Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell Chapter 10 The Love of a Father



First I will let the Hostess, Lelia, do the Bible Study then I will give my input to it.


Every week we gather here and discuss a chapter out of Micca Campbell's book,



I can't believe we only have 2 more chapters left to read and talk about in this book. This has been another great book for me to read and apply to my life and I have enjoyed getting to know more about Ms. Campbell. Seems like God has really blessed us with the books He has lined up for us to read. His timing is always so amazing.
CHAPTER 10: THE LOVE OF A FATHER
Anything in blue is a quote from the book.




This was yet the 10th good chapter in this book. So this is what I took from this chapter:




God's love is true and reliable, but sometimes we don't feel worthy of being loved by God. Sometimes, because of things that happened in our past, we think the Lord could never love us. Uggh! For the longest time I let my past run my life. Keeping me uninvolved with other Christian women and just staying in a pit of shame. See, if I stayed out of the picture and not let anyone get to close to me, then they wouldn't know the real me. From a distance I could portray the perfect Christian woman, but nose to nose, I knew I'd never be able to pull it off. All because I believed what Satan spoke over me versus what my Savior speaks over me. I was unworthy and I knew it. I'm still unworthy of God's love, but now I know He is worthy of my devotion.






The Bible tells us that even as children of God, we are not free from troubles. Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
I love that promise at the end...He has overcome the world. Webster's says that overcome means to defeat, make helpless or exhausted. The one who does such a good job at keeping us useless by keeping us shameful of our past has been defeated, made helpless and exhausted by Jesus Christ as soon as we believe Him to be Who He is.



Troubles in our lives don't mean that God doesn't care. During these times when we feel alone and betrayed, we must not give an ear to Satan's lies. Instead, we must trust that God is acting in love on our behalf even in dire circumstances. Even though our fears may lead us to believe otherwise, God, and what He allows into our lives, is always motivated by one thing: love.
I thought long and hard on this while thinking of Tre'von. He is the son of Charity, a 36 year old single Mom who just died from cancer this month. How does he believe that what God has allowed to happen to him and his Mom is out of love? This is where I put my own understanding aside and lean on God and trust that Tre is going to grow up to be the man that Charity wanted him to be and so much more if Tre trusts that God has His best for him. Tough to look at a parent less 15 year old and think God knows what He is doing, but I must trust instead of try to figure it out.






We can experience His love without shame or fear, knowing that troubles don't mean God doesn't care. They mean He does care. Every move God makes on our behalf is based on love. God allows the hard things in life to develop genuine faith in us so that we are able to stand when the next storm comes our way.

Experiencing the love of God is so much different than where I allowed my past to take me. The love of God is shameless and fearless and I know He cares for me.






A person who knows and believes God loves her will not live in fear. If fear is present, the person doesn't understand God's love for her.


It's true that those who remain in sin definitely have something to dread---God's judgement. On the other hand, those who seek His forgiveness always find mercy. While sin separates us from fellowship with God, it doesn't separate us from His love. We always have an open invitation into God's presence by way of honest remorse.
I loved the story of the adulteress woman Micca shared with us from John 8:1-11.
I love that God doesn't base His love for us on our performance and that no matter how ridiculous our choices are that we are welcomed back into His presence 24/7. Micca also pointed out that there will be consequences to our choices, but God's love doesn't stop because of what we choose to do outside His will. So comforting. While we may suffer the cost of our actions, god is not out to condemn us. He's out to set us free from the chains of sin that bind us. Therefore, we have nothing to fear.


No matter how far we miss the mark in living out His plan for our lives, God is never ashamed to offer us His love. He's not waiting for us to mess up so that HE can punish us. He's waiting to restore us. Therefore, we should never be frightened to stand in His presence before His throne of grace and mercy. It's there that we find peace and new beginnings. Our teenage daughter being pregnant again...twice in one year I have to admit has been very embarrassing for me. She is due with her 2nd baby on June 7th and so her belly is sticking out pretty far. This past weekend our son had a basketball tournament and when I saw her walk in, I wanted to ask her to walk underneath the bleachers instead of the full length of the basketball court as we were sitting on the opposite side of the entrance. Almost 9 months pregnant and holding a 1 year old walking in front of many people she could feel all eyes on her, but then my Mom popped up and ran to meet her mid-court and take Amiyah from her. Pure love and grace displayed in front of many people including my selfishness. God is much like that...He runs to meet us no matter what we have done when we show true repentance.




The only true place to find unconditional love an acceptance is in God. He knows our need. I remember hearing a song when I was growing up called Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places. How often women do that. Desperate for love we look in the wrong places such as bars, work, magazines, etc. If only we would look into God's Word and let Him be the love of our lives. Being secure in God's love means we no longer have to wonder, pretend, impress, or seek acceptance elsewhere. We are certain that God is pleased with us just as we are----flaws and all.






Micca also tells us that In God's love, we have nothing to fear. We don't dread someone who loves us and has our best interest at heart. Instead, we run to him.



Thank you Jesus for the oh so perfect timing of this chapter.
You are amazing!

NOw, it's my turn. The most important thing I want to say this week is that it is so incredibly Awesome that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me so much! YOu see, I did not have an earthly Father who did. NOw, he's dead so we will never be able to restore that relationship. When I became a born again believer 25 yrs ago it was so over whelming (in a good way) to learn that about God. That He can be your Father in all the good ways! Oh, that just blesses my soul! It's like my Heavenly Father just wraps me in His arms and loves me!

Until next time, Be Blessed!

Jeanie

Evolution: The Grand Experiment by Dr Carl Werner

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Evolution: The Grand Experiment

New Leaf Publishing Group (October 8, 2007)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. Carl Werner received his undergraduate degree in biology with distinction at the University of Missouri, graduating summa cum laude. He received his doctorate in medicine at the age of 23. He was the recipient of the Norman D. Jones Science Award and is both the author of Evolution: The Grand Experiment book and executive producer of Evolution: The Grand Experiment video series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $29.99
Hardcover: 262 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group (October 8, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216816
ISBN-13: 978-0892216819

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Origin of Life:

Two Opposing Views


What Are We to Believe?

How did life begin? One view is that an all-powerful God created the universe and all forms of life. Another view proposes that the universe began billions of years ago as a result of the big bang. Later, life in the form of a bacterium-like organism arose spontaneously from a mixture of chemicals. Subsequently, this single-cell organism slowly began to evolve into all modern life forms. A third view is that life evolved, but God formed the first living organism and then helped the process along.


