Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Two New Awards!



I feel so blessed this week - especially since I haven't got to "visit" much. My little boy has been sick - finally went a day w/o something coming out of either end! And we had food going in! Yeah! But I am sure that you don't want to hear any more about that!!

The first award was from Rann over at This That and The Other Thing and it is about blogger friends! Isn't that a cute award! And just in time for Valentine's Day. Here is the text that comes with the award!


"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."


So please take a look at the following bloggers - I either look forward to seeing if they have read my posts and commented - or they are bloggers that I look forward to reading! And folks - if you have already received this award - then you are being Blessed again! Everyone should go visit these blogs to see the great stuff they post!


All of the ladies over at Spooky Stitchers SAL


Then today I received an award from Rebecca at I'm Lost in Books.

I now have to list 5 things that I am addicted to and pass this on to 5 other fabulous bloggers.
My 5 addictions (in no particular order):
1. Hershey's kisses with peanut butter
2. My husband's kisses!
3. Reading before bed.
4. Cadbury Creme Eggs (the kind you can only get at Easter!)
5. Vanilla Caramel Creamer for my coffee!
(seems to be "weighted" down with the sweet stuff!)
Ok - 5 other fabulous blogs...
Janice and Susan from 5 Minutes for Moms
Let me tell you - It was hard to limit to just these 13 blogs! I have many many more in my reader!


Friday Finds 1-30-2009




Time for Friday Finds! My "finds" list from other bloggers is always so much longer than what I have time to post here! Today my son is ill - but he is sleeping on the couch - so that will decide how many I get to post!

Title: The Bell Messenger


Author: Robert Cornuke with Alton Gansky





I found this book over at Christian Bookroom Reviews

From amazon: A suspenseful yet touching story of a Civil war Bible that pops up again and again over a century and shapes the very history of the nation.
This rich and involving historical and archeological thriller begins as a Union soldier, Tate, shoots a Confederate preacher known as the Bell Messenger and is bequeathed a worn Bible by the dying man. Tate's historical narrative parallels the contemporary story of John Brandon, who has just graduated college in 2000 and received the very same Bible, unearthed in a Saudi Arabian cave, as a gift.
The potent history of this book is revealed as Brandon searches for its previous owners, along the way uncovering the existence of a mysterious cache of gold hidden during Old Testament times -- which brings shadowy figures hot on Brandon's heels, hungry for the gold and desperate to learn the new clues he possesses.
As the past and present intertwine, the reader learns that this Bible has passed through many hands over the years. From the Civil War to the building of the Central Pacific Railroad, to the gang wars and the holding of Chinese slaves in nineteenth-century California, to the trenches of World War I, Brandon learns of the lives this Bible has saved, the deaths it has caused, and the history it has changed forever.








Title: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Author: Mark Dunn

This find came to me from Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness!


Description from Amazon: Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

*pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet

I think that I will end this post with the next find - as it is a series of books, which also led me to sign up for the challenge to read them! It is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I was introduced to this series over at Literary Escapism.

The books in order are:
Outlander (which I have already gotten through Paperback Swap!)
Dragonfly in Amber
Voyager
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone (due out fall of 2009!)


Now I need to go read - as having by peanut not feel good the last few days has really thrown off my schedule! Have a good weekend!

New Classics Challenge Wrap Up!

Yeah! I finished this challenge! It ran from Aug 1, 2008 until Jan 31, 2009. Considering that as of the 1st of this year I had only read 1 of 6 books I didn't think I had a chance! Thanks to some great recommendations from the people over in the Yahoo group A Novel Challenge I succeeded!

I read the books The Handmaid's Tale, The Road, The Lovely Bones, Holes, The House on Mango Street and Black Water. My favorite out of this bunch was definitely The Road - I can't wait to see the movie! It was followed by both The Handmaid's Tale and The Lovely Bones. My least favorite was probably The House on Mango Street - but that is only because I don't care for short stories - this would be a good book for an English/literature class to study though. All of my reviews can be found here.

I am just going to continue doing my Happy Dance because I finished this challenge - I am going to try to get a giveaway up in the next couple of days - so be sure to check back!

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Holes by Louis Sachar (Book Review)

Title: Holes
Author: Louis Sachar
Genre: YA Fiction

First sentence: There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.


Holes is about a boy named Stanley Yelnats who is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of tennis shoes that were being auctioned off for charity. The tennis shoes really did fall on his head as he went under an overpass. He is sentenced to Camp Green Lake for 18 months. It is this kind of misfortune that seems to plague Stanley and his family. They blame these events on Stanley's great-great-grandfather and a curse that he brought on himself.

Now Camp Green Lake is not really a camp - nor is there a lake. It is a detention center for juvenile delinquents, at which they have to dig holes every day. Holes that are 5 feet wide by 5 feet deep, supposedly to teach them character. Stanley, or Caveman - as the other boys have nicknamed him, realizes early on that they are really searching for something for the warden.

After 45 days of digging holes and a week surviving away from "camp" - Stanley manages to bring history full circle. Will the curses finally be broken?

I enjoyed this book. The boys did learn something from digging holes -they learned perseverance and friendship - and something about dealing with guilty consciences. I like the way that the author wove three stories together - that of Stanley's great-great-grandfather, the legend of Kissin' Kate Barlow, and Stanley's emerging story in the present. I highly recommend this book for middle schoolers!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lost in Las Vegas by Melody Carlson (Book Review)



Title: Lost in Las Vegas (Book 5 in the Carter House Girls series)
Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Christian/teen fiction
Available: Feb 2009



First sentence: "Remind me to never, ever star in another high school musical again."
The book starts out with the 6 girls getting ready to go to the Winter Ball - this preparation includes actually confirming their dates, shopping for new dresses and accessories, and for Taylor and DJ (roommates, but not necessarily BFFs) a day at a posh new day spa.
DJ and Rhiannon are the Christian girls of the bunch with Eliza and Taylor being the self-professed party girls. Kriti and Casey fall somewhere in between. DJ and Rhiannon have the best time at the ball, without the alcohol offered to them and without compromising their beliefs.
Christmas break is on the horizon and DJ is looking forward to "alone" time, away from the other girls. They are leaving soon to travel to various places to stay with family and friends. DJ is staying at Carter House with her grandmother. She as decided not to go to her dad and stepmom's house, as she feels she will just become the babysitter for her twin sisters. When Taylor calls from Las Vegas (where she is spending Christmas with her mom who is performing there) claiming she is lonely and could use some company, DJ prays that if that is where God wants her to go, then he will clear the way. She is ready for some company herself!
Once in Vegas, DJ questions why God has brought her here. Is she supposed to keep Taylor out of trouble? And when Eliza arrives, will she be able to? DJ questions why she is in Vegas at all and Taylor puts her faith to the test.
Lost in Las Vegas is Book 5 in the Carter House Girls series (Mixed Bags; Stealing Bradford; Homecoming Queen; and Viva Vermont). It read okay as a stand alone, but it was hard to keep the girls straight at first. I am going to try to find the first 4 so that I can get caught up - because books 6-8 are coming out soon!
This was a very quick read for me and I would highly recommend it - especially for teen girls struggling with their faith in the real world!

