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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spring Meadow Sanctuary by Lynnette Bonner Review

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:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)

***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***


Born and raised in Malawi, Africa. Lynnette Bonner spent the first years of her life reveling in warm equatorial sunshine and the late evening duets of cicadas and hyenas. The year she turned eight she was off to Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school in Kenya where she spent many joy-filled years, and graduated in 1990.

That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.

During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.

Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.

Visit the author's website.


He broke her heart.

Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.

Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.

Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….

Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.

Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480156949
ISBN-13: 978-1480156944


Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.

Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.

She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.

The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.

For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.

Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.

A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.

Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.

Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.

All her life she’d wanted only one thing.

Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.

Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.

Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.

She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”

Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!

Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.

Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.

“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.

“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”

He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”

“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”

“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”

“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”

“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.

Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?

She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.

Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.

Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”

The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.

A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.


Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.

The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.

He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.

“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.

“Whiskey. Make it a double.”

The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.

Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.

The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.

Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”

Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”

Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.

Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”

Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.

Good. He had the man’s attention.

“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”

Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”

The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.

Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.

Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.

One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”

No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.

Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”

Judd cleared his throat loudly.

Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”

Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.

Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”

"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”

Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.

The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.

Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.

They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.

Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.

Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.

Lord I hope we were right on that count.

He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”

Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”

Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”

“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.

Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”

Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”

Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.

Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”

Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”

Judd glowered at him.

Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.

Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”

Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”

Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.

Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.

“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.

Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.

Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.” He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.

“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”

Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.

The report was a little loud, but about right.

Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.

Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.

Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”

Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.

Rocky’s eyes narrowed.

“Four… three…”

“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.

This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.

He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”

Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”

Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.

Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”

Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.

Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”

Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.

Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”

With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.

A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.

OBM says:  This is book four of The Shepherd's Heart series, but it was the first one of them I had read.  It was very easy to follow the story even though I had not read the other books. I enjoyed this book very much and would love to read others that Ms. Bonner has written.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Vocal Coach Singer Review


I've been a singer all my life...but I've never had any formal voice training.  And I don't have an amazing voice by any means.  Mostly, I have a decent harmony voice, and mostly I sing in a choir or as part of a worship team.  I'd love for it to be more than that.  So I was very excited to have the chance to review The Vocal Coach Singer.

The Vocal Coach Singer is a CD or mp3 based program for voice lessons.  It is appropriate for ages middle school to adult.  Your "coaches" are Chris and Carole Beatty, who have over 40 years of experience teaching people to sing.  Vocal Coach Singer teaches the fundamentals needed to become an accomplished singer--things like how to expand your range, or how to control your voice, or even proper exercises for your voice.  How does it do that?  Well, here are all the elements the program contains:


Vocal Coach Singer Includes:

7 Training CDs:

  • Getting Started
  • Complete Breathing
  • Complete Warm-Up
  • Complete Tone
  • Complete Expanding Your Range
  • Complete Diction
  • Complete Performance

4 Workout CDs:

  • Daily Workout High Voice 1 & 2
  • Daily Workout Medium/Low Voice 1 & 2

Plus these great educational tools:

  • Guidebook – Full-size Instructional Guidebook to Ensure Success
  • Printable Lead Sheets – each exercise in our course, plus track lists
  • Personal Singer's Journal (Getting Started Journal & Workout Journal) to Track Your Progress
  • Vocal Coach Song Evaluation – Evaluation form to enable you to make more intelligent song selections
You can also get the Vocal Coach Singer as a downloadable mp3.

The pros:  I love their focus on "Practice makes permanent."  So many times we hear practice makes perfect, but it doesn't.  PERFECT practice makes perfect.  Any practice will make something permanent...only correct practice makes it correctly permanent.  To achieve correct practice, lessons are relatively short, exercises build one upon each other, and journaling is part of the process so you can record what works for you and what doesn't.  I also love their heart--the focus on singing better to worship God better--which can be seen on their website as you read through the different resources there.  And as a homeschooler, I really appreciate that they have an entire page on the web devoted to answering homeschool f.a.q.s about teaching voice and suggesting a course of study to use with their programs.  The program is WAY more affordable than voice lessons, and you can repeat lessons over and over.  Plus, there is no performance anxiety since you aren't singing for a "real person"--at least not one who is there with you. 

The cons:  Without a real live person there with you, you can't ever be sure you are really doing it right because no one is listening to you but you.  There is no feedback for your singing-unless you are singing in another venue and someone offers you some critique.  And there isn't really a good "lesson plan" to follow.  If you went to voice lessons, the teacher would give you assignments to work on week by week.  Because this is the whole program, you have ALL the information upfront, and not much help knowing how much you should tackle at one time, and what pace you should progress at.

The bottom line:  The Vocal Coach is $199.99 for the CD set or $99.99 for the mp3 downloads (which play in iTunes- or at least that's how I played them).  I think it's totally worth it even despite the cons.  That price is like 2 months of in person voice lessons, and you get SO much more than 2 months worth of material.  There is definitely enough here to make it worth your while and your money.  I can already see some improvement for both myself and my daughter, and we've only scratched the surface of what the program offers.

The Vocal Coach also offers in person lessons, internet consultations, choral warm ups, some teaching DVDs, and a product aimed toward younger singers, which some of my Crewmates received to review.  To see what other members of the Crew had to say, go to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  I received the mp3 downloads of Vocal Coach Singer for the purpose of giving my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own. 
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Up Wild Review


Growing Up Wild is a collection of 5 DVDs that introduce you to the Wild family, who are currently serving as missionaries to the Wano people in Papua, Indonesia.  Each volume contains 3 episodes and each episode focuses on one particular aspect of the lives of the 4 Wild boys (and their parents) in jungles of Papua.  Each volume also includes an activity guide on a separate CD.  You can click here to view a sample of some suggested activities to go with Home Sweet Hut.

The DVDs are narrated by Mrs. Wild, and the entire family is involved in making of each episode.  They took over 3 years to produce.  While they are targeted toward children ages 5-12 (similar to the Wild boys), they are interesting to people of all ages.  It is the Wild's hope that an entire new generation might be influenced to become missionaries by watching their adventures. 



The pros:  Growing Up Wild answers all those questions you ever wanted to know about HOW missionaries do what they do.  Volume 1 showed us how they built their hut, what conveniences they have, and what the Wano people's dwelling looked like.  It also shows you a supply run, and how they have to track how much of something they use and then project how much more they will need since trips to the store are made by plane!  The third episode shows how they pipe in fresh water from a stream to allow for a flushing toilet and running water at the sink.  And that's just ONE volume.  Plus, each one is laden with spiritual truths and teaches how they minister to the Wano people.  I especially liked how each episode ends discussing some truth God that ties in to the subject of the episode.  Homeschoolers in particular may find it interesting to see how these four boys are homeschooled in a jungle, but these videos certainly have a much broader appeal than that.  I can see them being used in churches, Christian schools, and in Christian families--anywhere people want to learn more about how modern day foreign missionaries live and serve. 

