Sunday, October 31, 2010

In My Mailbox and Mailbox Monday

In My Mailbox is Hosted by The Story Siren and Mailbox Monday is Hosted by Knitting and Sundries for the month of November.

This was a slow week for me.  But that's ok I need to read the books I already have.

I did get a few kindle books:

Dancing In The Lowcountry
Dancing in the Lowcountry by James Villas


Spinning Forward
Spinning Forward by Terri Dulong


Cool Beans: A Maya Davis Novel
Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum  I had read Latte Daze: A Maya Davis Novel (Maya Davis Series) (review is here) and was excited to see that the first in the series was offered for free.

Received from the publisher:
The Radleys: A Novel
The Radleys by Matt Haig

That's it for me what did you get?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Sidebar feature

In November I will be starting a new sidebar feature kinda along the same lines as my audiobook of the week.

This will be the Cozy Mystery of the Month.  I really love Cozy Mysteries and want to work them into my reviews and tbr mountain so I thought this might be the Incitive I need.  I don't think that I can work in more than one a month but  I will be highlighting one a month. 

The first one up with be

Elvis and The Dearly Departed
Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb


I won't have a review till later in the month because I am still working on this one but keep an eye on the sidebar for one. 

Thou Shalt Laugh Oasis Audio

Thou Shalt Laugh

Thou Shalt Laugh  Oasis Audio

From Amazon:
From the producer of the enormously popular Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie, Thou Shalt Laugh is the hit standup comedy series audio book that's cleaning up comedy one BLEEP at a time! Thou Shalt Laugh started with a simple premise. There are dozens of incredibly gifted Christian comedians working all over the country today –why don't more people know about them? Producers Hunt Lowry and Jonathan Bock scouted comedy clubs nationwide to bring you the funniest Christian comedians on the planet. With world famous hosts, the Thou Shalt Laugh comedy audio book will be sure to entertain you, your family and your friends from now until the rapture. Looking for funny? Your prayers have been answered.



My Take:  I watched the first dvd of this series and laughed so much that I jumped at the chance to listen to it on audio.  This takes several of the acts on the the various dvds and brings them to audio.  I was laughing from the moment I started listening and I didn't have to worry that my daughter would hear anything that wasn't appropiate.  Great listen and brightened my day. 
The only thing that I didn't like was that I thought that the transistion between acts could have been better but I realize that it is difficult when you are using live material. 

Great for the whole family.  I highly recommend this to everyone.

Cookie Monster at the Library

Friday, October 29, 2010

book Blog Hop

Crazy-for-Books.com hosts the Book Blogger Hop

The Question for this week is

"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

I would love to have a home library, which I am close to having if I can just get the spare room cleaned up and arranged (and keep my adult children from moving back home)

What About You?

The God Hater by Bill Myers First chapter Peak

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button(in the side bar). 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:

Bill Myers

and the book:

The God Hater

Howard Books; Original edition (September 28, 2010)


***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, HOWARD BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill Myers is an author, screenwriter, and director whose work has won more than fifty national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award.

Visit the Book Specific Site.



Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (September 28, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1439153264

ISBN-13: 978-1439153260



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Samuel Preston, a local reporter with bronzed skin and glow-in-the-dark teeth, turned to one of the guests of his TV show, God Talk. “So what’s your take on all of this, Dr. Mackenzie?”

The sixty-something professor stared silently at his wristwatch. He had unruly white hair and wore an outdated sports coat.

“Dr. Mackenzie?”

He glanced up, disoriented, then turned to the host who repeated the question. “What are your feelings about the book?”

Clearing his throat, Mackenzie raised the watch to his ear and gave it a shake. “I was wondering . . .” He dropped off, his bushy eyebrows gathered into a scowl as he listened for a sound.

The second guest, a middle-aged pastor with a shirt collar two sizes too small, smiled, “Yes?”

Mackenzie gave up on the watch and turned to him. “Do you make up this drivel as you go along? Or do you simply parrot others who have equally stunted intellects?”

The pastor, Dr. William Hathaway, blinked. Still smiling, he turned back to the host. “I was under the impression we were going to discuss my new book?”

“Oh, we are,” Preston assured him. “But it’s always good to have a skeptic or two in the midst, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Ah,” Hathaway nodded, “of course.” He turned back to Mackenzie, his smile never wavering. “I am afraid what you term as ‘drivel’ is based upon a faith stretching back thousands of years.”

Mackenzie removed one or two dog hairs from his slacks. “We have fossilized dinosaur feces older than that.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Just because something’s old, doesn’t stop it from being crap.”

Dr. Hathaway’s smile twitched. He turned in his chair so he could more fully address the man. “We’re talking about a time honored religion that millions of —”

“And that’s supposed to be a plus,” Mackenzie said, “that it’s religious? I thought you wanted to support your nonsense.”

“I see. Well it may interest you to know that—“

“Actually, it doesn’t interest me at all.” The old man turned to Preston. “How much longer will we be?”

The host chuckled. “Just a few more minutes, Professor.”

Working harder to maintain his smile, Hathaway replied, “So, if I understand correctly, you’re not a big fan of the benefits of Christianity?”

“Benefits?” Mackenzie pulled a used handkerchief from his pocket and began looking for an unsoiled portion. “Is that what the 30,000 Jews who were tortured and killed during the Inquisition called it? Benefits?”

“That’s not entirely fair.”

“And why is that?”

“For starters, most of them weren’t Jews.”

“I’m sure they’re already feeling better.”

“What I am saying is—”

“What you are saying, Mr . . . Mr—”

“Actually, it’s Doctor.”

“Actually, you’re a liar.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Finding an unused area of his handkerchief, Mackenzie took off his glasses and cleaned them.

The pastor continued. “It may interest you to know that—”

“We’ve already established my lack of interest.”

“It may interest you to know that I hold several honorary doctorates.”

“Honorary doctorates.”

“That’s correct.”

“Honorary, as in unearned, as in good for nothing . . . unless it’s to line the bottom of bird cages.” He held his glasses to the light, checking for any remaining smudges.