The Origin of Life

How life came about has been the subject of debate for almost as long as mankind has existed. Did life originate as a result of the intervention by a supernatural deity? Or did life come about as a result of natural laws acting over time? Scientists continue to search for definitive answers to these questions.

The publication of Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859 was a significant catalyst in propelling man’s search for a natural understanding of past and present life. Unraveling the mystery of how life began and how life may have changed over time has been the focus of many scientists. Since Darwin’s theory first made public, scientists have collected over 200 million fossils, described the structure of DNA, and identified how genes are passed on to the next generation. These major scientific developments provide us with relevant and thought-provoking information. They lead us to pause and examine our ideas in view of today’s ever-increasing and heated debate over the history of life on earth.

The purpose of this book is to address these important scientific discoveries and present the reader with rare and remarkable facts concerning the origin of life — from spontaneous generation, through Darwin’s ideas on evolution, to the present-day understanding of mutations and natural selection


Americans Are Split on Their Beliefs.

According to a Gallup poll taken in 2006, many Americans believe that God created man in the last 10,000 years. This is surprising given the fact that scientists have been teaching evolution for more than a century.

Do most Americans not believe the theory of evolution because it is implausible? Do they not believe evolution because of their religious views? Or, do they not believe in the theory because they are unfamiliar with its concepts?


What do you think?


(chart showing many Americans surveyed don’t believe Darwin’s theory)


Do You Believe in Evolution?


CON:

“No, I don’t believe in evolution at all. I think if you just look at the facts, it’s pretty clear, it just can’t be.”


“Did we come from monkeys? I don’t know. There is evidence for it, but there is also some stuff missing, so making that leap with a missing link there, I have some problems with that.”


“From what I’ve seen and heard, we have not evolved from apes for the simple fact that apes are still around. I mean, if we evolved from them, why are they still here?”


PRO:

“Yes, I do believe in the theory of evolution because I think that we had to come from some place and you know from ape to man to what we are today. I definitely believe in evolution.”


“I think it’s a very sad thing that we’re getting religious views mixed up with governmental involvement with education. I think it’s a sad comment on how people are trying to fix what they see as social problems in today’s world by falling back on religious dogma.”


Evolution: Scientists Can’t Agree

Ever since Darwin’s time there have been scientists who strongly disagree with the theory of evolution. But since the middle of the twentieth century, there have been a growing number of scientists who reject the theory of evolution based on the discovery of processes and structures of which Darwin was unaware. These scientists cite multiple “lines of evidence” that evolution did not occur, including gaps in the fossil record, problems with the big bang theory, the amazing complexity of even the simplest organisms, and the inability of scientist to explain the origin of life using natural laws.

Scientists who support evolution state that the evidence for the theory is clear and overwhelming. They offer observations of natural selection in action, the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, the evolution of man from apes, as some of the most convincing proofs for evolution.


Con: “Life could not have created itself. Theories on the origin of life, that is the evolutionary origin of life, are modern-day fantasies; they are fairy tales.” – Dr. Duane Gish, Biochemist, Institute for Creation Research.


Pro: “You really have to be blind or three days dead not to see the transitions among these. You have to not want to see it.” – Dr. Kevin Padian, Paleontologist, University of California, Berkeley.


Evolution and Education

Recent Gallup polls reveal that the majority of Americans want both evolution and creationism taught in public schools. This is somewhat surprising given the fact that the majority of scientists believe in evolution and dismiss supernatural creation theories as myths.

There are different reasons parents want both theories taught to their children. Some refer to a sense of fairness. They want their children to learn both sides of the issue and then decide for themselves.

The problem of how to teach students such a controversial topic is challenging for educators. Some fear that teaching two opposing theories would confuse the students while some believe this approach would encourage students to think critically and openly about the world around them. Others believe that creation is a religious idea and should not be taught in government schools.


(Poll asking, “Do you think creationism should be taught in public school science classes?” 54%, yes; 22% no; 24% unsure)


What Should Be Taught?

“I believe it is good for students to get a balance of both sides so that they can make up their minds for themselves without being forced into one way or another. I know that if I went to school and they taught all evolution, that I would feel somehow a little gypped.”

“I do feel that everyone is capable of making their own decisions, and I think that students, even at a young age, should be respected enough to be given various kinds of information, various amounts of information, and let to make their own decisions.?

“I really don’t have a problem with evolution being taught in the schools just so long as all the information is given and it is shown that it is not quite fact. And it needs to be very scientific in its presentation as far as listing its faults and its strengths. I think that science that only lists strengths, and not weaknesses, in not science at all.”


Friday, May 29, 2009

Book/Bible Study Contest An UnTroubled Heart by Micca Campbell


I have a contest going on right now for this Awesome book.
See the contest rules on the top right corner.
YOu don't want to miss out on this! It will truly Bless you!
I am doing this study right now. IN fact, you can scroll down and find chapters of this book that I have done (I'm doing an online Bible Study).

Be Blessed!
Jeanie

Who Made You Princess (all about us #4) by Shelley Adina

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Who Made You A Princess? (All About Us Series, Book 4)

FaithWords (May 13, 2009)



Plus a Tiffany's Bracelet Giveaway! Go to Camy Tang's Blog and leave a comment on her FIRST Wild Card Tour for Be Strong and Curvaceous, and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet that looks similar to the picture below.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith—with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.

Visit her book site and her website.


It's All About Us is Book One in the All About Us Series. Book Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick came out in August 2008. Book Three, Be Strong & Curvaceous, came out January 2, 2009. And Book Four, Who Made You a Princess?, came out May 13, 2009.


Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (May 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446179620
ISBN-13: 978-0446179621

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


NOTHING SAYS “ALONE” like a wide, sandy beach on the western edge of the continent, with the sun going down in a smear of red and orange. Girlfriends, I am the go-to girl for alone. Or at least, that’s what I used to think. Not anymore, though, because nothing says “alive” like a fire snapping and hissing at your feet, and half a dozen of your BFFs laughing and talking around you.

Like the T-shirt says, life is good.

My name’s Shani Amira Marjorie Hanna, and up until I started going to Spencer Academy in my freshman year, all I wanted to do was get in, scoop as many A’s as I could, and get out. College, yeah. Adulthood. Being the boss of me. Social life? Who cared? I’d treat it the way I’d done in middle school, making my own way and watching people brush by me, all disappearing into good-bye like they were flowing down a river.

