Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mail Order Man by Heather Gray


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:



Heather Gray



and the book:



Mail Order Man


CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 13, 2013)



***Special thanks to Heather Gray for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Aside from her long-standing love affair with coffee, Heather’s greatest joys in life are her relationship with her Savior, her family, and writing.  Years ago, she decided it would be better to laugh than yell.  Heather carries that theme over into her writing where she strives to create characters that experience both the highs and lows of life and, through it all, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Some people get a mail order bride.  She got a mail order man.
A well-meaning friend places an ad to find a mail order husband for Sarah, the proprietress of Larkspur’s stage and mail office.  Sarah, who is generally quiet and reserved, doesn't know about the ad and has no idea what to do with all the people that are showing up in her community.  Before long, the town is overrun with men and mail alike.  Sarah is trying to avoid some men who have accosted her on the street when she stumbles into Samuel.  Through long days spent together at the stage office, some very adventurous pots of coffee and a shared faith, the two become friends.  Sarah knows that Samuel is hiding something from her, something important, but that doesn't stop her heart from leaping wildly into love.  Lacking the confidence to trust her heart, Sarah wars with herself over the feelings she can no longer deny.  When some of the men who have come to town show their true intentions, a shootout follows.  Sarah finally gets answers to many of the questions circling through her mind.  One question remains, though.  Where will her mail order man go when the dust settles?




Product Details:
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 13, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1484965973
ISBN-13: 978-1484965979



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Larkspur, Idaho Territory

April 1878

Sarah had noticed a number of new faces in town over the past few days, and it was beginning to make her more than a bit uncomfortable. The new faces were all men. Sure, men outnumber women in every frontier town, but Sarah had seen more than a dozen new men and had heard rumors that Mrs. Ginty’s boarding house was full-up, which had never happened before. Larkspur was a small frontier town in a territory sparsely populated, and Sarah had never before heard of Mrs. Ginty having to turn away customers.

New people in town can sometimes mean good news. Businesses certainly like having more customers. It can mean trouble, too, though, when the newcomers start to outnumber the homegrown townsfolk. Sarah had heard tell of towns where ruffians had swarmed in, taking over the town and practically holding the locals prisoner by sheer force of number. A small shudder overtook her at the thought of such brutality.

Sarah’s papa had well trained her how to take care of and provide for herself, but ever since he passed away, she had no one to protect her should the need ever arise. Sighing, she forced her loneliness back down, beating it into submission by sheer force of will.

Keeping her eyes directed down, Sarah walked from the small house she had once shared with Papa. She was heading to the stage office for a long day of work and, with all these new people in town, did not want to make eye contact with the wrong individual. The workday hadn’t even yet begun, but Sarah couldn’t wait for the day to be finished. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it, Sarah quoted in her mind as she reminded herself to be grateful. She was looking forward to sharing a meal with her dearest friend tonight. Dinner with the Smiths held much more appeal than another long day at the stage office. Visiting with Minnie and her folks was always delightful. Sarah also hoped Minnie’s father, who was mayor of Larkspur, might be able to shed some light on the flood of strange men showing up in town.

Sarah heard a commotion to her left. Before she could even raise her eyes to see what was going on, someone came barreling out from the mercantile and plowed right into her. Sarah’s feet flew out from under her, and she landed out in the street, far from the boardwalk on which she had a moment ago been walking. Before she could take stock of the situation to determine if she’d landed in mud or manure, at least a dozen hands were reaching out to help her up. Frightened by all of the men crowding in around her and not sure of their intentions, Sarah scrambled to her feet and backed up from the growing crowd. She did not recognize a single face from the group that continued to step closer to her.

As she scurried backward, Sarah ran right smack into a wall. She didn’t remember a wall being there in the middle of the street, but sure enough, she was trapped between the wall behind her and the wall of men walking toward her.

“Pardon me, gentlemen, but I think you have frightened the lady here.” Sarah stiffened as she heard the wall behind her speak. Her head whipped back and up. With the sun shining right into her eyes, she couldn’t see the face of her rescuer, but his voice was confidently calm, loud enough to carry to all of the men who had been reaching toward her without actually sounding as though he’d raised his voice. “Miss, are you okay?” It took Sarah a moment to realize the talking wall was speaking to her.