Where are You? 1-27-2009


I have just arrived at Grumble Knot, a home (if you can call it that) which I have inherited from my mother, in rural Pennsylvania. I always thought that I would sell this place, but at this point in my life, am glad that I have somewhere that I can go. (From Simple Wishes by Lily Dale)

Where is your reading taking you?

Teaser Tuesday 1-27-2009




Posting for the new weekly event, “TEASER TUESDAYS“!

The Ethiopian army was visible in force, tanks and armored cars parked at key junctions, checkpoints everywhere. We were never searched, since the driver's papers showed the tires we carried were to supply the Ethiopian army. (From Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, p368 - Uncorrected Proof)

I just started this book this morning - this is not going to be a quick read - but I already am in love with the style of writing and the story!

Monday, January 26, 2009

For the Love of Pete by Julia Harper (Book Review)

Title: For the Love of Pete

Author: Julia Harper


Genre: Contemporary Romance/Fiction


First Sentence: Things finally came to a head between Zoey Addler and Lips of Sin the afternoon he tried to steal her parking space.


Special Agent Dante Torelli (Lips of Sin) has been assigned to watch over mob informant Ricky Spinoza and his family, which consists of girlfriend Nikki and baby daughter, Pete. Zoey Addler is Nikki's sister, and though she isn't supposed to know where the family is hiding, has moved into the same apartment building to be close to her niece.


When the FBI agents on duty are killed and baby Pete is kidnapped, Zoey and Dante team up to find the little girl. Throw in the Gupta sisters, some grade 1A very, very fine mangra kesar, a mob hitman and his baby son and what you have is a fast read with lots of adventure and some romance.


For me, this book was just okay. I didn't feel the chemistry between Dante and Zoey, some of their thoughts and actions seemed a little immature. Their characters also seemed a little flat. I was put off by the language of the hit man -- I get it, he is a hitman -- but in one paragraph it seemed like every third word was **** this or that. I felt it just went a little overboard. The Gupta sisters did grow on me as I read on, and their bickering and stubbornness provided some comic relief. It was a cute story and had some twists, especially near the end, but it wasn't one of my favorites. Since this is a new author for me, I will try her again.




Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mailbox Monday 1-26-2009



Mailbox Mondays is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page so drop by and see what everyone else got in their box last week! I think I have received most of the books that I have requested, so things should start to slow down after this week!

First up is Gallimore by Michelle Griep. I have to feature this first, as the author sent this to me herself and I am so excited to read it!


From the back cover:
When night bends to kneel
at the throne of the sun,
a new realm dawns westward,
bringing all wanderers home.

Jessica Neale's faith is lost the day of her husband's death, and with it, her belief in love. In a journey to find peace, she encounters a gentle, green-eyed stranger who leads her to the ruins of the medieval castle, Gallimore.

On his way to battle, Colwyn Haukswyrth, knight of Gallimore, comes face to face with a storm the likes of which he's never seen, and a woman in the midst of it who claims to live centuries in the future. The Lady Jessica of Neale is an irksome, provoking bit of woman to be sure. And she's about to turn his beliefs on end.

The product of a family rooted in pain and evil, Colwyn has focused on naught but himself--until Jessica. To a mysterious prophecy stitched on tapestry, through the invasion of Gallimore itself, Colwyn and Jessica are bound together by a lesson in forgiveness and love--a bond that might be strong enough to survive the grave.


These next 2 books I was lucky enough to win -


Flirting with Forty by Jane Porter came to me from My Friend Amy's blog.

From the back cover: Playful and smart, a coming-of-middle-age story of a woman not ready to give up on love and life.

He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and staring down her upcoming birthday--alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and the wild passionate fling they have becomes the biggest surprise of Jackie's life.

Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood. . . and memories of Kai. He hasn't forgotten her. Yet thousands of miles of ocean--not to mention an age difference that feels even wider--separate them. And, of course, her friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?

I won Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen from Bookworm's Dinner.

From the back cover: Catherine Morland is a young girl with a very active imagination. Her naivety and love of sensational novels lead her to approach the fashionable social scene in Bath, and her stay at nearby Northanger Abbey, with preconceptions that have embarrassing and entertaining consequences.



I received the next three for upcoming First Wild Card Tours.

Lost in Las Vegas by Melody Carlson

From the back cover: Mix six teenage girls and one '60's fashion icon (retired, of course) in an old victorian-era boarding home. Add boys and dating, a little high-school angst, and throw in a Kate Spade bag or two . . . and you've got the Carter House Girls, Melody Carlson's new chick lit series for young adults.

In a whirlwind, DJ accepts "lonely" Taylor's invitation to join her mom's tour in Las Vegas during Christmas break. DJ soon discovers that the unsupervised Taylor is focused on one thing only--partying with a capital "P." She's invited Eliza too, and DJ is quickly overwhelmed by the behavior of the wild duo. Desperate, she calls on Casey for help and prays for a miracle before Taylor self-destructs.



The Spring of Candy Apples by Debbie Viguie

From the back cover: A promotion to The Zone's Candy Counter means Candace gets to create gooey treats all day long. She is a finalist for The Zone's college scholarship (Florida, anyone?), but things with Kurt are getting really weird, and she's bothered by all the questions about her future. Not unlike the challenge of making candy apples, Candace struggles to resist getting stuck and believe in what is truly at her core.


Gingham Mountain by Mary Conneally

From the back cover: When Hannah Cartwright meets Grant, a disreputable-looking cowboy, she's determined to keep him from exploiting two more orphans. When she gets the job as schoolmarm, she resolves to keep Grant's adopted children in school to minimize their time spent in hard labor on his ranch. Will she succeed in her plans or lose her heart--and the children--to a man she despises?

Grant already has a Texas ranch full of orphans he's rescued, but still he's determined to take on the two brought in by the orphan train. Can he wrangle his growing brood while resisting his attraction to the meddlesome Hannah and keeping clear of Prudence, a designing dressmaker?