Then when I was a junior, I met the girls, and things started to change whether I wanted them to or not. Or maybe it was just me. Doing the changing, I mean.

Now we were all seniors and I was beginning to see that all this “I am an island” stuff was just a bunch of smoke. ’Cuz I was not like the Channel Islands, sitting out there on the hazy horizon. I was so done with all that.

Lissa Mansfield sat on the other side of the fire from me while this adorable Jared Padalecki look-alike named Kaz Griffin sat next to her trying to act like the best friend she thought he was. Lissa needs a smack upside the head, you want my opinion. Either that or someone needs to make a serious play for Kaz to wake her up. But it’s not going to be me. I’ve got cuter fish to fry. Heh. More about that later.

“I can’t believe this is the last weekend of summer vacation,” Carly Aragon moaned for about the fifth time since Kaz lit the fire and we all got comfortable in the sand around it. “It’s gone so fast.”

“That’s because you’ve only been here a week.” I handed her the bag of tortilla chips. “What about me? I’ve been here for a month and I still can’t believe we have to go up to San Francisco on Tuesday.”

“I’m so jealous.” Carly bumped me with her shoulder. “A whole month at Casa Mansfield with your own private beach and everything.” She dipped a handful of chips in a big plastic container of salsa she’d made that morning with fresh tomatoes and cilantro and little bits of—get this—cantaloupe. She made one the other day with carrots in it. I don't know how she comes up with this stuff, but it’s all good. We had a cooler full of food to munch on. No burnt weenies for this crowd. Uh-uh. What we can’t order delivered, Carly can make.

“And to think I could have gone back to Chicago and spent the whole summer throwing parties and trashing the McMansion.” I sighed with regret. “Instead, I had to put up with a month in the Hamptons with the Changs, and then a month out here fighting Lissa for her bathroom.”

“Hey, you could have used one of the other ones,” Lissa protested, trying to keep Kaz from snagging the rest of her turkey-avocado-and-alfalfa-sprouts sandwich.

I grinned at her. Who wanted to walk down the hot sandstone patio to one of the other bathrooms when she, Carly, and I had this beautiful Spanish terrazzo-looking wing of the house to ourselves? Carly and I were in Lissa’s sister’s old room, which looked out on this garden with a fountain and big ferns and grasses and flowering trees. And beyond that was the ocean. It was the kind of place you didn’t want to leave, even to go to the bathroom.

I contrasted it with the freezing wind off Lake Michigan in the winter and the long empty hallways of the seven-million-dollar McMansion on Lake Road, where I always felt like a guest. You know—like you’re welcome but the hosts don’t really know what to do with you. I mean, my mom has told me point-blank, with a kind of embarrassed little laugh, that she can’t imagine what happened. The Pill and her careful preventive measures couldn’t all have failed on the same night.

Organic waste happens. Whatever. The point is, I arrived seventeen years ago and they had to adjust.

I think they love me. My dad always reads my report cards, and he used to take me to blues clubs to listen to the musicians doing sound checks before the doors opened. That was before my mom found out. Then I had to wait until I was twelve, and we went to the early shows, which were never as good as the late ones I snuck into whenever my parents went on one of their trips.

They travel a lot. Dad owns this massive petroleum exploration company, and when she’s not chairing charity boards and organizing fund-raisers, Mom goes with him everywhere, from Alaska to New Zealand. I saw a lot of great shows with whichever member of the staff I could bribe to take me and swear I was sixteen. Keb’ Mo, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Roomful of Blues—I saw them all.

A G-minor chord rippled out over the crackle of the fire, and I smiled a slow smile. My second favorite sound in the world (right after the sound of M&Ms pouring into a dish). On my left, Danyel had pulled out his guitar and tuned it while I was lost in la-la land, listening to the waves come in.

Lissa says there are some things you just know. And somehow, I just knew that I was going to be more to Danyel Johnstone than merely a friend of his friend Kaz’s friend Lissa, if you hear what I’m saying. I was done with being alone, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t stand out from the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this crowd. Carly especially—she’s like the sister I would have designed my own self. And Lissa, too, though sometimes I wonder if she can be real. I mean, how can you be blond and tall and rich and wear clothes the way she does, and still be so nice? There has to be a flaw in there somewhere, but if she’s got any, she keeps them under wraps.

Gillian, who we’d see in a couple of days, has really grown on me. I couldn’t stand her at first—she’s one of those people you can’t help but notice. I only hung around her because Carly liked her. But somewhere between her going out with this loser brain trust and then her hooking up with Jeremy Clay, who’s a friend of mine, I got to know her. And staying with her family last Christmas, which could have been massively awkward, was actually fun. The last month in the Hamptons with them was a total blast. The only good thing about leaving was knowing I was going to see the rest of the crew here in Santa Barbara.

The one person I still wasn’t sure about was Mac, aka Lady Lindsay MacPhail, who did an exchange term at school in the spring. Getting to know her is like besieging a castle—which is totally appropriate considering she lives in one. She and Carly are tight, and we all e-mailed and IM-ed like fiends all summer, but I’m still not sure. I mean, she has a lot to deal with right now, with her family and everything. And the likelihood of us seeing each other again is kind of low, so maybe I don’t have to make up my mind about her. Maybe I’ll just let her go the way I let the kids in middle school go.

Danyel began to get serious about bending his notes instead of fingerpicking, and I knew he was about to sing. Oh, man, could the night get any more perfect? Even though we’d probably burn the handmade marshmallows from Williams-Sonoma, tonight capped a summer that had been the best time I’d ever had.

The only thing that would make it perfect would be finding some way to be alone with that man. I hadn’t been here more than a day when Danyel and Kaz had come loping down the beach. I’d taken one look at those eyes and those cheekbones and, okay, a very cut set of abs, and decided here was someone I wanted to know a whole lot better. And I did, now, after a couple of weeks. But soon we’d go off to S. F., and he and Kaz would go back to Pacific High. When we pulled out in Gabe Mansfield’s SUV, I wanted there to be something more between us than an air kiss and a handshake, you know what I mean?

I wanted something to be settled. Neither of us had talked about it, but both of us knew it was there. Unspoken longing is all very well in poetry, but I’m the outspoken type. I like things out there where I can touch them.

In a manner of speaking.

Danyel sat between Kaz and me, cross-legged and bare-chested, looking as comfortable in his surf jams as if he lived in them. Come to think of it, he did live in them. His, Kaz’s, and Lissa’s boards were stuck in the sand behind us. They’d spent most of the afternoon out there on the waves. I tried to keep my eyes on the fire. Not that I didn’t appreciate the view next to me, because trust me, it was fine, but I know a man wants to be appreciated for his talents and his mind.

