Friday, December 9, 2011

F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: A FIRST Look at the Book

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 & illustrator is:

and the book:

FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)
***Special thanks to M. C. Pearson of FIRST Wild Card Press for sending me a review copy.***


M. C. Pearson graduated from San Jose State University with a B. A. in art, served as a multi-media illustrator in the United States Army, earning the rank of sergeant, and spent four years as a house parent for at-risk youth. Now married over 20 years, she homeschools her two children, volunteers with her church youth group, and runs a book review blog alliance (FIRST Wild Card Tours) while writing and drawing. F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire is her first novel.

Visit the author's website.


Unwittingly chosen to join an army of fairies, who fight for the Light of the One, a teenaged girl learns about spiritual warfare as she attends a military academy with fantastical beings.


Here lies a most precious treasure,
Awaiting one Chosen to deliver.

Seek out the red cousins in the East,
For on this your greed mustn't feast.

The wealth of a species now in your hands,
Do with it as the light demands.

Give them your gift to unite,
For it is the darkness we all must fight.


"Imagination runs wild in F.A.I.R.I.E.S. Pearson brings young readers through a looking glass and into a world bursting with adventure, heroism, and fascinating creatures. Readers will be inspired to be true to the One and left with anticipation of more to come."
--Jill Williamson, award-winning author of
By Darkness Hid, and other books

"Sprinkled with delightful illustrations, and brimming with a full bestiary of magical creatures, F.A.I.R.I.E.S. is a fun, clever romp through the alternate landscape of the most magical world of all, our own. Read, and take up the call: 'Defend and Emancipate!'"
-- D. Barkley Briggs, author of
The Book of Names, and other books

"F.A.I.R.I.E.S. will appeal to readers who love the interplay of fantasy and reality. A rich cast of eccentric characters and exotic settings make this a fun addition to the folklore of the battle between good and evil."
--Mike Hamel, author of

"F.A.I.R.I.E.S. is one of those rare gems I want to tell everyone about. It's highly imaginative, packed with adventure, and full of hope. A must read for kids and for kids at heart. Even better than Narnia! I was thinking about Pearson's wonderfully memorable characters for days."
--C.J. Darlington, author of
Thicker than Blood

"Ms. Pearson's extravagant and imaginative F.A.I.R.I.E. kingdom will surely delight the young and the young-at-heart in this tale of good and evil, light vs. darkness. The fantasy-loving reader will not be disappointed!"
--Linore Rose Burkard, award winning author of
Before the Season Ends, and other books

Product Details:

List Price: $17.99
Paperback: 482 pages
Publisher: FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615530222
ISBN-13: 978-0615530222


Four thousand seasons shall pass while our swords grow rusty.

Where once one chose to divide, another shall be chosen to unite.

One changed the past, the other shall change the future.

One must emancipate the other to allow the light its dominion.

The realm, now torn, allows the shadow to abide, as humanity lies blind to its peril.

The bond of friendship must endure, for the army of shadows awaits another tear.

Dust off your swords.

Unite the realm.

Destroy the strongholds.

Foretelling of Didasko Gnome Digdeep



t was an accident!” Mellie yelled, not caring who heard or stared. Tears streaked her face as she fled down the Santa Cruz coastline, away from her family.

You don’t need them, a voice hissed in her ear, Escape. Run away.

Scorching sand burned at her feet and bitterness ate at her heart. Mellie pumped her legs as fast as they would go. Her feet pounded with the rhythm of her emotions, beating a tempo with the crashing waves. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Run-a-way. Adrenaline pulsed through her veins, quickening her step.

Why did I have to be the youngest? Only 12 years old. Never smart enough. Never athletic enough. I just wish they loved me.

Once, just once, she wanted to do something that would make her sisters see that she wasn’t the stupid, awkward, ugly, little baby sister.

As she ran, she wiped away some tears with the palm of her hand. Her fingers settled on her large nose, a gift from her dad’s Hungarian ancestry.

Chelsea got the ski-slope shaped nose. I had to get Half-Dome. It just isn’t fair.

Her hand dropped to her side and she pinched at her stomach. It still had some of its baby fat.

Ugh, why are my sisters so perfect? What happened to me?

Pushing her short bangs from her forehead in disgust, she mumbled, “Maybe I’ll find treasure. I’ll be the rich one, and then they’ll have to accept me.” But she knew better. California didn’t hold any more undiscovered treasures.

The sand, hot and coarse, cut at her feet. I wish I had remembered my shoes. She wore only a black, one-piece swimsuit and a San Jose Sharks sweatshirt tied tightly around her waist.

Breathing rapidly, she began to tire. She slowed her pace to a walk and looked back across the beach. The sand was so hot that waves of heat rose from it and blurred her view. A lone seagull screeched overhead.

Her sisters were nowhere in sight.

Man, I thought for sure that Chelsea was going to chase me down and kill me.

She had to admit that it was a little gratifying to see the sand fly from her foot, covering Chelsea’s sub-sandwich and freshly oiled stomach. Grinning slightly, the tears stopped flowing. She rubbed her eyes.

Mellie looked in the direction of her sisters. “You guys can never take a joke.” Flipping her golden hair, she turned her head back toward her chosen path. She no longer smiled as she stomped her feet in the cold surf, remembering the hateful words that had been said.

“Oh, waa waa, you stupid cry baby! Go tell mommy! Maybe she’ll feel sorry for her ugly, fat baby. Why don’t you grow up? We don’t want you near us. Can’t you understand English? You are so dumb. Look at her mouth open. Oh wait, here she goes…come on, baby…cry!”

Mellie knew she couldn’t go back. They would only ridicule and torment her further. Her mom would never believe it was Chelsea’s fault. No, the evidence was on Chelsea’s side. Who was the one with the sand all over her oily, coconut-smelling body? Who was the one who had a sandwich full of sand? Mellie walked on.

After her temper finally cooled, it occurred to her that she had never walked so far alone.

How far have I gone?

