farmers and bakers care not where Pharaoh’s burial chamber is located. But I will need to rework all the numbers for the Giza quarry. The timeline for the Aswan granite will be in chaos.” Khons turned on me. “The plans for the queen’s pyramid are later than grain in a drought year. A project of this magnitude must run like marble over the rollers. A change like this—you’re hurling a chunk of limestone into the Nile, and there will be ripples. Other deadlines will be missed—”



I held up a hand and waited to respond. I preferred to handle Khons and his fits of metaphor by giving us both time to cool. The sun hammered down on upon the building site, and I looked away, past the sands of death, toward the life-giving harbor and the fertile plain beyond. This year’s Inundation had not yet crested, but already the Nile’s green waters had swelled to the border of last year’s floodplain. When the waters receded in three months, leaving behind their rich silt deposits, the land would be black and fertile and planting would commence.



“Three months,” I said. In three months, most of my workforce would return to their farms to plant and till, leaving my pyramid unfinished, dependent on me to make it whole.



Khons grunted. “Exactly. No time for changes.”



Ded’e scanned the plateau, his fingers skimming his forehead to block the glare, though he had applied a careful line of kohl beneath his eyes today. “Where is Mentu? Did you not send a message, Hemiunu?”



I looked toward the workmen’s village, too far to make out anyone approaching by the road. Mentu-hotep also served as one of my chief overseers. These three answered directly to me, and under them commanded fifty supervisors, who in turn organized the twelve-thousand-man force. Nothing of this scale had ever been undertaken in the history of the Two Lands. In the history of man. We were building the Great Pyramid, the Horizon of the Pharaoh Khufu. A thousand years, nay, ten thousand years from now, my pyramid would still stand. And though a tomb for Pharaoh, it would also bear my name. A legacy in stone.



“Perhaps he thinks he can do as he wishes,” Khons said.



I ignored his petty implication that I played favorites among my staff. “Perhaps he is slow in getting started today.” I jabbed a finger at the plans again. “Look, Khons, the burial chamber’s relocation will mean that the inner core will require less stone, not more. I’ve redesigned the plans to show the king’s chamber beginning on Course Fifty. Between the corbelled ascending corridor, the burial chamber, five courses high, and the five relieving chambers that will be necessary above it, we will save 8,242 blocks.”



“Exactly 8,242? Are you certain?” De’de snorted. “I think you must stay up all night solving equations, eh, Hemi?”



I inclined my head to the pyramid, now one-fourth its finished height. “Look at it, De’de. See the way the sides angle at a setback of exactly 11:14. Look at the platform, level to an error less than the span of your little finger.” I turned on him. “Do you think such beauty happens by chance? No, it requires constant attention from one who would rather lose sleep than see it falter.”



“It’s blasphemy.” Khons’s voice was low. It was unwise to speak thus of the Favored One.



I exhaled and we hung over the plans, heads together. Khons smelled of sweat and dust, and sand caked the outer rim of his ear.



“It is for the best, Khons. You will see.”



If blasphemy were involved it was my doing and not Khufu’s? I had engineered the raising of the burial chamber above ground and, along with it, Khufu’s role as the earthly incarnation of the god Ra. It was for the good of Egypt, and now it must be carried forward. Hesitation, indecision—these were for weak men.



“Let the priests argue about religious matters,” I said. “I am a builder.”



Ded’e laughed. “Yes, you are like the pyramid, Hemi. All sharp angles and unforgiving measurements.”



I blinked at the observation, then smiled as though it pleased me.



Khons opened his mouth, no doubt to argue, but a shout from the worksite stopped him. We three turned to the pyramid, and I ground my teeth to see the workgangs falter in their measured march up the ramps. Some disorder near the top drew the attention of all. I squinted against the bright blue sky but saw only the brown figures of the workforce covering the stone.



“Cursed Mentu. Where is he?” Khons asked the question this time.



As Overseer for Operations, Mentu took charge of problems on the line. In his absence, I now stalked toward the site.



The Green Sea Gang had halted on the east-face ramp, their draglines still braced over their bare shoulders. Even from thirty cubits below I could see the ropy muscles stand out on the backs of a hundred men as they strained to hold the thirty-thousand-deben-weight block attached to the line. Their white skirts of this morning had long since tanned with dust, and their skin shone with afternoon sweat.



Sokkwi! Get your men moving forward!” I shouted to the Green Sea Gang supervisor who should have been at the top.



There was no reply, so I strode up the ramp myself, multiplying in my mind the minutes of delay by the stones not raised. The workday might need extending.



Halfway up the rubble ramp, a scream like that of an antelope skewered by a hunter’s arrow ripped the air. I paused only a moment, the men’s eyes on me, then took to the rope-lashed ladder that leaned against the pyramid’s side. I felt the acacia wood strain under the pounding of my feet, and slowed only enough for safety. The ladder stretched to the next circuit of the ramp, and I scrambled from it, chest heaving, and sprinted through the double-line of laborers that snaked around the final ramp. Here the pyramid came to its end. Still so much to build.



Sokkwi, the gang supervisor, had his back to me when I reached the top. Several others clustered around him, bent to something on the stone. Chisels and drills lay scattered about.



“What is it? What’s happened?” The dry heat had stolen my breath, and the words panted out.



They broke apart to reveal a laborer, no more than eighteen years, on the ground, one leg pinned by a block half set in place. The boy’s eyes locked onto mine, as if to beg for mercy. “Move the stone!” I shouted to Sokkwi.



He scratched his chin. “It’s no good. The stone’s been dropped. We have nothing to—”



I jumped into the space open for the next stone, gripped the rising joint of the block that pinned the boy and yelled to a worker, larger than most. “You there! Help me slide this stone!”



