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Family-Friendly Entertainment

Aloha Friday: Daylight Savings

10/30/09
writing prompts, blogging prompts

Here is how Aloha Friday works from Kailani's blog An Island Life:

In Hawaii, Aloha Friday is the day that we take it easy and look forward to the weekend. So I thought that on Fridays I would take it easy on posting, too. Therefore, I’ll ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

Daylight Savings time often throws off my sleep schedule. It takes me a few weeks to get back to feeling "normal" again. And it definitely affects my son's sleep too. The only plus is that it isn't so dark when I wake up in the morning to get my son to school.

My Question for This Week: How do you feel about Daylight Savings time?

Top Ten Thursday: Pass the Popcorn & Hand Over the Remote!

10/29/09
Top Ten Thursday Button

This Week's Top 10 List:

My Favorite Movies that May Never Win An Oscar but They're My Favorite So They Gotta Be Good!

1. Pride & Prejudice: The 2005 version with Keira Knightley; she's a wonderful actress even if the story isn't quite an accurate Austen remake.

2. Anne of Green Gables: My absolute favorite story about an orphan girl who lives on Prince Edward Island in Canada and gets into some mischief. I love love love this movie!

3. Love Comes Softly: I love the book series by Janette Oake & this is my favorite movie in the series.

4. Lucas: I used to have a major crush on Charlie Sheen in my teen years and this was the first Charlie Sheen movie I saw.

5. Curly Sue: A cute movie with Jim Belushi and another favorite that my mom & I used to watch over and over together.


6. A Christmas In Connecticut: Barbara Stanwyck 1945 version; my mom & I used to watch that every Christmas together when I was a teen.

7. The Boy Who Could Fly: A girl meets an autistic boy who thinks he can fly and he does. I believed that just maybe I could fly too. Even if I am afraid of heights and would never jump off a roof.


8. A Simple Twist of Fate: This is one of my favorite Steve Martin movies! It is based on the book Silas Marner.

9. Little Women: I read Little Women at least 20 times. I love the 1933 version with Katherine Hepburn as well as the 1994 version with Wynona Ryder.

10. The Goonies: Definitely a classic of teen angst and pirate treasure and humor rolled into one!

What are your favorite movies that you could watch over and over again?


Don't forget to visit the co-hosts of this fun meme at It's a Beauty Filled Life, Domestically Challenged, My Messy Paradise and In The Mommy Trenches.
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Wordless Wednesday: Colors of Fall

10/28/09
We had a beautiful day at the park this weekend. I thought I'd share with you some of the photos I took of the colors at their peak.











For more Wordless Wednesday fun, visit Five Minutes For Mom. Or you can visit these other great posts: Angie at Seven Clown Circus and Sara at Ordinary & Awesome.

Teaser Tuesday: One Imperfect Christmas

10/27/09


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

"She drove like a maniac to Putnam General, all the while berating herself for ignoring Mom's request for help. After everything her mother had sacrificed for her, she could only pray these new injuries wouldn't cripple her mother for life."

p.13 One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson

What are you reading? If you have a teaser, you can head on over to Miz B's blog or share it here by leaving a comment.

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The Top Mommy Blogs

10/23/09
Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

I just joined the site Top Mommy Blogs. It is a fun site for bloggers to check out other bloggers. They are ranked according to site hits. And since I am looking for ways to reach more readers, I thought this would be a great way to do so.

I'd like to be listed on the site, but in order to do that, I have to have someone click on the button on my sidebar to get noticed.

So if you feel led, please click on the button and vote for me. If you do, please leave a comment to let me know. You'll get a virtual hug from me and find some other great blogs to surf!

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Aloha Friday: High Low

writing prompts, blogging prompts

Here is how Aloha Friday works from Kailani's blog An Island Life:

In Hawaii, Aloha Friday is the day that we take it easy and look forward to the weekend. So I thought that on Fridays I would take it easy on posting, too. Therefore, I’ll ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

Some families like to share their highs and lows of the day/week at the dinner table. I thought I'd share my high and low of this week. My high point of the week was cooking with my son. I don't get into cooking very much. I'll admit that I don't have a lot of talent in that department. But I enjoy making a meal with him and seeing his enjoyment. He loves to cook! My low point of the week was when I got my flu shot and felt pretty crummy for a couple of days. I didn't have much energy and felt blah.

My Question for This Week: What was your high & low of the week?

Thank you! More Awards!

10/22/09


I received the Who Loves You Baby Award from my good friend Molly at Book Reviews by Buuklvr81.

I am passing this award onto:

Heather @ Theta Mom
Heather @ My Two Little Monkeys
Jennifer @ Rundpinne
Too Many Hats



I also received the One Lovely Blog Award from Heather @ My Two Little Monkeys.

Thank you Molly & Heather for these awards. I really appreciate you thinking of me!
And I hope you will check out their great blogs!

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Time Out For Theta Mom Thursday



Have you heard of Time Out for Theta Mom Thursday? If not, then you should check it out. All the cool moms are doing it!

All it requires is taking one hour out of your week for YOU.

This week I spent my one hour surfing blogs. Blog surfing can be addictive. I find so many fun blogs out there to read! Some of them make me laugh, some make me cry, and some make me think really hard.

This blog post me me and my hubby both crack up because we are big fans of 24:

Jack Bauer is NOT your accountability partner

How did you spend your hour this week? Head on over to Heather's blog and link up.

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You've Been Ghosted!