The cons:  None

The bottom line:  Here's what the Wild family has to say about these videos: "Our main teaching object in Growing Up Wild is to spur one another on as followers of Christ. We would like to share with you a glimpse of our world, but mostly to testify to the greatness of the God we serve and how he is working in the remote corners of the world".  And it is the combination of  both of those things--the glimpse into their world and the testimony of God's greatness--that I think makes these a wonderful resource to any Christian looking to learn more about foreign missionaries or to teach their children about the lives of missionaries, or just about the awesome God we serve!

You can order any of the Growing Up Wild DVDs for $18.99 each, or all five for $80.99.  To see what other members of the Crew had to say, you can check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  I received Volumes 1 and 4 tn exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Susanna's Christmas Wish- A FIRST WIld Card Review

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:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951512
ISBN-13: 978-0736951517


Susanna Wagler stood by the living room window watching Herman’s broad shoulders as he guided the team of horses into the field. Was he really her husband? The thought raced through her mind, and she pushed it away. These were not the thoughts a woman of God should have. Of course Herman was her husband. They had said the marriage vows in front of Bishop Jacob not three weeks ago. She could still hear Bishop Jacob’s voice intoning, “Do you, sister Susanna, believe Da Hah has given our brother Herman to you as your husband?”

The words had hung in the air only for a moment before she whispered, “Yah.”

Herman was the husband Da Hah meant for her. She had been certain of it. As certain as she could be. He was a man deeply loved by the community for his honest ways, his open face, and his dedication to the faith of the fathers. This was why she had said yah to Herman’s first timid request when he’d asked her home from the hymn singing. And so far Herman Wagler hadn’t let her down. Not like someone else had…Susanna also pushed that thought away.

She had forgotten about him—shut his memory from her mind. But even now she shouldn’t think badly of Matthew Yoder, though he had broken her heart. The truth had come out, and it was better this way. How awful would it have been if the truth had waited to appear after they were married? That was what her sister Mary told her, and she was right. Mary was wise about Matthew, having married his brother Ernest. Even before Matthew had left, Mary had seemed unsure of his intent. Older sisters were good for something after all, it seemed.

Still, Susanna tried to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt. He must have had his reasons for leaving the community. Even though she couldn’t understand them…or follow him into the Englisha world. And his reasons were obviously greater than his love for her. That was what hurt the most when he’d informed her he didn’t plan to stay in the Amish community. He hadn’t been able to tell her before, he’d said, though he’d assured her he hadn’t been playing her along all those years.

But a man didn’t suddenly make up his mind to leave, she figured. Such a desire had to have been there for a long time. Matthew had known something, regardless of how much he insisted he hadn’t. If she had loved him enough, she would have gone with him, she supposed. But how could a woman love a man who loved the Englisha world more than he loved her? Still, she had wavered for weeks over the matter. Struggled with the agony of it. Was she at fault? Did love require the sacrifice of everything…of all she held dear? Things like this land of her people? These open fields she’d grown up in? This place where she’d been born?

Matthew seemed to have no problem leaving all of it, and he’d soon put his words into action, getting himself placed in the bann in the process. As if she could face something like that. The cutting off of all contact with her past. This couldn’t be love, she’d finally told herself. She could not choose this.

So Matthew was gone.

And slowly she had put the fragments of her heart back together. Finding a piece here and a piece there that fit. Herman, with his tenderness, had helped. And her heart had healed somewhat, hadn’t it? She wouldn’t have married Herman if it hadn’t, would she?

She loved Herman. She did. Herman was the kindest man around. She should be thankful he had even considered her. Especially after Matthew left and caused such a stir in the community. No Amish young man would have been blamed for avoiding her completely, like she was a second-rate, cast-off shirt. And yet Herman hadn’t thrown her away. He had asked her home from the hymn singing and eventually asked if she would be his frau. Someone to love and cherish forever while they lived on this earth. Herman had done that, and was that not love?

Susanna’s eyes lingered on Herman’s face as he turned the team of horses around. The prancing hooves left tracks in the light dusting of the overnight snow. For a moment Herman glanced toward the house, and she ducked behind the drapes. It wouldn’t be decent for him to see her staring at him from the window. Not yet. Even if he was her husband. They should learn to know each other better first.

When Susanna stole another look, Herman was headed out over the open fields, hanging on to the lines. He is a handsome man, she told herself. And one she was thankful to have as her husband.

There was at least one brokenhearted girl in the community that she knew of. Herman had left behind Ruth Byler. She sure hadn’t kept her desires to have Herman take her home from the hymn singing a secret. And if there was one who did so openly, there had to be others who had hid their feelings. Yet Herman had chosen her.

Susanna turned back to the kitchen with a sigh. This had to stop. This wondering and puzzling over things. She had expected it would be over after the wedding. In fact, there had been plenty of signs during the weeks before the wedding that her doubts had flown away. Now they apparently were back in force.

But they would live through this, Susanna told herself. Herman loved her and she loved him. He had made that plain enough in the days since the wedding. And she had no reason to complain. She was sure Herman was aware that her heart hadn’t totally healed from Matthew, but he was being kind and understanding. What woman wouldn’t love such a man?

Susanna ran hot water into the kitchen sink while she brought the last of the breakfast dishes to the counter. Herman’s plate was sopped clean—it looked almost washed, like it always did. Even though it had been a large breakfast of eggs, bacon, and home fries she’d fixed him. Herman would have made a gut bachelor, that was for sure. The way he kept everything tidy around himself. And yet he felt the need of her, felt it necessary to bring her into his life.

But why?

Because he loved her, of course, Susanna told herself. There didn’t need to be a reason beyond that. Perhaps it was the conversation at the breakfast table this morning that was bringing this indecision up again. Well, it was more of an argument, really. Their first timid disagreement. And she had been shocked at the feelings that rose up inside of her. The insistence that Herman see things her way. And she had even grown angry, though Herman hadn’t, even as he remained firm. There would be no celebration of Christmas in their new home. And they wouldn’t be going to her parents’ place to celebrate either. It was not the way of his family, and it would not be their way.

Susanna washed the dishes and stared out the window at the snow. Soon the snow would be falling in earnest, the flakes floating past this very window. The joy and hope of Christmas would be in the air. The celebration of the Christ child in the manger would be coming. Was this feeling just an Englisha thing, like Herman claimed? He said her family had given in to worldly influences and his family had not.

Yet how could this be true? Her family didn’t celebrate Christmas like the Englisha did, with their Christmas trees and lots of store-bought presents. Nee, their celebration was simple. They began by gathering on Christmas morning for breakfast. In his deep voice, Daett would read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then the day would be spent together visiting, eating candy and goodies galore, and letting the children race around the house. Maybe that was a little like the Englisha, but she would be willing to adjust something, like leaving early, if that helped Herman get used to her family’s ways.

