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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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Life Book by Carl Blunt (Book Review)


Title: the life book
Author: Carl Blunt


My thoughts:  This little book (4" x 4" x 1/4" - approximately) packs a powerful punch. It is separated into 4 parts.  The first part is a summary -perfect for teens - of the Old Testament.  They refer to it as God's story before Jesus shows up on the scene.  Part two is the largest part of the book and comes straight from the Bible.  It's Jesus's story while he was on Earth.  Part three relates what you have learned to your own life - teen perspective.  Part four gives some Biblical guidance to some of teen's biggest questions - sex, peer pressure, self-esteem.

In addition to the actual typed text are footnotes scrawled throughout the entire book - like a teen taking notes on a book in class.  These note makers are 17-year old Dylan, 16-year-old Taylor, 16-year-old Vanessa and Pedro who is a freshman.  Adult notes are left by Gideon Williams.  They provide some nice insights to how a teenager perceives things from the Bible and even had me thinking twice about what I knew and what I was learning. 

I have included information below about the life book and the life book movement that was provided to me by TBB Media.  It sounds like a great movement and one that I will be sharing with my daughter's youth pastor. 


Become a fan at www.facebook.com/carlblunt and follow the movement at www.twitter.com/carlblunt.




~I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review from TBB Media.~





Bible Smuggling 101

Legally Saturating High Schools with God’s Word

In today’s divisive culture-war society, when news stories about separation of church and state thrive with controversy, one cutting-edge Christian ministry is having remarkable success spreading the Word of God. What makes it remarkable? They are doing it by distributing Bibles in public schools—legally.

Carl Blunt is the president and CEO of The Life Book Movement, a Christian mission centered on Blunt’s own contemporary, youth-oriented edition of a portion of the Bible called The Life Book, a unique presentation of Scripture designed to engage high school students with the truth of God’s Word. The Life Book presents a brief overview of the Old Testament and the Book of John using an interactive format with honest student comments and real-life questions in the margins. Readers are drawn into the only story that can change their lives forever.

Founded by The Gideons International as an innovative strategy to reach high school students with God’s Word, The Life Book Movement works in collaboration with churches throughout the country to provide the books for free to high school students. Blunt’s organization brilliantly threads a separation-of-church-and-state loophole by getting his publication into the hands of Christian high school students and having them pass the books out to classmates at school—a practice that is entirely legal, as long as the books are not distributed by school staff or other adults. Blunt says, “It’s like we’re helping students smuggle God’s Word into a closed country (public high schools) to reach an unreached people group because studies show that only 4% of today’s teenagers are Bible-believing Christians.” The goal is to ensure that every student in every high school in the United States has an opportunity to receive the gift of The Life Book. This approach presents a phenomenal opportunity to impact a generation with the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Life Book Movement is best described to students as a week-long mission trip to their local high school. Local churches work together in targeted areas to ensure The Life Book is offered to every student in each chosen high school. All churches involved receive the books at no cost from The Life Book Movement and provide the books, along with some evangelism training, to the students in their youth groups. The students then spend a week passing them out to their friends and classmates at school. One student who received the book said, “I got one today. I read it in almost every class today. I like it. It’s pretty neat and other people asked to look at it and then asked where to get one.”

Flying under the radar since its inception last fall, The Life Book Movement is rapidly closing in on distribution of more than 300,000 copies in public high schools across 21 states and even the British Virgin Islands. A quiet success, indeed, but extremely ambitious, The Life Book Movement has an ultimate goal of distributing The Life Book to nearly 18 million high school students when all is said and done. And, so far, the outlook is extremely promising.

First Wild Card Tour: Pause for Power A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe (Book Review)

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B & B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

REVIEW: This is a great little devotional book. I have always enjoyed Dr. Wiersbe's studies. This devotional rates high on my list as the devotional part is short so it lets you focus more on the actual reading from the Bible that is suggested. You can read this in whatever translation that you want. The other high point is that the devotions are not dated - just Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 etc. I like this because if I miss a day, it is hard for me to get going again if they are dated. I feel like I have "failed". Where as just having Day 1, then it doesn't matter as much and when life gets in my way and I must forego a reading. This would make a great Christmas gift for anyone on your list.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.



Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 078140374X
ISBN-13: 978-0781403740

AND NOW...THE FIRST WEEK OF DEVOTIONS:


A Year in the Word

In the pages that follow, you’ll hear Isaiah’s invitation to wayward hearts, wrestle with Job’s dilemma, examine what Hebrews says about the breathtaking work of Christ, and listen in as Paul writes letters to infant churches. Such a task might seem daunting at first, but with the help of Pause for Power, it will take you only a few minutes a day. And here’s the best part: Over the course of a year, you’ll have read fifteen books of the Bible.