Danyel’s melody sounded familiar—something Gillian played while we waited for our prayer circles at school to start. Which reminded me . . . I nudged Carly. “You guys going to church tomorrow?”

She nodded and lifted her chin at Lissa to get her attention. “Girl wants to know if we’re going to church.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Lissa said. “Kaz and his family, too. Last chance of the summer to all go together.”

And where Kaz went, Danyel went. Happy thought.

“You’re not going to bail, are you?” Carly’s brows rose a little.

It’s not like I’m anti-religion or anything. I’m just in the beginning stages of learning about it. Without my friends to tell me stuff, I’d be bumbling around on my own, trying to figure it out. My parents don’t go to church, so I didn’t catch the habit from them. But when she was alive and I was a little girl, my grandma used to take me to the one in her neighborhood across town. I thought it was an adventure, riding the bus instead of being driven in the BMW. And the gospel choir was like nothing I’d ever seen, all waving their arms in the air and singing to raise the roof. I always thought they were trying to deafen God, if they could just get up enough volume.

So I like the music part. Always have. And I’m beginning to see the light on the God part, after what happened last spring. But seeing a glimmer and knowing what to do about it are two different things.

“Of course not.” I gave Carly a look. “We all go together. And we walk, in case no one told you, so plan your shoes carefully.”

“Oh, I will.” She sat back on her hands, an “I so see right through you” smile turning up the corners of her mouth. “And it’s all about the worship, I know.” That smile told me she knew exactly what my motivation was. Part of it, at least. Hey, can you blame me?

The music changed and Danyel’s voice lifted into a lonely blues melody, pouring over Carly’s words like cream. I just melted right there on the spot. Man, could that boy sing.


Blue water, blue sky

Blue day, girl, do you think that I

Don’t see you, yeah I do.

Long sunset, long road,

Long life, girl, but I think you know

What I need, yeah, you do.


I do a little singing my own self, so I know talent when I hear it. And I’d have bet you that month’s allowance that Danyel had composed that one. He segued into the chorus and then the bridge, its rhythms straight out of Mississippi but the tune something new, something that fit the sadness and the hope of the words.

Wait a minute.

Blue day? Long sunset? Long road? As in, a long road to San Francisco?

Whoa. Could Danyel be trying to tell someone something? “You think that I don’t see you”? Well, if that didn’t describe me, I didn’t know what would. Ohmigosh.

Could he be trying to tell me his feelings with a song? Musicians were like that. They couldn’t tell a person something to her face, or they were too shy, or it was just too hard to get out, so they poured it into their music. For them, maybe it was easier to perform something than to get personal with it.

Be cool, girl. Let him finish. Then find a way to tell him you understand—and you want it, too.

The last of the notes blew away on the breeze, and a big comber smashed itself on the sand, making a sound like a kettledrum to finish off the song. I clapped, and the others joined in.

“Did you write that yourself?” Lissa removed a marshmallow from her stick and passed it to him. “It was great.”

Danyel shrugged one shoulder. “Tune’s been bugging me for a while and the words just came to me. You know, like an IM or something.”

Carly laughed, and Kaz’s forehead wrinkled for a second in a frown before he did, too.

I love modesty in a man. With that kind of talent, you couldn’t blame Danyel for thinking he was all that.

Should I say something? The breath backed up in my chest. Say it. You’ll lose the moment. “So who’s it about?” I blurted, then felt myself blush.

“Can’t tell.” His head was bent as he picked a handful of notes and turned them into a little melody. “Some girl, probably.”

“Some girl who’s leaving?” I said, trying for a teasing tone. “Is that a good-bye?”

“Could be.”

I wished I had the guts to come out and ask if he’d written the song for me—for us—but I just couldn’t. Not with everyone sitting there. With one look at Carly, whose eyes held a distinct “What’s up with you?” expression, I lost my nerve and shut up. Which, as any of the girls could tell you, doesn’t happen very often.

Danyel launched into another song—some praise thing that everyone knew but me. And then another, and then a cheesy old John Denver number that at least I knew the words to, and then a bunch of goofy songs half of us had learned at camp when we were kids. And then it was nearly midnight, and Kaz got up and stretched.

He’s a tall guy. He stretches a long way. “I’m running the mixer for the early service tomorrow, so I’ve got to go.”

Danyel got up, and I just stopped my silly self from saying, “No, not yet.” Instead, I watched him sling the guitar over one shoulder and yank his board out of the sand. “Are you going to early service, too?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said, sounding a little surprised. “I’m in the band, remember?”

Argh! As if I didn’t know. As if I hadn’t sat there three Sundays in a row, watching his hands move on the frets and the light make shadows under his cheekbones.

“I just meant—I see you at the late one when we go. I didn’t know you went to both.” Stutter, bumble. Oh, just stop talking, girl. You’ve been perfectly comfortable talking to him so far. What’s the matter?

“I don’t, usually. But tomorrow they’re doing full band at early service, too. Last one before all the turistas go home. Next week we’ll be back to normal.” He smiled at me. “See you then.”

Was he looking forward to seeing me, or was he just being nice? “I hope so,” I managed.

“Kaz, you coming?”

Kaz bent to the fire and ran a stick through the coals, separating them. “Just let me put this out. Lissa, where’s the bucket?”

“Here.” While I’d been obsessing over Danyel, Lissa had run down to the waterline and filled a gallon pail. You could tell they’d done this about a million times. She poured the water on the fire and it blew a cloud of steam into the air. The orange coals gave it up with a hiss.

I looked up to say something to Danyel about it and saw that he was already fifty feet away, board under his arm like it weighed nothing, heading down the beach to the public lot where he usually parked his Jeep.

I stared down into the coals, wet and dying.

I couldn’t let the night go out like this.

“Danyel, wait!” The sand polished the soles of my bare feet better than the pumice bar at the salon as I ran to catch up with him. A fast glance behind me told me Lissa had stepped up and begun talking to Kaz, giving me a few seconds alone.

I owed her, big time.

“What’s up, ma?” He planted the board and set the guitar case down. “Forget something?”

“Yes,” I blurted. “I forgot to tell you that I think you’re amazing.”

He blinked. “Whoa.” The barest hint of a smile tickled the corners of his lips.