When a couple of con artists discover oil on Grant's land, they'll go to any length to steal his ranch, including forcing him into marriage. Will their plans succeed before the secret of oil spills out?

The last three are from Renee at Hachette Books.


Flirting with Temptation by Kelley St. John

From the back cover: Wild child Babette Robinson doesn't do relationships, but she does have a knack for helping other people with theirs. When she opens her own match-mending business and dubs herslef "The Love Doctor," she becomes the biggest name in Birmingham. She even attracts the attention of socialite Kitty Carelle, who hires her to fix her broken engagement to Jeff Eubanks--Babette's ex!
Three years ago, Jeff and Babette's chemistry was off the charts, but though she basked in his sexy charm and wicked wit, she couldn't commit to a deeper relationship. Convinced that all women have wandering eyes, Jeff issues a challenge: He'll do as Babette asks and talk to Kitty, if Babette abstains from all flirting for one whole week. With Jeff doing his best to make her melt in his arms, will this sassy vamp be able to save her business? And after seven tempting nights, will she want to give up the man she once tossed away?


Seeing Red by Susan Crandall

From the back cover: In the hot, sultry South Carolina night, Ellis Greene was the only witness to a vicious crime that left her cousin dead and her community reeling. Now fifteen years later, the man she helped convict is out on parole. . . and hell-bent on revenge.

Once a suspect in that attack, Nate Vance left town with only one person believing in his innocence, his childhood friend Ellis Greene. Now he returns from the shadows to find that Ellis has grown into a strong, beautiful woman who needs his help. As Nate and Ellis try to outwit a ruthless criminal, the two friends become closer than they ever dared to hope. But shocking secrets are starting to emerge from the murky, blood-soaked past. What really happened that horrible night? Will the truth protect them? Or will it send them straight into the trap of a killer?



Marked by Passion by Kate Perry

From the back cover: Rules for the (very) reluctant guardian of the scroll:

1. Don't lose the above artifact you've inherited from your ancestors - no matter how much it starts messing up your life.

2. Do learn how to control its powers. (And, yes, that means putting up with uber-complicated guardian lessons from your father's meddling ghost.)

3. Don't trust anyone. Especially Rhys, the mysterious bad boy who's always one step ahead of you . . . and as irresistible as sin.

4. Do anything to keep the scroll from landing in the wrong hands. Even if that brings on a heartbreaking betrayal, an evil you never saw coming, and a choice you may not live to regret.

Okay - that's it for me this week! What came in your mailbox?





















Friday, January 23, 2009

A Colorful Reading Challenge



A Colorful Reading Challenge is being hosted over at Lost in Books.


The point of the challenge is to read 9 books with 9 different colors in the title. Six colors are required, while the last 3 can be your choice. Books may be overlapped with other challenges. At least 6 of the books should be new to you (doesn't matter which 6).
The challenge runs from Jan 1, 2009 to Dec 31, 2009.


The required six colors are: blue, red, white, black, silver, gold and then you can pick 3 more options.



  • Red - The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall


  • Blue


  • White


  • Black - Black Water - Joyce Carol Oates


  • Silver


  • Gold









  • Friday Finds 1-23-2009

    Well, folks, time for another edition of Friday Finds - Let's see how long my son let's me "play" at the computer before he tires of his Fire Monsters video!


    Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain
    Author: Garth Stein
    I found this book over at Hey Lady, Watcha Readin?


    Inside the cover: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the racetrack, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.


    On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices that Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe; whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compasionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.


    A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty and hope. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look of the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.



    Title: The Shape of Mercy
    Author: Susan Meissner
    I found this book over at Novels Now.


    Publishers Weekly Review
    Starred Review. Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren Lars Durough, wealthy, earnest and young become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller. This is a novel to be shared with friends. (Sept. 16) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From: Reed Elsevier Inc. Copyright Reed Business Information




    Title: How I Live Now

    Author: Meg Rosoff

    I found this book over at Unmainstream Mom Reads.

    Inside the cover: "Every war has turning points and every person too." Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she's never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it's a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy's uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way. A riveting and astonishing story.

    The Friday 56 - 1-23-2009

    Rules:
    * Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
    * Turn to page 56.
    * Find the fifth sentence.
    * Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog then in the comments section at Story Time with Tonya - your host!)
    *Post a link along with your post back to Story Time with Tonya.
    * Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.



    This is from Holes by Louis Sachar - It is lying next to the computer waiting for me to write a review!

    "Hey, that's great, Mom!" said Magnet. "They're going to finally let you out of here!"


    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Scream for Me - Karen Rose (Book Review)


    Title: Scream for Me
    Author: Karen Rose
    Genre: Romantic Suspense Fiction
    Publisher: Hachette Books - Thanks Renee and Hachette!


    First sentence: A bell dinged.




    This was book 2 in a series with Agent Daniel Vartanian, but it read well as a stand alone. The first book, Die For Me, I have on reserve at our library, so that should tell you that I really enjoyed this book!


    Daniel Vartanian is a Special Agent with the GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He has just returned from a case which involved his parents and his brother (I have a sneaky suspicion that this is what Die For Me is about...) He isn't even home a day before a murdered girl is discovered in a ditch and the investigation lands in his lap. It appears to be a copycat murder from 13 years earlier.


    Alex Fallon is the twin sister of Alicia Tremaine, who was killed 13 years ago. She has received a call that her stepsister, Bailey, is missing and she is listed as the emergency contact for her 4 year old niece, Hope. This comes as quite a shock, as she didn't even know she had a niece. The last time she saw Bailey was to get her into a rehab program 5 years earlier.


    Daniel's investigation and Alex's missing stepsister lead them on a collision course to each other - and the sparks start to fly. As the bodies pile up, will Alex ever find Bailey? Can Daniel catch the murderer? And can they both confront the ghosts of their past so that they can move into a better future?


    This was a quick read for me, even at 569 pages! It was great the way all the suspects fell into place one-by-one. It was like watching dominoes fall in slow motion. I almost just typed a spoiler here - so I will just end on that note! Great book!

    First Wild Card Tour - Grace for the Afflicted

    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!

    Personal note - Go here to see my review!





    Today's Wild Card author is:




    and the book:



    Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness

    Paternoster (September 5, 2008)



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Dr. Matthew S. Stanford is professor of psychology, neuroscience, and biomedical studies at Baylor University, where he also serves as the director of the Psychology Doctoral Program. He received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from Baylor in 1992. After graduating from Baylor he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Prior to returning to Baylor as a member of the staff in 2003, he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans.