10/21/09


Ok, I have a warped sense of humor so I thought I'd play along. Behold, the puking pumpkin. Kinda gross right? But yet, funny too!

Here are the rules:

(1) It's your turn to "ghost" three other bloggers -- perhaps, somewhere you haven't commented, in a while, or a blog you've NEVER commented on before and is new to our blogging community.

(2) Stop by their blogs and leave a comment on their latest post saying:

"You've Just Been Ghosted -- Come Over and Grab A Puking Pumpkin!"

(3) Copy and paste the puking pumpkin somewhere on your blog (either in a post or on your sidebar, perhaps) so that everyone can see that you have been "ghosted" and will NOT "ghost" you again. This will also let you know who you can "ghost."

I'm going to "ghost" these 3 bloggers:

1. Molly @ Book Reviews by Buuklvr8
2. Jennifer @ Rundpinne
3. Kelli @ Random Thoughts of a Supermom




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Wordless Wednesday: Caption This



Funny little story about this: We were sitting on this bench at the park and this cute dog came up from behind me and nudged me in my backside out of the blue. It was so cute I told my hubby to take a picture of it when she came back around.

Let's play "Caption This." Leave your caption in the linky below.




For more Wordless Wednesday fun, visit Five Minutes For Mom. Or you can visit these other great posts: Angie at Seven Clown Circus and Sara at Ordinary & Awesome.

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Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper Presentation & Book Signing

10/20/09
Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper came to my son's school last Friday to kick off the release of their new book Curse of the Spider King. They gave a fun presentation to the students which included sword fighting, chapter reading from Wayne, and a song from Christopher. After the presentation, they signed books and talked with fans. I had the opportunity to help out at the book table and capture some photos from the event.




Wayne Thomas Batson is a Reading and English middle school teacher here in Maryland. He is also a fantasy fiction author who has written the Door Within Trilogy (The Door Within, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, and The Final Storm), and the Declan Ross Series:The Isle of Swords, and The Isle of Fire. You can find out more about Wayne Thomas Batson here.


Christopher Hopper is a youth pastor, a recording artist with Airefire Records, a music producer, and an author. He has written The White Lion Chronicles: Rise of The Dibor, The Lion Vrie, and Athera’s Dawn (due in 2010). You can find out more about Christopher Hopper here.

Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper are co-writing The Berinfell Prophecies. Curse of the Spider King is the first book of this series.



Here is a summary of the book from the publisher:
To order this book on Amazon, click here.


The Seven succeeding Elven Lords of Allyra were dead, lost in the Siege of Berinfell as babes. At least that’s what everyone thought until tremors from a distant world known as Earth, revealed strange signs that Elven blood lived among its peoples. With a glimmer of hope in their hearts, sentinels are sent to see if the signs are true. But theirs is not a lone errand. The ruling warlord of Allyra, the Spider King, has sent his own scouts to hunt down the Seven and finish the job they failed to complete many ages ago.

Now 13-year-olds on the brink of the Age of Reckoning when their Elven gifts will be manifest, discover the unthinkable truth that their adoptive families are not their only kin. With mysterious Sentinels revealing breathtaking secrets of the past, and dark strangers haunting their every move, will the young Elf Lords find the way back to the home of their birth? Worlds and races collide as the forces of good and evil battle. Will anyone escape the Curse of the Spider King?




If you know a tween or a teen fantasy fiction fan, you will want to check out both of these great authors! These are wonderful adventure stories with a message of faith.



Thank you to Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper for giving of your time to come to my son's school. My son says he is your #1 fan!

Disclaimer: I did not receive compensation for this post. I am writing this to share with my readers and with permission of the authors. Any opinions expressed are my own.

FIRST Wild Card Tour Book Review: Love Is a Battlefield by Annalisa Daughety #Sponsored

10/19/09
book tours, book reviews, christian fiction reviewsIt 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:

Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)
***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Christian fiction authors, author bio, christian fiction writers

Annalisa Daughety lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she works as an event planner. After attending Freed-Hardeman University, where she majored in American Studies, Annalisa worked at Shiloh National Military Park as a park ranger. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves gardening, shopping, and watching sports. For more information, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602604770
ISBN-13: 978-1602604773

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Annalisa DAughety, book reviews, christian fiction, book review
If someone had told Kristy O’Neal that the battlefield at Shiloh would see another casualty nearly one hundred and fifty years after the battle ended, she’d have thought they were crazy.

Yet, two weeks ago, one last soldier had been injured on the majestic field. And Kristy had the battle scars to prove it. Admittedly, her wound was emotional, not physical, but she still wondered if the splintered pieces of her heart might be tougher to knit back together than a bullet-shattered bone.

Ready or not, her recovery time was over, so she squared her shoulders and headed back onto the hallowed ground. Never let it be said that Kristy couldn’t soldier up with the best of them. Ranger hat firmly in place and gold badge glinting in the May sunlight, she marched briskly to the visitor center.

“Morning, Kristy.” Ranger Owen Branam stopped putting money in the cash register slots long enough to nod in her direction. “You have a nice trip?” He closed the drawer, finished with his preparations for the day’s visitors.

Nice trip? A cruise spent faking allergies to explain away tears. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

“Lovely.” she managed what she hoped was a convincing smile. “The weather was great.” Scooting past him, she attempted to make it to her office without further questioning.

“Umm. Kristy?”

The apprehension in the older man’s voice made her stop in her tracks. She slowly turned to look back at Owen.