Hathaway took a breath and regrouped. “You can malign my character all you wish, but there is no refuting the benefits outlined in my new book.”

“Ah yes, the benefits.” Mackenzie lowered his glasses and worked on the other lens. “Like the million plus lives slaughtered during the Crusades?”

“That figure can be disputed.”

“Correct. It may be higher.”

Hathaway shifted in his seat. “The Crusades were a long time ago and in an entirely different culture.”

“So you’d prefer something closer to home? Perhaps the witch hunts of New England?”

“I’m not here to—”

“Fifteen thousand human beings murdered in Europe and America. Fifteen thousand.”

“Again, that’s history and not a part of today’s—”

“Then let us discuss more recent atrocities—towards the blacks, the gays, the Muslim population. Perhaps a dialogue on the bombing of abortion clinics?”

“Please, if you would allow me—”

Mackenzie turned to Preston. “Are we finished here?”

Fighting to be heard, Hathaway continued. “If people will read my book, they will clearly see—”

“Are we finished?”

“Yes, Professor,” Preston chuckled. “I believe we are.”

“But we’ve not discussed my Seven Steps to Successful—”

“Perhaps another time, Doctor.”

Mackenzie rose, shielding his eyes from the bright studio lights as Hathaway continued. “But there are many issues we need to—”

“I’m sure there are,” Preston agreed while keeping an eye on Mackenzie who stepped from the platform and headed off camera. “And I’m sure it’s all there in your book. Seven Steps to—”


***

Annie Brooks clicked off the remote to her television.

“Mom,” Rusty mumbled, “I was watching . . .” he drifted back to sleep without finishing the protest.

She looked down at the five year old and smiled. He lay in bed beside her, his hands still clutching Horton Hears a Who! Each night he’d been reading it to her, though she suspected it was more reciting from memory than reading. She tenderly kissed the top of his head before absent-mindedly looking back to the TV.

He’d done it again. Her colleague and friend—if Dr. Nicholas Mackenzie could be said to have any friends—had shredded another person of faith. This time a Christian, some mega-church pastor hawking his latest book. Next time it could just as easily be a Jew or Muslim or Buddhist. The point was that Nicholas hated religion. And Heaven help anybody who tried to defend it.

She sighed and looked back down to her son. He was breathing heavily, mouth slightly ajar. She brushed the bangs from his face and gave him another kiss. She’d carry him back to bed soon enough. But for now she would simply savor his presence. Nothing gave her more joy. And for that, with or without Nicholas’ approval, Annie Brooks was grateful to her God.


* * * * *


“Excuse me?” Nicholas called from the back seat of the Lincoln Town Car.

The driver didn’t hear.

He leaned forward and spoke louder. “You just passed the freeway entrance.”

The driver, some black kid with a shaved head, turned on the stereo. It was an urban chant, its beat so powerful Nicholas could feel it pounding in his gut. He unbuckled his seat belt and scooted to the open partition separating them. “Excuse me! You—”

The tinted window slid up, nearly hitting him in the face.

He pulled back in surprise, then banged on the glass. “Excuse me!” The music was fainter but still vibrated the car. “Excuse me!”

No response.

He slumped back into the seat. Stupid kid. And rude. He’d realize his mistake soon enough. And after Nicholas’ call to the TV station tomorrow, he’d be back on the streets looking for another job. Trying to ignore the music, Nicholas stared out the window, watching the Santa Barbara lights soften as fog rolled in. Over the years the station’s drivers had always been polite and courteous. Years, as in Nicholas was a frequent guest on God Talk. Despite his general distain for people, not to mention his reclusive lifestyle, he always accepted the producer’s invitation. Few things gave him more pleasure than exposing the toxic nature of religion. Besides, these outings provided a nice change of pace. Instead of the usual stripping away of na├»ve college students’ faith in his classroom, the TV guests occasionally provided a challenge.

Occasionally.

Other than his duties at the University of California Santa Barbara, these trips were his only exposure to the outside world. He had abandoned society long ago. Or rather, it had abandoned him. Not that there was any love lost. Today’s culture was an intellectual wasteland—a world of pre-chewed ideas, politically correct causes, sound bite news coverage, and novels that were nothing more than comic books. (He’d given up on movies and television long ago.) Why waste his time on such pabulum when he could surround himself with Sartre, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche—men whose work would provide more meaningful companionship in one evening than most people could in a lifetime.

Nevertheless, he did tolerate Ari, even fought to keep her during the divorce. She was his faithful companion for over fifteen years, though he should have put her down months ago. Deaf and blind, the golden retriever’s hips had begun to fail. But she wasn’t in pain. Not yet. And until that time, he didn’t mind cleaning up after her occasional accidents or calling in the vet for those expensive house calls. He owed her that. Partially because of her years of patient listening, and partially because of the memories.

The car turned right and entered a residential area. He glanced down to the glowing red buttons on the console beside him. One of them was an intercom to the driver. But, like Herbert Marcuse, the great Neo-Marxist of the 20th Century (and, less popularly, Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber of the 1980s) Nicholas mistrusted modern technology as much as he scorned the society that created it. How many times had Annie, a fellow professor, pleaded with him to buy a telephone . . .

“What if there’s an emergency?” she’d insisted. “What if someone needs to call you?”

“Like solicitors?”

“They have Do Not Call lists,” she said. “You can go online and be added to their—”

“Online?”

“Okay, you can write them a letter.”

“And give them what, more personal information?”

“They’d only ask for your phone number.”

“Not if I don’t have one.”

And so the argument continued off and on for years . . . as gift occasions came and went, as his closet gradually filled with an impressive collection of telephones. One thing you could say about Annie Brooks, she was persistent—which may be why he put up with her company, despite the fact she doted over him like he was some old man who couldn’t take care of himself. Besides, she had a good head on her shoulders, when she chose to use it, which meant she occasionally contributed something of worth to their conversations.

Then, of course, there was her boy.