But Herman had said no. No hesitation, right out, flat no.

And she had gotten angry. Even her cheeks flushed and her fingers tingled. She had stood up from the table to get a drink at the sink even though her glass was still full of water. His eyes had followed her as he seemed to be waiting for harsh words from her.

But she had not spoken them. She knew that Herman, being her husband, was in the right. And she knew what he would say further on the matter—that she knew before the wedding what his feelings were. He had made no secret of them. And there had been the talk with his mamm. Herman’s mamm had made two or three special trips to the Keim farm before the wedding to visit Susanna. From that first visit, it seemed as if his mamm was sizing her up as a daughter-in-law. Would she be good enough for her Herman? That was her purpose in that first visit. She must have passed the test because there had been the second visit. That’s when Mrs. Wagler told Susanna what Herman’s favorite dishes were and how important it was to honor their family traditions. That was when she mentioned their longstanding abhorrence of the celebration of Christmas that had somehow infiltrated the community. Those visits had been uncomfortable enough, but then only two days after the wedding Herman’s mamm had showed up to help her organize her kitchen. Hadn’t it occurred to her that if Susanna needed such help she would have asked her own mamm?

Nee, she couldn’t say she didn’t know how Herman and his family felt about Christmas, Susanna acknowledged. And now with their first Christmas together approaching, Susanna was realizing it would also be her first Christmas without the joy she had experienced at home. Nee, she would never get to be at Mamm and Daett’s for Christmas morning again.

Knowing about his objections beforehand wasn’t making it any easier, no matter how often she’d told herself it should be. She had thought maybe there was some sort of compromise possible. Surely there had to be. Susanna sighed. It was useless, really. She already knew that. Hermann was handsome and nice and calm, but he was “Amish stubborn.” That was just how it was. And she was his frau.

Well, she could imagine that Christmas was no big deal. Perhaps she was being silly about such a small matter. They would find something else to do on Christmas morning.

Susanna dried the plates and placed them in the cupboard above her. She would have to learn submission, that was the only answer. This was the first big test being placed before her by Da Hah, and she would have to pass somehow. Oh, if she only could. Who would have thought she would have trouble with being a gut frau? That had been the least of her expectations. A sloppy housekeeper, perhaps, or being unable to keep up with the sewing once she had a bunch of kiener. Those things had worried her, but letting her husband have his way about Christmas had not been on her list.

Susanna closed the cupboard door. She would learn this lesson by Christmas morning. She still had time. Thanksgiving was this week, and that left nearly a month until Christmas. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would set her whole heart to the task. This would be her gift of love to Herman. She would learn to keep her mouth shut, and even if she didn’t succeed right away, it would happen. She would apologize until it did happen. Surely by Christmas the task would be done. Herman would see on that morning how much progress she’d made in fitting herself into his family’s lifestyle.

By Christmas Day she would love him fully, with all of her heart. What better wish to aim for than to live in total harmony with your husband, she decided. And love would keep growing in her heart for him. Perhaps not exactly the love she used to feel for Matthew, but a better love. A higher love. One that would grow from suffering.

Hadn’t Matthew shown her how shallow their love used to be? He’d sure been able to cast it off as if it didn’t matter.

Running to the window again, Susanna peeked out. Herman was a dim figure now, almost lost from view in the distant field. He looked intent on his work, his head bent toward the ground as his plow turned up the black dirt. Susanna turned away. How like plowing her plan was. Turning her old life under like Herman was doing to the ground today. Preparing for the spring when things come alive again. She would do the same. Plow under her selfish desires to plant a future spiritual harvest. Here was the sign as to what she should do as plain as day and right before her eyes. How like Da Hah to show her so quickly that He liked her plan. He would surely be answering her wish soon.

OBM says: I really enjoyed this book. I admit to having a great love for Amish fiction, and I particularly enjoyed how this book explored Susanna marrying someone who was "right" from an Amish perspective even though he wasn't "Mr. Right" from the perspective of her heart. Though it is a fictional book, I think there are many wonderful lessons to be learned from her submissiveness and the way God blesses her and her husband for it. Mr. Eicher is quickly becoming an author whose work I very much look forward to reading!

Legal Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Susanna's Christmas Wish in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Melissa and Doug Suspend Game Giveaway!!!

Remember how I blogged about Melissa and Doug's Terrific Twenty Holiday Gift list?  Well, they have a 20 day giveaway going on via their Facebook page.  But they also are allowing a select group of bloggers to host our own giveaways!  So just for you, my lucky readers, I have the chance to win a totally cool game called "Suspend".

Geared toward ages 8+, this is the ulitmate test of balance...and more than a little skill...and luck!
Want to win it?  All you have to do is sign up through the rafflecopter below!  Be sure to complete each step, as the winning entry will be verified before the winner is announced. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And just in case you'd rather win a different gift from the Terrific Twenty list, here are some of my fellow bloggers and THEIR giveaways.

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Giveaways and More Giveaways!

Congrats to Jenn who won my giveaway for The Sparkle Box.  Now for some more exciting news...I have not one, not two, but THREE more giveaways coming up!  I should have the next one posted later today.  Very exciting!  I have been so blessed through my blog, and I'm deeply grateful to be able to pay it forward and let my humble blog bless others too.  This next one will be a fun gift for the whole family- and just in time for the holidays! 

Hint- it has to do with the Melissa and Doug Terrific Twenty post below ;-).

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Melissa and Doug's Terrific Twenty Holiday Gift List

I have been a fan of Melissa and Doug products for years.  In fact, we have their calendar hanging above my 7 year old's desk because she just LOVES to change the magnetic dates and months and events every month.  Well, they've released their "Terrific Twenty" Holiday Gift list for 2012, and to go along with it, they are doing a give away on their Facebook page- a lucky winner gets one item from the list EACH DAY for 20 days (starting November 6th). 

I have to say, reviewing the list of their Terrific Twenty left me wishing my kids were little again.  But there was even something on the list for bigger kids- a game called "Suspend" which looks like lots of fun.  I'd love to win today's giveaway- it's for that adorable lion in the picture above!
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Journeys of Faithfulness Review


Recently, I received a beautiful devotional to review.  Written by Sarah Clarkson, and published by Apologia, Journeys of Faithfulness presents "stories of life and faith for young Christian women".  Since it's for, ahem, young women, and I passed that distinction some time ago, my eldest daughter who just turned 13 was the one to actually use it.  The book is geared toward girls ages 12 and up. 

Journeys of Faithfulness takes a look at the lives of Mary and Martha, Mary the mother of Jesus, Esther, and Ruth.  Three chapters are devoted to each Biblical woman's story.  Each chapter begins with a short account of the Biblical story that has been written as historical fiction (so all the Biblical story is there, but many other details such as what the characters were thinking or dialogue between people have been added to make the girls "come to life".  After that, there is a devotional related to the story.  Following the devotional is a Bible study with some scripture references for the girls to look up and some thought provoking questions related to those scriptures.  The final component are journaling pages where girls can record their thoughts and what they have learned.