He bent to thrust a shoulder against the stone. We strained against it like locusts pushing against a mountain. Sokkwi laid a hand upon my shoulder.



I rested a moment, and he inclined his head to the boy’s leg. Flesh had been torn down to muscle and bone. I reached for something to steady myself, but there was nothing at this height. The sight of blood, a weakness I had known since my youth, threatened to overcome me. I felt a warmth in my face and neck. I breathed slowly through my nose. No good for the men to see you swoon.



I knelt and placed a hand on the boy’s head, then spoke to Sokkwi. “How did this happen?”



He shrugged. “First time on the line.” He worked at something in his teeth with his tongue. “Doesn’t know the angles, I suppose.” Another shrug.



“What was he doing at the top then?” I searched the work area and the ramp below me again for Mentu. Anger churned my stomach.



The supervisor sighed and picked at his teeth with a fingernail. “Don’t ask me. I make sure the blocks climb those ramps and settle into place. That is all I do.”



How had Mentu had allowed this disaster? Justice, truth, and divine order—the ma’at—made Egypt great and made a man great. I did not like to see ma’at disturbed.



On the ramp, a woman pushed past the workers, shoving them aside in her haste to reach the top. She gained the flat area where we stood and paused, her breath huffing out in dry gasps. In her hands she held two jars, brimming with enough barley beer to allow the boy to feel fierce anger rather than beg for his own death. The surgeon came behind, readying his saw. The boy had a chance at life if the leg ended in a stump. Allowed to fester, the injury would surely kill him.



I masked my faintness with my anger and spun away.



Mentu!” My yell carried past the lines below me, down into the desert below, perhaps to the quarry beyond. He should never have allowed so inexperienced a boy to place stones. Where had he been this morning when the gangs formed teams?



The men nearby were silent, but the work down on the plateau continued, heedless of the boy’s pain. The rhythmic ring of chisel on quarry stone punctuated the collective grunts of the quarry men, their chorus drifting across the desert, but Mentu did not answer the call.



Was he still in his bed? Mentu and I had spent last evening pouring wine and reminiscing late into the night about the days of our youth. Some of them anyway. Always one story never retold.



Another scream behind me. That woman had best get to pouring the barley beer. I could do nothing more here. I moved through the line of men, noting their nods of approval for the effort I’d made on behalf of one of their own.



When I reached the base and turned back toward the flat-topped black basalt stone where I conferred with Khons and Ded’e, I saw that another had joined them. My brother.



I slowed my steps, to allow that part of my heart to harden like mudbricks in the sun, then pushed forward.



They laughed together as I approached, the easy laugh of men comfortable with one another. My older brother leaned against the stone, his arms crossed in front of him. He stood upright when he saw me.



“Ahmose,” I said with a slight nod. “What brings you to the site?”



His smile turned to a smirk. “Just wanted to see how the project proceeds.”



“Hmm.” I focused my attention once more on the plans. The wind grabbed at the edges of the papyrus, and I used a stone cubit rod, thicker than my thumb, to weight it. “The three of us must recalculate stone transfer rates—”



“Khons seems to believe your changes are going to sink the project,” Ahmose said. He smiled, his perfect teeth gleaming against his dark skin.



The gods had favored Ahmose with beauty, charm, and a pleasing manner that made him well loved among the court. But I had been blessed with a strong mind and a stronger will. And I was grand vizier.



I lifted my eyes once more to the pyramid rising in perfect symmetry against the blue sky, and the thousands of men at my command. “The Horizon of Khufu will look down upon your children’s grandchildren, Ahmose,” I said. I leaned over my charts and braced my fingertips on the stone. “When you have long since sailed to the west, still it will stand.”



He bent beside me, his breath in my ear. “You always did believe you could do anything. Get away with anything.”



The animosity in his voice stiffened my shoulders.



“Khons, Ded’e, if you will.” I gestured to the charts. Khons snorted and clomped to my side. And Ded’e draped his forearms across the papyrus.



“It must be gratifying,” Ahmose whispered, “to command men so much more experienced than yourself.”



I turned on him, my smile tight. “And it must be disheartening to see your younger brother excel while you languish in a job bestowed only out of pity—”



A boy appeared, sparing me the indignity of exchanging blows with my brother. His sidelock identified him as a young prince, and I recognized him as the youngest of Henutsen, one of Khufu’s lesser wives.



“His Majesty Khufu, the king, Horus,” the boy said, “the strong bull, beloved by the goddess of truth—”



“Yes, yes. Life, Health, Strength!” I barked. “What does Khufu want?” I was in no mood for the string of titles.



The boy’s eyes widened and he dragged a foot through the sand. “My father commands the immediate presence of Grand Vizier Hemiunu before the throne.”



“Did he give a reason?”



The prince pulled on his lower lip. “He is very angry today.”



“Very well.” I waved him off and turned to Khons and Ded’e, rubbing the tension from my forehead. “We will continue later.”



The two overseers made their escape before Ahmose and I had a chance to go at it again. I flicked a glance in his direction, then rolled up my charts, keeping my breathing even.



Behind me Ahmose said, “Perhaps Khufu has finally seen his error in appointing you vizier.” Like a sharp poke in the kidneys when our mother wasn’t watching.



“Excuse me, Ahmose.” I pushed past him, my hands full of charts. “I have an important meeting.”

City of the Dead was a fantastic novel. I picked it up every spare moment I had and last night stayed up til the wee hours of the night to finish it.

I was drawn in to ancient Egypt on page 1. Tracy has an amazing gift of drawing the reader into the ancient times. As you start to read you can almost see the workers building the pyramid, running through the village, understand how they view their gods.