I might not get another chance as good as this one. I rushed on, the words crowding my mouth in their hurry to get out. “I know there’s something going on here and we’re all leaving on Tuesday and I need to know if you—if you feel the same way.”

“About . . . ?”

“About me. As I feel about you.”

He put both hands on his hips and gazed down at the sand. “Oh.”

Cold engulfed me, as if I’d just plunged face-first into the dark waves twenty feet away. “Oh,” I echoed. “Never mind. I guess I got it wrong.” I stepped back. “Forget about it. No harm done.”

“No, Shani, wait—”

But I didn’t want to hear the “we can still be friends” speech. I didn’t want to hear anything except the wind in my ears as I ran back to the safety of my friends.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

City of the Dead by T.L. Higley (Seven Wonders Series)

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


City of the Dead (Seven Wonders Series)

B&H Books (March 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



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


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447318
ISBN-13: 978-0805447316



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hemi, you must let me go.”

Some nights in my dreams I am a better man.

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

I pull her into my kiss.

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

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

She runs. What else could she do?

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

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

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

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

“Merit, it is not safe!”

Anger dissolves into concern. I cannot find her.

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

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

It is not Merit.

It is Amunet.

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

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

Relief that it is not Merit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The past is gone. There is only the future.

And I have a pyramid to build.




1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I masked my faintness with my anger and spun away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The animosity in his voice stiffened my shoulders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did he give a reason?”

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lucy's Perfect summer by Nancy Rue (A Lucy Novel)

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Lucy's Perfect Summer (A Lucy Novel)

Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Nancy Rue has written over 100 books for girls, is the editor of the FaithGirlz Bible, and is a popular speaker and radio guest with her expertise in tween issues. She and husband Jim have raised a daughter of their own and now live in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $7.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714524
ISBN-13: 978-0310714521

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Why My Life Is Just About Perfect

School is out for the summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lucy would have made more exclamation points, but Lollipop, her pot-bellied kitty, was watching from the windowsill above the bed, her black head bobbing with each stroke and dot. She’d be pouncing in a second.

Lucy protected the Book of Lists with her other arm and wrote…

2. Aunt Karen is taking her vacation to some island so she won’t be coming HERE for a while. YES!!

3. We have a soccer game in two weeks, thanks to Coach Auggy. A for-REAL game, with a whole other team, not just our team split up, which is always lame since we only have 8 players to begin with. I cannot WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lollipop twitched an ear.

“Forget about it,” Lucy said to her. She’d only just discovered the joy of making exclamation points from Veronica. Veronica was a girly-girl, but she did have her good points. Lucy snickered. “Good points, Lolli. Get it?”

Lollipop apparently did not, or else she didn’t care. She tucked her paws under her on the tile sill and blinked her eyes into a nap. Lucy slipped a few more exclamation marks in before she continued.

I get to hang out with J.J. and Dusty and Veronica and Mora any time I want, not just at lunch or soccer practice or church. Okay, so I already got to hang out with them a lot before summer, but now it’s like ANY time, and that’s perfect. Except we’re still stuck with Januarie. If she weren’t J.J.’s little sister we could just ditch her, but she needs a good influence. We’re a good influence. Well, maybe not Mora so much.
Lucy glanced at her bedroom door to make sure it was all the way shut. The Book of Lists was private and everybody else in the house—Dad and Inez the housekeeper nanny and her granddaughter Mora—knew to keep their noses out of it. Still, she always had to decide whether it was worth risking discovery to write down what she really, really thought.

“What do you say about it, Lolli?” she said.

There was an answering purr, though Lucy was pretty sure that was more about Lollipop dreaming of getting the other three cats’ food before they did than it was about agreeing with her. She went for it anyway.

Januarie still thinks Mora is the next best thing to Hannah Montana. Even though Mora got her in way a lot of trouble not that long ago she would probably give a whole bag of gummy bears just to have Mora paint her toenails. And that’s saying a lot. Januarie loves gummy bears. And Snickers bars. And those chocolate soccer balls Claudia sells down at the candy and flower shop. Which reminds me—

5. We can go buy candy in the middle of the day, or have breakfast at Pasco’s cafĂ© or take picnics to OUR soccer field, because, guess what? It’s SUMMER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Something black whipped across the page, and Lucy’s pen flew into space, landing with a smack against the blue-and-yellow toy chest. Knocking down the ruler Lucy always kept there to hold it open, in case Lollipop needed to jump in and hide, the lid slapped shut, and Lolli sprang into an upside down-U before she leaped after it and skidded across the top with her claws bared. She glared indignantly at Lucy.

“You did it, Simplehead,” Lucy said. “Wait! I’ll open it for you.” But before she could even scramble off the bed, Lolli dove under it. A squalling fight ensued with Artemis Hamm, who had obviously been sleeping beneath the mattress.

“Break it up, you two!” Lucy said. But she didn’t dare stick her hand under there. One of them would eventually come out with a mouth full of the other one’s fur and it would be over.

“What’s going on in there?” said a voice on the other side of the door.

Lucy stuck the Book of Lists under her pillow. It was Dad, who couldn’t see anyway, but she always felt better having her secrets well hidden when other people were in the room.

“Come on in—if you dare,” Lucy said.

She heard Dad’s sandpapery chuckle before he stuck his face in. She cocked her head at him, her ponytail sliding over her ear. “What happened to your hair?”

He ran a hand over salt-and-pepper fuzz as he edged into the room. “I just got my summer ‘doo down at the Casa Bonita. Is it that bad?”

“No. It’s actually kinda cool.”

“What do I look like?”

“Like—did you ever see one of those movies about the Navy SEAL team? You know…before?”

“Yeah.”

“You look like one of those guys.”

“Is that good?”

“That’s way good.”

Dad smiled the smile that made a room fill up with sunlight. She could have told him he looked like a rock star and he wouldn’t have known whether she was telling the truth or not. But she liked for the smiles to be real, and she did think her dad was handsome. Even with eyes that sometimes darted around like they didn’t know where to land.

He made his way to the rocking chair and eased into it. It would be hard for anybody who didn’t know to tell he was blind when he moved around in their house, as long as Lucy kept things exactly where they were supposed to be. She leaned over and picked up her soccer ball, just escaping a black-and-brown paw that shot from the hem of the bedspread.

“Keep your fight to yourselves,” Lucy said.

“What’s that about?”

“Exclamation points! It’s a long story.”

“Do I want to hear it?”