“Y-y-yes, thank you.” Sarah struggled to get the words out past a suddenly dry and scratchy throat.

“That was quite a fall you took. Are you sure you are alright?”

Glancing down at her dress, Sarah saw that, thankfully, she had landed on a dry patch of dirt and, though dusty, was not covered with mud or worse. She knew she would be sore later, but she was still in too much shock right now to feel the effects of her fall into the street. Thank goodness a horse or carriage had not been riding by at the time – she could have been badly hurt!

“Yes, sir, thank you. I am fine and must be on my way now.”

Sarah considered the path up Main Street toward her destination and saw what now appeared to be more than twenty men standing around ogling her. Completely beside herself with discomfort at the situation, she tried to take a step back only to be reminded of the talking wall behind her.

Without removing her eyes from the crowd of men, she spoke to the one behind her. “Pardon me, sir, but could I be so bold as to request your assistance in a small matter?”

There was a smile behind the man’s voice, Sarah was certain of it, as he softly answered, “I will accommodate you if I can, Miss. With what do you need assistance?”

Sarah felt the hint of a shiver she knew could not be attributed to the weather. It was either fear because of the men in front of her… or something else because of the man behind her. Not wanting to dissect her feelings quite yet, she uttered, “I need to pass these men to get to the stage office. I find that…” Sarah tried to think of a delicate way to say she wasn’t sure if she’d make it there safely if she went alone.

Before Sarah could even take a full breath, though, or find the correct words, she felt herself lifted by the waist and placed back up onto the boardwalk. The talking wall immediately joined her and offered his arm to her. Sarah tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow, still not knowing the man’s name.

In the shade now, after having been blinded by the sun, Sarah took another glance up at her talking wall but still could not make out any features on the man’s face. She knew he was quite tall, and he appeared to have facial hair, but Sarah could not even identify the color of his hair, let alone any distinguishing features.

“I wonder what all of these men are doing in town. It’s a trifle disconcerting,” she said to the man walking beside her.

“Ah,” he replied. “I believe they are after the same thing most people are after.”

Not sure how to take that answer, Sarah asked, “What, then, is it most people are after?”

“Love.”

Sarah was surprised at the laugh that bubbled up inside of her, for she was the serious one, not prone to outbursts of laughter, or so she had always believed. Not sure what to think of her own laughter, she instead puzzled over the companion’s answer. She would not have associated a fanciful notion such as love with the talking wall that had rescued her.

She heard the smile in his voice again as he went on, “Either that, or someone to raise their children and do their laundry.”

“A wife then?” Sarah questioned. “Why would anyone come to Larkspur looking for a wife? We have no more women than any other town in the territory.” Certain the man beside her was having a joke at her expense, she waited for the punch line, but none was forthcoming. They arrived at the stage office where, without delay, Sarah unlocked the office door, stepped inside, and began opening the curtains.

“Thank you for escorting me. Could I offer you some coffee, Mr….” Hoping the talking wall would provide her with the information she sought, Sarah let her sentence hang. What she got for her effort was a deep-throated chuckle that seemed both sincere and humor-filled, and again she felt the joke was somehow at her expense.

Disgruntled, she put her satchel away and then stood there next to the percolator specifically not making any coffee. She gave him the best Do-As-I-Say look she could muster under the circumstances and made not a single move toward the coffee tin as she awaited his response. Sarah was shocking herself with her own audacity. Something about this man was making her act different, bolder. Sarah quickly decided she liked this new side of herself and that she also liked the man who drew it out of her.

“My apologies, Miss. You reminded me so much there of one of my cousins I couldn’t help but laugh. I sincerely meant no harm.”

Sarah relaxed her shoulders, somewhat mollified by his words.

“The pleasure of escorting you was all mine, I assure you. No thanks are necessary.”

As she continued to look at him pointedly, he held out one hand and began ticking off fingers as he spoke to himself in a voice intended to carry. “Let’s see. She thanked me for the escort, and I responded. When she didn’t like my laughing, I apologized. She offered me coffee… aha!” Looking up at her with a distinctive twinkle in his golden brown eyes, he said, “Why yes, Miss, I would enjoy a cup of coffee if it’s not too much trouble.” Winking at her, he added, “Samuel Livingston at your service.”