A shadow passed over her, and she looked up. Nothing was there. A cool breeze from the ocean created a stark contrast to the scalding sand. She shivered but kept walking, lost in her loneliness.

Not until she stubbed her toe on a large broken clamshell did she look at the beach. A chill snaked up her back. Nothing appeared familiar. The sounds of the surf were still there, yet something was decidedly different. She felt dizzy. Looking around, she could not quite pinpoint the change. Then it struck her.

No people.

Where did everybody go?

Even though she could see no one, Mellie could swear that she felt eyes staring at her.

She looked inland across the sand, saw movement near some eucalyptus trees, but decided that the wind must have caused it.

Trees? So close to the beach?

Something shook the trees again, causing goosebumps to stand out on Mellie’s arms. Alarmed, she checked the skyline. The sun was close to setting. She hoped that the police weren’t out looking for her.

Suddenly cold, she pulled at the arms of the sweatshirt still tied around her waist. It fell to the sand. Bending to pick it up, she once again saw a blur of movement, except this time it came from a rocky outcrop by the waves. She shook the sand out of the sweatshirt and hurriedly tugged it over her head.

“Okay, I’m seeing things.” Mellie yanked at her hair, pulling it out of the sweatshirt. She stared at the sinister rocks. “Hel-lo?” Her voice cracked as she spoke louder. “Is someone the-ere? Hello?” No answer. The shadowy rocks seemed to quiver with excitement, beckoning her closer.

Hmm…probably just a seagull.

Even if it was a bird, she did not want to see it.

There’s no way I’m going over there.

The wind picked up and blew her hair into her eyes. The sand spun with the wind.

Yes, definitely time to move. I need to find a road.

She turned back toward the sweet smelling, oddly placed trees.

Mellie arrived at the base of the first, colossal eucalyptus tree. Without warning, one of the branches fell in front of her, then seemed to get up from the ground and pose its bottom stems in a military-like stance.

Mellie screamed and jumped back. “Branches don’t stand.”

“They do if they are walking sticks.” The eucalyptus branch chuckled, stretching to its full height, considerably taller than Mellie’s meager five feet.
She gasped, grabbed the branch, and threw it like a javelin, as hard as she could.

As she took off running, she heard a bark and halted. Turning, she saw a golden retriever bounding toward her with the stick in his mouth. The dog dropped it at her feet. She watched the dog run into the grove of trees and disappear before she fearfully turned back to the possessed stick.

It had already gained its footing again and stood over her. Mellie was too frightened to move this time.

A face emerged from the skinny twig and took on the characteristics of a male human, but none like Mellie had ever seen. He had hair made up in rolls as if it were a powdered, green-silver wig, the same color as the leaves that grew all around his skinny body. His face was long and his forehead high. The twiggy man smiled and said in a distinctly British, albeit breezy, accent, “Do not worry, you are safe.”

Mellie couldn’t answer.

“Ahh…I love new recruits. They are so easily addled.”

Feeling more confused than threatened, Mellie found her voice. “What? What do you mean, new recruits?” She rubbed her eyes, shaking her head. “Okay, I’m talking to a stick now. Yes, I have lost it. I have gone totally mental.”

“Oh, I say, am I to understand that I am the first to be revealed to you?” With round, leathery leaves, the branch resembled a toddler toy with rings stacked on one another.

She dropped open her mouth and nodded.

“Well, let me do this properly, then. Ahem. Mortal, made of clay, you have been Chosen to join the Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads.”

“What? What are you? You look like a stick…but you can talk.”

“Yes, child,” the stick replied with a sigh. “But, I think we are quite past that by now. Have you not heard me? You have been Chosen.”

Mellie opened her mouth wider, closed it, frowned, and opened it once more. “Chosen? For what?”

“You did wish to be different? To change who you were? ’Twas an especially strong desire, yes?” The branch crossed its arms and tapped its twiggy foot.


“Dear me, this is highly unusual. You made a choice to run away from a miserable life and asked to be set free? Correct?”

“Well, I, ah…yeah. I guess so. What did you say about recruit for some squad?”

“Humph. I see that I was not understood. Yes? Let me elucidate. The Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads , or shall I say F.A.I.R.I.E.S.? have accepted you into their organization. You asked. You were answered.” The branch attempted a smile, but looked impatient instead.

“Fairies? I don’t believe in fairies.” Mellie winced, half expecting him to fall down and writhe in pain until she clapped her hands.

“Quite right. You are not supposed to. If humans truly believed we existed, we would never get anything accomplished.”

Mellie laughed and looked around for a hidden camera, thinking this must be a joke. “Right. Ah…heh…okay, bud, brilliant costume,” she said, imitating the branch’s accent. “Where’s the zipper?” She reached toward him and touched a soft leaf.

The branch slapped her hand away and stamped its foot with a loud cracking noise. “I beg your pardon. I have not been a bud for over 800 springs!” He paced, his leaves crumpling, mumbling to himself about humans and why, in the One’s name, did he listen to that confounded gnome who told him that he needed to stand gate duty. With his rank!

“I’m sorry I upset you. Please, I’m very confused. I’m lost, and I just want to go home.” Mellie bit her lip.

The branch stopped mid-pace. “Home? Earlier, did you not wish for a new life? And riches? I know you wished for treasure, hmm?”

“How do you know that?” Mellie furrowed her brow. “Have you been reading my mind?”

The twig man didn’t answer her questions, asking his own instead. “Ahh, so, you admit this, yes?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Yes, but…well, this really isn’t what I had in mind.”

The branch threw up its twiggy fingers. “Oh, well, of course you did not have this in mind. After all, we are reasonably inconspicuous, especially to humans. How could you have this in mind? However, is it not superior of the One to think that this is what you would have chosen had you known about us? Anyway, ’tis irrevocable now. So, if you would just follow me, we shall get you signed in and enrolled for training.”

The branch marched off between the trunks of two large eucalyptus trees.