The pros:  The first thing my daughter wrote in the journaling section was, "I love this book."  That is a HUGE "pro" to me.  Beyond that, I have to admit, I sneak the book and read it myself!  I really enjoy the deeper, fuller look into the lives of these girls (even if it is speculation on the author's part), and the devotionals are very well written and I think they really speak to a girl's heart, or a woman's heart for that matter.  The Bible study component takes this devotional up a notch and helps girls delve deeper into the Word for themselves and the questions asked are thought provoking (i.e. Regarding Jeremiah 3:19-25, it asks, "Why does the prophet have hope?  Can you list new mercies in your life today?")

The cons:  The only thing I would change is a little more direction for the journaling pages.  They are provided, but no instruction is given regarding them, and I think younger girls could use some "prompts" to get their thought processes going.  But I think the book is an amazing resource even if you never journal a word, so that really doesn't hinder its effectiveness-just something I would like to see if there are more of these to come.

The bottom line:  This is a sweet and touching devotional designed to turn the heart(s) of your daughter(s) toward their Lord and King.  It helps them see His total love for them and then learn to return that love back to Him in worship and obedience and in sharing the gospel.  It's an honor to be able to recommend this book to anyone with young women who seek to draw closer to God.

You can purchase Journeys of Faithfulness for $13 directly from Apologia's website.  To see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say, check out the Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  I received a hard copy of Journeys of Faithfulness for the purpose of giving my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Thoughts

I know the exit polls are showing Romney and Obama in almost a dead heat, but I am sure of one statistic...100% of Americans are ready for the election to be over so the political phone calls will end.  I think the only people influenced (positively) by those calls are the same people who believe the e-mails that say there is a prince in Niger who can't access his fortune with their help...

I prayed seriously about my vote and who I should support, and in the end decided neither candidate was someone I could feel good supporting.  I know there are many Christians out there with a different view, but my personal conviction was that I wasn't going to vote for the "lesser of two evils" because that's still voting for evil.  One candidate is decidedly not Christian, and while God clearly has used many, many non-believers throughout history, and His word says He placed them all in their positions of authority, He never commanded the people of Israel to actually VOTE for them to hold those positions.  The other candidate holds opinions I don't share specifically regarding the UN Rights of a Child and other UN regulations, but also on many other topics as well.  So this is what I know- I can (and did) abstain from voting for an individual election, even one as important as President.  God will place into office the person He wills to lead this great country of ours, and I will pray for them, but I will also be glad I did not compromise my beliefs to vote for them.

Speaking of the issues, we don't have cable TV, and we don't get the newspaper, so I've at least lived in blissful ignorance of the accusations that have been flying between the camps.  Other than the phone calls and mailings that is...

One last thought.  By this time tomorrow night, half of America will be elated and the other half totally discouraged.  I want to encourage you that no matter who wins, God is still sovereign, and still in control.  We are called to pray for our leaders, He will do the rest according to His will.  Let us begin now by being united in prayer for our president, no matter who that will be or whether we voted for him or not! 
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Snow by Kathryn Hewitt- A FIRST Wild Card Review

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:

WestBowPress (May 23, 2012)

***Special thanks to Kathryn Hewitt for sending me a review copy.***


As a teenage mother, Kathryn Hewitt understands the consequential trials and sacrifices resulting from teen pregnancies. Leadership positions throughout high school, college, and church provided a forum for her activism in promoting premarital abstinence and accountability, and pro-life support.
Kathryn currently lives in Camden, South Carolina with her husband and four boys.

Visit the author's website.


How do you know, at 15, what love and affection really mean? Ruth learned all too soon that love is commitment and affection has a price. But who will ultimately make the commitment and who will pay the price?

At 15, Ruth thought she had her life planned out. That is until she met Luke, a charming new cadet from the local military school. After entering into a seemingly harmless teenage romance, Luke’s possessive attitude and subtle remarks begin to undermine Ruth’s confidence sending her into an emotional tailspin.

A beautiful young girl is suddenly lost in a grown up world trying desperately to hang on to a love she thought would last. Shattered dreams and hopeless tears become the bricks that formed walls around Ruth; yet just below her broken heart, a beautiful vessel was being formed.

Join Ruth on her wedding day, five years later, as Ruth’s childhood friend helps her journey back to face the demons of her past...

Product Details:
List Price: $22.95
Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: WestBowPress (May 23, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1449749445
ISBN-13: 978-1449749446


“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25

She stood at her vanity mirror and wished away the pimple beginning to rear its ugly head under the surface of her skin. She had such a clear complexion, she rarely got pimples. Irritated, she dabbed a little Neutrogena Spot On and began applying concealer.

Ruth never wore much make-up; sometimes foundation, but always mascara. Her mother would fuss when she put it on her long, dark lashes, but she didn’t care. Wearing little make-up elsewhere justified the dramatic look of her lashes, and it made her feel better. So on went the mascara and a touch of cherry lip gloss, and she was ready to go. She slid on her running shoes, took a quick turn around in the mirror, then hurried out the door.

It was early September, and she was excited to be going to church. After all, it was Wednesday Nite Live. Her youth group would gather in the Youth Activity Center, otherwise known as the YAC room, to hang out, sing worship songs, and have a Bible study. All of the teenagers would be there, herself included. She loved being in fellowship with her friends. She found great comfort in being with other believers.

Ruth hadn’t long been a true believer. She was raised in the church, but what Southern child isn’t? In the South people belonged to a church. It defined a person to a social circle. Few church goers were true believers, and she, for years, had been among the majority, the pew warmers, so to speak. But just two years ago she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and had taken on a new role in her life.

She prided herself in walking in faith and following the teachings of the Bible. She joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as soon as she entered high school and enjoyed talking with other believers in her school. She took a stance against common teenage behavior and shared her beliefs with as many people as she could. She was laughed at, challenged, and called names because of her beliefs, but she didn’t care.

Her passion, however, was teaching others to save themselves for marriage. She talked with her friends about not having sex until they got married and how much better they would feel emotionally and spiritually if they just waited. For this, she was laughed at the most. But it didn’t matter. She openly shared that she was a virgin and intended on staying one until she took a walk down the aisle.

So, this was why she enjoyed coming to church on Wednesday nights. She felt like this youth group was the only place she could be herself without the ridicule of other people. She was safe in a place where other people shared the same beliefs that she had.

Leigh had just called to say she wasn’t going to make it to church. Ruth was disappointed, since being with her best friend as much as possible was one of the main focuses in her fifteen-year-old life.