The devotions are undated, so you can start any day of the year. They’re also blended, so you can enjoy a variety of biblical voices and themes each week. One day you might contemplate Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and the next you might consider a wise saying from Ecclesiastes.

To get started, simply turn to Day 1, read the associated Bible passage in your favorite translation, spend time with the devotion, then ponder the question of the day. Repeat daily. In twelve months you’ll have studied Job, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. But more importantly, you’ll have gained insight into God’s Word—insight that will bring you closer to the Author Himself.


Day 1

Consistent Actions

Read Romans 2:1—3:20

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Romans 2:7–8

God had given Israel great material and spiritual riches: a wonderful land, a righteous law, a temple and priesthood, God’s providential care, and many more blessings. God had patiently endured Israel’s many sins and rebellions, and had even sent them His Son to be their Messiah. Even after Israel crucified Christ, God gave the nation nearly forty more years of grace and withheld His judgment. It is not the judgment of God that leads people to repentance, but the goodness of God; but Israel did not repent.

In Romans 2:6–11, Paul was explaining a basic principle of God’s judgment: God judges according to deeds, just as He judges according to truth. Paul was dealing here with the consistent actions of people’s lives, the total impact of their character and conduct.

True saving faith results in obedience and godly living, even though there may be occasional falls. When God measured the deeds of the Jews, He found them to be as wicked as those of the Gentiles.

Something to Ponder

Is it possible for people to grow to have consistently good (not perfect) character and conduct? If so, how? How does this fit with Paul’s claim that no one is righteous apart from Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:9–10)?


Day 2

Devoted to Devotions

Read Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Colossians 4:2

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. Prayer is not telling God what to do or what to give. Prayer is asking God for that which He wants to do and give, according to His will (1 John 5:14–15). As we read the Word and fellowship with our Father, we discover His will and then boldly ask Him to do what He has planned. Richard Trench (1807–1886), archbishop of Dublin, said it perfectly: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness.”

Of course, it is possible to pray in our hearts and never use the gift of speech (1 Sam. 1:13), but we are using words even if we don’t say them audibly. True prayer must first come from the heart, whether the words are spoken or not.

Something to Ponder

As you pray, in what ways are you “watchful”? In what ways are you “thankful”?


Day 3

The Mark of Maturity

Read Philippians 1:6–10

This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

Philippians 1:9–10

Paul found joy in his memories of the friends at Philippi and in his growing love for them. He also found joy in remembering them before the throne of grace in prayer.

This is a prayer for maturity, and Paul began it with love. He prayed that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment.

The ability to distinguish is a mark of maturity. When a baby learns to speak, he or she may call every four-legged animal a “bowwow.” But then the child discovers that there are cats, mice, cows, and other four-legged creatures.

One of the sure marks of maturity is discerning love and loving discernment.

Something to Ponder

With daily decisions, do you tend to seek what is good, or do you try to discern what is truly best?


Day 4

Avoiding Oblivion

Read 1 John 2:17

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:17

Every great nation in history has become decadent and has finally been conquered by another nation. Some nineteen world civilizations have slipped into oblivion. There is no reason why we should think that our present civilization will endure forever. “Change and decay in all around I see,” wrote Henry F. Lyte (1793–1847), and if our civilization is not eroded by change and decay, it will certainly be swept away and replaced by a new order of things at the coming of Christ.

Slowly but inevitably, and perhaps sooner than even we Christians think, the world is passing away, but those who do God’s will abide forever. Long after this world system—with its vaunted culture, its proud philosophies, its egocentric intellectualism, and its godless materialism—has been forgotten, and long after this planet has been replaced by the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1), God’s faithful servants will remain, sharing the glory of God for all eternity. And this prospect is not limited to Moody, Spurgeon, Luther, or Wesley and their likes—it is open to each and every humble believer. If you are trusting Christ, it is for you.

Something to Ponder

If you are expecting to share the glory of God for all eternity, what things are you doing now to prepare for such an encounter?


Day 5

Sovereignty and Responsibility

Read Romans 9:14–33

Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Romans 9:14–15

Moses was a Jew; Pharaoh was a Gentile, yet both were sinners. In fact, both were murderers! Both saw God’s wonders. Yet Moses was saved and Pharaoh was lost. Pharaoh was a ruler, and Moses was a slave, yet it was Moses who experienced the mercy and compassion of God—because God willed it that way. Nobody can condemn God for the way He extends His mercy, because God is righteous in His judgments (see Ps. 19:9 KJV).