Mellie slid uncontrollably after the walking stick. She planted her feet firmly, refusing to budge, but she slid after him anyway. Grasping at branches of nearby trees, she panted heavily as she struggled to resist following the branch. Some kind of invisible tie connected her to him. He seemed to pull her along with his every step.

Mellie thought about her sisters and how mad they were at her. I’m dead meat if they find me. Mellie quickly gave up her battle and ran after the eucalyptus branch, barely keeping up with his stride.


The sand changed to coarse dirt, with pebbles and sticks. More and more trees filled Mellie’s vision. Bushes scraped against her bare legs and slapped her face as she moved deeper inside a forest of eucalyptus and redwood trees. She winced in pain as a razor-sharp rock sliced her foot. Stopping to nurse it, she wished once again for her forgotten shoes.

“Excuse me, sir?” Mellie looked around. She could not see the branch anywhere.

“Do not call me ‘sir’, I work for a living.” The branch peeked out from around one of the gigantic trees. “And please, try to keep up. We need to reach the gateway.”

Mellie limped up to him. “Sorry, sir…I mean…umm, what should I call you then?”

“Oh, well, we did skip that. Did we not? Yes, all right, an introduction then.” The branch man seemed to enjoy formal etiquette for he gave an elaborate wave and bowed. “My name is Regnans, family of Myrtaceae, born member of the F.A.I.R.I.E.S., Britannia Wing, rank of Master Nymph Dryad.”

“Nice to meet you, Reg…Reg?” Mellie chewed on the inside of her mouth. Never good at remembering names, she knew she would offend him with her lack of manners.

Sure enough, the dryad raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips. “Regnans.” He gave a hurt sniff, then drolly sneered. “If you find that a difficult name, you should meet the rest of my family, all seven-hundred thirty-four of them.”

“Sorry, I just…well, it is a lot to remember. It’s a nice name, though. My name is Maryellen Goodwin of Bret Harte Middle School, San Jose, California. But everyone calls me Mellie.” She stuck out her hand, intending to shake. Regnans stared at her.

“That is a strange curtsy. However, I guess ’twill do. We must get moving now. The shadows abound, you know.” Regnans made an about face and marched off faster than before.

Another hour passed, and still they strode along the forest floor. Mellie’s feet were now cut, blistered, and bleeding. She kept up as best she could with Regnans’s long stride. Whenever she tried to stop, he would pull her on with that invisible force of his.

Stupid, pompous, magical Star Wars freak.

She whimpered as she limped. Darkness and mist now covered the woods. As she was about to plead for a break, Regnans stopped. Except for her heavy gulps of air, all seemed quiet.

Regnans stiffened even more than usual. Nothing on him moved, apart from his eyes, which darted around quickly.

“All is safe, we may proceed.” He held up a twiggy finger to his woody mouth. “Please do not speak, and try not to breathe so abominably loud.”

Mellie nodded with a disgusted frown. Sweat dripped from her bangs. She tried to calm her breathing, even though her vision blurred, and her legs wobbled. Her blisters had popped by now and oozed wetness.

Regnans moved again, yet this time he took slow, deliberate steps, all the while scanning his surroundings. He walked up to a massive redwood tree and stroked its bark.

A breeze stirred up, rattling the leaves, sounding almost like spoken words. Mellie thought herself crazy again. However, the longer she stood there, the more she sensed that it really was the tree’s language, as if she had never listened to trees properly before. It said, “If you love, you will say the one true love that leads the way.”

Regnans whispered in a leaf rustling voice, “Ah-gaw-pay.”

A loud grumbling sound, as if someone awakened after a long sleep, shook the grove. The redwood tree opened two eyes, each the size of Mellie’s head, and blinked. A great fissure erupted below the eyes in the shape of a crescent, and redish-brown wooden teeth emerged. A long, knobby branch pushed its way out above the mouth and inhaled deeply.

The tree chuckled. Instead of the whispering leaves, a low, rumbling utterance of human speech came from the redwood tree. “Regnans? What brings you to my neck of the woods?” He blinked again. “And who is this? A new recruit? A human? A Chosen?”

Mellie knew she looked silly, standing there with her mouth in an ‘O’ shape, but she couldn’t move. This was simply impossible. There is no such thing as fairies!

“Yes, yes. Please open the gate, we must not dawdle here…they may be watching.” Regnans looked agitated.

A deep laugh resounded from the redwood. “Oh, Regnans. There are none who watch here.”

Regnans mumbled something about hamadryads and their pride, then proclaimed in a slightly louder voice to the tree, “We must be sober, be vigilant, because the shadow walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom it may devour.”

The hamadryad looked chagrined. “You speak true, dryad. Forgive me for acting like an arrogant seedling.” He glanced at Mellie, and with a lowered voice asked, “And what is your name, little human?”

Mellie managed to squeak out, “Mellie Goodwin.”

“Ah, ’tis always nice to have a Good Wind.” The hamadryad laughed heartily.

“Sorry to interrupt this lovely tete-a-tete,” Regnans said, “but would you please open the gate? I left Westside completely unguarded.”

An annoyed creak came from the base of the redwood, followed by a sigh. “Yes, Regnans. Agape you said, and agape it is. Go with the light, my friends.” The large, joyous eyes closed, and the hamadryad whispered in his leaf rustling voice, “Until we meet again, Good Wind.” His face disappeared, and his roots lifted and pulled apart, exposing a tunnel within his trunk.

Regnans grabbed Mellie’s hand with his rough, wooden one, and pulled her inside the opening. The tree closed itself abruptly and left them in total darkness.

Regnans cleared his throat and said, “Let there be light.”

A burst of dazzling brightness sparkled from the tunnel’s wall. Mellie glanced around and noticed a long, winding stairwell leading down into the ground.

“Shall we, then?” Not waiting for a reply, Regnans started down the steps.