He ran his finger around the neck of his shirt as if he had a little too much starch in the collar. “The chief asked me to have you go straight up to his office when you got in.” He motioned toward the counter. “You can leave your things here. I’ll keep an eye on them while you’re upstairs.”

Only five minutes into her morning and her plan to fly as far under the radar as possible had already gone out the window. So much for the low-key first day back she’d hoped for.

“Thanks, Owen.” Kristy put her hat on the counter and tucked her purse underneath the desk.

As she got to the top of the stairs, an unfamiliar voice called out a greeting to Owen. Twisting around, she peeked over the railing. Wow. A Johnny Depp lookalike was helping Owen straighten the brochures. The second thing she noticed about him, after his movie star resemblance, was the park service uniform he wore. Surely, he wasn’t a new employee. She’d only been gone a few weeks. Things didn’t usually happen that quickly at Shiloh National Military Park.

“Glad to have you back.”

The gruff voice of Chief Ranger Hank Strong made her jump and turn around.

She felt her face grow hot. Had he been watching her ogle Ranger Depp? She cleared her throat.

“Glad to be back.” She followed him into his office and perched on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in front of his desk. Her gaze skimmed over a hodgepodge of furniture, maps, and historical books. None of the furnishings matched, except for Hank’s oversized desk and equally oversized chair that had always reminded her of a king’s throne.

“Good, good.” Hank settled himself behind the desk and peered at her over his round bifocals. “Look, Kristy. There’s no easy way to tell you this.” For a moment, an expression that looked like uncertainty flitted over his weathered face.

Uh-oh. As befitted his name, Hank Strong was always sure of himself. Whatever he was about to say, she wasn’t going to like it.

“I told you before you left on your trip there’d be a job waiting for you when you got back,” Hank paused.

Kristy could tell he was choosing his words carefully.

She nodded. “Yes. And believe me, I’m so grateful.” When she’d turned in her two-week notice, it had felt like she was letting him down, letting the park down. After all, she’d begun working at Shiloh while she was still in college. It was the only place she’d ever worked—or ever wanted to work, for that matter. After her plans had abruptly changed, she’d been relieved when Hank stepped in and told her there was still a place for her at Shiloh.

“Well, there was one thing I didn’t mention.”

“Oh?” Why do his words sound so ominous?

“By the time I found out you weren’t moving and were still available to work, your position had been filled.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Kristy. The paperwork had already gone through. There was nothing that could be done.”

She tried to catch her breath. Knowing she was at least able to come back to work at the park was the only thing that had gotten her through the past two weeks. “But you said. . .” Her voice trailed off as she willed herself not to panic.

“I know. I said I had a position for you. And I do.” He leaned back a little in his chair, visibly relieved to have the bad news off his chest. “You’re welcome to stay on as a seasonal ranger.”

Seasonal? That was where she’d started, nine years earlier, the summer after her freshman year of college. She glanced around, hoping for a paper bag she could breathe into. Of course, what she needed most was a rewind button that would allow her to go back in time and decide not to quit her job. But if she could travel back to the past, knowing what she did now, there wouldn’t have been a reason to leave Shiloh in the first place.

“You want me to be a seasonal?” Kristy’s voice squeaked. “What about my salary?”

A frown drew his bushy brows together. “There’ll be a pay cut. And you’ll move to the office shared by the seasonal staff. In fact, Owen has already put your box of office doodads in there.”

If she hadn’t been so shell-shocked, she probably would’ve laughed at his word for the contents of the box she’d left in her former office weeks earlier. Instead, all she could think was how she’d planned to stop by and pick her things up once the movers arrived. But the moving van had been permanently rerouted.

“You can still live in park housing. I know you’ve already packed most of your things, but Owen said he didn’t think you’d actually moved anything out yet.” He handed her a manila folder. “Your decision, kiddo. We’d love to keep you around. You’re a great park ranger. But I understand if you want to go in a different direction now.”

She took the file from him and glanced at the paperwork inside. The contents of the folder would effectively help to move her back down the career ladder she’d been climbing.

“What happens in September?” The seasonal positions at Shiloh ran from Memorial Day through Labor Day. And since they were only a few days shy of Memorial Day, she figured she should feel lucky there was even a seasonal position still available. They usually filled pretty quickly.

“Well.” He leaned back even farther and pressed his fingertips together. “At that juncture you’ll have a few options. Perhaps a permanent position will open here. Or we can look around at other parks and try to get you a transfer.”

Or I can leave the park service.

He rose to his feet. “If you want to think about it for a day or two, that’s fine.”

She knew Hank well enough to know that giving her time to consider the offer was his way of being sympathetic. Despite her trembling legs, she managed to stand. “Thank you,” she mumbled and scurried for the stairs, her mind spinning like a recently fired cannonball.

A permanent position opening at Shiloh was pretty much out of the question. Most of the rangers planned to stay until retirement age, some of them even longer. And she wasn’t interested in a transfer. This was the park she loved. Kristy had grown up in nearby Savannah, Tennessee, and some of her earliest memories were of the cannons and monuments at Shiloh.

Owen avoided eye contact with her as she descended the stairs.

Thanks a lot, buddy.

He’d obviously known what the meeting was going to be about, but hadn’t had the nerve to give her a warning before she went upstairs. Kristy couldn’t blame him though. No one liked to be the bearer of bad news.

And with her newfound knowledge, the mystery of the unfamiliar ranger was solved. The Johnny Depp lookalike was the ranger who now had her position. Not to mention her office.