City of the Dead starts with Hemiunu, who is Grand Vizier to his cousin Khufu, Pharoah of Egypt, learning about the murder of one of his closest friends, Mentu. And the killing doesn't stop there. Hemi sacrifices to the gods hoping that they will do something about the killings.

The one person dearest to Hemi's heart is Merit, the Pharoah's wife, the woman he's loved since he was young. She shares at one point that she's wondering if everything they believe about the gods seems not to be fulfilling. Hemi seems to feel the same way, but has spent his life worshipping the gods.

The deaths of those close to Hemi have him introduced to people who worship the One True God. He finds them fascinating and is drawn in by their warmth and sense of family. He is especially drawn to Neferet, a very independent Egyptian woman. His heart is captivated by Merit, though, and he holds himself back.

The excitement and and intensity of this book compells us to read City of the Dead cover to cover. I have never thought much of what ancient Egypt, but this book absolutely piqued my interest. I don't think I can encourage anyone enough to go out and get this book!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ruby Unscripted by Cindy Marinuson ~ FIRST WildCard

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:


Ruby Unscripted

Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Cindy began writing around 1988, working on story ideas and writing plays. Her first book was contracted in 1998. Since that time she's written 8 novels, 1 nonfiction and over 100 articles, short stories, and curriculums.

Her critically acclaimed novels have been nominated for the Christy Award and Reader's Choice Award (Romantic Times), and chosen for the List of Best Books of 2004 by Library Journal.

Her first three novels have been translated into Dutch, German, and Norwegian.

Her newest novel is now a bestseller! ORCHID HOUSE

Cindy is the co-owner of METHOD 3AM WRITING & MEDIA SERVICES a newly created media service company (www.method3AM.com). She offers both aspiring and experience writers services in book doctoring, content editing, manuscript review and critique.

For the past ten years, Cindy has been speaking and teaching in different locations nationally and internationally. Her roles include conference leader, featured speaker and workshop leader at numerous women's gatherings, retreats and writers conferences most notably Litt-World 2004 in Tagaytay City, Philippines.

Monthly, she co-leads and teaches a workshop at Quills of Faith Writers Group in Northern California.

Look for Cindy on Facebook and on Twitter!


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595543562
ISBN-13: 978-1595543561

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“Now he likes me?” I say aloud as I drop my phone to my lap and my heart does a strange little tuck and roll within my chest.

My ten-year-old brother, Mac, gives me a strange look from the seat beside me. With the top down in my aunt’s convertible, he can’t hear my words that are cast into the air to dance with the wind.

The orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge loom toward us, with the darkening blue of sky and water filling the spaces between. Aunt Jenna is driving, with Mom talking beside her.

So it’s finally true.

Nick likes me.

I think I’m happy. Everyone will expect me to be happy. It’s not been a secret that I’ve liked him for . . . well, ever. Or at least for a few months.

And yet I have a very good reason for being completely annoyed about this.

The text stating Nick’s indirect admission of love, or at least “like,” arrives as we’re leaving an afternoon in San Francisco behind. But we aren’t driving the four hours home to Cottonwood. We’re driving toward our new life in Marin County.

Everyone at school knew that Nick liked me for a long time. His friends and my friends knew it. I knew it. But Nick apparently didn’t know his own feelings. Why can’t guys just trust others on these things?

I pick up my phone and reply to Kate’s text.


ME: Is Nick still standing there?

KATE: No. I think it freaked him out to wait for your response. The guys went to play Alien Hunter III before the movie starts. So what do you think? Patience paid off.

ME: I’m trying not to think that guys are really as dumb as most of us say they are.

KATE: Huh?

ME: Really now. I mean NOW. He says this on the day I move away?

KATE: Well you’ll be home most every weekend so it’s not that bad.

ME: But think about it. What made him decide today?

KATE: Who cares? He finally figured out he can’t live without you.


The car cruises along the bridge, and I stare up at the massive orange beams over our heads. Then I catch sight of a sailboat as it dips and bows on the evening waters of San Francisco Bay.

My brother is shout-talking to my mom and aunt. And with one earbud pulled out, I catch bits of the discussion being tossed around the car as the wind twists my hair into knots. The topic is “If you had one wish, what would you wish for?”

What poetic irony. Five minutes ago I would’ve wished that Nick would like me . . . and like some psychic genie working even before I wished it, the text arrived from Kate: “Nick said . . .”

So Nick likes me after I move four hours and a world away.

He likes me the day after I say good-bye to him and all my friends in Cottonwood.

I scroll back through my saved texts to find what he sent me after we said good-bye.

NICK: I wish you weren’t moving.

NICK: Next time you’re up visiting your dad let’s hang out.

NICK: How often will you be back?

NICK: So you don’t have a date for prom?

Men. I mean seriously.

So it’s like this. I’m moving to one of the coolest areas of California—Marin County. I’m going to live in this cool, quirky cottage that my aunt Betty gave us after she headed off on an extended Mediterranean honeymoon with the man, now her husband, she found online.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to live near San Francisco. Aunt Betty’s house was one of my favorite places. Kate and I plan to attend college down here. So now I get to live my dream sooner than expected.

Mac taps my arm, but I watch the little sailboat lean toward the open Pacific and wonder at its journey ahead, far or near, some California marina or faraway exotic isle.

My brother taps on my arm persistently. “Ruby-Ruby Red.”

I really dislike it when he calls me that. Then he reaches for my earbud, and I push his hand away.