Sarah tried to be unaffected, but the way he swept his hat off and bowed as he introduced himself had her heart fluttering faster than a bumblebee in a field of clover. As for his wink, Sarah wasn’t sure which was more scandalous – the fact he winked or the way her heart raced at the sight of it.



****



The moment Sarah got the small stove lit, Cesar Martinez came into the office. “Good morning, Miss Jenkins.” He tipped his hat to her and asked, “What do you need me to do first this morning?”

Sarah instructed Cesar to sweep out the office and the front walk. She was going to send him on an errand, but she didn’t want him to go quite yet. Being alone with the talking wall no longer seemed the wisest choice. As Cesar collected the broom to start sweeping, Mr. Livingston hung his hat on the hook near the front door and leaned against the counter behind which Sarah normally worked. His relaxed posture made him seem less formidable. Without his hat on, Sarah could get a good look at his face for the first time. Casually stepping behind the counter, she hoped to get a better view of her talking wall without being obvious.

“Are you alright, Miss?” asked Mr. Livingston. Sarah nodded and glanced over to where the coffee was not quite ready. He was, by her own design, directly in her line of sight. All hope for an unobtrusive glance at her rescuer quickly fled as she absorbed the sight of him with all her senses. She was stunned to realize how beautiful he was. Never before had she seen a man whose mere presence took her breath away. Her heart no longer fluttered like a bumblebee. It thumped like a herd of wild mustangs.

Closing her eyes, Sarah allowed his image play across her mind’s eye. He was tall, but she’d already known that. He had intense eyes, chocolate brown at the outer edge and pure glittering gold around the pupil. His hair was cut short but remained just unruly enough to hint at being curly, and it, too, was filled with various hues of gold. He was tan but not the weather-worn dark tan of a rancher or farmer. He had a strong jaw, a straight nose, and lips that curled up in laughter even when he wasn’t laughing. He was dressed like a businessman, only flashier. The suit he wore was a fairly traditional grey, but his vest was bright red. He had a flair about him that Sarah could not quantify. One thing was certain, though. Sarah was sure she would drown in those eyes, forever losing herself, if she stared too long.

“Are you alright, Miss?” Mortified at her own imaginings and wandering mind – something she was definitely not prone to – Sarah tried to control her staring eyes and nodded, then quickly blushed. Feeling the heat of embarrassment climb up her neck and into her cheeks, she quickly turned her back on the man and went back over to where the coffee was percolating. Grabbing two mugs, she filled them both, handing one to Mr. Livingston and taking the other back over to her work counter. As she set her mug down she realized the brew appeared no stronger than what you might give a baby to drink. Groaning inwardly, Sarah hoped the man liked weak coffee. Who was she kidding? It wasn’t weak coffee. It was colored water!

As Sarah was about to apologize for the coffee, Cesar came through the door to tell her the morning stage was approaching. She peeked at the clock and said to no one in particular, “It’s an hour early. I hope nothing’s wrong.”

Cesar put the broom up and went out to greet the stage.

Sarah resumed her post behind the counter. Most all of the stage drivers knew her from when her father ran the stage office, but sometimes there were new drivers or unruly passengers, and so when her father passed away, Sarah had stopped going out to greet the incoming stage. Each driver was directed into the office to meet her there. She provided them with coffee, a kind word, and often a bite to eat, but she did not go out onto the platform if she could help it.

“How old is the lad who helps you?” asked Mr. Livingston.

“Cesar? He is 14, I think.”

“Awfully young to be working here. Shouldn’t he be in school?”

Sarah nodded. “Cesar and his brothers do not attend the local school. We used to have a teacher in town that had a problem with the family, so their mother started teaching them at home. A new teacher came along a few years back, but the family had settled into their routine and decided to keep it. All three of them are well ahead of their school-bound peers in their learning. Their mother does an excellent job with them.”

“Doesn’t working here keep him away from his studies, though?”

“May I ask why you have such an interest in my hired help?” Sarah did not want to sound surly, but she was not used to people questioning business decisions, such as her choice in employees.

“I am visiting town on a business matter and staying with my cousin and her husband. He is the school teacher in town. A person who spends any time at all with John will naturally learn to be attentive to educational matters and sensitive to the needs of rural families. For example, parents sometimes pull their kids out of school because they need the money their labor can bring.” Following an almost imperceptible pause, Mr. Livingston continued, “Larkspur is lucky to have such a caring teacher.”