She silently gathered her hat and purse from the front desk and took them to the room reserved for seasonal staff. As she passed the office she used to occupy, a fleeting glance told her that Ranger Depp wasn’t inside. The seasonal office, if it could even be called an office, was full of old desks and equipment. Kristy turned on the light and took in the sparsely decorated white walls. It was a far cry from the cheerful yellow she’d painted her former office last year. Thankfully, the other members of the seasonal staff wouldn’t arrive until Monday. At least I should have peace until Memorial Day. She could even move the desks and junk, buy some paint for the walls, and live out the next few days in Pretend Everything’s Okay Land.

Except, eventually, she’d have to face reality.

She flipped on the computer and silently tapped her fingers on the desk as she waited forever for it to boot up.

Can I do this? Can I take a step down in pay and status? Seasonals were at the low end of the totem pole. She remembered those days all too well. Getting assigned the tasks no one else wanted to do and being expected to do them without grumbling. Would they do that to her again? Or would she continue to be treated as permanent staff, despite the demotion?

Demotion. Ouch.

Either way, it wouldn’t be pleasant.

She glanced down at the box of her things on the floor next to the computer, and tears flooded her eyes. Empty picture frames peeked out from the box flaps. The pictures that had once been in them were nowhere in sight. Someone had wanted to spare her feelings today. Either that, or they didn’t want to be stuck with an emotional female to console.

The frames might’ve been without pictures, but Kristy knew what they’d once held. Her heart pounded as she grabbed all three frames and tossed them in the trashcan, taking unexpected pleasure in the sight and sound of shattering glass. A yellow and white wad under a large shard caught her eye. She couldn’t resist carefully fishing it out of the can, even though she knew better.

Kristy unwrinkled the ball and smoothed it out on the old, beat-up desk, running her hand over the creases in the paper. Fancy paper, as Owen called it months ago when he’d first seen it. Her vision blurred with fresh tears, but she didn’t need to read the words to know what they said.

For a long moment, she stared down at the engraved invitation.

To her wedding.



My Review/Thoughts:

This is the first book in the A Walk In The Park Series. Kristy O'Neal is a park ranger at Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee and everything in her life seems to be going wrong. Her fiancee just dumped her at the altar, she has returned from a solo-honeymoon on a cruise ship, and finds out that her job has been filled by someone else. Kristy learns that she will have to take a seasonal position until something permanent opens up. Not only has she lost her fiancee and her dreams of a future, but now she has the bitter sting of taking a demotion. And she has to work with the man who took her job! (And of course, he becomes the man who sets out to try and win her heart)

I totally sympathized with this character. I think we have all had multiple circumstances that just seem to be too much for us to handle. And at some point we have had someone break our heart and had to learn how to get past it, open our hearts and trust again. I also enjoyed the setting of the story; I have always loved history and the backdrop of a National Military Park is something unique that you don't find in many romance stories. The themes of love, faith, forgiveness, trust, and relationships are ones that any woman can relate to. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series!

The Sound of Sleigh Bells By Cindy Woodsmall Review

10/16/09


Summary from the Publisher:

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancé. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?

Author Bio From the Publisher:

Cindy Woodsmall is the author of When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and The New York Times Best-Seller When the Soul Mends. Her ability to authentically capture the heart of her characters comes from her real-life connections with Amish Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. A mother of three sons and two daughters-in-law, Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of thirty-one years.

You can purchase this book at Random House. And you can find out more about this author at her website.

My Review:

This is another wonderful Amish story from Cindy Woodsmall about a woman named Beth who has lost her fiance and is mourning a year later. Beth lives with her Aunt Lizzy in an apartment above their dry goods store. She is grieving over her fiance and is not interested in ever getting married. Her Aunt Lizzy sees that Beth is overwhelmed with her grief and wants to help her.

When Beth goes on a business trip to find items to sell in the store, she sees a carving of Amish children playing in the snow inside an Englischer store. This carving touches something inside her soul and hopes to sell his work in her store, but the bishop will not allow it. She tries to get her aunt to change the bishop's mind. Aunt Lizzy sees that this carving has been the first glimpse of hope in Beth's life, so she visits the artist named Jonah.

This visit hatches a plan for Lizzy to strike up a friendship between her niece and Jonah. She convinces Jonah to write to Beth about the carving, but Jonah thinks he is writing to the aunt instead. Beth responds to the letter and thinks that she is writing to an older gentleman.

I could not put this book down! This story kept me wondering about the mystery of Beth's fiance's death and why she can't seem to forgive herself. The letters between Beth and Jonah were also intriguing. The author describes things in such detail that you feel as if you were in the scene. If you enjoy a good love story and enjoy reading about the Amish, you will want to read this book.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Where The Wild Things Are Imax Giveaway From 5 Minutes For Mom

10/15/09


Mom Blogs

Are you looking forward to seeing "Where the Wild Things Are" as much as I am? This looks like a fun movie. And what could be more fun than to win a 4 pack of tickets to the IMAX?

The ladies at Five Minutes for Mom are giving away the following prize pack:
* 1 copy of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
* 1 adult Where the Wild Things Are t-shirt
* 1 youth Where the Wild Things Are t-shirt
* 1 Where the Wild Things Are poster
* A family 4-pack of IMAX tickets


Doesn't that sound awesome? Head on over to Five Minutes for Mom and check it out.

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Wordless Wednesday: Walking Around Annapolis

10/14/09


We walked from Horn Point down to the City Dock where they were having a Boat Show. This is the bridge you cross over before getting down to the city dock area. I think we walked at least 2 miles that day.