Off and Running

Available at and Barnes &

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The bloggers at FIRST Wild Card ran this standard post about Bryan Davis and his book Starlighter on May 19th, but since I was in the hospital and unable to get on the internet at the time, I didn't join them. So, I am trying to make up for lost time now. In a day or two I will leave my review on this remarkable novel. I am reading it over again since it was such a long time ago. And I'm really glad, because I see so much more than I did when I rushed through the first time.

Today's author is:

and the book:

Zondervan (March 19, 2010)

Dragons are enslaving humankind and a black egg signals the end of the world. Jason Masters must journey to another realm and join forces with a slave girl named Koren to rescue the captives and save two worlds from destruction. What if the Legends Are True? Jason Masters doubted the myths: people taken through a portal to another realm and enslaved by dragons. But when his brother is taken, he must uncover the truth and find the portal before it's too late. Once he's through the portal, he meets Koren, a slave in the dragons’ realm, who struggles to destroy a black egg prophesied to doom all mankind. Jason and Koren must work together to save their two worlds before the dragons learn that their secrets have been discovered. In Starlighter, bestselling author Bryan Davis masterfully weaves fantasy and inspiration into a captivating novel for young adults.


Bryan Davis is the author of the bestselling fantasy series Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire and Echoes from the Edge. He and his wife, Susie, have seven children and live in western Tennessee where he continues to cook up his imaginative blend of fantasy and inspiration.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (March 19, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310718368
ISBN-13: 978-0310718369


Browse Inside

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FIRST Wild Card: Solitary by Travis Thrasher

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:

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)

Note:  This is the first FIRST novel that I have featured  since the hospital stay. I didn't get a copy to read, but the sample chapter caught my attention. Obviously a  book aimed at teens; lots of mysterious hints.


Travis Thrasher is an author of diverse talents with more than twelve published novels including romance, suspense, adventure, and supernatural horror tales. At the core of each of his stories lie flawed characters in search of redemption. Thrasher weaves hope within all of his tales, and he loves surprising his readers with amazing plot twists and unexpected variety in his writing. Travis lives with his wife and daughter in a suburb of Chicago. Solitary is his first young adult novel.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764214
ISBN-13: 978-1434764218

When Chris Buckley moves to Solitary, North Carolina, he faces the reality of his parents’ divorce, a school full of nameless faces—and Jocelyn Evans. Jocelyn is beautiful and mysterious enough to leave Chris speechless. But the more Jocelyn resists him, the more the two are drawn together.
Chris soon learns that Jocelyn has secrets as deep as the town itself. Secrets more terrifying than the bullies he faces in the locker room or his mother’s unexplained nightmares. He slowly begins to understand the horrific answers. The question is whether he can save Jocelyn in time.

This first book in the Solitary Tales series will take you from the cold halls of high school to the dark rooms of an abandoned cabin—and remind you what it means to believe in what you cannot see.


1 . Half a Person

She’s beautiful.

She stands behind two other girls, one a goth coated in black and the other a blonde with wild hair and an even wilder smile. She’s waiting, looking off the other way, but I’ve already memorized her face.

I’ve never seen such a gorgeous girl in my life.

“You really like them?”

The goth girl is the one talking; maybe she’s the leader of their pack. I’ve noticed them twice already today because of her, the one standing behind. The beautiful girl from my second-period English class, the one with the short skirt and long legs and endless brown hair, the one I can’t stop thinking about. She’s hard not to notice.

“Yeah, they’re one of my favorites,” I say.

We’re talking about my T-shirt. It’s my first day at this school, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think carefully about what I was going to wear. It’s about making a statement. I would have bet that 99 percent of the seven hundred kids at this high school wouldn’t know what Strangeways, Here We Come refers to.

Guess I found the other 1 percent.

I was killing time after lunch by wandering aimlessly when the threesome stopped me. Goth Girl didn’t even say hi; she just pointed at the murky photograph of a face on my shirt and asked where I got it. She made it sound like I stole it.

In a way, I did.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” Goth Girl asks. Her sparkling blue eyes are almost hidden by her dark eyeliner.

“Did the shirt give it away?”

“Nobody in this school listens to The Smiths.”

I can tell her that I stole the shirt, or in a sense borrowed it, but then she’d ask me from where.

I don’t want to tell her I found it in a drawer in the house we’re staying at. A cabin that belongs to my uncle. A cabin that used to belong to my uncle when he was around.

“I just moved here from a suburb of Chicago.”

“What suburb?” the blonde asks.

“Libertyville. Ever hear of it?”


I see the beauty shift her gaze around to see who’s watching. Which is surprising, because most attractive girls don’t have to do that. They know that they’re being watched.

This is different. Her glance is more suspicious. Or anxious.

“What’s your name?”

“Chris Buckley.”

“Good taste in music, Chris,” Goth Girl says. “I’m Poe. This is Rachel. And she’s Jocelyn.”

That’s right. Her name’s Jocelyn. I remember now from class.

“What else do you like?”

“I got a wide taste in music.”

“Do you like country?” Poe asks.

“No, not really.”

“Good. I can’t stand it. Nobody who wears a T-shirt like that would ever like country.”

“I like country,” Rachel says.

“Don’t admit it. So why’d you move here?”

“Parents got a divorce. My mom decided to move, and I came with her.”

“Did you have a choice?”

“Not really. But if I had I would’ve chosen to move with her.”

“Why here?”

“Some of our family lives in Solitary. Or used to. I have a couple relatives in the area.” I choose not to say anything about Uncle Robert. “My mother grew up around here.”

“That sucks,” Poe says.

“Solitary is a strange town,” Rachel says with a grin that doesn’t seem to ever go away. “Anybody tell you that?”

I shake my head.

“Joss lives here; we don’t,” Poe says. “I’m in Groveton; Rach lives on the border to South Carolina. Joss tries to hide out at our places because Solitary fits its name.”

Jocelyn looks like she’s late for something, her body language screaming that she wants to leave this conversation she’s not a part of. She still hasn’t acknowledged me.

“What year are you guys?”