Paul wrote of divine sovereignty and then human responsibility. Here is a paradox: The Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “law righteousness.” The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved, when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved.

Something to Ponder

When you can’t fully understand God’s working, what do you do to maintain your faith?


Day 6

Sins of the Saints

Read Hebrews 2:3–9

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

Hebrews 2:3

We have the idea that believers today “under grace” can escape the chastening hand of God that was so evident “under law.” But to whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). Not only have we received the Word from the Son of God, but that Word has been confirmed by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4). The phrase “signs and wonders” here refers to the miracles that witnessed to the Word and gave confirmation that it was true. Today we have the completed Word of God, so there is no need for these apostolic miracles. God now bears witness through His Spirit using the Word. The Spirit also gives spiritual gifts to God’s people so that they may minister in the church (1 Cor. 12:1–11).

I have often told the story about the pastor who preached a series of sermons on “the sins of the saints.” He was severely reprimanded by a church member. “After all,” said the member, “sin in the lives of Christians is different from sin in the lives of other people.”

“Yes,” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”

Something to Ponder

Do you agree that sin in the lives of Christians is worse than sin in the lives of other people? Why?


Day 7

Heart Gifts

Read 2 Corinthians 8:10–24

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.

2 Corinthians 8:11

During my years of ministry, I have endured many offering appeals. I have listened to pathetic tales about unbelievable needs. I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes that were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money. I have been scolded, shamed, and almost threatened, and I must confess that none of these approaches has ever stirred me to give more than I planned to give.

We must be careful here not to confuse willing with doing, because the two must go together. If the willing is sincere and in the will of God, then there must be a “completion of it” (2 Cor. 8:11; see Phil. 2:12–13). Paul did not say that willing was a substitute for doing, because it is not. But if our giving is motivated by grace, we will give more willingly.

God sees the “heart gift” and not the “hand gift.” If the heart wants to give more, but is unable to do so, God sees it and records it accordingly. But if the hand gives more than the heart wants to give, God records what is in the heart, no matter how big the offering in the hand may be.

Something to Ponder

Think about a time you gave willingly and a time you gave grudgingly. What made the difference?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would like to welcome Steff Deschenes to Books and Needlepoint today.  She is sharing a guest post that is very appropriate for Thanksgiving.  Steff is the author of The Ice Cream Theory which I reviewed a few days ago - If you missed it - go back here and be sure to sign up for the giveaway there also!


I am thankful.


For still being able to climb apple trees.


For polar bears.


For the smell of the ocean.


For music that makes me cry and written works that stir my soul.


For French-press coffee.


I am thankful.


For being healthy . . .


. . . for being healthy enough.


I am thankful.


For the great state in which I live in and have specifically come back to and for time after time. I will never not be mesmerized by the beauty of autumn here – the way the trees ignite with color; I will never not be hypnotized by the first snow fall – the way it looks like a thousand tiny cold diamonds blanketing our pine trees.


For proving that I didn’t need a degree to be successful.


For living my dream of being an author.


For being able to pay my bills!


For living in a country where I can practice my religion, eat or not eat whatever I choose, wear whatever I want, think however I want, and thrive as an opinionated independent woman without fear of persecution.


I am thankful.


For my estranged dad who, although we’ve now parted ways after years of struggling to understand each other or even just see eye-to eye, permitted me to be the eccentric tomboy I was while growing up. For encouraging my mom to raise us in a liberal, worldy, socially conscious manner. And who, over the course of our time together, taught me some ridiculous things.


For my sister, who at some point in time crossed the line from just being a sibling to being a best friend, too. And who better to call a friend than her? She knew me when I was four, when I was fourteen, when I was twenty-four. And through all those life changes, she was right there. She is the only other person to go through most of what I went through, the one other person who knows every part of the comedy and tragedy that made up our family life.


For my mom. Always and forever, for my mom. The strongest, most courageous, most benevolent woman I know. She is the biggest champion of my cause, and the person who loves and appreciates every quirk about me the most. She has and always will bathe me in her love and support. As I look on towards my impending adulthood my only hope is that I can be half the woman, mother, wife, and Child of God she is.


For my step-parents. I don’t tell them enough how much I appreciate them. They make my parents happy, and that is ultimately the number one most important thing to me: the people I love and their happiness. And while they don’t have to, I appreciate their involvement in my life. They have their own children, they don’t need to remember little things about me, like how I take my coffee or how I get cranky when I haven’t slept, but they do. They are kind and lovely people.


I am thankful.


For my pet which, despite my occasional annoyance for his troublesome bunny ways, has become quite the companion. It’s oddly comforting to come home to a large empty flat and find this very small curious creature enthusiastically waiting for me. For me! And to be able to keep him and continue to care for him and his well-being, especially in an economy where daily people are giving up their small critter friends because they simply can’t afford them, warms my heart.