Boats anchored down by the Marina



View from one of the side streets



Distant view of the Maryland State House



Thurgood Marshall Memorial across from the Maryland State House




Maryland State House




View looking away from the Thurgood Marshall Memorial



For more Wordless Wednesday fun, visit Five Minutes For Mom. Or you can visit these other great posts: Angie at Seven Clown Circus and Sara at Ordinary & Awesome.



FIRST Wild Card Tours Review: The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason #Sponsored

10/13/09
book reviews, book tours, christian fiction book toursIt is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2009)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


author bios, christian fiction writers, christian fiction authorsMike Mason is the best-selling, award-winning author of The Mystery of Marriage, The Gospel According to Job, Practicing the Presence of People, and many others. He has an M.A. in English and has studied theology at Regent College. He lives in Langley, BC, Canada, with his wife, Karen, a family physician. They have one daughter, Heather, who is pursuing a career in dance and the arts. The Blue Umbrella is Mike’s first novel.

Visit the author's website.



The Blue Umbrella, by Mike Mason from David C. Cook on Vimeo.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765261
ISBN-13: 978-1434765260

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mike Mason, christian fiction, book reviews, book review
FIVE CORNERS


Not many people are killed by lightning.


Zac’s mother was.


Zachary Sparks, though small for ten years old, had a look perpetual astonishment that made him seem larger than life. His eyes were nearly the biggest part of him, round and wide, and his eyebrows had a natural arch as if held up with invisible strings. His voice was high and excitable and his whole body

seemed full of little springs. Even his hair, fiery red and frizzy, looked as if he was the one hit by lightning. Everything about Zac Sparks was up, up, up.


Until his mother died and everything changed.


Zac lived with his mother beside a golf course. Every day after school he picked up balls from his backyard to sell for fifty cents apiece. He was happy and carefree and his mother was good to him. He had no father. At least, he’d never known his father.


At night, when there were no golfers, Zac’s mother liked to go walking across the wide, rolling lawns of the course. To her it was like a big park. She never met anyone else out there. This was a small town and it was quite safe (except for lightning). She liked being in nature and she loved all kinds of weather, especially weather that had what she called character, the kind you could feel on your skin: wind, cold, hail, pelting rain, thunder, and lightning.


Whenever a good electrical storm happened in the middle of the night, Zac’s mother would wake him up and they’d sit on the veranda listening to the long, almost articulate rumbles and watching the lightning illuminate the great treed corridors of grass. The two wouldn’t say much. They didn’t have to. The sky did the talking for them. Some of Zac’s happiest memories were of sitting up with his mother at night to revel silently in storms.


The irony was that Zac’s mother was killed by something she loved. It happened one night when she went walking in the pouring rain, carrying, as usual, her umbrella. Of course, she knew better than to go walking on a golf course with an umbrella in a thunderstorm. But this was not a thunderstorm. On this night there just happened to be one stray bolt of lightning.


One was all it took. Her crumpled body was found the next morning in the center of a fairway. The canopy of her umbrella had been completely consumed, leaving nothing but the skeletal metal frame.


It was the first day of December, just weeks before Christmas, and Zac Sparks was an orphan.


That day and the next were a blur. Even the funeral, on the third day, Zac scarcely remembered—except for the moment when the coffin was being carried outside through the church doors. The weather was unseasonably mild; instead of snow a light drizzle fell. As the coffin moved down the steps and was

loaded into the hearse, the rain turned to sleet, then to hail. Small white pellets of ice filled the air and bounced all around like popcorn—one bounce, then still—as though the ground were alive. The clatter, especially loud on open umbrellas and on the wood of the coffin, was like applause.


Then Zac saw something he’d never seen before: a hailbow. Though he didn’t know to call it that, he knew it was special. It was one of those days when about five kinds of weather were in the sky at once. There were towering clouds, black ones very black and white ones very white and fierce-looking. Between the two the sun came out and brilliantly illuminated the hail. It was like being inside a living diamond. Then the ice wall began to move away and against its glitter he saw the hailbow. It was like a rainbow but pale, almost white, with just the loveliest hint of ghostly hue. The whole scene was so dramatic—huge clouds, falling ice, sunshine, the bow—and in a few minutes it was all over. But it stayed in Zac’s memory, just as if his mind’s eye had snapped a photograph.


After that, everything was swallowed up by the Aunties. Zac didn’t know them; they lived far away in a place called Five Corners. When he first met them at the funeral reception in his home, he began to understand why his mother had never mentioned them. They were horrible.


They were very, very old. Auntie Esmeralda, especially, was so ancient she looked ready to crumble away like a frail piece of lace. Her skin, where not obscured by a thick paste of makeup, was an unnatural, papery white, and she was draped in a long white fur coat. Very tall, she carried a cane, held herself rigid as a ruler, and wore her gray hair long and straight like a girl’s.


As Zac stood bewildered in the midst of the reception crowd, that gray curtain brushed his face and a thin, metallic voice rasped in his ear, “You poor, dear boy. How tragic to lose your mother. And in such a horrid way.” Auntie Esmeralda sounded as if she had a file stuck in her throat, scraping the human warmth off every word. “But don’t you worry. You’re coming home with us, isn’t he, Pris?”


Home with them? Zac’s home was here. With his mother gone, Mrs. Pottinger from next door had been staying with him, just as she had every evening when his mother went walking.