The car slowed. Having no doubt learned the error of his ways, the driver was turning around. Not that it would help him keep his job. That die had already been cast. But the car wasn’t turning. Instead, it pulled to the curb and came to a stop. The locks shot up and the right rear door immediately opened. A man in his early forties appeared—strong jaw, short hair, with a dark suit, white shirt, and black tie.

“Good evening, Doctor.” He slid onto the leather seat beside him.

“Who are you?” Nicholas demanded.

The man closed the door and the car started forward. “I apologize for the cloak and dagger routine, but—”

“Who are you?”

He flipped open an ID badge. “Brad Thompson, HLS.”

“Who?”

“Homeland Security Agent Brad Thompson.” He returned the badge to his coat pocket.

“You’re with the government?”

“Yes sir, Homeland Security.”

“And you’ve chosen to interrupt my ride home because . . .”

“Again, I apologize, but it’s about your brother.”

Nicholas stared at him, giving him no satisfaction of recognition.

“Your brother,” the agent repeated, “Travis Mackenzie?”

Nicholas held his gaze another moment before looking out the window. “Is he in trouble again?”

“Has he contacted you?”

“My brother and I seldom communicate.”

“Yes, sir, about every eighteen months if our information is correct.”

The agent’s knowledge unsettled Nicholas. He turned back to the man. “May I see your identification again?”

“Pardon me?”

“Your identification. You barely allowed me to look at it.”

The agent reached back into his suit coat. “Please understand this is far more serious than his drug conviction, or his computer hacking, or the DUIs.”

Nicholas adjusted his glasses, waiting for the identification.

The agent flipped open his ID holder. “We at HLS are very concerned about his involvement—”

Suddenly, headlights appeared through the back window, their beams on high. The agent looked over his shoulder, then swore under his breath. He reached for the intercom, apparently to give orders to the driver, but the town car was already beginning to accelerate.

“What’s the problem?” Nicholas asked.

The car turned sharply to the left and continued picking up speed.

“I asked you what is happening,” Nicholas repeated.

“Your brother, Professor. Where is he?”

The headlights reappeared behind them, closing in.

“You did not allow me to examine your identification.”

“Please, Doctor—”

“If you do not allow me to examine your identification, I see little—”

“We’ve no time for that!”

The outburst stopped Nicholas as the car took another left, so sharply both men braced themselves against the seat.

The agent turned back to him. “Where is your brother?”

Once again the lights appeared behind them.

Refusing to be bullied, Nicholas repeated, “Unless I’m convinced of your identity, I have little—”

The agent sprang toward him. Grabbing Nicholas’ shirt, he yanked him to his face and shouted, “Where is he?!”

Surprised, but with more pride than common sense, Nicholas answered. “As I said—”

The agent’s fist was a blur as it struck Nicholas’ nose. Nicholas felt the cartilage snap, knew the pain would follow. As would the blood.

“WHERE IS HE?”

The car turned right, tires squealing, tossing the men to the other side. As Nicholas sat up, the agent pulled something from his jacket. There was the black glint of metal and suddenly a cold gun barrel was pressed against his neck. He felt fear rising and instinctively pushed back the emotion. It wasn’t the gun that concerned him, but the fear. That was his enemy. If he could focus, rely on his intellect, he’d have the upper hand. Logic trumped emotion every time. It was a truth that sustained him through childhood, kept him alive in Vietnam, and gave him the strength to survive in today’s world.

The barrel pressed harder.

When he knew he could trust his voice, he answered, “The last time I saw my brother was Thanksgiving.”

The car hit the brakes, skidding to a stop, sliding Nicholas off the seat and onto his knees. The agent caught himself, managing to stay seated. Up ahead, through the glass partition, Nicholas saw a second vehicle racing toward them—a van or truck, its beams also on high.

The agent pounded the partition. “Get us out of here.” he shouted at the driver. “Now!”

The town car lurched backward. It bounced up a curb and onto a front lawn. Tires spun, spitting grass and mud, until they dug in and the vehicle took off. It plowed through a hedge of junipers, branches scraping underneath, then across another lawn. Nicholas looked out his side window as they passed the first vehicle which had been behind them, a late model SUV. They veered back onto the road, snapping off a mailbox. Once again the driver slammed on the brakes, turning hard to the left, throwing the vehicle into a 180 until they were suddenly behind the SUV, facing the opposite direction. Tires screeched as they sped off.

The agent hit the intercom and yelled, “Dump the Professor and get us out of here!”

The car continued to accelerate and made another turn.

Pulling Nicholas into the seat and shoving the gun into his face, the agent shouted, “This is the last time I’m asking!”

Nicholas’ heart pounded, but he kept his voice even. “I have already told you.”

The man chambered a round. But it barely mattered. Nicholas had found his center and would not be moved. “I have not seen him in months.”

“Thanksgiving?”

“Yes.”

The car made another turn.

“And?”

Nicholas turned to face him. “We ate a frozen dinner and I sent him away.”

The agent searched his eyes. Nicholas held his gaze, unblinking. The car took one last turn, bouncing up onto an unlit driveway, then jerked to a stop. There was no sound, except the pounding music.

“Get out,” the agent ordered.

Nicholas looked through the window. “I have no idea where we—”

“Now.”

Nicholas reached for the handle, opened his door and stepped outside. The air was cold and damp.

“Shut the door.”

He obeyed.

The town car lunged backward, lights off. Once it reached the road it slid to a stop, changed gears and sped off. Nicholas watched as it disappeared into the fog, music still throbbing even after it was out of sight. Only then did he appreciate the pain in his nose and the warm copper taste of blood in his mouth. Still, with grim satisfaction, he realized, he had won. As always, logic and intellect had prevailed.





Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Highlander Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor First chapter Peak

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button(in the Sidebar). 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:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor

and the book:

Highland Blessings

Abingdon Press (May 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jennifer Hudson Taylor is the author of historical and contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. Her fiction has won awards in the American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, will be released May 2010. Other works have appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Publishers, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, genealogy, and reading. She resides with her husband and daughter in the Charlotte area of NC.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 1, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1426702264

ISBN-13: 978-1426702266



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue
Scotland 1463

Cedric MacPhearson knew he was going to die, but he glanced up at the low clouds brewing into a storm and raised a fist, determined he would last until one of his sons found him. The survival of his clan depended upon it. And as ornery and stubborn as he had been all his life, no one would believe he had agreed to a peaceful settlement with the MacKenzies if he died, least of all his sons.

Beads of sweat broke along his brow as he struggled to remain conscious, mentally listing every black deed he had ever committed and then muttering a whispered prayer for each one. As the MacPhearson chieftain, Cedric’s word had been the unquestioned law. He had always thought himself a fair man with a firm ruling hand. Now as he prepared to meet his Maker, he wasn’t so sure. It was imperative that he complete one last goodwill before he closed his eyes forever.

The restless wind twirled faster, rustling scattered leaves around him. The cool air was a comfort, giving him a feeling of being lifted high and floating away as the pain in his chest faded to numbness. Lightning flashed silently, highlighting a lone rider approaching at top speed.

Rumbling thunder echoed in Cedric’s ears, drowning out the sound of a winded destrier pulled short and his son’s voice calling to him. Cedric’s head was gently lifted into the lad’s lap and tenderly cradled in youthful hands, strong with promise. Bryce, his middle son, peered down at him with intelligent, gray eyes full of concern.

“Da! What happened to ye?” He reached over and carefully lifted Cedric’s bloody tunic. Moisture gathered in his eyes at the sight of the large sword wound slightly below Cedric’s heart. “Likely, the villain got yer lungs.” His voice sounded like a man, but it shook with desperation. He looked deeply into Cedric’s eyes with painful certainty. “Who did this to ye?”

“A MacKenzie warrior struck me down. I came from signing the peace settlement with Birk MacKenzie, so I wasn’t expecting an attack.”

“I’ll kill the MacKenzie responsible!”

Cedric could hear the anger in his son’s voice and knew a century-old vengeance
coursed through his veins. Pride swelled in Cedric’s battered chest, and he was pleased that he hadn’t missed this opportunity to give his final command and say good-bye. He clutched his son’s shirt in his fist.

“Listen, lad. Birk MacKenzie didn’t order this. Even now he doesn’t know.”

The effort to speak quickly drained his energy and made his chest feel heavy. What blood had not drained from his body began to fill his lungs, and breathing became increasingly difficult. With a concentrated effort he motioned to his pocket and took a labored breath.

“Get paper.” His hoarse whisper brought blood to his mouth.

***


Bryce shuddered. Knowing time was of the essence, he frantically searched his father’s clothes and found a piece of paper. He unfolded it and scanned the signed documents.

Denial was on the tip of his tongue, when he looked at his father with defeat.
“Pro-mise . . . ye’ll . . . make E-van . . . hon-or . . . my word.”

A flicker of apprehension pierced him. He was uncomfortable making a promise of a life-long commitment for his elder brother, and even more afraid to spend these precious moments arguing with his dying father.

With the last of his strength, Cedric grabbed his wrist. “Pro-mise!” More blood spewed from his lips as the clouds opened with rain. Lightning struck and thunder roared.

Bryce bent forward, hating the entrapment of death he saw in his father’s eyes, and cradled his father to him. “Da, don’t die!” Tears blended with the downpour of rain. Cedric’s cold fingers squeezed. Out of desperation Bryce yelled over the storm. “I promise! I promise!”

He couldn’t bear the thought of his father dying without granting his last request.
Cedric released his wrist, and Bryce knew he was gone. Tears were difficult to shed. He couldn’t ever remember a time in his childhood when he allowed one to slip from his eye.

Now, alone in the storm, a lad of ten and four, Bryce grieved for his loss and a promise he prayed he could keep.

Chapter One
April 1473

Akira MacKenzie willed her knees not to fail her. She watched Gregor Matheson’s blond head disappear through the astonished crowd that slowly parted for him. He would have made her a perfect husband, but now he deserted her, placing her safety in jeopardy once again.

She swallowed the rising lump in her throat and straightened her shoulders. Akira clasped her hands in front of her and turned to face the expectant gazes of her Scottish clan. Hushed murmurs flowed through the crowd until one by one their voices faded into the restless wind.

“`Twill be no wedding this day.” She allowed her strong voice to echo over her kinsmen. The earth vibrated, and thunder rumbled in the distance. Akira paused, but naught seemed amiss. Green hills and hidden valleys lay undisturbed, draped with wildflowers and tall grass that rippled in the gentle breeze. Strands of golden-red hair lifted from her shoulder and brushed against her face. She whisked a wayward lock from her eyes.

She turned to Father Mike for encouragement. He stood in a brown robe gathered with a rope cord tied at the waist around his thin frame. Holding a small book in the crook of his arm, he shook his graying head. His aging face held laugh lines around the corners of his eyes and mouth, but today his wrinkles were pulled into a sad frown. His soft brown eyes settled upon her with understanding. Akira wanted to run weeping into his arms, but she held herself still.
More thunder rumbled and grew closer.

“’Tis the MacPhearsons!” A lone woman cried in alarm, pointing past where Akira stood on the grassy knoll.

Panic slashed through her clansmen, and they scattered to find shelter behind her father’s
castle gates. Unarmed MacKenzies sought their weapons before the riders reached them. Expecting a wedding celebration, few were prepared for battle.

Akira turned. The thunder she had heard was an army of warriors descending upon them. A savage barbarian riding a fierce gray stallion charged toward her, his army in quick pursuit. Together, the lead warrior and stallion embodied power. He led them as befit a king, but when his gaze fixed on Akira, her blood ran cold.

The MacPhearson chief wanted his bride. Akira hated her fear of him as it took root and gripped her insides.

“Lord, give me strength,” she murmured.