Leigh could always make her laugh no matter what the circumstances were. Her lively spirit brightened the atmosphere around her. People were drawn to her always perfect thick brown hair, her beautiful brown eyes, and a smile that could stop anyone in their tracks. Her slightly dingy, yet grounded personality always made Ruth light up. Leigh was full of wisdom beyond her years and was a solid rock in Ruth’s life.

They rarely saw each other during school, and their social lives were driving them in different directions, but something still held them together. Tonight, though, Ruth would have to go to church without her.

This particular night they were going to watch a video from the Back to School Retreat, which the youth group had gone on the weekend before. Over 85 youth and chaperones joined the fun for a weekend of interesting events at the White Oak Conference Center in Winnsboro, SC.

The retreat was exactly as it says: a retreat, an escape from their parents, their chores, peer pressure, and the daily grind. It was a time when teenagers could be teenagers without an adult breathing down their necks.

Excitement was evident as the vans made their way from small town Westbrook to Winnsboro. The sounds of old friends reconnecting and new friendships beginning filled the air, interrupted every so often with a sudden outburst of singing silly songs like Grin Again Gang or Put Your Hand in the Fan. Once they got to the conference center there were no cliques; it was just them, the youth group fellowshipping together as one body of believers, celebrating their beliefs and just plain having fun.

The theme of the retreat was the Olympics. Each year everyone looked forward to gathering into groups led by their Juniors and Seniors and creating their own countries based on what piece of cloth they were handed. These cloths became their headbands, armbands, flags, or whatever else the youth could make out of them. They were the symbol of the team’s country and ultimately the inspiration of their country name.

This past year Ruth’s citizenship was to the Grand Republic of Deeresokvia, proudly bearing the John Deere tractor on their nation’s flag. They competed against other countries such as United Toilets, the country of Smurfland, and the mighty nation of Care Bear Union. The fierce competitions between these countries lasted throughout the weekend.

Games of Ultimate Frisbee, water balloon tosses, relay races, sack races, and other Olympic style games were played with determination to claim the gold medal at the end of the weekend and be deemed the dominate country of the world!

Making her entrance into the YAC room, Ruth scanned the place and spotted her friend Jenny sitting on a love seat next to a couch crammed with Institute for Military Guidance cadets.

She sighed when she saw them there. Part of her wished they wouldn’t come at all, but it was a ministry, she was told; as if coming to church could change the life of one of them. If this place was the only way they would ever hear about Jesus, then she guessed it was worth it for them all to come.

But not all of them did come. The IMG bus would drive the ones wanting to go on Wednesdays and Sundays, but other than that they were on their own. Seeing as how they weren’t allowed cars on campus, the cadets had to make friends with those old enough to drive so they could escape their military life on campus for a few hours of normality.

They were a nuisance to the girls, forever staring at them, undressing them with their eyes, but none were ever a threat. They were boys going to an all-boy school with no hope of seeing a female figure unless they came to church. So here they were.

Three of the cadets on the couch Ruth ventured to call friends, but the fourth she didn’t know. Assuming he was new to IMG, she walked cautiously by them, saying hello to the cadets she knew, ignoring the one she didn’t.

She rarely got respect from any of the cadets, and she figured he’d be the same as the rest. So she walked past, trying not to get too close, but the clumsiness in her came out full force as she tripped over the new cadet’s shiny black shoe.

Ruth turned around quickly to apologize, but nothing came out as she looked at him. He certainly was good looking, like God had painted a beautiful picture and set it on His mantle for all His guests to see. If only for a split second, it made Ruth second-guess her decision to stay single.

Embarrassed by the thought, she turned a pretty shade of pink as she apologized quickly and walked away. But as she passed she couldn’t help but look back over at him. There was something about him that sparked her curiosity, and it wasn’t just because he was a great piece of eye candy. It made her intrigued, yet uneasy at the same time.

He sat on the couch, slumped against the back with his arms crossed in front of his chest. His short, dark brown hair was spiked on the top of his head. He had olive skin, and his tan from the summer sun was still visible on his face. His eyes, the color of the ocean just as the sun begins to set, caught her stare and held it. Ruth couldn’t look away. He smiled a crooked grin and tilted his chin up at her.

Completely flustered and embarrassed that she had been staring, she turned away, scolding herself for being so silly. Whatever the reason for her intrigue of this new cadet, she ignored it and sat beside Jenny with a thump. She covered her face with her hands and shook her head.

Jenny’s petite stature, shoulder-length blonde hair, and perky little nose that gave a slight nasal sound to her voice made everyone immediately like her. Ruth hardly ever saw Jenny without a smile. Even when she cried, her eyes always had the look of laughter in them.

“Ruth, what is the matter?” Jenny whispered in her ear.

“See that new cadet sitting beside us?” Ruth mumbled through her fingers.

“Heck, yeah, I see him. He’s a looker.”

“Yes, well, after tripping over him, he caught me staring at him. I’m so embarrassed!”

Jenny burst out laughing. Raising her head to tell her to quiet down, Ruth looked just in time to see all four cadets on the couch looking at them. The new guy leaned forward, around everyone else, to get a better look.

“Great, Jenny. Thanks for all the attention!” she said, slamming the pictures down between them and sinking into the back of the loveseat, wishing it would swallow her.

After a few more seconds of Jenny’s uninterrupted laughter, she regained her composure and picked up the photos.

“Ruth, these pictures are great! I wish I was photogenic.”

Sitting up to look at them with her, Ruth began to regain her own composure. Her mother decided to try her hand at a little photography, so she grabbed the camera and Ruth, as the model, and began snapping away in their rock garden. Swinging on the wooden swing, sitting by the flower bed and reading on the deck; the pictures went on and on.

“Mom was holding the camera too close. I kept telling her they were going to come out blurry, but she didn’t listen.” Ruth shrugged, a little frustrated. They were great pictures, but she had been right and, when they came back from the photo lab slightly blurry, it had made her mad.

A young Hispanic girl with her sister walked by the couch, accidentally bumping into Ruth. Ruth said hello, and she responded shyly in broken English. They were part of a new Hispanic family who had just started attending the church and didn’t speak much English.

“Hola, Amiga!” Hurtz said as he snickered and punched Robins playfully in the arm.

Timothy Hurtz and Ken Robins were two of the four cadets sitting on the couch. They were living up to their IMG reputations by demonstrating typical cadet behavior, high fiving each other as if they had accomplished a huge task.

“Yeah! Coma Esta, Senorita?” the arrogant new guy chimed in, snickering along with Hurtz as the girls walked away.

“Guys, come on!” Ruth turned to them, giving them her most evil glare.

Hurtz and Robins tried to stifle their laughter. They both knew Ruth pretty well and were two of the few who actually respected her. They also knew how sensitive she was about how people are treated. So, they straightened up a little when she gave them the “look.”

The new guy just stared at her, so she took a stance against her belief in not making fun of others and was ready to defend it by all means necessary. Despite the growing color change in her face and the heat rising in her neck from the waves of those ocean blue eyes crashing into hers, she stared back.