“What?” I ask loudly, wiping strands of hair from my face. The sun falls easily into the cradle of the sea. It’s eventide—that time between sunset and darkness, a peaceful time of wind and bridges and dreams except for one annoying brother and an incoming text that could disrupt the excitement of a dream coming true.

“What do you wish for?” Mac asks earnestly.

My phone vibrates again, and I nearly say, “Don’t bug me, and don’t call me Ruby-Ruby Red,” but Mac’s sweet pink cheeks and expectant eyes stop me. I rub his hair and tickle him until he cries for mercy.

He laughs and twists away from my fingers, then asks me again what I wish for.

“Wait a minute,” I say, and he nods like he understands.


KATE: He said he’s been miserable since he said good-bye last night.

ME: So why didn’t he like me before?

KATE: He says he always did, he just kept it to himself.

ME: Or he kept it FROM himself.


Everyone said Nick said I was hot, that I was intelligent, that he’d never met a girl like me—which can be taken as good or bad. Everyone told him to ask me out, but he just didn’t. No explanation,

no other girlfriend, just nothing. For months. Until today.


KATE: He’s never had a girlfriend, give the guy a break. I always thought he’d be the bridge guy! Maybe he will be!

I rest the phone in my hands at that. Nick has been the main character in my bridge daydream—only Kate knows that secret dream of mine.

We’ve crossed the bridge into Marin County with signs for Sausalito, Corte Madera, San Rafael. The names of my new home, and yet I’m still between the old and the new.

“What are you smiling for?” my brother asks.

“Nothing,” I say and give him the mind-your-own-business look.

Mac stretches forward in his seat belt toward the front seat, and I’m tempted to tell him to sit down. But for once I don’t boss him around. He’s so happy about this wishing talk, with his wide dimpled smile and cheeks rosy from the wind. His cheeks remind me of when I loved kissing them—back when we were much younger.

“Remember, no infinity wishes. That’s cheating,” Mac shout says to Mom and Aunt Jenna, but he glances at me to see if I’m listening.

“This is really hard,” Aunt Jenna yells back. She points out the window to a line of cyclists riding along a narrow road parallel to the highway. “I bet those guys wish for a big gust of wind to come up behind them.”

Mac laughs, watching the cyclists strain up an incline.

Now they’ll probably start “creating wishes” for everyone they see.

I bet that car wishes it were as cool as that Corvette.

I think the people in that car wish they had a fire extinguisher for that cigarette . . .

Mom and her sister often make up stories about strangers while sitting outside Peet’s Coffee or, well, just about anywhere people watching is an option.

My phone vibrates in my hand, and then immediately again.


KATE: Hello?? No comment on Nick being your mysterious bridge guy?

ME: Nope

JEFFERS: So beautiful, are you there yet?

ME TO KATE: I just got a text from Jeffers.

KATE: LOL He’s sitting beside me and saw me talking to you.

JEFFERS: When can we come party in Marin?

ME TO JEFFERS: Almost there. Ten minutes I think. Uh party?

JEFFERS: Yeah, party! How could you leave us, I mean what could be better than us? You’ll be too cool for gocarts and mini golf after a month w/ the rich and sophisticated.

ME: I hate mini golf.

JEFFERS: See? One day and already too good for mini golf.

KATE: You’re having us all down for a party?

ME: Uh, no

JEFFERS: Kate’s yelling at me. Thx a lot. But bye beautiful, previews are on with little cell phone on the screen saying to turn you off.

ME TO JEFFERS AND KATE: K have fun. TTYL.

KATE: Write you after. Bye!

It’s a significant moment, this.

One of the most significant in my fifteen years.

Not the “wish discussion” between Mac, Mom, and Aunt Jenna; not the text messaging back and forth; not the music playing in one of my ears; not even Nick liking me.

The significance comes in crossing bridges. Not the bridge in my dream, but the ones that take me into Marin. The many bridges that brought my family here with my dad still in Cottonwood, and my older brother, Carson, driving soon behind us. And though we can turn around and drive back to the small

town I’ve always lived in, I wonder if, once you cross so many bridges, you can ever really go back.

The music in my one ear and the voices of my family in the other make a dramatic backdrop for this moment—one that will shape the rest of my life.

I feel a sense of wonder, but also of fear. It’s beautiful, this time of long evening shadows. The sky in the west where the sun has fallen turns from a subtle to defined sunset of red and orange.

The hills of Marin County rise to the nighttime with their myriad dots of light. The salty breeze is cool coming off the Pacific.

“What’s your wish?”

I jump as Mac shouts at me, leaning to get his face close to mine. I nearly throw my phone out the open rooftop.

“Mac! Mom!”

“Mac, leave your sister alone. She needs time to think,”

Mom calls back with a worried glance in my direction. She was more worried than I was about this move to Marin . . .well, until I said all the good-byes this week and especially now. I realize it’s the last remnant of what is, taking us from the past and what has been to the new place, the new life, and the what will be.

“Do you know what I wish?” Mac says in a loud whisper that only I can hear.

The innocent expression on his face soothes my annoyance.

He motions for me to lean close.

“I wish I was six again.”

“Why?”

“Promise you won’t tell Mom or Austin or Dad and Tiffany, ’cause I don’t want to hurt their feelings . . .” He waits for me to agree. “I wish I was six ’cause Mom and Dad were married then. But then that would make Austin and Tiffany go away, and I don’t really want them to go away, but I sort of wish Mom and Dad were married still.”

I nod and glance up toward Mom, who is staring out toward the bay. “Yeah, I know, Mac. But it’ll be all right.”

“So what do you wish for?” he asks again.