“No,” Lucy said. Not only because she didn’t want to tell it, but because she could see in the sharp way Dad’s chin looked that he hadn’t come in just to chat about cat fights. She hugged her soccer ball.

“Okay, what?” she said. “Is something wrong? Something’s wrong, huh?”

“Did I say that?”

“Aunt Karen’s coming, isn’t she? Man! I thought she was going out in the ocean someplace and we were going to have a peaceful summer.” She dumped the ball on the floor on the other side of the bed.

Dad’s smile flickered back in. “What makes you think I was going to talk about Aunt Karen?”

“Because she’s, like, almost always the reason you look all serious and heavy.”

“You get to be more like your mother every day, Champ. You read me like a book.”

“Then I’m right.” There went her perfect summer. She was going to have to redo that list.

“But you’re in the wrong chapter this time,” Dad said. “I’m serious, but it isn’t about Aunt Karen. Last I heard, she was headed for St. Thomas.”

“He’s going to need to be a saint to put up with her.”

Dad chuckled. “St. Thomas is an island, Luc’.”

“Oh.” She was doing better in school now that Coach Auggy was her teacher, but they hadn’t done that much geography this year.

“I just want to put this out there before Inez gets here.”

His voice was somber again, but Lucy relaxed against her pillows. If this wasn’t about Aunt Karen coming here wanting to take Lucy home with her for the summer, how bad could it be?

“So, you know Inez will be coming for all day, five days a week.”

“Right and that’s cool. We get along good now.” Lucy felt generous. “I don’t even mind Mora that much any more.”

“Good, because I’ve asked her if she’d be okay with Mr. Auggy also coming in to do a little home-schooling with you.”

Lucy shot up like one of her own freaked-out kitties.

“School?” she said. “In the summer?”

Dad winced like her voice was hurting his ears. “Just for a few hours a day, and not on Fridays.”

“Dad, hello! This is summer time. I have a TON of work to do to get ready for the soccer games if I want anybody from the Olympic Development Program to even look at me. School work?” She hit her forehead with the heel of her hand. “Why?”

“You’ve improved a hundred per cent since Mr. Auggy started teaching your class—”

“Yeah, so why are you punishing me by making me do more work? I don’t get it.”

She wished she could make exclamation points with her voice.

“You’ll get it if you let me finish.”

Dad’s voice had no punctuation marks at all, except a period, which meant, ‘Hush up before you get yourself in trouble.’ Lucy gnawed at her lower lip. She was glad for once that he couldn’t see the look on her face.

“You ended the school year in good shape, but Champ, you were behind before that. That means you’re still going to start middle school a few steps back.”

“I’ll catch up, Dad, I promise! I’ll study, like, ten hours a day when school starts again and I’ll do all my homework.”

Dad closed his eyes and got still. That meant he was waiting for her to be done so he could go on with what he was going to say as if she hadn’t said a word. She was in pointless territory. It made her want to crawl under the bed and start up the cat fight again. It seemed to work for them when they were frustrated.

“Your middle school teachers are going to expect your skills to be seventh-grade level,” Dad said. “Right now, Mr. Auggy says they’re about mid-sixth, which is great considering what they were in January.”

If she had been Mora, she would have been rolling her eyes by now. What was the point in telling her how wonderful she was when she was going to have to do what she didn’t want to do anyway?

“So here’s the deal,” Dad said.

Lucy sighed. “It’s only a deal if both people agree to it, Dad.”

“You haven’t even heard it yet.”

She stifled a “whatever,” which was sure to get her grounded for a least a week of her already dwindling summer.

“You’ll work with Mr. Auggy until you get your reading up to seventh-grade level. That could take all summer, or it could take a couple of weeks. That’s up to you.”

Lucy looked at him sharply. “What if I get it there in three days?”

“Then you’re done. We’ll check it periodically, of course, to make sure it stays there.”

“It will,” Lucy said. But she hoped her outside voice sounded more sure than the one that was screaming inside her brain: You can’t do this! What are you thinking?

There weren’t enough exclamation points in the world to end that sentence.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beyond Corista by Robert Elmer (The Shadowside Trilogy)

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Beyond Corista (The Shadowside Trilogy)

Zondervan (May 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Robert Elmer is the author of more than forty novels for young readers. He is a full-time writer, living in Idaho with his wife, Ronda. They are the parents of three young adults.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714230
ISBN-13: 978-0310714231

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Because you are the last asylum, spread the light so they will hear beyond Corista—even where the Trion is but a faint glimmer in the night sky.

~ Codex 101:3

Chapter 1


“They’re right on our tail!” announced Margus.

His announcement roused Oriannon Hightower of Nyssa from her fitful nap. Who could sleep in a tinny little transport shuttle, anyway? Especially not when it was taking her farther and farther away from the only world she had ever known.

“Who?” As she slipped up behind her friend in the co-pilot’s seat she did her best to keep her voice down, tried to let her Owling friend Wist sleep the hours away. Perhaps dreams—and a little time—would help smooth the jagged raw edges of the nightmare they’d just been through.

“There, see?” Margus pointed at his long-range scanner. But at first Oriannon couldn’t make out anything unusual. Just a swirling green globe of energy with them in the middle, turned this way and that to give a three-dimensional view of this parcel of space, now distant from the planet Corista, and yet still far distant from the Asylum waystation to which they were bound. Nothing unusual? Oriannon shook her head.

“I still don’t see anything,” she told him, and for a moment he paused. A red warning light blinked, then went out.

“Hmm. I thought for sure I saw something.” He bent closer, fiddled with the scale, and brought it in closer. In and out. Still nothing.

“Well, let me know,” she told him. “But don’t wake everybody else up.”

It would not help to disturb her father, not if he was going to recover from the beating he’d suffered back at the death camp. He had to rest, as well, and not be wakened by every random announcement from Margus Leek who, from the front of the shuttle, pretended he knew how to pilot this craft through space.

An hour ago: “Look, Oriannon, there’s Corista, disappearing behind us.” And had she ever seen their planet from that far away?

No, of course she hadn’t. Margus knew that without asking.

Thirty minutes ago: “Hey, Ori, remember that field of solar reflectors that almost fried us when we flew through it by accident? There it is!”

Yes, she remembered, though she wished she didn’t.

And then fifteen minutes ago: “Well, looks like we’re home-free, now, Ori. It’s been three hours and no Security ships have come after us so far.”