“Ruth, we were just saying hello. We weren’t being mean!” Stopher Eddings, who had remained quiet until now, insisted with a smirk and a giggle. Ruth released her stare on the new guy.

“You keep it up and you know what’ll come next!” She squinted at them, and they laughed at her. She giggled back at them, knowing good and well she’d never do anything except fuss at their bad behavior. As she turned back to Jenny she overheard that new cadet.

“Is she some kind of royal you-know-what?” he asked Eddings.

Within a second Ruth was standing in front of him, staring down, arms folded across her chest. He looked up at her and smirked as if challenging her to do something other than speak.

That smirk was about to drive her crazy. At that moment all she wanted to do was slap it right off his face. Jenny joined her stance, though Ruth was sure she was unaware of what had just occurred. As they vacated the couch, Hurtz reached over and grabbed the pictures they had just abandoned. He and Robins began thumbing through them.

“Do you have a problem with me?” Ruth questioned the cadet.

“Hey, Ruth, come on, now. He was just joking,” Eddings offered. Her stare never wavered from the new guy.

“Yeah, Davis doesn’t know you. He was just kidding,” Robins said, passing a few of her pictures to him.

The new cadet finally took his eyes off her to look at the picture. He smiled, took one of her favorites, and put it into his pocket. Feeling a little flattered, Ruth backed off and sat on the arm of the couch.

“So what’s your name?” she asked him.

“It’s Davis,” he replied. She rolled her eyes and slid onto the couch, pushing Hurtz over to make room for herself.

“Yes, dear,” she said sarcastically, looking around Hurtz and Robins to see him. “But what’s your first name? You know, the one your mama calls you?”

“Luke,” he answered, not looking at her.

“Wow, aren’t you one for conversation?”

Luke Davis didn’t reply. He just leaned up, looked around Hurtz and Robins and gave her another crooked smile.

Ruth didn't know what made her want to continue their conversation. There was something challenging about him. He had a way of saying, or not saying, just the right thing to make someone mad enough to keep pushing him. She thought he enjoyed taunting her and she, like a fish to a baited hook, bit right at it.

“Okay, Luke,” Ruth said, dragging out his name. “If you want to keep that picture of me, then you’re going to have to give me a little more conversation than one word answers.”

He huffed and sat back against the couch, his hand unconsciously resting over the pocket that held her picture. Something cool and mocking was in his eyes, and it sent a shiver up her spine.

Luckily, Joe, her Youth Minister, began gathering everyone together while trying to start the video. Attempting to talk over all the teenagers, intermittently turning back to slide the video in and find the right buttons while pushing up the glasses that kept sliding down to the end of his nose, he managed to get the video stuck and solicited some of the youth to rectify the situation. She laughed to herself. He never was good at multi-tasking. Distracted briefly by the comical display from Joe, she was able to collect her thoughts and address Luke.

“Why don’t you sit here with me?” she suggested, moving to the floor. “I’ll tell you what’s going on in the video.”

Surprisingly, Luke got off the couch and sat with her. The video started as she explained about the Back to School Retreat and all the events that went along with the weekend. She pointed herself out to him as the video showed her on her stomach attempting to retrieve a white lifesaver out of a pan of flour, using only her face and a toothpick in her mouth.

He laughed at her. Well, laughed with her because she was laughing at herself. From blowing ping-pong balls across the table at other people, with chewed up saltine crackers in their mouths, to sliding down a hill on refrigerator boxes, there was nothing else to do but laugh.

“So, you never told me your name.” Luke leaned into her and whispered in her ear.

Unable to shake the warmth of his breath on her neck she sat frozen and silent. She heard him laugh under his breath as he repositioned himself a comfortable distance from her.

“It’s Ruth. My name, that is,” she finally sputtered out, ashamed for losing control of her demeanor.

“Like Ruth from the Bible. Isn’t she the one who said, ‘Your people shall be my people and your God my God’?”

Taken aback by a cadet quoting scripture, she turned to him, clearly surprised.

“Don’t look so surprised, Ruth. I’m not the only person in the world who reads the Bible.” Luke laughed.

“I’m sorry; I just don’t know many cadets who do!”

“Well, now you’ve met one. So, back to your name. Is that where you get your name from or do you have some old great aunt you were named after?”

“No great aunts named Ruth. My sister’s name is Evelyn, but we call her Eve. She was the first born, so my mom decided to name her after the first woman.” Ruth shook her head, slightly ashamed of her name.

“Well, that doesn’t explain your name.”

“My mother’s name is Naomi. Didn’t you say you knew the story of Ruth in the Bible?”

Luke burst out laughing at the idea of her mother naming her Ruth because her name was Naomi.

“I guess Orpah was a little too strange for your mom then!”

Ruth began to laugh with him, and soon their conversation became easy, like they’d been friends for years. He was from Georgia, on the coast, where he learned to surf and sail at a young age. He had two sisters, a couple of dogs, and a green Jeep Cherokee that he missed very much, but not in that order.

Luke wasn’t a typical cadet. He was friendly and seemed genuine. He appeared to be a good Christian guy, and Ruth was grateful for his company. He made her have butterflies in her stomach, but she squashed them as soon as they began fluttering their wings.

She didn’t want a boyfriend. She sort of had one already. But he was away at boot camp, and she wasn’t entirely clear on the status of their relationship. She was waiting until Thanksgiving to see where they stood, but honestly she was happy being single.

Before they knew it, the IMG bus was honking its horn signaling the cadets to hustle to the bus. They stood slowly, neither wanting the conversation to end.

“Hey, Ruth. Look, I’m sorry about making cracks at those girls. I didn’t think it would offend anyone. You seem so sensitive about other people, and I like that about you.” Luke smiled at her.

It felt like he was looking right through her. Ruth averted her eyes, not trusting what he could read in them. They made their way outside where the crisp night air wrapped tightly around her. Fall was on its way, and the Southern heat was beginning to hibernate.

“I’m glad I got to meet such a wonderful girl,” he whispered to her, but this time not on her neck.

She shivered, but it wasn’t from the breeze. Ruth looked back at him and caught something in his eyes. For a moment she saw conceit. She saw an arrow and suddenly felt like a target. It flickered out almost as soon as it appeared. Uncomfortable, she began to fidget.

Ruth looked away again and heard him snicker under his breath. Something inside of her snapped and a piece of her old self began to rise. She smiled and sheepishly turned her big brown eyes up at him.

Oh my gosh, she thought, I’m flirting! I can’t believe I’m flirting with this guy.

She nervously laughed out loud at her behavior, but then decided a little flirting couldn’t hurt anyone. Luke tilted his head, and gave her a crooked smile. She didn’t look away this time, playing his game right along with him.