We’re almost there now, and I still have no singular wish. How do you make such a choice when your whole life is upended—for the good and the bad? I wonder if San Francisco Bay is like one giant wishing well, and in the coming years I can toss as many pennies as I want into the blue waters and have all the wishes I need.

I hope so. And maybe wishing that the bay would become one giant well breaks Mac’s rule about infinity wishes. But regardless, this is what I wish my wish to be.

It was my choice to move to Marin with Mom. But now I wonder if these bridges are taking me where I should be going. Or if they’re taking me far, far away.

“I wish for infinity wishes!” I say and kiss Mac on the cheek before he protests. “No one can put rules on wishes.”

And this is what I truly want to believe.

This is not your every day Christian teen novel. Ruby Unscripted is more like daily living than most I've read. To start off with Ruby is from a divorced family. Dad has already remarried and mom has recently gotten married to Austin.

This marriage means that Ruby and Mac, her little brother, are moving away from the only home they've ever known. That would be hard for any teenager. Ruby is leaving her BFF Kate and Nick, the boy who is finally declaring that he likes her. Could life get any worse?

Yes, it could. Moving to Marin leaves Ruby in turmoil about her life. Living in Marin is completely different that living in Cottonwood, which is somewhat country for California. The kids at Ruby's new school are all rich and beautiful. On top of that she has a job at her aunt's coffee shop. None of the kids at her new school work and they find it amusing that she works.

Here's where the story veers from your typical Christian teen novel. The first person Ruby makes friends with is Frankie, who is gay. Ruby isn't sure what she thinks about this. She knows what she was taught when she was little, but doesn't know how that applies to her life now.

Ruby also gets involved with a girl who likes to party. Against all she knows, Ruby ends up going to a party with this girl and it's a rude awakening for her. Thankfully her parents have reassured her that if she's ever in a situation that isn't safe, she's to call them.

One bright spot in all this change is the film group she joins. They meet at the coffeehouse where Ruby works. This is one area that Ruby feels like her creative side will be stretched and maybe what she was made for. She never felt like she belonged in Cottonwood and that there was a whole world out there for her to explore. Even her BFF Kate shares that with Ruby.

As with many teens, Ruby doesn't feel like she belongs; at Cottonwood anymore or Marin where she's being introduced to a new way of living. She's exposed to drugs, drinking, wealth, spoiled teenagers, teen sex, and homosexuality.

My opinion is that most teens would really like this realistic view of life. They will be able to relate to Ruby in a way that most novels don't allow for.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn

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:


Gold of Kings

Howard Books (May 12, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Davis Bunn is the author of over nineteen national bestsellers, and his books have sold over six million copies in sixteen languages. The recipient of three Christy Awards, Bunn currently serves as writer-in-residence at Oxford University.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.00
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (May 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416556311
ISBN-13: 978-1416556312

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The rain pelting Seventh Avenue tasted of diesel and big-city friction. Sean Syrrell stared out the limo’s open window and let the day weep for him.

Sean gripped his chest with one hand, trying to compress his heart back into shape. His granddaughter managed to make the end of the block only because her aunt supported her. They turned the corner without a backward glance. Not till they were lost from view did Sean roll up his window.

Storm’s survival demanded that she be cut loose. He had fired her because it was the only way he could protect her. Sean knew the enemy was closing in. He had felt the killer’s breath for days. Storm was his last remaining hope for achieving his lifelong dream, and establishing his

legacy.

But the knowledge he had been right to fire her did little to ease the knife-edged pain that shredded his heart.

The driver asked, “Everything okay, Mr. Syrrell?”

Sean glanced at the young man behind the wheel. The driver was new, but the company was the only one he used ever since the danger had been revealed. If the enemy wanted a way to monitor his movements in New York, he’d handed it to them on a platter. “Why don’t you

go for a coffee or something. I’d like a moment.”

“No can do, sir. I leave the wheel, they pull my license.”

Sean stared blindly at the rain-streaked side window. He could only hope that one day Storm would understand, and tell Claudia, and the pair of them would forgive him.

Unless, of course, he was wrong and the threat did not exist.

But he wasn’t wrong.

“Mr. Syrrell?”

Sean opened his door and rose from the car. “Drop my bags off at the hotel. We’re done for the day.”

Sean passed the Steinway showroom’s main entrance, turned the corner, pressed the buzzer beside the painted steel elevator doors, and gave his name. A white-suited apprentice grinned a hello and led him downstairs. Sean greeted the technicians, most of whom he knew by

name. He chatted about recent acquisitions and listened as they spoke of their charges. The ladies in black. Always feminine. Always moody and temperamental. Always in need of a firm but gentle hand.

Among professional pianists, the Steinway showroom’s basement was a place of myth. The long room was clad in whitewashed concrete. Beneath exposed pipes and brutal fluorescent lights stood Steinway’s most valuable asset: their collection of concert pianos.

All but one were black. The exception had been finished in white as a personal favor to Billy Joel. Otherwise they looked identical. But each instrument was unique. The Steinway basement had been a place of pilgrimage for over a hundred years. Leonard Bernstein, Vladimir

Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leon Fleisher, Elton John, Glenn Gould, Alfred Brendel, Mitsuko Uchida. They all came. An invitation to the Steinway basement meant entry to one of the world’s most exclusive musical circles.

Sean Syrrell had not been granted access because of his talent. As a pianist, he was mechanical. He did not play the keys so much as box with the music. He lacked the finesse required for greatness. But fifteen years ago, he had done Steinway a great favor. He had located and salvaged the grand that had graced the White Palace, summer home to the Russian czars.