“Dear boy, you have nothing to fear. Your Aunties will take good care of you.” This came from Auntie Pris in a voice two octaves lower than Esmeralda’s. Much shorter than her sister, Pris seemed almost as wide as the other was tall. More than fat, she was big: squarish, broad-shouldered, solid as a stump. In contrast to Esmeralda’s fur, Pris was dressed in a short pink skirt with matching polka-dotted blouse. Perched on top of her blockish head was a pink pillbox hat. Zac was torn between amusement and horror.


Of course, the Aunties were terribly nice to him, hugging him to pieces, patting his extraordinary hair, crooning condolences, and plying him with cookies. Zac hated it all. These strange women were more suffocating than the stiff collar and suit he had to wear.


Sure enough, their tune soon changed. When the reception was over and everyone but the Aunties had left (including even Mrs. Pottinger), they began barking orders: Do this, do that, shut up, stop moping or we’ll give you something to mope about. Finally Zac was sent to his room, where he listened restlessly to a fitful wind that developed into driving rain, horrific lightning, and great claps of thunder exploding like bombs. Amidst this clamor, for some reason the most terrible sound was the occasional tap-tap-tapping of Esmeralda’s cane.


Early the next morning he was roughly awakened as the Aunties, each yanking one of his arms, dragged him from the house and shoved him into the backseat of their big black Cadillac. Throughout that long, stormy day they drove, stopping just once for gas and food. Where did these old women get such energy? It was bizarre—their mysterious vitality combined with an appearance of decrepitude. Throughout the trip

Zac sat silent, dozing or staring out the window, his left leg jiggling in a nervous tic.


Only once did the Aunties speak to him. Esmeralda, who was at the wheel, turned to him and glared. “Zachary”—she spoke his name as if it were a dead rat she held at arm’s length by its tail—“is a ridiculous name. From now on we’ll call you Boy.”


And so they did. But his name wasn’t all Zac lost that day. He’d had no chance to pack any of his belongings or toys—not his giant monkey, nor his collection of soldiers, nor his box of interesting bits of metal. Not even a toothbrush or his army camouflage pajamas. All he had was the suit on his back and a

photograph of his mother that he’d slipped into his pocket.


In this rude fashion was Zachary Sparks uprooted from his childhood home and whisked away to the town of Five Corners to live in a mansion with a plaque by the door that read THE MISSES ESMERALDA AND PRISCILLA HENBOTHER. The Aunties were, it seemed, his only living relatives; there was no one else to take him in. Their house, built of stone—even the floors were marble—had the bleak, dank feel of a castle. No

wonder Auntie Esmeralda always wore furs, though Auntie Pris huffed and puffed about in short sleeves, her bright pink skin glistening with sweat.


The place was loaded with china. Hundreds of figurines occupied coffee tables, glass cabinets, windowsills, every available surface. Zac noted a preponderance of elephants, but there were also large vases, luridly painted plates, baskets of swollen fruit. All were made of the most delicate-looking porcelain, as fragile as they were ugly. How did two such large and ancient ladies manage to navigate this glass jungle without breaking anything? All Zac knew was that it was no place for him.


From the moment they arrived, the Aunties bombarded him with warnings: “Don’t sit there, Boy … Be careful around that lamp … Do try to keep your leg still …” What was Zac to do? At least the Aunties’ silence in the car had left him to sort through his own thoughts. Now every word they spoke froze him tighter until he felt like one of those awful china figurines, condemned to hold one position forever. He was so nervous that, while trying to avoid a row of plates, he backed into a whatnot (a piece of furniture whose only purpose, he decided, was to hold knickknacks in ambush for boys) and broke a small pink elephant.


“Idiot! What have you done!” screamed Auntie Esmeralda in a voice itself like breaking glass. Auntie Pris, down on all fours to scoop together the fragments, sobbed as though tears might glue the elephant back together. How strange to see this huge woman crying over a trinket! Meanwhile Auntie Esmeralda, tall as a thunderhead, planted herself directly in front of Zac and croaked, “You … you wicked, clumsy imbecile! Go straight to your room.”


Zac didn’t move. He didn’t breathe.


“You heard me, young man. March!”


Still he didn’t move. He’d turned to stone.


“What’s wrong with you?” she demanded.


“Auntie,” he finally managed, “I don’t know where my room is.”


Esmeralda’s pale head on its long, wrinkled neck turned once to the left and then around to the right, like a bird’s, as though examining him with each eye separately. “Well, we’ll soon fix that. Pris, escort this boy to his room. Something tells me he’ll be spending a lot of time there.”


Leaving her precious pile of shattered china, Auntie Pris, with considerable effort, heaved herself to her feet. Drying her eyes with an enormous pink hankie, she growled, “That boy needs a cage, not a room.” Spinning him around with surprising force, and poking him in the back with a finger stiff as a billy club, she marched him out of the parlor, up a broad staircase, and along the hall to a door on the right. There, completely filling the door frame, she panted, “You’d better change your ways, Boy, or you won’t survive long around here.” Thrusting him inside, she shut the door and rattled a key in the lock.


So there he was. The room had a bed, an end table, a wooden chair. Its one window was already claimed by darkness. Though the storm had abated, a wind still blew and tree branches scraped against the pane. Rain drummed steadily.


For a long time Zac sat on the edge of the bed, his mind numb. Eventually he recalled the picture of his mother, still in his suit pocket. He pulled it out, but it was too dark to see and he couldn’t find a light. Cold, he climbed under the thin quilt and lay there, stiff as a corpse. He returned the photograph tohis pocket but kept his hand on it.