For friends far and close, the ones who touched my life very briefly yet altered it forever, and the ones who are in it for the long haul and cherish every moment whether remarkable or unimpressively trivial. They’ve supported my every endeavor, encouraged me to jump, kept me humble, and loved me unconditionally in spite of my awful self sometimes.


For the memories I have of the people I don’t.


Life and the living of it is imperfect and at times, downright difficult. I think we all need to take a deep breath and acknowledge that in that imperfection there is tremendous beauty. And maybe it’s me, but it seems terribly important as individuals and as a community of people that, even if only once a year, we take the time, we allow ourselves, to simply let our hearts overflow with gratitude and appreciation for everything, for all the things, big and small, that make living life wonderful and worthwhile.


I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen (Book Review)


Title: What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir
Author: Alice Eve Cohen
Publisher: Penguin

About the book: At age forty-four, Alice Eve Cohen was happy for the first time in years.  After a difficult divorce, she was engaged to an inspiring man, she was joyfully raising her adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming.  Then she started experiencing mysterious symptoms.  After years of hormone replacement therapy and months of tests and X-rays, she was diagnosed with an abdominal tumor and rushed in for an emergency CAT scan that revealed the cause of her symptoms -- she was six months pregnant.

That was the first of many shocks in a pregnancy riddled with complications that threatened the lives of both mother and baby.  In her third trimester, with no prenatal care and no insurance coverage for high-risk pregnancy, Cohen was inundated by friends and doctors telling her what was ethical, what was loving, what was right. (from Penguin Books press release)

My thoughts: I am 44 years old myself, with an 18, 16 and 6 year old.  I was 38 1/2 when my son was born and have a chronic health condition which put me in the high risk category.  However, that being said, my situation seems miniscule compared to what Ms. Cohen went through. After accepting the fact that you were infertile, not using birth control for 14 years, then thinking you have cancer only to find out you are six months pregnant!  Wow!  Ms. Cohen shares her story with an openness and honesty that was surprising.  At the same time, the humor comes through.  She is able to write about the worst parts of her experience with a dark sarcasm that had me feeling a sense of shock one minute and smiling the next. I especially enjoyed the lists that pop up at the end of some of the chapters about "What I Know".

What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin, May 2010
ISBN: 978-0-14-311765-0
194 pages


Julia's Red Dress by Alice Eve Cohen - guest blogger

I am very excited to have Alice Eve Cohen as a guest blogger today!  I just finished her book, What I Thought I Knew, and loved it.  You will be seeing a review on this from me later today.  It was fun to read the story below about Julia now, after reading a little about her as a young girl.


JULIA’S RED DRESS

By Alice Eve Cohen


Hallelujah! I don’t have to apply to schools for my kids this year. Being a New York City parent is a school-application-intensive occupation. Even in the public school system, you have to go through a competitive application process to get a seat for your child in preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school.


My older daughter, Julia, has always had very strong opinions about schools. The defining moment in her school application career came when she was just two years old. I was taking her in her stroller from preschool to preschool, in the hopes of finding a place for her within walking distance of our Upper West Side apartment.


At one of the first schools we visited, the director brought us into her office for the interview.


“Julia, would you show me how you play with these blocks?” she said.


Julia, looking adorable in her new red dress, smiled at the director…Then she pulled off her dress.


I quickly pulled Julia’s dress back on.


The director cleared her throat and repeated, “Julia, would you show me how you play with these blocks?”


Julia smiled at the director… And she pulled her dress off.


Again, I quickly put Julia’s red dress back on.


The director cleared her throat and said, sternly, “Julia, at this preschool, we do not take our clothes off!”


Julia looked at the director… and pulled her dress off.


Needless to say, Julia didn’t go to that preschool.



Two years later. I brought Julia to an interview for a public elementary school for academically gifted children. The room, filled with ambitious parents and children, was vibrating with competition.


“Mommy, I don’t want to go to this school. I want to go to the school near us with the playground.”


“You haven’t seen this school yet,” I said.


“Children in Group B, please line up and follow me,” said a teacher.


“Mommy, I hate this school,” said Julia.


“Julia, just give it a chance.”


“Mommy, if you make me go, I’m gonna have a tantrum.”


“Is your daughter in Group B,” asked the teacher, impatiently.


“Julia, please go with the teacher.”


“I warned you, Mommy.” She lay down and had a tantrum.


“Is your daughter ready to join us?” asked the teacher, looking down at my daughter who was kicking and screaming on the floor.