Sarah gave Mr. Livingston a genuine smile, for she knew the school teacher and his wife well. They attended the same church as she and would, on occasion, invite Sarah over for dinner. They were wonderful people. Sarah remembered they had been praying for safe travel for a relative but could not at the moment recall anything more on the subject.

Nodding at Mr. Livingston, she said, “You can ask Ida and John about Cesar. I am certain you will be pleased with what you hear. John has helped Cesar’s mother obtain books and other materials whenever needed for her boys’ education. He checks in on them periodically, too, at the parents’ request to make certain the boys are not falling behind in any of their studies. Cesar and his two brothers all work here at the Stage Office. As the youngest, Cesar only started a month or so ago and works one day here by himself and sometimes comes in on Saturday to help as well.”

She couldn’t be certain, but Sarah thought she saw appreciation in Mr. Livingston’s eyes. His smile seemed genuine and quite dangerous in its charm. “Who helps you the rest of the week?”

There didn’t seem to be anything amiss with Mr. Livingston’s questions. After all, he knew Ida and John. However, habits of self-protection are hard to break, and her father had taught her from the time she was little that sometimes, when people ask questions that seem innocent, they are actually trying to get information that could cause harm. Sarah’s gut told her it was okay to trust Mr. Livingston, but she could hear her father’s voice telling her to do her due diligence. She would check with Ida and John about her talking wall before she revealed any additional information to him about the stage office, herself, or the wonderful family she employed at the office.

As she made her decision, the front door banged open and Cesar came in carrying a sack of mail and dragging another behind him. “My goodness!” said Sarah as she rushed to help him.

“There’s more,” Cesar said. “Lots more.”

“What on earth! We don’t get this much mail in a month of Sundays, let alone on one single stage.” Trying not to appear as discombobulated as she felt by this influx of mail, Sarah asked Cesar, “Where are the passengers? Does anyone have anything to store or need assistance finding accommodations?”

Cesar’s eyes searched wildly around the room as though seeking an answer in the wood and plaster. He almost seemed afraid to say anything more. Then, looking over his shoulders as if searching for someone lurking behind him, he whispered to her, “There are no passengers. This isn’t even the real stage. The stage will be here on time with passengers and mail. This is all the extra mail they couldn’t fit onto the coach. There’s about six more bags out there, and the driver is fit to be tied. No one planned on an extra trip out here this week, but the mail has been getting backed up at the last stop. Their office is small, and they couldn’t keep our mail there any longer waiting for room on the stages – so they sent it over straightaway to get it out of their office.”

Sarah glanced out the window at the office platform, saw the bags of mail being pulled from the stage and piled up there. “Oh my,”  she whispered. “I’ve never seen the likes.”

Reject High by Brian L.Thompson


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:



Brian L.Thompson



and the book:



Reject High


Great Nation Publishing (June 13, 2013)



***Special thanks to Brian L.Thompson for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Brian Thompson is a celebrated writer, educator, and former journalist. His previous works include the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, inspirational adventure The Revelation Gate, and futuristic sci-fi novel The Anarchists. He and his family reside in Covington, Georgia.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

After his latest fight, Jason Champion is sent to a rundown alternative school, nicknamed “Reject High.” Fine by him, except a girl named Cherish died there under strange circumstances. . .

Cherish’s only friend, Rhapsody Lowe, shows him a crystal that turns her invisible. Jason tries one on and he jumps over a city.

Their classmates, Sasha and Selby, see Jason and Rhapsody in action and receive crystals of their own. They keep a low profile until Jason discovers they are being studied by people they trust.

With eleven days until Reject High is destroyed, Jason and his friends must dodge their pursuers, solve the mystery of Cherish’s death, and save their power source from falling into the wrong hands.

The first installment in a multi-book series, Reject High combines engaging characters inside of a page-turning, breathtaking adventure.




Product Details:
List Price: $11.95
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Great Nation Publishing (June 13, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0989105601
ISBN-13: 978-0989105606



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




my first mental breakdown

I watched policemen cut away the yellow crime scene tape on the five o’ clock news. It made my throat burn. They sent the memorials away to God-knows-where. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the lack of respect for the dead girl. After all, Cherish Watkins did go to an alternative school. That’s where I was headed.