So far? First of all, she’d told him, ‘so far’ wasn’t exactly a huge encouragement, in their situation. And second of all, “home-free” was not the kind of expression she would have used, unless by that he meant that they were free of their home, and that didn’t sound very good at all. In fact it sounded as if he was saying they were homeless, which they technically were, since escaping from Corista.

But who wanted to be reminded of that fact? Sometimes she wished she could act as cool as Margus did, even when everything looked completely and absolutely terminal.

Besides that, Oriannon could think of no one she wanted less with them on this crazy voyage than Sola Minnik, former security advisor to the Ruling Elders of Corista, former dictator. The fiery woman who had deceived and then nearly killed her father and all the other six Elders. Well, in fact, had any of the others survived?

But the same woman now sat on the cold stainless floor in the corner of the shuttle’s main crew chambers, her face tucked between her knees, her shoulders stooped and defeated, alternately sleeping, shivering and (Oriannon thought) crying.

Oh, she was probably sorry, all right. Sorry they had caught up with her and destroyed the death camp, where hundreds and thousands of the Owling people had been imprisoned. After all the work she and her Security forces had put into setting it up, Sola would naturally be very sorry about that. At this point maybe she’d also be sorry they’d saved her life by pulling her up off the shuttle landing ramp at the last minute, while they were taking off from the chaos of the camp, with probes blowing up all around them. Certainly she would be very sorry the flash bomb had exploded in her face, blinding her.

Blind or not, though. Sola could apparently still cry. And now over the background hum of the shuttle Oriannon heard a soft sobbing from the once-powerful leader.

Strange how things had worked out. But now an insistent buzzer drew Oriannon’s attention back to the shuttle’s controls.

“There it is again! See it, this time?” Margus rested his finger at a tiny yellow blip on the screen, and she might not have noticed had he not pointed it out. But yes, there it was—something, or a couple of somethings. Margus tapped another button to increase magnification, and again. This time there was no mistaking.

“Three of them?” she whispered, looking over her shoulder to be sure no one else heard—especially not Sola.

“At least four.” Margus shook his head gravely as he focused in on the blips, still thousands of kilometers away but growing larger ever second. He tapped his finger on a navigation touch screen and spoke into a small microphone mounted in front of him, below the view window.

“Identify.”

The screen blinked twice before the unwelcome answer came back at them in the familiar metallic female voice.

“Corista Security cruisers, four, class CS-x, third revision, configured to—”

“That’s enough,” said Margus. They could skip the technical description, already. It was enough to know who was chasing them, and that it wasn’t just some phantom of Margus’s imagination. “Specify time until interception.”

The voice command would understand exactly what he meant, just as clearly as Oriannon understood. In an instant, everything had changed. So how long did they have before this escape was all over, before they were recaptured and dragged back to Corista, to be executed as rebels?

How long before her father would be taken away and killed for what he had tried to do, as well?

Of course the metallic voice couldn’t say “I’m sorry, kids” or “I wish I could help,” nor did she want it to. She just wished someone could have said it. Margus repeated his question, tapped impatiently on the command touch screen.

“At present speed,” reported the nav system’s voice, “zero hours, thirty-one minutes, thirty-seven seconds.”

Margus looked at her with a question in his eyes—a question she knew she could not answer.

“What do we do, Ori?”

Oriannon’s heart fell to the faintly humming floor, where the constant thrum of ion boosters told her they were likely pushing along as fast as the little vessel would go. She looked over to where Margus had set the faintly glowing Pilot Stone, black and polished and guiding them—or so she had thought—toward a safe haven.

Now?

She reached over to touch it, felt its warmth flowing up her hand and arm, flooding her entire body with the far-off songs of another place and another time. Jesmet’s songs, from ancient times.

But not just the songs. When she touched it she felt its overwhelming sense of direction, almost a physical thing, as if she could know without a doubt the right direction to travel, like a spiritual GPS. She might have a hard time explaining the stone’s power, but there was no mistaking its pull. And despite the raw fear that had popped up on the nav screens, despite what she saw with her eyes and understood with her mind of the approaching mortal danger, she smiled.

At a time like this, she smiled.

“We keep going,” she finally answered, reluctant to let go of the Stone. But she had to go check on her father and Wist, especially her father. Because while Tavlin Hightower rested in the back room, she could not actually be sure he would wake. With one last sigh she turned away—only to come face-to-face with Sola Minnik.

“Oh!” Oriannon caught her breath in fright, still not used to seeing what Sola had become. The young woman’s eyebrows and eyelashes had been singed completely away, while her once full head of red hair had been reduced to ugly, twisted wisps here and there. In an instant she had gone from someone who had always prided herself on her well-kept good looks to a snarling, helpless apparition.

Worse yet, her face looked as if someone had blackened it with a blowtorch, while angry red blisters rose across her nose and cheekbones, framing sightless eyes still wet with rheumy, coagulated tears.

Of course, considering the flash bomb that had blown up in her face, perhaps she had escaped with comparatively minor injuries. It could have been worse. Before Oriannon could duck to the side, though, Sola blindly reached out and grabbed Oriannon by the collar of her blouse.

“I heard what’s going on over here!” hissed Sola. “They’re coming for me, aren’t they?”

“Zero hours, thirty minutes,” came the voice of the nav screen. “And—“

“Cancel!” Margus jabbed at the screen, but too late to change what it had already told them. Sola straightened out with a smile before she found Oriannon’s cheek with one hand and patted her roughly.

“That’s all I needed to know.” Her jaw tightened and her voice hardened. “So do you know what’s going to happen to you in two hours and thirty minutes? Do you know what’s going to happen to all of you?”

Oriannon tried to wriggle away but the injured woman’s grip tightened now on her shoulder, sharp claws digging through the fabric of Oriannon’s blouse and into the thin skin of her neck. The strength of Sola’s hands made her cringe, and she would have cried out in pain, but could not. Even so, Oriannon would not be drawn into the pit of Sola’s vengeance—not any more, and not the way she had once been.

“You should let us help you,” Oriannon finally managed. “At least let us put something on those sores.”

But that only set the woman off even more, and she shook her head violently.

“No, no, no! Just a few minutes, and it won’t matter for you, any more. And if you try to resist, or even think of holding me captive, I’ll have them destroy the entire ship.” She paused, then released her grip with a savage flip of her wrist. In the process her fingernail scratched Oriannon’s cheek, drawing blood. Sola Minnik, though, only laughed.

“You think I wouldn’t do that? Hmm, well maybe I don’t care, any more. Maybe everything’s changed, now. Maybe you’d like to find out how much it’s changed?”