She would not run. No, she would stand and wait for him. If it was peace he wanted, then peace she would give him. She’d be calm, meet his gaze, and remind him of the letter her father received six months ago from the MacPhearson chief saying he would not honor the betrothal their parents had pledged years ago when she and Evan MacPhearson were children. Accepting it as the insult it was, Akira’s father granted his permission for her to wed a man of her choice. She had chosen Gregor Matheson, but now she realized even that had been a mistake.

Her brother Gavin broke through the madness and grabbed Akira’s arm, propelling her toward the castle gates. The sound of horses’ hooves pounding into the earth grew louder. One gray stallion ruptured forth, his rider targeting her. Knowing Gavin held no weapon to defend them, she fretted for his life and tried to wrench herself free.

“Run, Gavin! Run!” she yelled above the chaos.

Gavin wouldn’t leave her. He struggled to pull her along, but her heavy satin gown caught under her feet, nearly tripping her. While most wedding gowns of her clanswomen were of varying colors, Akira had wanted to look like a white dove. The front was simple, but elegant, with no beads or trim. The long sleeves widened at the wrists and the skirt portion draped over her figure like a long tapestry.

“Hurry, lass!” he urged as the material ripped.

The stallion’s labored breathing almost pulsed down her back. Her skin crawled with tiny prickles. The dark rider would soon overtake them. Jerking free of Gavin’s hold, she again urged her brother to safety.

“Leave me, Gavin.” Tears of despair threatened to snap her control. “I’ll not have ye die at the hand of a MacPhearson because of me.”

“Nay. Never!” Gavin protested.

The MacPhearson warrior bent, and his heavy fist slammed against Gavin’s jaw. Her brother landed several feet back. Iron fingers gripped her waist. The MacPhearson tightened his hold across her middle as he pulled her backward and up onto the horse. Akira screamed and kicked, lashing out blindly against him. He fought her with one hand while he guided his charger forward. The reins almost tumbled from his hand, and he lunged to grab them. His hard elbow rammed her cheek in the process.

“Don’t fight me, lass,” he roared. “Or else the blood of innocent men will be upon yer head!”
His words cut into her like a blade, and she ceased her struggles as he threw her over his lap and across the racing animal’s back. Akira believed him. A MacPhearson could have no compassion in a heart as black as death.

“How dare ye, MacPhearson!” Akira’s father bellowed behind them. She stole a glance through her tumbling hair. He ran after them with a fist raised in mid-air. He roared another promise of revenge before bending over his knees to catch his breath. Her father shook his graying head in disbelief.

“I love ye, Da,” she whispered, committing his image to memory.

The forest swallowed them, and for hours the MacPhearsons kept their fast pace. Akira tried to calm her heaving stomach, but it continued to twirl as she lay over his lap. The ride would have been much more tolerable had she been able to sit on her backside. Instead, her stomach suffered from the jarring of the stallion’s movements. The nausea finally overtook her, and she vomited.

They stopped. Left with no other recourse, she tried to wipe her mouth with her hand.

The warrior ripped off part of his plaid hanging over his tunic that reached down to his knees like a long shirt and belted at the waist. He wet it with water from his flask and offered it to her. His plaid of red and gray colors fell forward, and he shoved it back over his shoulder. Since the MacPhearsons lived in a different region, their plaids were made by a different weaver from the MacKenzies. Akira’s clan often wore plaids of blue and green.

She lifted her gaze to his menacing glare. Akira trembled in spite of her silent resolve not to fear him, for he looked as if he wanted to beat her, and she felt certain it wasn’t beneath him.
He leaned forward, thrusting the material in her face. “Take it and clean yerself,” he demanded, as if the sight of her disgusted him.

Grimacing, she looked down at his leg covered with her sickness. Her cheeks grew warm. He deserved what he had gotten for throwing her on his stallion and hauling her off like a prize he had won.

“Lass, don’t make me repeat myself.” His lack of patience was quite evident in his tone, but even more so as he shoved the damp material in her face.

Akira snatched it out of his hand and glared back, momentarily forgetting her danger.
“Ye blunderin’ fool, ’tis yer own fault it happened. Ye got no more than ye deserved.”

He leaned forward, his nose barely an inch from hers, and she leaned back as far as she dared without toppling off his stallion. His dark gray eyes turned black, and a vein pulsed rapidly in his neck as he stared down at her.

Once again her temper and boldness had gotten the better of her. Lord, help bridle me tongue, she silently prayed. Deciding she had pushed him far enough, Akira gripped his leg while she stroked the damp cloth over his skin in hopes of diverting his attention from her angry outburst. He flinched at her touch. She dropped his leg with a questioning gaze.
“I told ye to clean yerself, not me.”

“I’m not quite as messy.” She turned back to her task.

He lifted her from the stallion and dropped her on her unsteady feet. It took her a moment to recover. When she did, she found herself staring at her captor’s chest. Tall for a woman, Akira wasn’t used to a man’s height equaling her own, but this MacPhearson was a giant. His massive shoulders blocked the sun’s rays, filtering through the trees.

He bound her hands with a leather strap, pulling the knot secure against the flesh around the fine bone of her wrists. She noticed his skin was a shade or two darker than hers.

Akira stole the moment to study his profile. Shoulder-length hair the color of potted soil framed an authoritative, square face. His gray eyes were sharp and purposeful as he tended to his task. Up close he appeared more handsome than barbaric. His bronze face bore a recent shave.
The bridge of his nose smoothed over his face to striking, high cheekbones. He radiated confidence, but she sensed a stubborn streak hid behind his determined expression.

As he towered over her, she felt a rare fear and trembled. His hands gentled, and his voice softened.

“I’m sorry I was so rough with ye. I didn’t mean for my elbow to hit yer cheek.” He pulled the leather tighter, making her wince. “I apologize for this inconvenience, but I must see to it that ye canna escape.”

He stepped back, rubbing his chin in thoughtful concentration as if contemplating what to do with her. “Ye’re no ordinary woman.” He crossed his arms and circled Akira, observing her. She could feel the heat of his blazing gaze travel the length of her. “Any other woman would have fled.” He paused in front of her and looked into her eyes. “`Twas as if ye were determined to stand yer ground and wait for me until that man encouraged ye to run.” He raised a black eyebrow. “Why?”