    Product Details:

    List Price: $19.99
    Paperback: 240 pages
    Publisher: Paternoster (September 5, 2008)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1934068446
    ISBN-13: 978-1934068441

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



    Fearfully and Wonderfully Made


    The church we were involved with at the onset of my son’s [mental] illness did not respond to us when we requested that a team come out and pray over him. . . . We were looking for support and comfort, and the churches we encountered were

    not equipped to give that to us because they did not seem to have a complete handle on what we were dealing with. We have fallen away from the church, but not from God. —Laurie, mother of a son diagnosed with schizophrenia


    “The Scriptures tell us that in Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness, correct? So can you explain to me why Anna’s bipolar disorder and her dependence on medication is not an issue of weak faith or sin?”


    Only two of us stayed after the church meeting that morning, talking over coffee. I was a deacon in the church at the time, and the man who asked the question was a friend and respected elder. The question took me by surprise, and initially I was speechless (a condition for which I am, unfortunately, not known). If you have a loved one with a mental illness—or you yourself struggle with the debilitating symptoms—your first reaction to such a question may have been more along the lines of sadness, disgust, or anger.


    But in my friend’s defense, he sincerely wanted to understand something he saw as alien and frightening. Was Anna sick, or was she spiritually weak? We know from 2 Peter 1:3 that we do have “everything we need for life and godliness.” Yet, even though Anna professed Christ as Savior, her life was a mixture of family problems, shame, suffering, and strange behavior. How should the church respond?


    Science and faith have had a long and tense relationship. A dangerous and damaging battle—a battle between faith and psychiatry/psychology—is being waged daily in churches throughout the world. And lives are being destroyed. Men and women with diagnosed mental illnesses are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demon-possession, weak faith, and generational sin. The underlying cause of this stain on the church is a lack of knowledge, both of basic brain function and of scriptural truth.


    Mental illness is a frightening experience, not only for the afflicted but also for those who witness an individual struggling with strange thoughts and behaviors. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages eighteen and older (one in four adults) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1 Centuries of tension between the church and the scientific community have made pastors and laypeople alike wary of adopting scientific explanations for behaviors and thoughts that, on the surface, may appear sinful (e.g., suicidal ideations).


    Again, I believe that the lack of understanding in the church related to mental illness is rooted in spiritual ignorance and fear. So, let’s look first to God’s Holy Word to gain a better understanding of how we were created, what effects the Fall has had on our physical bodies and minds, and who we are in Christ.


    How Are We Created?


    We have been created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26). We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We are complex beings, unlike any other living creature: the union of a physical body with an immaterial mind and spirit. While each aspect is separate, in some sense, they are connected and affect one another. The Scriptures attest to this truth.


    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)


    My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)


    And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)


    Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) (all emphases, author’s)


    The Body


    At one level we exist in a physical body so that we can interact with the physical world around us. Our heart pumps; our stomach and intestines digest; our muscles relax and contract; our lungs inhale and exhale; our brain cells fire. We are God’s creative masterpiece: a miracle of skin, bone, and blood formed from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). But at the same time we are so much more. We perceive. We think and reason. We pray.


    There is also an immaterial, nonphysical aspect to our being—what some call our mind or soul.


    The Mind


    What is the mind? This question has baffled philosophers and scientists alike for thousands of years. Are our thoughts and perceptions merely the product of neurochemical changes and electrical discharges in our brain? Or is our mind something more—something immaterial, more than the sum of our parts? I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. The functioning of our brain is integral to the existence of our mind, but that alone is not sufficient to explain it. Likewise, to imagine our mind as completely separate and unrelated to the physical does not seem correct either. Body and mind are intimately connected, each affecting the other. We retrieve a past memory of a fearful event in our mind, and our physiology reacts. Our sensory receptors are activated by familiar stimuli in the environment, and past thoughts and feelings rush to consciousness.


    The Scriptures often speak of the mind. It is here that we . . .


    Plan our actions

    The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)


    Choose to sin

    For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. (Romans 8:6–7)


    Pray

    What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing

    with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15)


    Receive revelation and understanding from God

    Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)


    Meditate on the truths of God

    Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)


    Are transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit

    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

    (all emphases, author’s)


    It is with our mind that we think and choose. It is our mind that controls our actions. And it is our mind that God wants to change through the process of sanctification, conforming us ever closer to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). A physical body formed by the hands of the Maker in union with an immaterial mind that controls and plans our behavior is a truly miraculous concept, though a difficult one to grasp. And the Scriptures teach us that we also have a third and even more amazing level of being, a spirit.


    The Spirit


    It is not uncommon for neuroscientists to talk and debate about the mind. We might use fancier words like consciousness or self-awareness to make it sound more “scientific,” but we are still talking about an immaterial, invisible aspect of our being. Things that can’t be seen make scientists uncomfortable. We don’t like to say that something is beyond our understanding or that it can’t be measured. We may admit that we don’t understand something presently but qualify our admission by saying that with enough study and the continued advancement of science we will one day. So to describe us as having a spirit, in addition to a mind and a body, seems almost heretical from a scientific perspective. But here is where we scientists must understand that Scripture is our ultimate authority and that it precisely describes our created being in the context of our relationship with God and our fellow human beings.


    God created us as a unity of three parts, much like Himself. In our inmost being we are spirit, the very breath of God placed into a shell of dust (Genesis 2:7). That is how we differ from the other living creatures: both were created from the ground (Genesis 2:7, 19), but only humanity is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). I like the way Paul Brand and Philip Yancey describe it in their book In His Image:


    “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (2:7).


    When I heard that verse as a child, I imagined Adam lying on the ground, perfectly formed but not yet alive, with God leaning over him and performing a sort of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

    Now I picture that scene differently. I assume that Adam was already biologically alive—the other animals needed no special puff of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to start them breathing, so why should man? The breath of God now symbolizes for me a spiritual reality. I see Adam as alive, but possessing only an animal vitality. Then God breathes into him a new spirit, and infills him with His own image. Adam becomes a living soul, not just a living body. God’s image is not an arrangement of skin cells or a physical shape, but rather an inbreathed spirit.2


    Our body, while we see it as our true identity, is little more than a container for our true essence, which is spirit (2 Corinthians 5:1). It is in our spirit that we have the opportunity to be in union with the very God of the universe (Proverbs 20:27; Romans 8:16).