My suspension won’t end until whenever that school opens back up. Sounds like an early summer vacation? Not if your stepmom takes everything fun from your room, like mine did. My video games and DVDs aren’t in their usual hiding place. Neither is my MP4 player. She must have hidden my stuff at Aunt Dee’s house under the mess.

Some parents, who were angry about the school being closed, forced an emergency board meeting. Did they think we’d start a zombie apocalypse and destroy the town? Who cares anyway? Reject High – what everyone calls the alternative school – will close for good in a month. The building will be destroyed this summer. Epic fail. Even then, I’ll probably never get back into North High, my old school. Guess I’ll drop out, since we can’t afford to move to another district.

This isn’t my first time being in trouble. Doctors don’t know exactly why, but in addition to ADHD, I have rage blackouts. I lose control, destroy things, and I hurt people. Problem is – I don’t remember anything about them. It’s one of a couple of reasons my father gave up raising me and let his ex-wife Debra take me in. He’d never admit it, but he didn’t have to.    

At the risk of making me angry, Debra forced me to come with her to the special meeting. I had “an interest in the outcome,” she said. If Reject High stayed closed, my apartment jail sentence would continue until June. Otherwise, I’d be free. . .to go to back to school. Wish I’d waited a little longer to break Ryan Cain’s jaw. The school board might have just suspended me through the end of the school year. Then I wouldn’t be in this mess.

I rubbed the back of my neck and turned to my stepmother, who sat to my left. “It’s eleven days and it’s only Reject High, not jail.”

Debra shook her head, which she does when I let her down. As many times as I’ve disappointed her, she should have a serious neck problem. “That’s not a really big difference, Jason.”

Though she shouted that in my ear, I could barely hear it. People all around called us names, like “degenerates” and “multiple offenders.” After a good loud minute of that, the board chairwoman – the chick with the nameplate “B. King” – banged her little wooden hammer against the table. “One last comment,” she screamed while waving for the next person in line to step up.

Vivienne Coker moved to the center aisle. She looked like a sixty-year-old version of the mom on Friday Night Lights – graying red hair, with wrinkles all over the place and pointy boobs. She ran the city’s group home, which always had an opening. Vivienne complained about everything to anyone who’d listen. She and B. King smiled at one another.

“Ms. Coker,” said B. King with a sneer. “You have two minutes.”

“Won’t take me one, Belinda. Might as well send the worst ones to us, ‘cause if you let them stay out longer, it’ll be Armageddon.”

Fine, crime has gone up. Can she really blame that on us? As Vivienne walked back to her seat, I wanted to strangle her. But that’s why I was one of “them” to begin with. Well, so much for being “normal.”

At the front of the room, the eight men and women on the board sat in high-backed, brown leather chairs – like a semicircle of Supreme Court judges in dress clothes. At their left, a lawyer adjusted her glasses and said legal stuff no one understood. Finally, Belinda King called for a vote, and the board unanimously reopened the school. After that, they concluded the meeting and immediately hid from the media in what the lawyer called an executive session.

Debra stood. “Great. I’m officially raising a statistic.”

I’ve been called a lot of things, but that one hurt. I didn’t ask to be born different.






The next day, the school bus left us at the entrance to the school property. It had razor wire looping through the top of the fence and I smelled cigarettes and marijuana smoke. In front of the building, a maroon wooden sign said R.E.G.C.T. in white capital letters. Underneath the abbreviation, it was spelled out: Regional Education and Guidance Collective Training facility. At the top, someone had spray painted “JE” over the letter “G” to spell REJECT. Yup, this was close enough to jail, alright.

Since clear backpacks were required as a safety thing, I stuffed my MP4 player down between my books. Getting into a fight over it was not an option after Debra finally gave it back. The next thing I do wrong, it’s straight from here to someplace worse.

Allen Rush, my old principal at North High, once called me “trash that needed taking out.” No one would buy it if I told them he said it, because we were alone in his office. Who would take my word over an adult’s anyway?

On first glance, this place was nothing like North. It should have been blown up years ago. Instead of trimmed grass, it had weeds sticking up between cracks in the sidewalk. The concrete steps were broken in spots. The closer I got, the more horrible it looked. So did the students.