And so concluded Zachary Sparks’s first day in Five Corners, the first day of the end of his life. The Aunties might as well have put him in the coffin along with his mother and let the dull rain pound them both into the ground.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



My Review:

This is a story about a boy named Zac whose mother gets struck by lightning and dies. He is sent to Five Corners to live with the Aunties. The Aunties are cruel and have a magical cane that has powers to make someone live forever if they absorb the energy from a child. There are many interesting characters in the book: Dada, the Aunties' father who scares Zac to the point of fainting when they meet, a mute girl, a midget butler, a mysterious singer he can hear but not see, and a blind balloon seller.


He also meets an old man named Sky Porter who has a mysterious blue umbrella and is kind to him, unlike the other figures in his life. I don't want to give away any special details and spoil this mystery, but it is an intriguing story for fantasy fiction fans.


My 10 year old son loved this story for many reasons. One, because of the boy's name being the same as his. Two, because the boy is the same age as him. Three, because of the magical elements in the story. And four, because he was drawn into this strange world of Five Corners and wanted to know what the mystery of the blue umbrella was.


If you have a tween who loves fantasy fiction, I highly recommend this book.


Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by Audra Jennings at the B&B Media Group and David C Cook Publishing.



Not Me Monday: Run Out Of Steam

10/12/09


It's that time again, when we confess to all the things we did not do this week.

I am not not feeling sleepy and a little worn out after walking two miles yesterday through downtown Annapolis. And I am not going to admit that I have run out of steam and just can't think today to come up with something creative for this post. Because I always have amazing humorous ideas and fun things to blog about!

No, not me!

What did you not do this week? Head over to MckMama's blog and join in on the fun!

FIRST Wildcard Blog Tour & Review: The Transformation by Terri Kraus #Sponsored

10/9/09
book tours, book reviews, christian fiction reviewsIt is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook (2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



christian fiction reviews, author bio, christian fiction writers
An award-winning interior designer, Terri Kraus comes to the Project Restoration series naturally, having survived the remodel, renovation, and restoration of three separate personal residences, along with those of her clients. The author/coauthor (with husband, Jim) of eleven other novels, including The Renovation and The Renewal, Terri lives in Wheaton, Illinois, with her husband and son, Elliot.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 0781448670
ISBN-13: 9780781448673

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

christian fiction reviews, book review, book reviews,
The Transformation

CHAPTER ONE


Shadyside

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Early Spring, Present Day


Oliver checked his watch. He squinted and positioned his wrist nearer to the glow of the truck’s speedometer.


5:45 a.m. Too early.


Oliver knew it was much too early to be wandering around in a strange neighborhood, but heavy Pittsburgh traffic—even the threat of heavy traffic—gave him the willies. Leaving his home later in the morning meant heavy traffic, probably normal for everyone, but not normal for Oliver. Navigating his pickup through dense packs of automobiles was far removed from Oliver’s comfort zone.


Too early.


He might risk the drive into Pittsburgh from Jeannette for a funeral or a wedding, or maybe a Steelers’ football game (if someone gave him free tickets), but not much else. Why risk life, limb, and sanity?


So today, Oliver had attempted to beat the traffic and the stress. He had gotten up at 4:30, not that much earlier than his normal get-up time, had picked up a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at the store a mile from his house, and had driven in the shimmery dark down Route 30. Traffic was light as he entered the flickering fluorescent-lit Squirrel Hill tunnel. Then, following his GPS, which he’d begun to rely on but did not always trust, he’d crept along a baffling series of residential streets until he arrived at his destination. The voice from the GPS unit seemed more chipper than he remembered in announcing his successful journey.


“Destination ahead. You have reached your destination.”


He pulled to the curb, scanning for street signs.


Cities have all sorts of laws about where you can and can’t park and when, he remembered. And I’m not about to get a ticket just giving someone a free estimate.


He looked about again, turning sideways in the seat.


I can’t just sit in the truck. That might look like I’m—what do they call it?—casing the place. I am, sort of—but not in that way.


He got out of the truck, jogged down the block, back to the front of his truck, then halfway up the block.


“No signs,” he said softly. “That’s odd. Should be some sort of parking sign.”


Oliver really disliked getting traffic tickets. He had received one speeding ticket in the last decade, but his parking violations occurred more frequently. Contractors sometimes had to double-park or park on sidewalks. He hated seeing a fluttering yellow slip, lying in wait with a bad day written all over it, snuggled under his windshield wiper.


“It must be okay to park here then,” he said out loud.


He walked slowly back towards his truck, tapped at the passenger side window, and nearly pressed his face to the glass.


“Come on, Robert. Let’s get started on the estimate.”


Robert lifted his head and shook himself awake, blinking. He had slept the entire trip. Not that the trip was that long, but he most often napped during any ride longer than ten minutes. He scrambled to his feet and stretched slowly and carefully.


Robert was Oliver’s dog. Most often Oliver and a fair number of his friends and coworkers would say “Robert the Dog” when speaking about Robert the Dog, as opposed to just “Robert,” because there were several other Roberts inhabiting Oliver’s circle of friends. No one wanted to confuse man and dog—least of all, Oliver. Oliver actually liked the sound of that three-word name and began to use “Robert the Dog” almost exclusively, except when they were alone, like this morning.