“Juniors. I’m from New York—can’t you tell? Rachel is from Colorado, and Jocelyn grew up here, though she wants to get out as soon as she can. You can join our club if you like.”

Part of me wonders if I’d have to wear eyeliner and lipstick.


“The misfits. The outcasts. Whatever you want to call it.”

“Not sure if I want to join that.”

“You think you fit in?”

“No,” I say.

“Good. We’ll take you. You fit with us. Plus … you’re cute.”

Poe and her friends walk away.

Jocelyn finally glances at me and smiles the saddest smile I’ve ever seen.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified.

I might look cool and nonchalant and act cool and nonchalant, but inside I’m quaking.

I spent the first sixteen years of my life around the same people, going to the same school, living in the same town with the same two parents.

Now everything is different.

The students who pass me are nameless, faceless, expressionless. We are part of a herd that jumps to life like Pavlov’s dog at the sound of the bell, which really is a low drone that sounds like it comes from some really bad sci-fi movie. It’s hard to keep the cool and nonchalant thing going while staring in confusion at my school map. I probably look pathetic.

I dig out the computer printout of my class list and look at it again. I swear there’s not a room called C305.

I must be looking pathetic, because she comes up to me and asks if I’m lost.

Jocelyn can actually talk.

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Where are you going?”

“Some room—C305. Does that even exist?”

“Of course it does. I’m actually heading there right now.” There’s an attitude in her voice, as if she’s ready for a fight even if one’s not coming.


She nods.

“Second class together,” I say, which elicits a polite and slightly annoyed smile.

She explains to me how the rooms are organized, with C stuck between A and B for some crazy reason. But I don’t really hear the words she’s saying. I look at her and wonder if she can see me blushing. Other kids are staring at me now for the first time today. They look at Jocelyn and look at me—curious, critical, cutting. I wonder if I’m imagining it.

After a minute of this, I stare off a kid who looks like I threw manure in his face.

“Not the friendliest bunch of people, are they?” I ask.

“People here don’t like outsiders.”

“They didn’t even notice me until now.”

She nods and looks away, as if this is her fault. Her hair, so thick and straight, shimmers all the way past her shoulders. I could stare at her all day long.

“Glad you’re in some of my classes.”

“I’m sure you are,” she says.

We reach the room.

“Well, thanks.”

“No problem.”

She says it the way an upperclassmen might answer a freshman. Or an older sister, her bratty brother. I want to say something witty, but nothing comes to mind.

I’m sure I’m not the first guy she’s left speechless.

Every class I’m introduced to seems more and more unimpressed.

“This is Christopher Buckley from Chicago, Illinois,” the teachers say, in case anybody doesn’t know where Chicago is.

In case anybody wonders who the new breathing slab of human is, stuck in the middle of the room.

A redheaded girl with a giant nose stares at me, then glances at my shirt as if I have food smeared all over it. She rolls her eyes and then looks away.

Glancing down at my shirt makes me think of a song by The Smiths, “Half a Person.”

That’s how I feel.

I’ve never been the most popular kid in school. I’m a soccer player in a football world. My parents never had an abundance of money. I’m not overly good looking or overly smart or overly anything, to be honest. Just decent looking and decent at sports and decent at school. But decent doesn’t get you far. Most of the time you need to be the best at one thing and stick to it.

I think about this as I notice more unfamiliar faces. A kid who looks like he hasn’t bathed for a week. An oily-faced girl who looks miserable. A guy with tattoos who isn’t even pretending to listen.

I never really fit in back in Libertyville, so how in the world am I going to fit in here?

Two more years of high school.

I don’t want to think about it.

As the teacher drones on about American history and I reflect on my own history, my eyes find her.

I see her glancing my way.

For a long moment, neither of us look away.

For that long moment, it’s just the two of us in the room.

Her glance is strong and tough. It’s almost as if she’s telling me to remain the same, as if she’s saying, Don’t let them get you down.

Suddenly, I have this amazingly crazy thought: I’m glad I’m here.

I have to fight to get out of the room to catch up to Jocelyn.

I’ve had forty minutes to think of exactly what I want to say, but by the time I catch up to her, all that comes out is “hey.”

She nods.

Those eyes cripple me. I’m not trying to sound cheesy—they do. They bind my tongue.

For an awkward sixty seconds, the longest minute of my sixteen years, I walk the hallway beside her. We reach the girls’ room, and she opens the door and goes inside. I stand there for a second, wondering

if I should wait for her, then feeling stupid and ridiculous, wondering why I’m turning into a head of lettuce around a stranger I just met.

But I know exactly why.

As I head down the hallway, toward some other room with some other teacher unveiling some other plan to educate us, I feel someone grab my arm.

“You don’t want to mess with that.”

I wonder if I heard him right. Did he say that or her?

I turn and see a short kid with messy brown hair and a pimply face. I gotta be honest—it’s been a while since I’d seen a kid with this many pimples. Doctors have things you can do for that. The word pus comes to mind.

“Mess with what?”

“Jocelyn. If I were you, I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts.”

Who is this kid, and what’s he talking about?

And what teenager says, “I wouldn’t entertain such thoughts”?

“What thoughts would those be?”

“Don’t be a wise guy.”

Pimple Boy sounds like the wise guy, with a weaselly voice that seems like it’s going to deliver a punch line any second.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, I’m just warning you. I’ve seen it happen before. I’m nobody, okay, and nobodies can get away with some things. And you look like a decent guy, so I’m just telling you.”

“Telling me what?”

“Not to take a fancy with the lady.”

Did he just say that in an accent that sounded British, or is it my imagination?

“I was just walking with her down the hallway.”

“Yeah. Okay. Then I’ll see you later.”

“Wait. Hold on,” I say. “Is she taken or something?”

“Yeah. She’s spoken for. And has been for sometime.”

Pimple Boy says this the way he might tell me that my mother is dying.

It’s bizarre.

And a bit spooky.

I realize that Harrington County High in Solitary, North Carolina, is a long way away from Libertyville.

I think about what the odd kid just told me.