After the Trotsky rebellion, the piano had vanished. For years the world believed that Stalin had placed it in his dacha, then in a drunken rage had chopped it up for firewood. But Sean had found it in a Krakow junk shop the year after the Berlin Wall fell, just one more bit of communist flotsam. He had smuggled it west, where Germany’s finest restorer had spent a year returning it to its original pristine state. It was now housed in the Steinway family’s private collection.

The basement was overseen by Steinway’s chief technician. He and an assistant were “juicing” the hammers of a new concert grand. Sean spent a few minutes listening and discussing the piano’s raw tones. Then he moved to his favorite. CD‑18 was more or less retired from service after 109 years of touring. Occasionally it was brought out as a favor to a special Steinway client. The last time had been for a voice-piano duet—Lang Lang and Pavarotti. For fifteen years, Van Cliburn had begged Steinway to sell him the instrument. Yet here it remained.

Sean seated himself and ran through a trio of exercises. His hands were too stubby for concert-quality play, his manner at the keys too brusque. Added to that were his failing ears, which had lost a great deal of their higher-range tonality. And his strength, which these days was

far more bluster than muscle. And his heart, which still thudded painfully from firing Storm.

This time, it took a great deal longer than usual to leave the world behind. He hovered, he drifted, yet he was not transported. The tragic elements of his unfolding fate held him down.

When peace finally entered his internal realm, Sean switched to an ├ętude by Chopin. It was a courtly dance, even when thumped out by his bricklayer’s hands. The instrument was bell-like, a radiant sound that caused even his antiquated frame to resonate.

Between the first and second movement, his playing transported him away from the realm of business and debt and his own multitude of failings. He knew others believed he harbored an old man’s fantasy of playing on the concert stage. But that was rubbish. He was here because twice each year, for a few treasured moments, an instrument brought him as close to divinity as Sean Syrrell would ever come. At least, so long as he was chained to this traumatic ordeal called life.

Sean detected a subtle shift in the chamber’s atmosphere. He was well aware of what it probably meant. He shut his eyes and turned to his favorite composer. Brahms was so very right for the moment, if indeed he was correct in thinking the moment had arrived.

Brahms above all composers had managed to form prayer into a series of notes. Yet Brahms had always been the hardest for Sean to play. Brahms required gentle eloquence. Normally Sean Syrrell played with all the gentleness of a drummer.

Today, however, Sean found himself able to perform the melody as it should be performed, as a supplicant with a lover’s heart.

Then Sean heard a different sound. A quiet hiss, accompanied by a puff of air on his cheek.

Sean opened his eyes in time to see a hand reflected in the piano’s mirrored surface, moving away from his face. It held a small crystal vial.

Sean’s cry of alarm was stifled by what felt like a hammer crashing into his chest. He doubled over the instrument, and his forehead slammed into the keyboard. But he heard none of it.

His entire being resonated with a single clarity of purpose, as strong as a funeral bell. He had been right all along.

Sean did not halt his playing. Even when his fingers slipped from the keys, still he played on.

His final thought was of Storm, which was only fitting. She was, after all, his one remaining earthbound hope.

He was carried along with notes that rose and rose until they joined in celestial perfection, transporting him into the realm he had prayed might find room for him. Even him.

I have enjoyed Davis Bunn novels since I read his first one with Janette Oke. Yes, that was some time ago. Since then, I've been an avid reader of Bunn's. He is such a diverse writer and it gives me something to look forward to.

In Gold of Kings we meet Storm, who's grandfather Sean is murdered at the beginning of the story. We also are introduced to Harry, one man that Sean actually trusted in life.

Bunn has the characters in this story on an adrenaline rush from beginning to end. Who do they trust; each other, the CIA, the FBI, dignitaries from other countries? It's all very cloak and dagger. Bunn has created a novel that has intrigue at every corner!

I love that Storm is focused and able to go through the insanity of assassination attempts, car chases, and art dealers and barely bat an eye. She's so focused on finding out answers that everything seems to come with the territory.

Harry has a lot of respect for Storm and can tell she's cut from the same cloth as her grandfather. He doesn't have a romantic interest in her and vice versa which makes the story even easier to read.

The surrounding cast of characters add greatly to the story as well. We have Emma who is putting her career on the line because she believes what Storm and Harry are telling her. Emma's boss, Dauer, who is a piece of work. Then there's the freaky assassin who constantly shows up out of nowhere. And the most important supporting cast member, the treasure.

If you like suspense and intrigue, pick up this book!

Friday, May 15, 2009

On the Run (The Elijah Project) by Bill Myers ~ FIRST WildCard

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:


On the Run-book 1 in new series: The Elijah Project

Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Bill Myers is a bestselling author and award-winning writer/director whose work has won forty national and international awards. His books and videos have sold eight million copies and include such titles as The Seeing, Eli, The Voice, My Life as…series, and McGee and Me.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $4.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310711932
ISBN-13: 978-0310711933
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“Beginnings …”


Zach Dawkins headed for the schools.

“Schools” as in the high school, junior high, and elementary school that were all lined up side by side on the same street. “Death Row,” he called it.

Zach was pretty good looking—sixteen with dark hair that stuck out in so many directions it looked like it got cut by a lawnmower gone berserk. It’s not that Zack was sloppy … he just had better things to do than worry about his looks—especially when he was late for school, which was like every day.

Zach wasn’t exactly the responsible type.

Unfortunately, Piper, his thirteen-year-old sister, was.

It seemed her job was to remember everything Zach and the rest of her family forgot. Like her brother, she was good-looking (though you couldn’t convince her of that). She had these chocolate brown eyes that were incredible … but you had to work hard to find them beneath all that hair she hid under.

Piper was a bit on the self-conscious side.

At the moment, she was trying to keep up with Zach while also shouting back to her little brother. “Elijah, come on, hurry up!”