This kid from New York once told me to move with purpose. Doing that has helped me avoid trouble. Since I’m 5’2 ¾”, I always walked fast and stared a hole through anyone who looked at me. The potheads and the girls who Debra likes to call “garden tools” gawked back at me. I’m the weird one?

Inside the main entrance, a metal detector/pat-down line stretched along the nearby wall. Backing up against the orange bricks, I hid the contents of my book bag so no one could see my MP4. Debra had said not to take it in the first place, but she said lots of things. Without music to calm me down, I’d have only my thoughts, and thinking too much for me is a bad idea.

A cute girl – for a Goth, at least – stood next to me. Usually, girls like her wore torn up clothes and thought white and black are the world’s only colors. Not this one. She wore a blue and white spandex shirt and her bra strap peeked out on her shoulder. I’m not into pink, but it got my attention. She smelled great, like a flower garden. Her hair stuck up in randomly-gelled strands. With a better hairdo and less makeup, she’d be Penelope Cruz’s little sister kind-of-hot.

“Move,” she said to me with her eyes fixed ahead. “You’re next.”

Her voice snapped me to attention. “My fault.”

A uniformed Student Resource Officer with bushy nose hair waved for me to leave my bag on the conveyor belt and step through the metal detector. After removing my wallet, keys, cell phone, and belt, I passed through without a problem and collected my stuff.

Down the hallway a redheaded football-player shaped like a bowling ball played “keep away” with the bag of a kid around my size. I hate football and the guys that play it. After today, my MP4 and cell are staying at home.

“Won’t happen,” Goth Girl said with a playful grin.

“What ‘won’t happen’?” What was she talking about?

“You’re a virgin.”

“What?” I cleared my throat before my voice squeaked like a Yo Gabba Gabba character. There would be no saving myself from this one.

“Selby always gets to the first-timers. Just let him have his fun and try not to struggle too much.”

“No chance.” She didn’t know my reputation.

She smirked. “Good luck with that.”

Before I had a chance to react, the kid she called Selby yanked me by the neck into a nearby hallway, pulled off my backpack, and shoved me against a locker. “Freak,” he said, his lip curled. Wait – I know him! He used to go to North High and he acted like ninth graders were bugs to be crushed.

“C’mon!” The way he went through my stuff sent me into overdrive. My ears pounded, and suddenly everything in my world faded into white flashes. The blackout couldn’t have lasted too long. When I came out of it, my wrists weren’t handcuffed and nobody asked me questions I couldn’t answer. Selby groaned at my feet. He was bleeding at the mouth.

My knuckles were sore, and I didn’t notice any cameras. We were alone, so I got my backpack and ran down the hallway. Every classroom door was locked. Maybe the bathrooms? The boys’ restroom was locked, but the girls’ door gave in after I shoved it. No time for me to be squeamish. Besides, what was the worst thing I could find? Debra hand-washed her bras and hung them to dry in our shared bathroom. It couldn’t be much worse than that. I’ll just squeeze through the window and cut class. Anything’s better than facing assault charges.

Inside, I found Goth Girl applying a coat of lipstick to her already shiny black lips. “Told you,” she said, fully satisfied with herself. She continued making small ovals around her mouth while she mocked me.

The center stall, it looked like. . .no, it couldn’t be. We’re in the South Hall bathroom?

She faced me for the first time.  “No one will find you in here.”

Goth Girl said it like a threat, unaware I’d hulked out. Selby might never become a dad because of me.

“I’m Rhapsody Lowe.” She acted like we weren’t standing in a former crime scene.

“Rhapsody” couldn’t be her real name. Who names her kid Rhapsody? She probably had an ugly first name, like Peggy Sue. “Whoever you are, I’m not staying in here.”

“Why not, Genius?”

“I get marked absent, my house gets called,” I shrugged. “Stepmom freaks, and I’ll be in the Black Hole with Coker by Monday. Besides, it’s a bathroom. One of us’ll have to use it, at some point.”

She snickered at my reasoning. “C’mon, stay. I’m not shy, but since you are, I won’t watch.”

“I’m serious.” Someone had removed the stall doors and never put them back up.

She crossed her arms over her chest and backed against the sink. “So am I. Your stepmom might. What makes you think the teachers care that much?” She nodded to the center stall. “They’re all here to get a check and go home. It’s Reject High. You get shipped here when nobody wants to deal with you.”