This is probably bad.

Because one thing in my life has been a constant. You can ask my mother or father, and they’d agree.

I don’t like being told what to do.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Best of CFRB, Day 6: Gentle Journey

Last day; no time left for wavering and indecision. It's been a pleasant trip for me as I revisited books and authors that the Christian Fiction Review Blog has featured over the years. There are many other books that were well-written and good examples of their various genres, but one that kept returning to my mind was a rather unassuming little Regency historical by Elaine Lyons Bach--Gentle Journey.

When I first saw the title of this novel by Elaine Lyons Bach, I was expecting something kind of dull. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Gentle Journey is set in England during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It is filled with details to fit that time period and the culture of the day. This third-person narrative follows a young daughter of a vicar, Eden Barret, who is seeking employment that can help her large family (her father has died), give her fulfillment, and lead her to a place where she can help the unfortunate on a large scale. And England at the time is full of unfortunates. Orphans, widows and the poor weren’t taken care of very well as a whole, and tender-hearted Eden had seen a lot of misery as she assisted her father with the sick, the dying, and the poverty-stricken in his parish. Eden herself has a strong faith in God and high moral values.

When she applies for a job as a governess/tutor for 12-year-old Diana, only daughter of the Earl of Edmund, Eden doesn’t really know what she’s getting herself into. She finds an estate much greater than she ever imagined with comforts extended even to herself that make it a very cozy position. She enjoys teaching the bright young lady, but is constantly on the edge of trouble with the current Lord Edmund, Diana’s brother Colin. Colin has a great deal of resentment built up against God and forbids Eden from ‘preaching’ to Diana. Eden has a difficult time with her temper and her tongue, so the two of them end up in sparring matches quite often. They drive each other crazy, yet are strangely attracted to each other at the same time.

So far it doesn’t sound very exciting, but the turmoil is brewing in several quarters. From the beginning of her employment, Eden makes a bitter enemy with a chimney sweep when she insists that he stop abusing the two small children that he has bought to work for him. He festers over the loss of his crew and plans revenge that takes some very dark turns. She also needs to contend with the cavalier dandy who is an old acquaintance of Colin’s, brother to a lady that everyone expects Colin to marry. And then there’s Diana, who adores Eden but fears that she and Colin will become too interested in each other, leaving her out of the picture. Her scheming doesn’t involve the danger that some of the others did, but indirectly it causes a great deal of trouble.

Integral to the story is the whole situation of orphans and the poor at this time. Eden has plenty of opportunities to share her kindness and comfort others in ways she would have never imagined, but to say more gives away a good deal of the later events in the story. Some very real situations are dealt with, such as rape, murder, infidelity, death, poor medical conditions, sufferings of war, and abuse; these situations are presented honestly, but without gratuitous violence or grit.

I really loved the style of Gentle Journey, so reminiscent of Jane Austen, and intentionally so. A couple of Miss Austen’s books are even mentioned as being popular at the time. For anyone else who is a fan of Jane Austen, I can readily recommend Gentle Journey for you reading pleasure. I think it would be an excellent choice for summer reading .

Elaine Lyons Bach has a page at

Information for Gentle Journey, including an audio excerpt, a written sample, and links for buying the book (including email download copy) are here.

Book Details:

Gentle Journey
Elaine Lyons Bach
Fiction, Romance
Outskirts Press (February 9, 2007) 248 pgs
ISBN: 978-1598009040

Friday, August 13, 2010

Best of CFRB Day 5: Canadian Authors

With only two days left for the "Best of CFRB" Tour,  I am having difficulty choosing the books that I consider the elite. Sorry folks, but I know I'm going to miss some gems. Today is Canadian day. Thanks to Laura Davis, I was introduced to some great authors from up north. There were four in particular: Marcia Laycock, Laura Davis, Mags Storey, and Keith Clemons.

One Smooth Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock
Two men are running from the law, from their pasts, from society, from themselves, and from God. The thing is, no one can hide from God. As is written in Psalm 130 (NKJV):
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
Even in the wild and danger-laden northern frontiers of the Yukon, Alex and Gil must face themselves and the pursuing God who will not let them go. Their paths cross unexpectedly as "coincidences" lead them in ways they never wanted.

The story shifts back and forth from Alex Donnelly to Gil, focusing mostly on Alex's story. Just a few weeks after Alex's twenty-first birthday, a lawyer from Seattle found him living the hermit's life in the Canadian wilderness. It seems that the orphaned man had a million dollar inheritance just waiting for him to pick it up. Alex is suspicious, certain there's been a mistake, but he warily agrees to go back to civilization with the lawyer. In Seattle, he meets the sweet young researcher who had worked for so long searching for him, and they form an odd connection. He spends the weekend with her and her parents (her father is a senior partner in the law firm), and comes face-to-face with a family model unknown to him. The close relationships they have with each other and with God beckon to an empty place within him, but in the same time they intensify his dark memories of his own past, a past full of dark secrets and abuse. In agony and fearful of the police, he leaves without getting his money. Back in the Yukon, with winter coming on, he takes a caretaker job in an empty mining camp for the season. n the isolated camp, his only companion is a husky. Oh, and the grizzly. Oh, and a mysterious "ghost" who barely leaves a trace of his existence.

Meanwhile, Kenni, the young researcher, is compelled by God to persevere in pursuit of the troubled Alex. And remember the grizzly and the winter coming on?  And that other guy, Gil? Everything comes together in tense adventurous ways.

The dark truths are eventually revealed as Mrs. Laycock skillfully laid them out piecemeal, drawing us in and making us care about a rough character like Alex Donnelly. When we see through the eyes of Kenni and her parents, we see how God loves even the most wretched and how His forgiveness, love and grace can work all things together.