“They’re my family and clansmen. If ye were coming to claim yer bride, then I was the one ye wanted, not them.”

“So ye’re a courageous lass. Willing to sacrifice yerself for their lives. Is that the way of it then?” He spoke in a firm, yet gentle tone. He touched her swelling cheek with the back of his knuckles. Akira flinched from the uncharacteristic gesture. He dropped his hand.

“Regardless of what ye think, I’m not in the habit of mistreating women.” He looked at her intently, his eyes almost willing her to believe him.

She stared over his shoulder at the dark forest, refusing to relieve him of his guilt—if he was human enough to feel any. “My brother did naught to ye. Why did ye hit him?”

“Yer brother would have interfered and caused a massacre of yer people. I had no wish for that to happen, so I took the only option I had. I took care of him before he could strike me and my men retaliate on my behalf.”

Akira stepped back in disbelief. She craned her neck to see into his dark gray eyes. “’Twas not the only option. He could still be unconscious this verra moment.”

He sighed, crossing his arms over his chest as if she were trying his patience. “I assure ye, lass, yer brother will be fine. I didn’t hit him hard.”

She leaned up on her tiptoes. “Then my eyes must have been deceiving me, for ye
knocked him plumb out.”

“Aye, that I did.” He grinned with pride as white, even teeth flashed in contrast to his dark profile. “But the blow will not cause any lasting effects, I assure ye.”

“There’s not a guilty bone in yer body.” A lock of golden-red curls fell forward covering her right eye. She reached up with her bound hands and tossed her long tresses over her shoulder. “Ye had no right to take me from my family.”

“Believe as ye wish.” He shrugged. “I may have taken ye against yer will, but I never commit harm unless I’m forced.” He placed a finger under her chin and tilted her face.

Her mind whirled in a daze. Akira purposely closed her heart to any generosity he might bestow upon her. “Gavin gave ye no reason to hit him. I hope I do naught to force yer mistreatment of me before ye return me to my family.” The sarcasm in her voice overshadowed her fear.

A sudden frown perplexed his otherwise perfect face, and she sensed a change in his demeanor. In one fluid motion, he lifted her upon his stallion. This time she was properly seated as he mounted up behind her. He urged the beast beneath them forward, signaled to his men, and they were again on their way. Akira had nearly forgotten that others were present to witness their exchange.

Under the circumstances, he set a much slower pace than she would have anticipated, knowing the MacKenzies could be following close behind. They traveled a good distance in silence.

After a long while had passed, he bent toward her ear. “I’m sorry.”

His warm breath floated over the skin at her nape, and she fought the urge to shudder. His apology stunned her speechless. Warriors did not apologize, least of all to bound prisoners or to women.

“Whether ye believe me or not, I do not mistreat women. And the blow to yer cheek wouldn’t have happened if ye hadn’t put up such a struggle.”

Akira remained silent. How was she supposed to have responded while being kidnapped away from her family and all that she held dear? She had no idea what to expect. All she knew was that she depended upon the Lord to give her sufficient grace to get through whatever she would be forced to endure at their hands.

“I see ye’ve naught else to say.” Disappointment carried in his voice.

She arched an eyebrow. He expected friendly conversation while he carted her halfway across the country against her will and kept her in bonds? “What would ye have me say?” She turned sideways in the saddle. “I can only wonder at what ye plan to do with me. Should I beg for mercy in hopes ye’ll spare my life? Or should I wait ’til ye’ve no more use for me?” She straightened away from him.

He chuckled. “I appreciate the ideas.”

“Why not take me home now before my da comes after me and more blood is shed?”

He tensed as if her words had struck some deep chord within him. “Believe me, lass, more bloodshed is not my intention. I took ye because I had to and that’s the end of it.”

Akira wisely remained silent. The man seemed to contradict even his own character. He didn’t want her to believe him a barbarian, yet he had ridden onto MacKenzie land with warriors and carted her off against her will, thrown across his lap like a sack of potatoes. Then he bound her wrists with a leather strap and tried to convince her that he was a caring gentleman with good manners. There could only be one explanation. The man was daft.

* * *


They rode well into the night. Bryce’s heavily muscled arms shielded her from branches and other brush in their path. They came to a clearing and Bryce halted. “We’ll camp here for the night. There’s a small brook beyond those trees.” He gestured to the right. He called two men over. “Backtrack and station yerselves to keep watch. I want to know of the first sign of a MacKenzie.”

Before she could object, large hands circled her waist and lifted her down. “Follow me.” He turned on his heel, leaving her with no choice but to do as directed. He led her into the dark woods, and she wanted nothing more than to turn and run the other way. Twigs cracked beneath the weight of their footsteps. An owl hooted in the distance. A small animal shifted and darted through the leaves. She wondered if it was a rabbit. Crickets sang around them. Akira rubbed her arms in discomfort and crouched close to his back to avoid the leaves and limbs he shoved aside.

They reached the brook, and he motioned for her to kneel beside him. She bent and watched him remove more of his plaid. He dipped it into the water and brought it against her face.
She jerked at the cold contact. What was this about?

“I merely want to bathe yer face.”

She leaned back. “Nay!”

His hands fell to his sides, still holding his wet plaid in one hand. “I can see the swelling and darkness just below yer eye, even in the moonlight.”

As if brought on by his words, the skin under her left eye tightened and grew numb. Her fingers inched to her cheek as she stared at him. He was stern with his men and they rushed to do his bidding. A man did not earn that kind of respect and power with a gentle nature. They feared him, and they wanted his approval. She could see it in their faces when they looked at him. Admiration shone in their expression.

“Ye’ve no reason to fear me, unless ye plan to make it so,” he interrupted her thoughts. “I’ll treat ye with all the respect owed and due a lady, but heed my warning: Don’t anger me by trying to escape. There is naught I despise worse than distrust and betrayal.”

Akira stood to her full height, prepared to challenge him. “As yer prisoner I owe ye no trust or loyalty.”