As usual, six-year-old Elijah dragged behind them. Nothing new there. The guy was always lost in his own world and he hardly, if ever, talked. Piper loved him fiercely and she always looked out for him.

But there was no getting around it—the kid was weird.

“Come on,” she called. “We’re going to be late!”

Elijah nodded and then immediately slowed to watch a butterfly.

Piper blew the hair out of her eyes and stopped with her hands on her hips. “Elijah … ” She was about to traipse back and get him when she heard Zach use that voice he reserved only for making her life miserable.

“Well, well, lookie here …”

With a certain dread she turned to her older brother … and cringed.

Cody Martin, the all-school heartthrob, walked just across the street. He was tall with deep blue eyes and a smile that literally made it hard for Piper to breathe. Of course he didn’t know her from Adam, or Eve, but that didn’t stop her from pulling up her sweatshirt hood or ducking further under her hair whenever he was around.

Unfortunately, she had stupidly asked her brother about him when the two had played baseball together. And that was all the ammunition Zach needed.

“Look who’s across the street,” he teased.

“Who?” Piper asked, trying to sound bored. “Oh, you mean Cody. What do I care?”

“Yeah, right,” Zach snorted. “So you don’t mind if I call him over?”

Suddenly her heart was in her throat. “Zach!”

With a sly grin, he shouted, “Yo, Cody. What’s up?”

Cody turned and spotted them. “Hey … Zach?” Then, nodding to Piper, he added, “How’s it going, Patty?”

“Piper,” Zach corrected.

She turned away, whispering between her teeth. “Zach!”

“What?” Cody asked him.

“My sister’s name, it’s Piper. Actually, it’s Naomi Sue, but if you don’t want her to beat the tar out of you, I’d stick with Piper.”

“Gottcha,” Cody grinned.

Zach turned to her and whispered, “So do you want me to call him over?”

“Please, no!” She begged.

“Then you admit you’ve got a crush on him?”

“No, I just—”

He turned back to Cody and yelled. “So, Cody—”

“Yeah?”

“Alright,” Piper whispered, “Alright, I admit it!”

Zach grinned. “Nothing. Just wondering if you were going to play ball this spring.”

“Probably. You?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Cool.” Then, spotting a geeky, overweight friend, Cody speeded up to join him. “Take care.”

“Right,” Zach called.

“You, too … Piper.”

Piper’s head snapped up to him. The only thing more startling than hearing him speak her name was the grin he flashed her before moving on.

He had grinned .... at … her.

Suddenly Piper’s hood was up, her hair was down … and her knees were just a little wobbly.

It wasn’t until she heard Zach snicker that she came to earth and turned on him. “Is it your goal to be the jerkiest brother on the face of the planet?” She demanded.

Zach laughed. “It’s not a goal. It’s a duty.”

She blew the hair out of her eyes. Looking back to their little brother she called, “Elijah, please hurry!”

Elijah came to attention and ran toward them. That’s when Piper noticed the KWIT-TV news van heading up the street.

So did Zach—which explained him immediately waving and shouting. “Hey, TV news guys! Over here. Check me out. You’re next TV star is right here!”

Piper gave another sigh. What was God thinking when he made older brothers?

Suddenly, she noticed a small Cocker Spaniel puppy running into the street in front of them. It was followed by a little girl, probably in kindergarten.

Neither of them saw the car coming from the opposite direction.

“Watch it!” Piper shouted.

The little girl looked up but was too late.

The car hit the brakes, tires screeching. Its right front wheel ran over the dog with a sickening K-Thump while the front bumper hit the little girl. It knocked her hard to the ground causing the back of her head to slam onto the concrete.

Neither the girl nor the dog moved.

The shaken driver opened his car door and slowly stepped out. The crossing guard, who had seen the whole thing, began running toward them. And the news van had jerked to a stop with the woman reporter now leaping out.

“Get the camera rolling!” She called over her shoulder.

“I’m on it!” the cameraman shouted just behind her.

Students quickly gathered, pressing in around the car and little girl. By the time Zach and Piper arrived, the crossing guard was already shouting, “Stand back! Give her air! Everybody, stand back!”

Piper glance around for her little brother, but he was no where to be found.

“Elijah?” She called. “Elijah?”

She turned to Zach but he was too busy trying to get a look at the girl to pay attention.

“Elijah!”

The news crew pushed past them for a closer shot.

“Hey, check it out,” the reporter pointed. But she wasn’t pointing at the little girl. She had noticed something across the crowd and on the other side of the street.

Piper followed her gaze to see … Elijah.

He sat on the curb holding the dead puppy. But instead of crying, his lips quietly moved—almost like he was whispering to it. And then, to Piper’s astonishment, the puppy began to move. A little at first, but it soon began wiggling, squirming, and even lifting up its head to lick Elijah’s face.

“Did you see that?” The reporter cried.

“I’ve got it!” The cameraman shouted.

“It’s like he healed it or something!” She exclaimed.

With a grin, Elijah set the dog down. It began jumping and running around like it had never been hurt.

“Get in closer,” the reporter ordered. “I’m going to talk to him.”

Only then did Piper realize what she had to do. “Elijah!” She brushed past the reporter and raced for her little brother. “Elijah, come on!”

The little boy looked up, grinning even bigger.

“Excuse me?” The reporter called from behind her. “May I ask you a few questions?”

Piper ignored her. “Come on little guy,” she said as she arrived. She put her hand on his shoulder, looking for a way to get out of there. “Mom and Dad won’t like this. Not one bit.”

“Excuse me!” the reporter shouted.