This suspense and action-packed novel really held my attention  from the very beginning.Marcia Laycock doles out little parcels of information (some of which I've spoiled) so dexterously, kind of like the carrot-on-the-string ploy. It kept me guessing about all sorts of details, some extremely important, right up to the end. It was a very satisfying story, but not all pie-in-the-sky. One Smooth Stone is definitely an adult suspense, although I am sure many teens would enjoy it as well. Once again, the timing for this tour was interesting to me, coming between the Olympics in Canada and the Iditarod (started March 7). Those who enjoy adventure, suspense and mystery should be captivated by One Smooth Stone.

Marcia Lee Laycock is an award-winning Canadian author known for her devotional writings. She received the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for One Smooth Stone, her debut in fiction.

For more information, you can visit the author's website, .

Purchase One Smooth Stone from
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the publisher.

If I copy all three of the others, this will be much too long. So please follow the links for the titles to read my reviews. Author websites are given as links under the author names.

Mags Storey's Story: IF ONLY YOU KNEW  (Since I originally wrote this review, Ms. Storey has won some well-deserved awards for her novel. The Word Guild's Canadian Christian Writing Awards bestowed three honors: Best Romance, Best Youth Novel, and the prestigious  Grace Irwin Award for Best Book of 2009.

    Laura Davis: Come to Me    

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Best of CFRB Day 4: League Of Superheroes

The world is full of turmoil and evil. There are scheming powers that want to destroy humanity and take control of the world. Where can the people of the world turn for help? Look! Up in the sky! It’s . . . geeks!?! Make that Teenage mutant ninja geeks. Okay, so they are neither mutants nor ninjas. But they are teenage geeks, and they are definitely pretty cool once they get their super suits. Suits that are designed and created by a seven year old genius that they met online, no less.
PhotobucketLeague of Superheroes is the book that many a geek (teenage or older) and many a comic book aficionado has been waiting for, whether you knew it or not. I know this from the reaction of several self-proclaimed geeks and comic maniacs when I described the book to them, a reaction that has been further promoted after said geeks and fans read the story. Myself included. Oh, and by the way, this has a really important added dimension: the League is made up of extraordinarily committed Christians who desire to live according to the way that Jesus would want them to. I know: that’s the hardest to swallow of all in this story, right? But Stephen Rice makes it all work, and he does so in a most entertaining way.
Briefly, there are four teenage boys who call themselves the Mad Scientists. They each have certain special talents and gifts; each is extremely intelligent. And, as I mentioned, each is unapologetically Christian. They all attend different denominations (except Tom, who is part of a nondenominational church), they tease each other about their differences, but they really respect each other and share a love for certain comic superheroes. One day Allen’s chatty sister Clarice introduces them to her new online friend, Genie. It appears that Genie isn’t in any bottle, but she is able to grant wishes. One by one, super suits start arriving for the guys that equip them with unheard-of technological means to “become” their favorite superheroes. First is Titan for Rod; he’s kind of like a human tank. His strength is incredible, but Rod’s first attempts at controlling his powers and ability to fly are hilarious. As are his first efforts to thwart crime. Within a short time Allen becomes Tachyon, apparently reaching super speeds by distorting time, Tom turns into Darklight with invisible tendencies, and Charlie shrinks into the role of Micromegas (for you DC Comic fans, think the Atom).
The guys are on cloud nine, but to whom much is given, much is required, and life as crime fighters isn’t all fun and games. There’s the kidnapping which ends rather unhappily and alerts the guys to something very sinister behind the people that have Genie under their thumb. Her whole story is strange, and as they all get more acquainted, it becomes all too clear that she is involved with really dangerous people. Is Rod correct in his belief that this corporation has to do with the antichrist and the mysterious Troika? And what about Genie herself? Is she using the guys for her own purposes, revenge and some definitely unchristian activities?
This book is just the introduction to a whole series that Stephen Rice is developing using his characters, but for my vote it is a great beginning. Lots of action, lots of fun and humor, and some deep issues to ponder. Stephen says there is a lot more action and adventure in subsequent tales, leading me to expect a dynamite series!

Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193428405X
ISBN-13: 978-1934284056

League of Superheroes is available through the publisher, The Writer's Café Press (can be autographed), Barnes and Noble, and

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Best of CFRB, Day 3: Time Masters Book One, The Call

The Call is a tale of shifting time, shifting shapes, and of love and purpose that stretches beyond normal boundaries. Time travel, romance, and fantasy all rolled together, the story begins in 1692 in the midst of Scotland's historical Glencoe Massacre. Dallan MacDonald, unable to save the ones he loves, is snatched away just as a murderous villain holds a knife over his young brother. When the next chapter begins we find Dallan in a small village defending a young boy from the current Time Master, Kwaku Awahnee, in the year 3698. We soon learn that Dallan has been in this place for ten years, ten very long years and every day has had to fight grueling battles with Kwaku. Dallan hates every minute of it and is consumed with not only going home to Scotland, but with anger because he could not save his brother, not to mention being held against his will in a place he hasn't a clue is in a time far from his own. Little by little the reader learns the facts and reasons for this brutal treatment. The truth is, Dallan MacDonald is the one man who can save the world and all humanity. But first he must be ready to fight the worst of evils and come to believe the truth of the Creator. More than that, he has to find the one girl in the world who is destined to join with him, to love and marry him and thus save all mankind from total destruction. Oh, and did I mention she was kidnapped as a baby and hidden in another time? She's been blissfully living in the USA in 1995. Oh, and did I mention she is oblivious to her destiny? That she thinks she is human, but she really isn't? She's Muiraran, and she has special traits that she is ignorant of, although the manifestation of these traits has just begun to take place. A sure sign it's time for her to meet her one true love, to join with him and create a supernatural force that can only happen when the two of them are together. So, a simple task for Dallan to perform. Right? Find and rescue the Maiden, convince her she's not human then get her to fall in love with, and marry him? Only one problem. Dallan doesn't beleive any of it. Enter those chosen to help Dallan accept his role, which is to become the new Time Master, to control his temper and use his strengths well, to believe the truth about splitting and traveling through time and the will of the Creator, to accept the need to find the Maiden, and then get her to love him and agree to marry him. But they are running out of time. Even worse, there is a villain in the wings who intends to take the girl for himself.