He rose beside her. “Consider yerself warned. ’Twould ease yer fear of me.”

He lowered his voice, and she sensed his tone carried great meaning.

“I’m not afraid. I simply wish ye not to touch me.” She hoped her tone carried the contempt she felt.

“As ye wish.” He stepped closer, pointing a finger in her face. “But I warn ye. Ye’ll remain bound, for I’ll not give ye the opportunity to flee. If ye eat, I shall feed ye. If ye
wash, I shall help ye. Ye belong to my brother, and I trust no one else save Balloch.”

Akira stood still, stunned. He was not the MacPhearson clan chief? She belonged to his brother? “Yer not Evan MacPhearson?”

“I am Bryce MacPhearson, the middle son.” He grinned. “I see ye’ve managed to remember the name of the man ye should have been saying yer vows to when I found ye, instead of that oaf ye were about to commit yerself to.”

He started to turn from her, but she gripped his arm. “Gregor is not an oaf. Though that is the best I can describe of ye.” She felt almost breathless. “What lies do ye speak? Evan MacPhearson sent my father a letter saying he had no intention of wedding me.”

“I speak no lies. The letter was a mistake.” He turned his full attention toward Akira and placed his hands on his hips, towering over her. “And as to a better description of me, do ye really lack that much imagination, lass? If this Gregor deserves such defense, then where was the brave groom when I found ye?”

Akira hated the truth of his words. Shivers ran up her spine, and she consciously tried to shake them off, but his last question brought her blood to a boil. Her thoughts turned to the humiliating scene. Warmth crept up her neck and into her face.

“Perhaps he was a wee bit late?” he taunted.

She refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing how much his words hurt. “Maybe he knew how miserable I could make his life, which would be my full intention if yer brother were to succeed in wedding me.”

His lips twisted into a sardonic grin. “As laird, Evan is only performing his duties by wedding ye. Marriages of convenience occur every day. I doubt he plans to spend enough time with ye to allow ye to wreak havoc in his life.”

“I haven’t agreed to wed Evan. And ye know naught of Gregor to throw insults in his absence.” She hated the fact that she felt forced to take up for Gregor. He did not deserve her loyalty any more than the MacPhearsons.

“I know enough.” His gray eyes grew darker and his voice a bit louder.

“What do ye know of him?”

“Enough.”

“If I must hear these accusations against him, then tell me.”

He reached for her, and not knowing his intention, she flinched. His palm rested on the side of her face, surprisingly as gentle as a breeze. “I know he is a complete fool to give ye up.” His voice broke to a husky whisper.

Akira blinked, wondering if she had heard him correctly. “Then I suppose yer brother would be an even greater fool, because me da received Evan’s letter releasing me from the betrothal agreement just six months past.”

Bryce’s expression didn’t change. “He is the fool of all fools.” He turned and walked away.

Akira followed him.

“Did he send ye for me?” She wanted to know if she was an unwelcome necessity in Evan’s life.

“Ye’ll know soon enough.”

Akira caught up with him and tugged on his arm. She needed answers. “Why didn’t he
take me?”

He shook off her arm. “Ye’ll sleep close by me.”

“I think not.” She turned from him and stomped off in the other direction, only to realize she still desired to know more about Evan MacPhearson. “Why did he not come for me himself?”

Bryce turned from her, rubbing his palm against his forehead. He walked past his men and pulled his furs from his stallion and threw them at her feet. “Here, sleep on those. ’Tis enough to cover ye.”

“My da will come for me.”

“I expect he will.” Bryce walked over to a tree, sat, leaned against the trunk and folded his arms over his knees.

“Ye plan to sleep that way?”

“Aye.” He let his head drop against the hard bark.

“Ye look uncomfortable.” She frowned in his direction. “But, I care not.” She assured him. “I’ll be home with me family in the comfort of me own bed soon.”

Akira brushed aside a few twigs and spread out her furs as best she could with her hands still bound. Then she crawled on top of the furs and brought one end over her. The chill had not bothered her as yet, but the night air promised dropping temperatures. The day had been warm for April and the first time it had not rained in days. It was a good omen for her wedding day—or so she had thought. An image of Gregor appeared in her mind, and sadness closed around her heart. The pain of his rejection hurt more than she cared to think on. She stifled a sob that nearly escaped her throat.

***


A muffled sound brought Bryce’s head up. He studied Akira’s feminine form under the moonlight. Her hair sprawled over her arms like silver ribbon. She sighed uncomfortably and shuffled around, restless.

The vision of her face, swollen and blue, made him squirm with regret. He had not meant to hurt her, and he despised his carelessness.

“Blunderin’ idiot!” he muttered under his breath.

“Are ye troubled?” The hope in her voice almost made him chuckle as she rolled over on her side and sat up on her elbow. The furs slipped from her shoulder. Akira’s silhouetted form shivered against the cool air settling in around them. Bryce looked away and shifted again to ease his discomfort.

“Nay.” He dropped his chin on his folded arms.

She continued to stare at him a moment longer before she lay back down to rest.

He let his head fall back against the bark of the tree and looked up at the outline of the branches and leaves above. Footsteps and twigs broke. Balloch plopped down beside him.
“The lady’s a beauty, is she not?” Balloch whispered.

“Aye, she is at that. In a few days she’ll hate me when she learns the truth.” For some reason, that realization bothered him. What should he care of her hatred for him? He wasn’t the one destined to wed her, but it bothered him nonetheless. As she prayed aloud for her family, her safety, and a swift return home, guilt plagued him.

When she prayed that God would soften his heart, Bryce could stand no more. He turned to Balloch. “Keep an eye on her. I’ll be back.”

In one fluid motion he stood and walked away from camp. Safely out of hearing, Bryce looked up at the clear bright stars.

“Lord, Vicar Forbes says to honor yer mother and yer father. I’m only trying to do so.” He sighed heavily, wondering if God would hear him after what he had done today. “I really do want peace between our clans. I’m tired of all the bloodshed. Show me how to keep my promise without causing another war.”