Yep, it had happened. Right there. Cherish Watkins shot herself. Small brown spots of her dried blood lined the outside of the drain grate. The ringing homeroom bell interrupted us.

“Quit worrying. You a momma’s boy, or something?”

“My mom’s dead.”

“Sorry. Chill out is all I meant.”

I shrugged my backpack down from my shoulders and went straight for my MP4. Rhapsody turned on her MP4 player and rocked out to some loud heavy metal. I blasted hip-hop and slid down to the black and white checkered floor. For a while, everything seemed okay. I closed my eyes and listened to almost every song on two different albums. An hour-and-a-half passed. We didn’t say a word to each other.

Then, in the middle of third period, I had to pee. I tried to hold it, but the more I thought about it, the more I needed to go. The first stall was closest to me. She’d have to stand on a seat and peek over the walls to see anything. I glanced all around, but didn’t see anything. Good thing I didn’t have gas. Satisfied, I kicked the toilet handle with my foot.

“Seriously?” Rhapsody shouted at me. “You suck at skipping.” When she stomped closer, I remembered my pants were still open.

“You said no one cared!” I turned around to zip up and washed my hands.

“We’ve got maybe two minutes before an SRO gets down here. Grab your crap, sit on the seat and shut up,” she growled. “Can you handle that?”

We’re screwed – the stalls don’t have doors. Who’s the genius now? “Shouldn’t we run, then?”

Tired of waiting for me, she entered the middle stall. “Alright, Captain Obvious. Get caught then.”

Soon the slow click-click sound of approaching footsteps against the hallway flooring made me do what Goth Girl said. When I squatted on the seat, I found out why Debra yells at me to lift it up at home.

Screeching hinges warned me we were no longer alone.

“Anybody in here?”

Did he really expect us to answer? I’d deny doing anything wrong, even if there was proof of me doing it. It works in court, so it might work for me here, too. Besides, someone died here. Someone would have to be really smart, or strange, to cut class here.

Click-click. He closed in – not a flashlight cop, but a Student Resource Officer with a loaded gun. He stopped, gazed at himself in the mirror and plucked a few nose hairs with his fingers.

I almost forgot not to laugh.

The guy’s name badge said S. Spivey 0344. Spivey inspected the inside of Rhapsody’s stall, the empty one at the end, and then mine. He stared at me, face-to-face and used his radio.

My heart settled in my throat.  We’re so busted!

“Spivey here,” he said, still facing me. “All clear. They must’ve run.”

Was this guy blind or stupid? I waved my hand. Spivey stopped. Did he see me after all? I guess not, because he closed the open window and walked away.

About a minute later, Rhapsody reappeared in front of me. “Next time, don’t flush.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Promise Box by Tricia Gloyer


About The Promise Box:

With her heart - and her loyalty - on the line, can she let true love in her life?
Every year, young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive 'resident' status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides! Lydia Wyse, a book editor from Seattle who grew up Amish, returns to the small community of West Kootenai, Montana to give comfort to her father after her mother's death.
She is drawn back to the familiar Amish ways after finding her mother's most precious possession, a Promise Box of prayers and scripture. What her publisher sees, though, is an opportunity for a sensational 'tell-all' book about the Amish. Lydia soon finds herself falling in love with Amish bachelor Gideon Hooley. She wants nothing more than to forget her past and look forward to a future as an Amish bride. 
Will the pain of her childhood-and her potential betrayal of her community-keep her from committing her whole heart?

Purchase your copy: http://ow.ly/l6QH1

Meet Tricia: 
Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of six, grandmother of one, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. A bestselling author, Tricia has published thirty-three books to date and has written more than 500 articles. She is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. In 2010, she was selected as one of the Top 20 Moms to Follow on Twitter by SheKnows.com. Tricia is also on the blogging team at MomLifeToday.com, TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites. In addition to her roles as mom, wife and author, Tricia volunteers around her community and mentors teen moms. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, AR. Tricia, along with a group of friends, recently launched NotQuiteAmishLiving.com, sharing ideas about simplifying life. She also hosts the weekly radio podcast, Living Inspired. 

Learn more about Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com.