Whew! This is the shortest summary I could come up with that still held the essence of the story. Time Masters Book One: The Call is a lengthy book at 566 pages, but it is fairly easy to read with lots of action. It's a long ride full of twists and turns, hills and long drop-offs. The characters are strong and well developed, even the minor ones. Written in a third-person omniscient point-of-view, the novel opens up all the thoughts of different characters so that the reader is aware of what each one is thinking and doing most of the time, except when the author wants to surprise us. For this story, I think this was a good choice. Some of the characters, such as Kitty, the Maiden's talkative and klutzy friend, are added mainly for comic relief. Geralyn Beauchamp has included a great deal of humor, from Kitty's slapstick to Dallan's wry wit in his speech.

While Time Masters is a very entertaining adventure story, it is also chock full of spiritual themes. What struck me in particular was the emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and the special 'power' in the joining of man and wife as two become one. The strength of commitment and true vows, purity before marriage, are so well demonstrated even if it is fiction. Other themes include yielding to the will of God, faith, living out your salvation, and submitting to God are also included. The tale is never preachy or heavy, however.

If you are too impatient to read a long story, you may not care for Time Masters. It will take a while to peruse, even though the action makes the time pass quickly. If you are willing to try it, I think you will enjoy the tale, especially if you enjoy speculative fiction with lots of romance and action/adventure. For those of you who like a lengthy tome, you'll be in Heaven.

Time Masters Book One: The Call by Geralyn Beauchamp

2007; 566 pages in paperback. Also available in hardcover

ISBN 978-1-58385-198-2published by Cold Tree Press, Nashville TN

Available at, Barnes and Noble stores and

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best of CFRB: Nor Iron Bars a Cage

Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take that for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love, And in my soul am free,

Angels alone that soar above Enjoy such liberty.( “To Althea From Prison,” Richard
Lovelace 1618-1658)

For her second novel in the Ascendancy trilogy, Caprice Hokstad chose an appropriate title, Nor Iron Bars a Cage, alluding to themes in the above poem as well as referring to events in the novel itself. In a fantasy world where slavery is a normal part of a culture, one of the big questions is, “what is true freedom?”

Events take up right where they left off in The Duke’s Handmaid. In case you haven’t read the first book, there are enough details that you can easily follow the story, although it would be preferable to read both books. Nor Iron Bars a Cage is set in the imaginary country of Latoph. (You can find some cool details about Latoph, including a map, at In this world there is a duality to everything: two suns, two moons, two races of people. Even twin brothers who were supposed to reign together as kings, but only one was given the throne. The other one, our hero Duke Vahn, has only his duchy at his control. This is a cause of major sibling tension.

The story starts up a while after the Duke’s former wife had taken off with their son, fleeing with her lover back to her father’s kingdom of Ganluc. Prince Duke Vahn has searched in vain to discover where his former wife Saerula had hidden Dauntère in Ganluc. Finally, kee, his secret wife and handmaiden extraordinaire, devises a plan enter Ganluc as a recaptured runaway slave, reasoning that a slave will not be suspect and may get information that others could not. The plan is dangerous for all of them, but especially kee, who must be kept locked in a cage as they transport her through the country. There are some very serious misadventures, but I won’t spoil that here.

Meanwhile, while kee is gone, the Duke finds himself in hot water due to a hasty bet with an angry duchess who tried in vain to snatch the Duke as a groom. The loser has to act as slave to the winner for eight weeks. As the saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

There are some very deep issues in this novel, much deeper than they may appear on the surface. Quite honestly, I had to come to terms with the slavery, which is nothing like the slavery that existed in the United States, but there is a natural repulsion to the whole idea. This is a totally different culture, but even more than that is the Biblical example that kee in particular was following. We serve either God or Mammon, as it says in the King James Version, so while we do have free will, we will end up serving someone. True freedom is found when we willingly submit to the will of God and allow Him to be the Lord of our lives. One of the gems that this novel contains is coming to terms with what Lordship means. When God is truly Lord, He is also our Father. He takes care of us, feeds us, protects us, and has our welfare in mind even when He corrects us. Vahn learns to be more of a Christ figure in the second novel. Hebrews 2:18 reads, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” You will have to read the book to discover how he suffered. There are several other Christian values and world views expressed: loyalty, friendship, faithfulness, a desire to bring honor and glory to the Lord, a willingness to accept blame and not find fault with others, respect for all people, and substitution and sacrifice. The virtue is not so much in getting our rights as being submissive to God and others.

One point I wish to make clear: just because this is fantasy, do not expect it to be a Young Adult or children’s book. It is quite definitely written for adults and describes adult issues. Mrs. Hokstad has said that since she couldn’t find the kind of book she wanted to read, she decided to write it herself. Adult scenes are worded carefully, with no vulgarity or cheapness, but it is suggested that parents read the novel first before handing it to any teenagers. You won’t find anything more graphic than is depicted in the Bible, in fact many passages in the Old Testament are a great deal more violent and graphic.

By and large, this was a very entertaining and insightful, richly detailed story. Caprice Hokstad has painstakingly laid out a new world with luxurious descriptions, from the topography and weather to the racial and cultural differences to the events and décor of the homes. The duality theme is carried out in so many levels. Her descriptions made me wince with pain, smile at the sweetness of kee, and feel the thirst in the desert. It was not a book with action packing every paragraph, since a great deal of the action was internal. Nevertheless, there were plenty of exciting scenes along the way, and quite a few truths to ponder as we impatiently wait for the third book in the series.

Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Caprice Hokstad
348 pages
Publisher: Vici Publishing
Copyright: © 2007 Caprice Hokstad
Standard Copyright License
Language: English
Country: United States
Available in hardcover, paperback, and download.
If you would like to read a preview of the first three chapters, you can find it at
Caprice Hokstad’s website:
Available through her website and
Should be available very soon at, but the price is better at