Spotting the school, Piper figured it was better than nothing, and started toward it. “Let’s go.”

“Excuse me?”

They walked faster.

“Excuse me!”

They started to run, neither turning back.


* * * * *


Judy Dawkins was struggling with the vacuum cleaner when her husband burst through the front door.

She looked up startled. Seeing the expression on his face, she asked, “Mike, what’s wrong?”

He tried to smile, but something was up.

“Mike, what is it?”

He walked over to the TV remote. Without a word, he snapped it on and found the news. Finally, he spoke. “They’ve been playing this all morning.”

An anchorman with gray hair was addressing the camera: “Carly Tailor, our Newsbeat reporter is still on the scene. Carly?”

A young woman appeared on the screen. She stood perfectly poised in front of the news van. “Thank you, Jonathan. As we’ve been saying, something very strange happened over on Walnut Boulevard this morning. Let’s roll the footage, please.”

The scene cut to an accident sight where a little girl was being loaded into an ambulance.

The reporter continued. “At approximately 8:00 this morning, LeAnne Howard ran into the street after her dog and was struck by an oncoming car. From there she was taken to St. Jerome’s Hospital where her condition is reported as critical. There is speculation that she will shortly be transported to the Children’s Surgical Unit at Eastside Memorial. But there is another issue to this story that we found most interesting . . .”

The scene cut to a Cocker Spaniel lying if front of a car.

“This footage was taken immediately after the accident. As you can see, the dog looks … well, he looks dead … or, at least severely injured.”

Again the picture changed. This time a little boy sat on the curb holding the dog and whispering to it.

“Oh no.” Mom brought her hand to her mouth. “It’s Elijah!”

The reporter continued, “But moments later, as people were trying to help the girl, this small boy picked up her dog and … you’ll have to see for yourself. This is simply unbelievable.”

Tears filled Mom’s eyes as she watched the dog suddenly sitting up in Elijah’s lap and then lick his face.

“That’s amazing,” the anchorman said. “Let’s see it again.”

While the scene replayed, the reporter continued. “We tried to interview the boy, but a girl, the girl you see here, led him off.”

Mom stared at the screen as Piper appeared and hurried Elijah away from the camera and toward the school.

The report continued but Mom no longer heard. Tears blurred her eyes as her husband wrapped his arm around her.

“Don’t cry, sweetheart,” he said. “We knew this day would happen, didn’t we?”

She tried to answer, but her throat was too tight with emotion.

Dad repeated the words more softy. “Sooner or later we knew it would happen.”


* * * * *


Monica Specter and her two male assistants sat in the dingy, cockroach-infested hotel staring at the same newscast.

With a sinister grin, she switched off the television. “Alright team, the objective’s been sighted.” She rose and started for the adjacent room. “Pack up. We’re leaving in fifteen minutes.”

Bruno answered. He was a hulk of a man, whose neck was as thick as most people’s thighs and whose upturned nose looked like he’d run into a brick wall as a child (several times). “Uh … okay. Where are we goin’?”

Monica stopped, flipped aside her bright red hair, and stared at him in unbelief. “Santa Monica, you dolt. You saw the news. The boy we’re tracking is in Santa Monica.”

Bruno nodded. “Uh ... right.”

She looked at him another moment. Then, shaking her head, she disappeared into the other room.

Silas, their skinny partner with a long, pointed nose, shut down his laptop. “You shouldn’t ask stupid questions like that,” he said to Bruno.

Bruno nodded then stopped. “But how do I know they’re stupid if I don’t ask ‘em?”

Silas sighed. “Because you’re going to try something brand new.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ll try thinking before you speak.”

Bruno frowned, not completely sure he understood the concept. Then summoning up all his brain cells, he answered, “Huh?”

Silas answered. “We’ve been looking for this kid eight months now—checking newspaper articles, surfing the net … and, then out of the blue, he suddenly winds up on TV?”

Bruno grinned. “Yeah, some coincidence, huh?”

“Yeah, right. That was no coincidence.”

“You think Shadow Man had something to do with it?”

Silas shrugged. He never liked talking about the head of their organization. To be honest, the man gave him the willies.

“Come on,” he said, changing the subject. “Let’s get packed and grab the kid.”




On the Run is the first book I've read by Bill Myers. We do have a couple of his books on my sons bookshelf, but haven't read them yet. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this one as a review.

Piper, Zach, and their little brother Elijah seem like your typical siblings at first. They are walking to school like so many other kids do; Piper following her big brother, Zach and Elijah bringing up the rear seemingly in his own little world. Their walk to school is going to be different this day and it will change their lives forever.

Elijah is seen on tv by everyone, including his parents. They know that him being seen on tv is about to make their lives extremely challenging. Mike and Judy immediately move into action. Unfortunately, there isn't enough time for the family to prepare together. This event sets us up for the rest of the story.

I really thought this was a fun book. There were several times I laughed out loud as I read. The dynamics between Zach and Piper is hysterical at times. He plays the annoying big brother role very well. Their determination to work together shines through though.

We end up having a couple support characters thrown in with the kids: Cody and William. They add a lot to the surrounding storyline. I hope they will be in the next books of the series.

It's interesting the characters of the parents and bad guys remind me of Disney characters. The parents make me think of the parents in Spy Kids, although I don't know that they are actually spies. The bad guys (which includes a woman) remind me of the guys in Home Alone. So, you can imagine what they're like. The actual ring leader of the bad guys is called Shadow Man. Now, he is one creepy dude!

This book would be great for pre-teens and teens looking for a quick read. Now, that doesn't mean it's boring, just short in length. It's action-packed from beginning to end and I really would love to read the rest of the series!

 
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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.