    Bringing It All Together


    So how does all this work together—body, mind, and spirit? Let’s look at a simple visual representation. Figure 1 shows three concentric circles, each separate but interacting with the one above and/or below. The outermost circle represents the body, which is in contact with the earthly environment (outside) and the mind. The middle circle is the mind, which is connected to the body through the functions of the brain and nervous system but also in contact with our immaterial spirit (the innermost circle). The body senses and reacts to the external environment; and the mind uses that information to perceive, understand, and interpret our surroundings. The mind also forms our thoughts and plans our actions. The spirit, when connected to God, works to transform the mind into the very image of Christ, which results in an ever-increasing display of godly behaviors through the body.


    We are an amazing creation! The physical (body) interacting with the immaterial (mind/spirit). Physical beings designed to be in an intimate communion with the very Creator of the universe, who is spirit (John 4:24). That is how we were created, and that is how it was supposed to be. But humanity fell (sinned), and the consequences of our disobedience are felt every day, both spiritually and physically.


    How Have We Been Affected by the Fall?


    After the shock had worn off, I thought for a minute about how to respond to my friend’s question about Anna. I asked him, “Do you know anyone who has heart disease and regularly takes medication?”


    He said that he did, but before I could continue, he asked me if I was trying to say that Anna’s bipolar disorder and heart disease were somehow the same. Throughout this book, I will try to answer that question. How are they the same? How do they differ? But first we need to answer a more foundational question: What are the results of man’s sin?


    When a follower of Jesus Christ is asked that question, he or she will often quote Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Such a response correctly points out that spiritual death, or separation from God, is the result of sin. As children of Adam, we are sinful by nature and therefore spiritually dead and separated from God at birth (Romans 5:12).


    I have always thought it strange, however, that the answer to the question rarely goes beyond the spiritual. Clearly, spiritual death resulted from our sin. But what about the other aspects of our being, our mind and body? How were they affected by the Fall? I have suggested that the Scriptures describe us as a three-part being, with each part interacting with and affecting the others. If that is true, then our sin must have also adversely affected our mind and body. I’m not saying that this truth is completely unknown in the church today. Plainly, the Bible teaches us that we are fully defiled by sin (body, mind, and spirit)—caught in what some theologians call “total depravity” (see Romans 3:12). Yet the church emphasizes the spiritual effects of sin while minimizing or disregarding the mental and physical effects. As I stated above, I think this results from a misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach about how we have been created.


    Birth


    At birth, we are physically alive but spiritually dead. We are born with an imperfect body, scarred as the result of generations of sin. On the day that Adam and Eve fell, they forfeited their intimate relationship with God, and they became mortal. And we were placed at the mercy of the environment and natural biological processes that wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. But as Jesus teaches in the story of the man born blind, each time we struggle with illness and physical weakness is an opportunity for “the works of God” to be “displayed” (John 9:1–3).


    Growth


    When Adam and Eve fell, we were forced to fend for ourselves in a hostile and fallen world. Look at figure 2 to get a better idea of how and why we think and act the way we do. As we grow and mature, our body and mind learn to interact with and react to our fallen environment, all the while spiritually separated from God by our sin. The body, physically affected by the Fall, gathers sensations and stimuli from the earthly environment (small black arrows). Our mind, knowing only sin because of our separation from God, chooses to satisfy itself by the “If it feels good, do it” lifestyle, or what we in psychology call the pleasure principle. In doing so, it associates normal physiological reactions and sensations with lustful desires and wants, causing impure thoughts to come to mind almost instantly in common, everyday situations (James 1:14–15). It is in our mind that we choose to sin (2 Corinthians 10:5); and it is with our body (Ephesians 2:3), or “members” (Romans 7:23), that we act out our sinful thoughts (large black arrows). This process is altered only in the individual who comes to a saving faith in Christ Jesus, and even then that believer continues to struggle with a sinfully programmed mind and body (Romans 7:14–25).


    In addition to the sinful desires that attempt to control us, another result of sin is physical death and decay.


    Physical Death


    God told Adam that in the day he ate from the forbidden tree he would surely die (Genesis 2:16–17); and while He certainly meant this in the spiritual sense, He also meant it in the physical sense. The moment that Adam disobeyed he began to age and decay (Genesis 3:19). Physical death came a little closer each day of his life, and so it continues for us. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the whole of the physical creation was affected by our sin and longs for the day of redemption (Romans 8:19–22). Our bodies are damaged because of sin. We age. We get sick. We suffer physically and die because the physical creation has been affected by the Fall.


    However, while we were all born “dead in sin,” which affected our body, mind, and spirit, there is an amazing truth for those who have been “born again”: we are new creations in Christ; the old things have passed away; the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!


    Our Identity in Christ


    Have you ever thought about what it means that you are a “new creation”? It means that you have been fundamentally changed; what you were before becoming a Christian no longer exists. That is not how I used to see myself. I lived Sunday to Sunday, holding on to some kind of faith-based fire insurance that I could turn in at my death in order to get into heaven. I certainly didn’t see myself as Paul describes the believer in Ephesians 1, having every spiritual blessing. I now recognize that as a believer in Jesus Christ I was chosen before the foundation of the world; predestined for adoption as a son of the living God; purchased out of slavery to sin and death; forgiven of all my sins—past, present, and future; given spiritual wisdom and revelation; and marked as such until the day that I stand before Him holy and blameless.


    Do you see yourself that way? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then that is exactly how God sees you—whether you accept it or not. It doesn’t matter if you are struggling with mental illness. You are a new creation in Christ if you have received Him by faith. And we who minister to those who struggle with mental illness should remember that they are His chosen children, if they are in Christ, and they should be treated as such.


    A Transformed Life


    We were born with a fallen nature, which we received from our ancestral father Adam. But when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, he or she is “crucified”! The “old self” is nailed to the cross with Christ, never to return (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20). God gives us His Spirit; Christ’s very life takes up residence in us (Colossians 3:1–3). We have His righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9) and a new, Christlike nature (Ephesians 4:24). Spiritually, we sit at the very right hand of God Almighty (Ephesians 2:6).


    So, just like my friend said, as believers we are complete in Christ, having everything we need for life and godliness in Him (2 Peter 1:3). That is true in the spiritual realm, but remember that we are a unity of three parts. What happens to our body and mind after we are transformed in the spirit?


    Being Conformed to the Image of Christ


    You were born affected by sin, and you lived some period of time before coming to Christ. Consequently, you have habits, thought patterns, and biological predispositions that are the result of your old self. This “sinful flesh” does not disappear because you have been given a new life. But change is now possible, whereas before it was not.