“I enjoyed talking with you tonight,” he continued. “Would it be okay if I called you sometime?”

“Sure,” she said, clearly speaking before thinking.

What am I doing? I just agreed to give him my number. Stupid is what stupid does, I guess! She laughed again, rolled her eyes, and wrote her number on the palm of his hand.

I’m going to regret this, she thought, knowing deep down that she really was going to regret this.

“Hey, guys! LOOK!” Luke started shouting to his friends on the bus. “I just got the number from the prettiest girl in Westbrook!”

Luke smiled at her, winked, and began to get on the bus. She wrapped her arms around her body, trying to chase away the goose bumps rising. The cadets began hollering and hanging out the bus windows. She rocked back on her heels as he started down the stairs.

“Don’t be jealous!” she shouted back, waving at the four cadets she called friends.

Back in the YAC room, Ruth was making her way to the pool tables to speak to her good friend Timothy.

Susanne, who was stretched out on the couch, chatting away, and eating Reese’s Pieces, grabbed Ruth’s arm and pulled her down beside the couch.

“Ruth,” she whispered behind her smirk, darting her eyes around to see if anyone was listening. “So, I saw you talking to that guy. Are you going to start dating him?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I even like him.”

“Well, if you don’t, then I’m going after him. Ruth, he’s hot!” Susanne and another other girl began to giggle, so Ruth just shrugged, got up, and kept walking.

She suddenly felt challenged. Luke had singled her out, or did she single him out? If she didn’t allow him to pursue her, then he’d find someone else. As good looking as he was, it wouldn’t take long for him to find a girl around here. Pride began to creep up her back, blinding her to the outcome. She’d be the most coveted girl in youth group if she dated him. The thought was pleasant.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the most eligible bachelor in youth group on her arm when Mark, her unqualified boyfriend, came back from boot camp? Maybe if Mark saw that she had moved on, then he’d realize what he was missing and want her back.

People always seem to want what they can’t have. If he was still unsure about “them” then, she’d show him that she wasn’t going to wait around. When he decided he wanted her, she’d drop Luke like a hot potato and let the next drooling girl have him.

“Hey, Ruth. What’s got you smiling over there?” Timothy asked from across the pool table. She hadn’t even realized she’d stopped walking.

“Oh, nothing. I was coming to talk to you, but there’s my mom. I’ll see you at school.” Giving a quick wave, she rushed past him.

All she wanted to do was get out of there. There were so many thoughts running through her head, questions that she already knew the answers to; questions that she didn’t know the answers, and feelings that she didn’t understand. She wanted to crawl into the bed, but she knew she’d never get to sleep tonight.

Alone in her room at home, Ruth sat on her bed and thought about Luke. She wasn’t interested in pursuing any type of relationship, so why did she feel like she was being pulled into this? Ruth was trying to manipulate a situation into her favor.

She wanted Mark to come home from boot camp and realize what he didn’t have. She thought she loved Mark. He was the first boy she ever kissed. He made her have butterflies, and she was convinced that she wanted to marry him. Ruth fell back onto her pillow and began to reminisce about the first time she saw him at band camp last year.

She missed the first few days of camp because she was in the hospital with Viral Meningitis. By the time she got to camp, everyone had already met. Since she was in Flag line, she was waiting in the front of the band room at Westbrook High School with the other girls.

Holding her equipment, she looked around as she waited for the band director to take his stand at the podium. The marching band members were mostly in their designated sections, but there were always the few who would play on the percussion equipment or chat away with their friends in another area.

Ruth was standing with one of her best friends, Abigail, when she saw him. He was in the back, leaning on a snare drum, when their eyes met. Had it been in the movies, the lights would have dimmed all around them, fireflies would have danced around the darkened room, and everyone else would have faded away. Neither of them could take their eyes off one another. They simply stared, mouths gaping open. Their momentary solitude was broken when someone punched him in the arm.

Ruth jumped at the opportunity to grab her friend and exclaim, “Abby, who is that?” From that moment on, they were inseparable.

Abigail knew him well and gave Ruth all the details. Mark was handsome and a perfect gentleman. He was a senior that year and had plans to join the National Guard. After Guard training, he’d be heading off to the Citadel in Charleston, SC. Neither he nor she had been in a serious relationship before. She had never even been out on a date.

Mark showed her what a real gentleman was. He opened doors for her, held her hand, and never, not once, pressed her to do anything sexual with him. They dated for almost two months before they even had their first kiss.

However, as much ‘love’ that passed between them, her heart was determined to be broken. Ruth was terrified at the thought of being in love and fought with herself on the subject. She thought it best to end their relationship before it got too serious. After all, she was only just turning fifteen. The world told her she was too young to know what real love was. She was too young to be in a serious dating relationship, so she decided to end it all and for no reason other than her own insecurities.

She sat Mark down in band class one day and tried to explain how scared she was. She attempted to make him understand that she just might not be ready for a relationship as serious as this one was heading. She didn’t realize how sharply she was stabbing him in the heart.

How could she have known that secretly he was planning a future with her? Being four years older than Ruth and in more of a position to see his adult future, he felt she was “the one” and didn’t care it could be as much as eight years before they could start a life together.

That night, Ruth realized she’d made a terrible mistake and cried herself to sleep. The very next day she went to Mark and apologized. She told him how stupid she’d been for being afraid and that he was such a wonderful man she simply couldn’t ask for more. But her words did nothing to his broken heart. She had cut him deeply, and he left her alone to cry.

And cry she did, as much as a broken-hearted teenager would cry over their first love. For weeks she would cry at the sight of him. She couldn’t eat or sleep. All she thought of was the relationship she had just ruined. She tried everything she could think of to win his heart again, but with little feat.

She did all the right things and some stupid things. She even tried to make him jealous by kissing his best friend. That plan only made her feel terrible about herself. She found out later that Mark confronted his friend about it, and the conversation ended with Mark bloodying his friend’s nose.

She never did give up, though. That is, until one of her friends told her she was going with him to his Senior Prom. So much for being a friend. She knew how Ruth felt about him, but chose to date him anyway. She didn’t even ask if Ruth would be okay with it.

Ruth had to hear about it after the fact. Mark stabbed her in the back in the worst possible way she could imagine at that time in her life, and she lost a dear friend in the commotion of it all. Ruth spent the rest of her ninth grade year drowning in self-pity.

This past summer, Mark departed for Boot Camp. By that time, they were becoming friends again, and he even came to her job at Sonic to tell her goodbye. Luckily, the restaurant was busy, so she didn’t have time for tears. His dad snapped a picture of them and sent it to him a few weeks later. She tried not to cry as she watched him drive away. She was determined to write him any chance she got, and they’d been exchanging letters all summer long.

She tried loving him through her letters and for eight weeks watched him go through a roller coaster of emotions. During that time he led Ruth to believe that when he returned, they’d be together, just like old times.