Robert the Dog clambered down from the seat to the floor of the truck and jumped out to the curb, sniffing the air, the grass, the truck, and finally, Oliver’s shoe. He might have been a pure-bred schnauzer but was the size of at least one and a half miniature schnauzers combined, though not as large as the giant variety, and his hair was mostly black. His head was almost the right schnauzer shape—not perfect to the breed, but close—so Oliver assumed a very small amount of some sort of nonschnauzer lineage had found its way into the good dog Robert.


Ever since Oliver had rescued Robert from the pound as a puppy, the two had gone everywhere and done everything together, including evaluating a new project . . . a possible new project. In construction, Oliver found, nothing was certain until the contract was signed—and even then, things could happen.


Oliver did not have to worry about Robert the Dog taking off, running into traffic, or barking at the wrong time. Robert had never done any of those things and, more than likely, would not start demonstrating inappropriate behaviors this early on a still sunless Monday in Shadyside, just on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.


Oliver looked at the address again. He had listened to the phone message carefully three times to get the return phone number, the exact name of the potential client, and the address of the potential job correct. Now he stood on South Aiken Street and looked east.


“But this is a church,” he said to Robert the Dog.


Robert simply stared at the building, sniffing the cool morning air, as if he were not really interested


“I mean . . . it’s a real church. I knew it was going to be a church, but not this kind of church.”


When Samantha Cohen had left her message five days ago, she had said her new acquisition, her latest renovation project, was a church building. She planned on transforming it, doing “wonderful things” with it. Oliver had imagined a small frame building, a church-like building that might be easily changed into a gallery or antique shop—but not a heavy, old historic church-to-the-very-rafters sort of building.


This is a real church—and will always look like a real church.


“Can you meet me Monday morning?” Miss Cohen had said, her voice deep and raspy, in a memorable, alluring, black-and-white Lauren-Bacall-movie sort of way. “I really need to talk this project through. Alice and Frank Adams, my friends in Butler, just raved about your work. Said you were brilliant with their displays and cabinets and all types of furnishings. I need brilliant. I’m willing to pay for brilliant. So Monday. Early. If you can make it. Leave me a return message. I’ll get it, even if I don’t call you back. I’m a little OC when it comes to checking messages.”


Oliver had left a return message: “Early Monday. Sevenish? I might be there before seven just to look around the outside, if that’s okay with you. I get up early.”


What he was now staring at in the early light, and what Robert was sniffing, was an historically significant church. No one could lay eyes on this building, even in the dark on a foggy night, and see anything other than a rock-solid church. This was a church with a capital C. It had massive stone arches; huge stained-glass windows that traversed the sides of the church; a rotunda that certainly must hold the altar. There was a covered entranceway (the port cochere, Oliver knew it was called) done in huge stone blocks and a high tower with a cross and carillon.


Just standing there, thinking about remodeling the old structure into something other than a place of worship, gave Oliver a case of spiritual heebie-jeebies. “This is a church,” he repeated again.


He stood, wrapped in that early morning silence that occurs even in big cities, like the soft, fragile, and short-in-duration crease in the day between the dark and its dark noises and the early morning let’s-get-the-commute-going sort of noises. Oliver wondered if he should just get back in his truck, pretend that he had never made the mistake of answering the phone message from Samantha Cohen, and move on to the next job.


I’ll be tearing apart a church. God’s house, where people have worshipped for what must be over a century.


He wanted to sigh, but did not.


My mother will die if she finds out.


Oliver wondered, for just one split of a split second, if he could keep this job secret. Not that he liked keeping secrets from his mother, but sometimes parents could not be trusted to handle sensitive news.


Or I could walk away and wait for the next job. That actually might be easier . . . safer . . . less stressful.


Except he did not have a next job. He could wait, wait for the next big nonchurch job, but there was no guarantee another one would come quickly, and in these sorts of wobbly economic times, Oliver knew he could not be picky.


And he was here; he’d already endured the traffic. He would stay. He’d do the estimate.


There’s something about this place. . . .


Now his words were softer, perhaps because of the silence. “A church . . . but, well, she did say it used to be a church.”


The holes in the stone façade were still visible where a sign had once hung.


“It’s just a building now.” He looked down at Robert the Dog. “Right, Robert? It’s not a church anymore. Right?”


Robert looked up, as if considering Oliver’s options, sniffed again, and then sneezed in a very uncanine-like manner.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Transformation by Terri Kraus. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.




My Review:

I have never really watched any home improvement shows on HGTV. I lack talent when it comes to putting things together or using any kind of tools. When I heard that this book was "dedicated to remodelers, rehabbers, and DIYers," I knew that this was outside my usual genre. However, I found that it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the story. Nor did the fact that this is the third book in the Project Restoration series.

The prologue introduced several characters which got me a little confused at first. It took me a little while to get into the story about the main characters, Oliver & Samantha. Oliver is a Christian contractor who has always done "the right thing." He is influenced by his mother who wants him to be in a relationship with "a good Christian girl." Then along comes Samantha Cohen, who is completely the opposite: she's Jewish, has a "past" and is planning on turning a historic church into a restaurant/nightclub. Then there is also Paula, Oliver's ex-girlfriend, who Oliver's mom is trying to manipulate into getting back into a relationship with Oliver.

I found the topic of interfaith relationships thought provoking. I have not read many books that tackle this issue. I was also interested in the controversy over turning a historic church into something as mundane as a restaurant/nightclub.


Overall, if you like HGTV, or even if you don't, this is a book that will grab your attention and make you think.


Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by the David C Cook Publishing Group.


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