    Let’s look at figure 3 to help understand our new life. We now see, in the inner circle, the very life of Christ within us. The Scriptures teach us that we are to submit ourselves to Christ, allowing Him to transform our minds (Romans 12:1–2). In the diagram this is represented by the small white arrowheads. As our minds are transformed and our thoughts are taken captive to Christ, He begins to take control of the “members” of our body (symbolized by the three large, black-and-white arrows), and our behaviors change (Colossians 3:5–10).


    Why Write This Book?


    At this point you may be saying to yourself, I thought this book was about mental illness and Christianity. When are you going to talk about my son’s disorder? I need to know what to do! Why am I having these thoughts and feelings? I don’t want to be like this!


    Those emotional responses, and many more like them, are why this book has been written. But beyond that, I have seen the limitations of psychiatry and psychology firsthand.


    As a research scientist studying human aggression, I see the results of the Fall every day—broken men and women who want to behave differently but feel as if they have lost control of themselves, wives who fear their husbands, children who seem destined to repeat the sins of their fathers. In my laboratory, we test the effectiveness of different medications on aggressive behavior. In many instances the treatments are successful: the patient’s aggressive behavior is reduced in intensity and frequency. But is that enough if the person still does not know Christ? The medication treats only the physical effects of the Fall. The mental effects often remain; and if the patient does not know Christ, so does his or her spiritual separation from God.


    I hope this chapter has shown you that we have been affected by sin at all three levels of our being. Both believers and nonbelievers carry the physical and mental effects of sinful programming. Fortunately, believers have been transformed in their inner being and are righteous before their Maker. But that does not instantaneously remove the sinful “flesh” we still carry around. Sanctification is a process by which our minds are transformed through submission to Christ. Biological defects and weaknesses do not go away by themselves, no matter how much we want them to or have faith that they will. God can certainly choose to heal us supernaturally, and in some cases He does so. But we should see our weaknesses as an opportunity to grow in our faith (2 Corinthians 12:7–10; James 1:2–4). Like the man born blind, we are flawed so that “the works of God might be displayed” in us (John 9:3).


    1. Ronald C. Kessler et al., “Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of Twelve-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), Archives of General Psychiatry 62 (2005): 617–27.


    2. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, In His Image (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 22.

    Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew S. Stanford, PhD (Book Review)



    Title: Grace for the Afflicted - Viewing Mental Illness Through the Eyes of Faith

    Author: Matthew S. Stanford, PhD

    Publisher: Paternoster Publishing

    First sentence: The Scriptures tell us that in Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness, correct?

    It is always hard for me to review a non-fiction book. I am not quite sure why this is. I requested this book for the First Wild Card Tour because I have a daughter with ADHD. I was hoping that it could give me some perspective on how to help her as she is growing up. (She is currently 16). This book was able to give me encouragement as a parent and in the gift that she is as my child, but I think it is more orientated to those who might actually be called upon to counsel people or families with different mental illnesses.

    Grace for the Afflicted starts out detailing how we are created and that we embody body, mind and spirit - and that any illness, whether physical or mental, needs healing on all levels.

    There are then a series of chapters going into more detail on different mental illnesses including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, substance use disorders and borderline personality disorder. Each of these disorders are broken down even further, giving us specific types of each disorder and their symptoms. Causes of them, psychological, environmental, physical, biological are all listed as well as possible treatments. Each chapter is summed up with what the Bible says about the disorder, if anything and reminds us of how are faith can play a role in supporting the person afflicted.

    I grew up with an older sibling that has had many labels, include schizophrenia as an adult, so no one had to convince me that mental illness takes more than just praying for person to be healed - or that the person just needed to want to get better. Now as a parent with an ADHD child I have seen first hand the effects that correct medication can do to ease some of the symptoms. Like I said, I did get encouragement that it was not something that I did wrong as a parent that "made" my child have ADHD, but reminded me that my child was given to me as a gift from God for a reason, and while I might not know what that reason is yet, He has equipped me with the ability to love and raise her as a believer in Christ. He will support me in whatever trials still lay ahead.

    I think this book would be good for any church member who may or may not struggle with accepting mental illness as "true" illnesses and the best way they can council other believers. This book would actually be good in pointing out to ANY person that mental illness is just as serious and just as real as physical illness.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates (Book Review)


    Title: Black Water
    Author: Joyce Carol Oates
    Genre: Fiction
    First sentence: The rented Toyota, driven with such impatient exuberance by The Senator, was speeding along the unpaved, unnamed road, taking the turns in giddy skidding slides, and then, with no warning, somehow the car had gone off the road and had overturned in black rushing water, listing to its passenger's side, rapidly sinking. (Wow, that has to be the longest first sentence!)

    Joyce Carol Oates has taken the Chappaquiddick incident and evolved it into this bold novel set in the 1990's. For me, it did not bring the focus on the tragedy of the car crash and innocent death, but rather on how quickly your mind covers ground and how many different thoughts you can have in the space of a few moments. In the time that Kelly has, as the car is filling up with black water, we visit most of her life, but mostly the last few years.

    She does remember a memory as a little girl with her grandpa, but it seems as if she is reliving all those moments - those choices - that brought led her to being in The Senator's car at that particular moment. "She was the one he had chosen."

    I have had two near death experiences, where I actually stopped breathing, and I can vividly remember those things that I was thinking right before I went out, and it wasn't anything like Kelly was thinking - but at the time, I did not think that dying was a possibility. I believe this is because when we are young, we tend to believe that we are immortal. So Kelly, being in her 20's, kept hanging on to the hope that there was someone coming to get her out of the car - she even thought she saw them through the windshield, or felt them pulling on the door handle.

    I can't say that I enjoyed this book - due to it's nature, but is was definitely thought provoking and wonderfully written!

    Where are you? 1-20-09


    I am at Camp Green Lake, which really isn't a camp - and there is no lake in sight. It is a boys' dentention center where I get to spend every day digging holes on what used to be the lake. I have been digging holes for so many days that I don't even know what day of the week it is! And the heat - Whew! I am supposed to be here for 18 months and am hoping that the weather will cool off... maybe in December! (Holes by Louis Sachar)

    Teaser Tuesday 1-20-2009



    Posting for the new weekly event, “TEASER TUESDAYS“!


    This week's teaser comes from Scream for Me by Karen Rose - and it has been a terrific book so far. I have less than 100 pages left and hope to finish it today!
    Then she remembered his hands on her shoulders, supporting her when her knees wanted to buckle. Maybe Daniel Vartanian was really just a very nice man. (p127)
    Watch for my review of this book later this week!

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    First Wild Card Tour - The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall

    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!

    Personal Note - I loved this book! Please go here for my personal review!