It wasn’t until after he completed Boot Camp and moved on to training school that he told Ruth he’d also been writing the girl he took to prom. That broke her heart all over, but she still couldn’t let go. Ruth was determined to be the girl in his life when he returned home in November. He was her first love and the man she thought she wanted to be with.

So now, in September, she couldn’t get involved and risk the chance of losing him again. She had decided against getting involved with Luke. With the new-found revelation, she sat up, turned on her night light, and grabbed her journal.

Ruth’s journal was her refuge. She wrote everything she felt. She’d been writing in journals since elementary school, making note of every tear, smile, and thought that passed through her.

Tonight, she wrote about her continued love for Mark and her meeting the arrogant, yet intriguing cadet that night. She poured out herself onto those pages, filling the empty lines with words she’d later re-read for assurance. When she was finished, she laid back down and dreamed.

The next day, she tried to concentrate on her Algebra homework, but her mind was muddled.

Just that afternoon she’d received a letter from Mark telling her he’d be home a few days after Thanksgiving. He said he wanted to take her out for her birthday, which was only two days before the holiday. Ruth was excited, believing that he still cared about her, but confused at the tone of his letters.

She had been noticing how he didn’t write the same way as before. He wasn’t as sweet and romantic as he usually was. He was becoming harsh and short. The letters that once were six pages long were now only a few lines.

When he asked for nude pictures of her, describing in detail what he wanted them to look like, she was shocked and mortified. She didn’t even wear bikinis in public, so there was no way she was sending him nude pictures!

The request had greatly offended her, but it also burdened her heart. It seemed as if he was conforming to his egotistical surroundings, and it worried her. The man in the letters wasn’t the man she wanted to be with.

“Ruth!” her step-father called from inside the kitchen, which butted against her bedroom wall. “Phone for you.”

She hadn’t heard the phone ring. Normally she would have been the first to answer.

“Okay.” Leaning back in her desk chair, she stretched behind her and grabbed the phone from its cradle. As she lifted the phone, the wheels on her chair slipped from their precarious position, and she came crashing to the ground.

“Hello?” she said, after picking herself off the ground.

“Well, hello to you!” the mystery person replied.

“Who is this?” She didn’t recognize the voice, and the only person she could think of who would be calling her was Mark.

He usually called once every two weeks, and it was about time for him to call again. Ruth sat up, rubbing her elbow and inspecting the damage to her Algebra homework.

“It’s Davis. Don’t you remember me? We met at church last night.”

“Oh, Luke! I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize your voice.” she paused, standing the chair back into its upright position. “I didn’t think you’d be calling.”

“Why wouldn’t I call? I said I would, didn’t I?” His voice penetrated the phone with ice. It was sharp and irritated.

“Yes, well. I don’t believe what guys say to me, especially when they attend IMG. No offense, but you guys don’t have the best reputation for being honest and dependable!” She laughed but meant every word she said.

If this guy was really interested in pursuing her, he was going to have to take it when she dished it out. She wasn’t about to start sugar coating because he appeared to be a nice guy.

“I’m not like other guys, Ruth. You’ll see. I’m different. I think women should be treated like gold. I don’t go around hitting on girls and dating a bunch of people.” He paused, waiting for Ruth to respond.

She refused, rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone, and picking up her Algebra homework, she remained silent. So, he continued.

“I’m getting over an ex-girlfriend I left behind. I want to find the one who God has designed for me. I want to love her with my whole heart and do everything I can for her.”

Wow, like I’ve never heard that line used before! she thought, but quickly scolded herself for being rude and judgmental.

Trying to be nice, she cleared her throat and made small talk.

“What made you come to IMG? That would be the last school I would want to attend.” She changed the subject. The last thing she wanted to hear was him babbling about his past love life.

“Well, I’m interested in the military, and my parents wanted me to go to a private school. My ex and I researched a bunch of schools together and we liked this one best. I thought we were going to stay together while I came here, but she broke up with me a few weeks before I left. She’d been cheating on me. It broke my heart.”

This guy won’t shut up about this ex-girlfriend. Let’s see if he likes it when I talk about my ex-boyfriend!’

“Luke, I’m sorry that happened to you. I know how it feels though. I’m struggling with someone myself,” Ruth offered.

She waited, like he did with her, but was met with silence, so she continued.

“He started dating one of my friends, and now he can’t decide between me or her. I thought we’d get married someday, but apparently the military is changing his mind and views on God. It’s a little disappointing, you know?” she paused, waiting for his response. Once again it didn’t come. “Okay, well I guess you think I’m rambling. So, tell me a little about you.” she said, feeding his ego.

“I just moved here from a little town in Georgia. It’s near the coast, so I’m a beach buff. I love the ocean and sailing. I’d like to take you sailing one day. Maybe that could be our first date!”

“First date? I didn’t know we were dating now! I thought we were just talking on the phone!” It irritated Ruth that he assumed she wanted to date him. He really was as arrogant as she first thought he would be and was starting to get on her nerves. Maybe she should set him straight right off the bat.

“Listen, Luke. I’m not interested in— ”

“I’ll prove to you that I’m the best guy you’ll ever be with,” he interrupted. She heard someone yelling his name in the distance, so she didn’t respond.

“I’m sorry, Ruth, I have to go. We have to be back in the barracks by ten o’clock and Eddings just told me it’s two minutes till. Can I call you tomorrow sometime? I enjoyed talking to you, and I want to get to know you better.”

“Yeah, sure. If you want. Hey, you should join the Youth Choir. We meet on Sundays at five thirty.”

“That sounds good. I’ll see you Sunday morning, though.”

They said their goodbyes and hung up. She didn’t feel quite as uncomfortable as she had before, but there was still something strange and lingering about him. It was probably his arrogance grating against her nerves. But, whatever it was, she just shrugged it off, finished up her Algebra, and got ready for bed. This night, though, she dreamed about Luke.

OBM says: Ms. Hewitt does a great job of developing characters, and I found my heart breaking for Ruth at the same time as I came to really not like Luke- and that puts it mildly. He's manipulative,and cuniving, and she's confused and in love and wanting so desperately not to hear the truth that her loved ones are telling her about the baby's father. It's really a wonderfully told story as Ruth stuggles to not let her past define her future and to believe that she really is worthy of the love of a good man after the past abuse she suffered.

If you'd like to purchase Snow for yourself, you can do so directly from the author's site: you use the code SAVE20, you will save 20% off the price.  By ordering it directly from the author, you can have it signed and personalized if you'd like.  If you click here, you can read an interview with Kathryn Hewitt, who drew on her own experiences as a teen mom to write this gripping book.

As an added bonus, Kathryn Hewitt will be checking in on this blog, and others reviewing Snow, on November 5th, so if you have any questions for her, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Legal Disclaimer:  I received a free pdf of Snow for the purposes of providing this honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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