My Take On The Promise Box:

The Promise Box is book two in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors Series by Tricia, and even though it covers some familiar faces and spaces, it can definitely stand alone.  The series is set in West Kootenai, Montana where an establishment of Amish have settled and adapted their order to fit the area and the needs the area brings out.

The two main characters, Lydia and Gideon were both brought up Amish, but struggle dealing with their pasts that haunt them.  Lydia left the Amish community after finding out about the violent way her life came to be.  She was emotionally and spiritually damaged, questioning God and hating herself.  Gideon didn't really know what had happened in his past, except for the fact that he had disobeyed his parents as a young boy (and while visiting West Kootenai) and they never seemed to let him forget it. As adults, both Lydia and Gideon come back to West Kootenai. Lydia comes back for her mother's funeral. Gideon comes back for hunting season and to find out what really happened during his first visit to the area.  In The Promise Box, both Lydia and Gideon face their pasts and come to terms with what happened in the past, but can an ex-Amish woman and an Amish man overcome all that is between them to find love and acceptance?

Lydia's struggles are based on her perceptions of what occurred in order for her to be born.  Although she was not an actual part of the rape, she was the result and thereby is a victim of the rape.  She carries the hurt and anger that the rapist caused her biological mom to go through, until she can resolve the matter with God.  Fortunately, GOD understands our hurts and our anger.  All we have to do is talk to him... and then LISTEN. Only He can heal these kinds of hurts that many people deal with.  Gideon's struggles are also common to many.  A choice in his past affected many others, but he doesn't know exactly how... he just knows he is frustrated with the continued constant watching and commands of his family.  We struggle with wondering WHY does this same thing keep happening? or WHY ME?  So many questions and struggles, but He knows and HE cares.

I really enjoyed this book.  Not only is it Amish, which I love, but it is HUMAN.  I think most people believe that the Amish lead perfect lives without complication, but being human is complicated.  And this book presents the complications of just two Amish dealing with emotions, criticisms and moving on with life. Definitely a book worth reading!


I was provided an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book by Litfuse Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 10, 2013

See the Light Art Class by Pat Holt


I received Disc 1 of the See the Light Art Class by Pat Holt to review.  In order to review it, I sat down with my son, who is very interested in art, and watched the videos.  Disc 1 (or Volume 1) is the basics of art.  This volume teaches the art supplies needed, the correct way to hold your pencil for different shading and line thicknesses. The teacher discusses shading, perception and many other of the basics.  My son has taken Art in the public schools for several years, and most of the information given on this volume he already knew, but there was a thing or two that was brand new to him.  Not only did Pat teach about drawing, but she related the lesson to a Bible lesson.  
I really enjoyed this volume.  It was definitely a BASIC lesson, so it's perfect for the child that has never had any art instruction or for the child that needs a review of the Basics.  I would love to see the other volumes and see what they might include.  There was also a bonus lesson that had to do with a chalk drawing. It was amazing to watch the woman go from a blank sheet of paper to a lovely chalk drawing of the Jerusalem!!  This series would definitely make a great addition to your homeschool curriculum or as an extracurricular program for any child.

About See The Light
SEE THE LIGHT  is dedicated to bringing scripture and biblical principles to viewers in a fresh, engaging way. . . and promising to teach some exciting art skills along the way!
Twenty members of The CWA Review Crew have been given the opportunity to select and review one of three products from See The Light.
Reviewers had their choice of Art Class, Art Projects or Bible Stories.
Art Class is a 9 DVD/36 lesson series geared for ages 6 + that includes:
  • Step by Step Tutoring
  • Integrated Art History & Biblical Truth
  • Progressive Skill Building
  • No Workbooks Ever – Only Basic Supplies
  • Three bonus lessons 
This series qualifies for the Fine Arts school requirement.



About the Creator:

Pat Holt has a passion for children and a heart for missions. She has worked with children since she volunteered for church ministry at age 14 before earning degrees in education and instructional technology.  Since then, she’s taught in public schools and founded a Christian school while authoring many books including the bestselling When You Feel Like Screaming – Help For Frustrated Mothers and the award winningDon’t Give in, Give Choices, as well as being a guest on a multitude of radio and TV programs. She was awarded the Gold Medallion in Christian Education by the Evangelical Publishers Association. Pat and her husband, Dave, live in California.
Learn more about See The Light at their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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