    Today's Wild Card author is:




    and the book:



    The Red Siren

    Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


    Best-selling author of The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, MaryLu Tyndall writes full time and makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on California’s coast. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ.

    For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website.

    Product Details:

    List Price: $10.97
    Paperback: 318 pages
    Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1602601569
    ISBN-13: 978-1602601567

    AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



    But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

    Matthew 13: 20-21

    Chapter 1


    August 1713, English Channel off Portsmouth, England


    This was Dajon Waite’s last chance. If he didn’t sail his father’s merchant ship and the cargo she held safely into harbor, his future would be tossed to the wind. With his head held high, he marched across the deck of the Lady Em and gazed over the choppy seas of the channel, expecting at any minute to see the lights of Portsmouth pierce the gray shroud of dusk. Another hour and his mission would be completed with success. It had taken two years before his father had trusted him to captain the most prized vessel in his merchant fleet, the Lady Em—named after Dajon’s mother, Emily—especially on a journey that had taken him past hostile France and Spain and then far into the pirate-infested waters off the African coast.

    Fisting his hands on his hips, Dajon puffed out his chest and drew a deep breath of salty air and musky earth—the smell of home. Returning with a shipload of ivory, gold, and pepper from the Gold Coast, Dajon could almost see the beaming approval on his father’s sea-weathered face. Finally Dajon would prove himself an equal to his older brother, Theodore—obedient, perfect Theodore—who never let his father down. Dajon, however, had been labeled naught but capricious and unruly, the son who possessed neither the courage for command nor the brains for business.

    Fog rolled in from the sea, obscuring the sunset into a dull blend of muted colors as it stole the remaining light of what had been a glorious day. Bowing his head, Dajon thanked God for His blessing and protection on the voyage.

    “A sail, a sail!” a coarse voice blared from above.

    Plucking the spyglass from his belt, Dajon held it to his eye. “Where away, Mules?”

    “Directly off our lee, Captain.”

    Dajon swerved the glass to the port and adjusted it as Cudney, his first mate, halted beside him.

    “She seems to be foundering, Captain,” Mules shouted.

    Through the glass, the dark outline of a ship came into focus, the whites of her sails stark against the encroaching night. Gray smoke spiraled up from her quarterdeck as sailors scrambled across her in a frenzy. The British flag flapped a harried plea from her mainmast.

    “Hard to larboard,” he yelled aft, lowering the glass. “Head straight for her, Mr. Nelson.”

    “Straight for her, sir.”

    “Beggin’ your pardon, Captain.” Cudney gave him a sideways glance. “But didn’t your father give explicit orders never to approach an unknown vessel?”

    “My father is not the captain of this ship, and I’ll thank you to obey my orders without question.” Dajon stiffened his lips, tired of having his decisions challenged. True, he had failed on two of his father’s prior ventures—one to the West Indies where a hurricane sunk his ship, and the other where he ran aground on the shoals off Portugal. Neither had been his fault. But this time, things would be different. Perhaps his father would even promote Dajon to head overseer of his affairs.

    With a nod, Cudney turned. “Mr. Blake, Mr. Gibes, prepare to luff, if you please.” His bellowing voice echoed over the decks, sending the men up the shrouds.

    “Who is she?” Cudney held out his hand for the glass.

    “A merchant ship, perhaps.” Dajon handed him the telescope then gripped the railing as the Lady Em veered to larboard, sending a spray of seawater over her decks. “But she’s British, and she’s in trouble.”

    The ship lumbered over the agitated waves. Dajon watched Cudney as he steadied the glass on his eye and his boots on the sodden deck. He’d been a good first mate and a trusted friend. A low whistle spilled from his mouth as he twisted the glass for a better look.

    “Pray tell, Mr. Cudney, what has caught your eye, one of those new ship’s wheels you’ve been coveting?”

    “Nay, Captain. But something nearly as beautiful—a lady.”

    Dajon snatched the glass back as the Lady Em climbed a rising swell and then tromped down the other side. Sails snapped in the rising wind above him. Bracing his boots on the deck, he focused the glass on the merchant ship. A woman clung to the foremast, terror distorting her lovely features. She raised a delicate hand to her forehead as if she were going to faint. Red curls fluttered in the wind behind her. Heat flooded Dajon despite the chill of the channel. Lowering the glass, he tapped it into the palm of his hand, loathing himself for his shameless reaction. Hadn’t his weakness for the female gender already caused enough pain?

    Yet clearly the vessel was in trouble.

    “We shall come along side her,” Dajon ordered.

    Cudney glared at the ship. “Something is not right. I can feel it in my gut.”

    “Nonsense. Where is your chivalry?” Dajon smiled grimly at his friend, ignoring the hair bristling on the back of his own neck.

    Cudney’s dark eyes shot to Dajon. “But your father—”

    “Enough!” Dajon snapped. “My father did not intend for me to allow a lady to drown. Besides, pirates would not dare sail so close to England—especially to Portsmouth, where so many of His Majesty’s warships are anchored.” Dajon glanced back at the foundering ship, now only half a knot off their bow. Smoke poured from her waist, curling like a snake into the dark sky. Left to burn, the fire would sink her within an hour. “Surely you do not suspect a woman of piracy?”

    Cudney cocked one brow. “Begging your pardon, Captain, but I have seen stranger things on these seas.”

    ***

    Faith Louise Westcott flung her red curls behind her and held a quivering hand to her breast, nausea rising in her throat at her idiotic display. How did women feign such weakness without losing the contents of their stomachs?

    “They ’ave taken the bait, mistress.” A sinister chuckle filled the breeze.

    “Oh, thank heavens.” Faith released the mast. Planting a hand on her hip, she gave Lucas a mischievous grin. “Well, what are you waiting for? Ready the men.”

    “Aye, aye.” The bulky first mate winked, and then scuttled across the deck, his bald head gleaming in the light from the lantern hanging on the mainmast.

    After checking the pistol stuffed in the sash of her gown and the one strapped to her calf, Faith sauntered to the railing to get a better look at her latest victim, a sleek, two-masted brigantine. The orange, white, and blue of the Dutch flag fluttered from her mizzen. A very nice prize indeed. One that would bring her even closer to winning the private war she waged—a war for the survival of her and her sisters.

    The oncoming ship sat low in the water, its hold no doubt packed with valuable cargo. Faith grinned. With this ship and the one she had plundered earlier, loaded with precious spices and silks, she was well on her way to amassing the fortune that would provide for her independence and that of her sisters—at least the two of them that were left unfettered by matrimony.