No answer came from the Almighty. Bryce dropped his head in shame. While he had never been an overly religious man, he had no desire to anger his Maker. Had he gone too far this time?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mackenzie Blue Series by Tina Wells

Mackenzie BlueMackenzie Blue: The Secret CrushMackenzie Blue: Friends Forever?

The Mackenzie Blue Series by Tina Wells is a Cute series about Mackenzie Blue, a girl who is going through all the drama of life as a seventh grader at Brookdale academy. 

From mackenzieblue.com:
Mackenzie, aka Zee, is the charismatic, fashionable, pop-culture savvy, down-to-earth star of this fresh new tween fiction series that chronicles the adventures of a diverse crew of friends who try to survive middle school at the prestigious Brookdale Academy in southern California. Fun and eco-conscious, Mackenzie Blue is an upbeat break from mean-girl culture.


Overview of Book 1:

Mackenzie’s diary is stolen, and the fallout is more than anyone expected – it even threatens Zee’s chances I the Teen Sing contest. Did Kathi’s crew snag the diary? Or maybe it was her nosy brother. Or even worse, did one of Mackenzie’s friends have a hand in this?

Overview of Book 2 (Mackenzie Blue: The Secret Crush):

Zee is cast as the lead in the school musical alongside her longtime crush, Landon. Perfect! Except, her friends and family aren’t thrilled about all the time Zee spends with him. Especially not her best guy pal, Jasper. With music to write, costumes to design, and friendships to save, only one thing is clear…the show must go on.

from the publisher: Mackenzie Blue: Friends Forever

Mackenzie Blue is hitting the trails!

It's time for Brookdale Academy's camping field trip, but Zee has much more to deal with than a lesson about nature. . . .

Pros:

1. My BFF, Ally, is visiting all the way from Paris! Ooh la la!

2. My friends and I are so going to win the environmental scavenger hunt!

Cons:

1. We have to stay in teeny-tiny log cabins. How will we all fit?

2. The legendary (and terrifying) Mountain Man . . .

My Take: These Books were a a refreshing breath of fresh air.  They were cute and fun and I think any girl ages 8-12 would really enjoy them.  As a matter of fact my 15 year old daughter has requested to read them.  
Head over to mackenzieblue.com for alot of great stuff to do online.

Also be on the look out for the next in the series Mackenzie Blue: Mixed MessagesMackenzie Blue: Mixed Messages due out Dec. 1

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan (audio)

Don't Blink
Don't Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

The good

New York's Lombardo's Steak House is famous for three reasons--the menu, the clientele, and now, the gruesome murder of an infamous mob lawyer. Effortlessly, the assassin slips through the police's fingers, and his absence sparks a blaze of accusations about who ordered the hit.

The bad

Seated at a nearby table, reporter Nick Daniels is conducting a once-in-a-lifetime interview with a legendary baseball bad-boy. In the chaos, he accidentally captures a key piece of evidence that lands him in the middle of an all-out war between Italian and Russian mafia forces. NYPD captains, district attorneys, mayoral candidates, media kingpins, and one shockingly beautiful magazine editor are all pushing their own agendas--on both sides of the law.

And the dead

Back off--or die--is the clear message Nick receives as he investigates for a story of his own. Heedless, and perhaps in love with his beautiful editor, Nick endures humiliation, threats, violence, and worse in a thriller that overturns every expectation and finishes with the kind of flourish only James Patterson knows.


My Take:  I really like James Patterson and try to read or listen to everything he comes out with.  I tend to like his solo books best but I enjoyed this book.  I liked the main character Nick Daniels and the story as long as it dealt with whole who ordered  the Hit and was it mob related  but as in most of Patterson's books the love life aspect of the book broke down for me.  I felt like it could have been tied together a bit more.  
The Narrator David Patrick Kelly did a good job but not suck a great job as I will be going out a specifically looking for books read by him.  
 
If you are a Patterson or thriller fan, you will enjoy this book. 
 
I received a copy of this audio book for review purposes.  

It's Monday What Are you Reading?



It's Monday What are you Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

On the blog this last week:

Review of
Key Lime Pie - A Culinary Mystery
Key Lime Pie by Josi Kilpack

First chapter Peak At
Catching Moondrops
Catching Moon Drops by Jennifer Erin Valent

Book Trailer of
Crescendo (Hush, Hush)
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Book Review of

Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York (Excelsior Editions)
Arsenic and Clam Chowder by James D. Livingston

Review of
Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball: A Novella
Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball: a Novella by Donita K. Paul

Reading last week:

Elvis and The Dearly Departed
Elvis and the Dearly Departed by Peggy Webb  Ebook


City on Our Knees
City on Our Knees by Toby Mac


Vigilante's Bride, The
Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris


A Simple Amish Christmas
A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman ebook


Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery  ebook


Sprinkle with Murder (Cupcake Bakery Mystery)
Sprinkled with Murder by Jenn McKinlay

Rise Again: A Zombie Thriller
Rise Again by Ben Tripp


The God Hater: A Novel
The God Hater by Bill Myers


On the blog this week:


First chapter Peak of

Highland Blessings
Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Review of

Rise Again: A Zombie Thriller
Rise Again by Ben Tripp

First Chapter Peak and review of

The God Hater: A Novel
The God Hater by Bill Myers

Audio:
Thou Shalt Laugh
Thou Shalt Laugh


Tandem: A Novel
Tandem by Tracey Bateman


Unlocked
unlocked by Karen Kingsbury





Coming Up:

The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal
The Church Awakening by Charles Swindoll



Masquerade
Masquerade by Nancy Moser


Everything Christmas
Everything Christmas by David Bordon and Tom Winters


Uncertain Heart (Seasons of Redemption, Book 2)
Uncertain Heart by Andrea Boeshaar


Christmas Mourning
Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron


The Perfect Blend (The Tea Shop Series)
The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry


Where Hearts Are Free (A Darkness to Light Novel)
Where Hearts are Free by Golden Keyes Parsons