Oriannon looked over to see Margus standing beside her, his fists clenched. He might have done something stupid, too, if she hadn’t held him back with a wordless shake of her head.

No, Margus. She mouthed the words. Sola stood off a step or two, a wicked smile playing at her lips.

“Go ahead, Mr. Leek.” She taunted him as if she could see his face turning red and his eyes widening with fury. Perhaps she could smell his anger. “Let’s see how much damage you can do to a poor old blind lady. You only have what, twenty-eight minutes, now? Let’s see how brave you are!”

She waited a moment for effect, then laughed again as she would have done when she was still in control of their home world. They watched as she turned slowly and held her hands out in front of her as she returned to her spot in the corner. With an almost uncanny instinct she found her way to the exact spot where she had been sitting just minutes before, crying. As she lowered herself back to the floor she smiled and muttered that this was “much better, now.”

Perhaps it was, with four Security vessels on a course to overtake them in…

“Zero hours, twenty-seven minutes.”

Margus couldn’t seem to shut off that horribly annoying voice, though he punched button after button on the touch screen. And now with Sola listening Oriannon no longer felt free to speak, so she glanced at the Pilot Stone and hoped Margus would understand.

“We stay on this course,” she whispered. “Right?”

Now Margus didn’t look so sure, as he frowned and shook his head.

“Look, that’s all very good and everything.” He focused on the 3-d display showing specks of Coristan Security vessels growing larger and larger. “But if I don’t figure out a away to take it to manual, we’re never going to escape. It may already be too late.”

“That’s right, Mr. Leek.” Sola called out from her spot on the floor. “It’s already too late. Why don’t you just leave it on your nice autopilot, there, and enjoy what little time you have left?”

“Shut up!” Margus yelled her direction, though Oriannon tried to hold him by the arm to quiet him down. “Why don’t you just shut up and mind your own business?”

“Oh, but that’s just it.” She returned a crooked smile in the direction of his heated voice. “This is my business. That’s exactly why we’re being pursued, and that’s why this little game is going to end in my favor. Because it’s my business, and it always was.”

By this time Wist had no doubt been awakened by all the noise. Now the short-statured Owling girl came stumbling forward, wiping the sleep from her eyes and looking from them to their unwelcome passenger with a puzzled expression.

“Is this your little Owling friend, Oriannon?” asked Sola. Naturally Oriannon had no intention of answering, but Sola probably expected that, as well. “I should say thank you for saving my life, back there on the planet. I did get a good look at both of you, before the explosion. But then, you’re probably already regretting what you did for me, aren’t you?”

“Oriannon?” Wist looked to her for help, but Oriannon didn’t know what to say as Sola went on with her tirade.

“In fact, by this time you’re probably thinking, I should have let just that monster drop off the plane, back when we had a chance. Isn’t that what you’re thinking, sweetheart? Well, perhaps you should have, but it appears to be a little late for that change of heart. Even if you dumped me now, you still can’t get away, and I imagine that must be a lovely feeling. Tell her how much time you have, Mr. Leek.”

This time Margus pressed his lips together and said nothing, though by now it was obvious to anyone with eyes that the four Coristan Security vessels were catching up, and fast. Probably even Wist, who was unfamiliar with such things, could see and understand. She took one look at the screen and her face fell, but she stood by the others for the next several minutes. If this escape was coming to an end, they would face it together. But then the ship lurched as a flash of light hit them like a bolt of lightning.

“Whoa!” Oriannon waved her hands for balance, nearly hitting Wist in the face. She caught a handhold and looked to Margus. “What was that?”

“I… I don’t know.” Margus shook his head, but everything looked the same as before. “That was weird. I thought I saw…”

His voice dropped off as he rechecked his instruments, but then shrugged and shook his head. Whatever he’d seen wasn’t there now, or never was.

So Oriannon looked again out the viewport just to be sure, but could make out nothing new except the distant stars—brilliant and piercing but all of them so many light years afar. Whatever had hit them—or whatever they had hit—was nowhere to be seen. Sola brushed herself off in the corner and faced them with that annoying look on her face.

“For a moment,” she said, “I thought my ships had caught up with us ahead of schedule.” The tone of her voice matched her expression. “Are you still learning how to pilot this ship, Mr. Leek?”

He glanced over at the Pilot Stone, which still glowed as it should. His nav screen still glowed steady, apparently as they should. He shook his head and didn’t answer her. Perhaps that was the only way to deal with Sola Minnik for now.

“You can ignore me all you want.” Once again she settled back down. “It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. Maybe I’ll just rattle on and listen to my own voice, while you try to pretend I’m not here.”

They would probably do that, Oriannon thought. Unfortunately, now they could not ignore the nav screen, where four large blips had nearly descended on their position.

“We’re going as fast as we can,” Margus told her in a soft voice, still working his controls. “But we just can’t keep ahead of them.”

Sola smiled to herself as they continued on, their engines humming steadily. But Sola didn’t need to remind them that this race, as their instruments told them, was already lost.



* * *



“We should be almost to Asylum 2 by now,” Margus broke the silence nearly a half-hour later. He pointed to a new dot on the nav screen, a green-colored oasis in the middle of empty space. “We’ll try and dock there as soon as we can.”

“Wonderful idea!” shouted Sola. “Hide on an Asylum station, as if they can’t find you there, too. That is, if we make it there before my people catch up. Which isn’t likely, is it, now?”

How did Sola know so much even being blind? Oriannon supposed she could count the minutes as well as anyone.

“Will we make it in time?” whispered Oriannon. She couldn’t tell from the nav screen. Margus shrugged and shook his head, not looking terribly hopeful. That meant, probably not. Finally Wist motioned with her eyes for Oriannon to follow her to the back room again, probably to get away from the acid tongue of Sola Minnik.

“What’s going to happen when they catch us?” Wist asked, as soon as they had stepped far enough away so that Sola could no longer hear them. That was when, not if. Oriannon swallowed hard, searching for the right words.

“We’re going to be okay,” she answered. “Jesmet’s not going to abandon us, now. No matter where we are. No matter what happens, good or bad.”

She thought she believed her own words. But even as she spoke, their small craft jolted as if they had glanced off a solid wall, throwing both girls off their feet and setting off multiple alarms. This was much more than the gentle bump they’d experienced earlier. Wist screamed as sparks showered down on them from a short circuit in an overhead control panel.

Oriannon could only hold on as the shuttle spun out of control.