    She allowed her thoughts to drift for a moment to Charity, the oldest. Last year their father had forced her into a union with Lord Villement, a vile, perverse man who had oppressed and mistreated her beyond what a woman should endure. Faith feared for her sister’s safety and prayed for God to deliver Charity, but to no avail.

    Then, of course, there was the incident with Hope, their younger sister.

    That was when Faith had stopped praying.

    She would rather die than see her two younger sisters fettered to abusive men, and the only way to avoid that fate was to shield them with their own fortune. Cringing, she stifled the fury bubbling in her stomach. She mustn’t think of it now. She had a ship to plunder, and this was as much for Charity as it was for any of them.

    The bowsprit of the brigantine bowed in obedience to her as it plunged over the white-capped swells. Gazing into the hazy mist, Faith longed to get a peek at the ninnies who had been so easily duped by her ruse but dared not raise the spyglass to her eye. Women didn’t know how to use such contraptions, after all.

    Putting on her most flirtatious smile, she waved at her prey, beckoning the fools onward, then she scanned the deck as her crew rushed to their stations. Aboard her ship, she was in control; she was master of her life, her future—here and nowhere else. And oh how she loved it!

    Lucas’s large frame appeared beside her. “The rest of the men be waitin’ yer command below hatches, mistress.” He smacked his oversized lips together in a sound Faith had become accustomed to before a battle. Nodding, she scanned her ship. Wilson manned the helm, Grayson and Lambert hovered over the fire, pretending to put it out, and Kane and Mac clambered up the ratlines in a pretense of terror. She spotted Morgan pacing the special perch Faith had nailed into the mainmast just for him. She whistled and the red macaw halted, bobbed his head up and down, and squawked, “Man the guns, man the guns!”

    Faith chuckled. She had purchased the bird from a trader off Morocco and named him after Captain Henry Morgan, the greatest pirate of all time. The feisty parrot had been a fine addition to her crew.

    Bates, her master gunner, hobbled to her side, wringing his thick hands together in anticipation. “Can I just fire one shot at ’em, Cap’n? The guns grow cold from lack of use.” His expression twisted into a pout that reminded her of Hope, her younger sister. “I won’t hurt ’em none, ye have me word.”

    “I cannot take that chance, Bates. You know the rules,” Faith said as the gunner’s soot-blackened face fell in disappointment. “No one gets hurt, or we abandon the prize. But I promise we shall test the guns soon enough.”

    With a grunt, Bates wobbled away and disappeared below.

    Returning her gaze to her unsuspecting prey, Faith inhaled a breath of the crisp air. Smoke bit her throat and nose, but she stifled a cough as the thrill of her impending victory charged through her, setting every nerve aflame. The merchant ship was nigh upon them. She could already make out the worried expressions upon the crew’s faces as they charged to her rescue.

    This is for you, Charity, and for you, Mother.

    Heavy fog blanketed the two ships in gray that darkened with each passing minute. Faith tugged her shawl tighter against her body, both to ward off the chill and to hide the pistol in her sash. A vision of her mother’s pale face formed in the fog before her, blood marring the sheets on the birthing bed where she lay.

    Take care of your sisters, Faith.

    A burst of wind chilled Faith’s moist cheeks. A tear splattered onto the deck by her shoes before she brushed the rest from her face. “I will, Mother. I promise.”

    “Ahoy there!” A booming voice shattered her memories.

    She raised her hand in greeting toward the brigantine as it heaved ten yards off their starboard beam. “Ahoy, kind sir. Thank God you have arrived in time,” she yelled back, sending the sailors scurrying across the deck. Soon, they lowered a cockboat, filled it with men, and shoved off.

    A twinge of guilt poked at Faith’s resolve. These men had come to her aid with kind intentions. She swallowed hard, trying to drown her nagging conscience. They were naught but rich merchants, she told herself, and she, merely a Robin Hood of the seas, taking from the rich to feed the poor. She had exhausted all legal means of acquiring the money she needed, and present society offered her no other choice.

    The boat thumped against her hull, and she nodded at Kane and Mac, who had jumped down from the shrouds and tossed the rope ladder over the side.

    “Permission to come aboard?” The man who appeared to be the captain shouted toward Lucas as he swung his legs over the bulwarks, but his eyes were upon Faith.

    By all means. Faith shoved a floppy fisherman’s hat atop her head, obscuring her features from his view, and smiled sweetly.

    ***

    “Aye, I beg ye, be quick about it afore our ship burns to a cinder,” the massive bald man beckoned to Dajon.

    Dajon hesitated. He knew he should obey his father’s instructions, he knew he shouldn’t risk the hoard of goods in his hold, he knew he should pay heed to the foreboding of dread that now sank like a anchor in his stomach, but all he could see was the admiring smile of the red-haired beauty, and he led his men over the bulwarks.

    After directing them to assist in putting out the fire, he marched toward the dark, bald man and bowed.

    “Captain Dajon Waite at your service.”

    When his gaze drifted to the lady, she slunk into the shadows by the foremast, her features lost beneath the cover of her hat. Odd. Somehow he had envisioned a much warmer reception. At the very least, some display of feminine appreciation.

    “Give ’em no quarter! Give ’em no quarter!” a shrill voice shrieked, drawing Dajon’s attention behind him to a large red parrot perched on a peg jutting from the mainmast.

    A pinprick of fear stabbed him.

    “Captain,” one of his crew called from the quarterdeck. “The ship ain’t on fire. It’s just a barrel with flaming rubbish inside it!”

    The anchor that had sunk in Dajon’s stomach dropped into his boots with an ominous clank.

    He spun back around, hoping for an explanation, but all he received was a sinister grin on the bald man’s mouth.

    Tentacles of alarm seized Dajon, sucking away his confidence, his reason, his pride. Surely he could not have been this daft. He glanced back at the Lady Em, bobbing in the sea beside them—the pride of his father’s fleet.

    “To battle, men!” The woman roared in a voice belying her gender—a voice that pummeled Dajon’s heart to dust.

    Dozens of armed pirates spat from the hatches onto the deck. Brandishing weapons, they hurtled toward his startled crew. One by one, his men dropped their buckets to the wooden planks with hollow thuds and slowly raised their hands. Their anxious gazes shot to Dajon, seeking his command. The pirates chortled. Dajon’s fear exploded into a searing rage. They were surrounded.

    The woman drew a pistol from her sash. Dajon could barely make out the tilted lift of her lips. He wiped the sweat from his brow and prayed to God that he would wake up from this nightmare.

    “I thank you, Captain, for your chivalrous rescue.” The woman pointed her pistol at him and cocked it with a snap. “But I believe I’ll be taking over your ship.”

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