“Evidently not,” I said.






Needless to say, Julia did not go to that elementary school.






Thirteen years later. Julia was seventeen, and we were looking at colleges. As soon as we arrived at a university in New England, which sounded great on paper, she said, “I hate this school!”


“How do you know? You haven’t even seen it yet,” I said. “Let’s take the tour.” Michael and Eliana played on the lawn, while Julia and I followed the tour guide, an officious professor.


“Let’s leave,” Julia whispered to me, mid-tour.


“Give it a chance,” I whispered back.


Our tour guide led the group into the performing arts building. I was the last one on line, and the door to the building closed and locked just before I got to it. While I waited outside the building, Julia texted me from inside:


“MOM, GET ME OUT OF HERE!”


I called Michael's cell: “Warning! Julia's about to take off her red dress!”






Needless to say, Julia did not go to that university.






Cut to yesterday. Julia is 20. I visited her at college, the same school I went to, to see a play she was in, at the same campus theatre where I did plays when I was an in college. Princeton wasn’t originally one of Julia’s first choices, so it was a huge surprise to me when she decided to go there.


“I’m glad you went to Princeton,” I told her yesterday. “It’s so much easier to visit you here than it would have been if you’d gone to school on the West Coast. And besides,” I added, “I hear Princeton’s a pretty good school.”


“I love this school,” said Julia.


You can also find Alice on Facebook - Alice Eve Cohen and on Twitter - AliceEveCohen.


What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin, May 2010
ISBN: 978-0-14-311765-0
194 pages

Monday, November 22, 2010

First Wild Card Tour: The Confident Woman Devotional by Joyce Meyer

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:

FaithWords (November 22, 2010)
***Special thanks to Sarah Reck, Web Publicist, Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, she has written more than eighty inspirational books, including The Secret to True Happiness, 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life, the entire Battlefield of the Mind family of books, her first venture into fiction with The Penny, and many others. She has also released thousands of audio teachings, as well as a complete video library. Joyce’s Enjoying Everyday Life radio and television programs are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences. Joyce and her husband, Dave, are the parents of four grown children and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (November 22, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446568880
ISBN-13: 978-0446568883

Please press the BROWSE INSIDE THIS BOOK button to read the FIRST chapter:


The Ice Cream Theory by Steff Deschenes (Book Review and Giveaway)


Title: The Ice Cream Theory
Author: Steff Deschenes
Publisher: Book Surge Publishing

My synopsis/thoughts: Steff Deschenes has a theory - that people are like flavors of ice cream - you can like certain people at different times in your life, just like different flavors of ice cream appeal to you at different times. How sometimes you can't get enough of someone, and then suddenly you don't want to have anything else to do with them.  Just like you can overdue flavors of ice cream (or any food for that matter) until you are sick of it. This isn't the only corollary between ice cream and food though - just one of them.

Each chapter centers on a certain flavor, with Ms. Deschenes first telling you about a person in her life, then about what flavor ice cream she associates them with, and then the reasons why she feels they are like this ice cream.

This was a very fun, light-hearted read, even though some of the chapters dealt with break-ups of people she cared a great deal about.  I have tried to use her theory and think about the people in my life in relation to ice cream - but I couldn't come up with anything.  While I like ice cream, I don't think that I love it as much as Ms. Deschenes does!  I did like hearing about all the different ice cream flavors though like Champagne, Exploding Chocolate Extraordinaire and one that I would really like to try - Peanut-Butter Filled, Chocolate-Covered Pretzels.  This is vanilla ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chocolate fudge ripples, and yep - peanut-butter filled, chocolate-covered pretzels. I love peanut butter and chocolate and I love chocolate covered pretzels - so this seems like it would be right up my alley.

Please come back tomorrow for a guest post by Ms. Deschenes!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.


GIVEAWAY!
Ms Deschenes has offered a copy of this book for one of my readers - so to enter, just tell me what is your favorite flavor of ice cream!  Please leave an email address with your entry.  This giveaway is open to US/Canada only and will end on December 13.

About the author:  Steff Deschenes is a self-taught ice-cream maker.  When she isn't conducting random social experiments or going on secret ice cream rendezvous with her younger sister, she enjoys traveling and playing guitar.  She lives in Maine with her bunny, Boone, and is diligently researching her next book, The Burrito Theory.  Visit her website at www.steffdeschenes.com.



The Ice Cream Theory
Publisher/Publication Date: BookSurge, July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4392-3005-3
270 pages

Saturday, November 20, 2010

. . . Featuring Norah Jones (CD Review)



. . . Featuring by Norah Jones


My first music review!  I was so excited to be selected by the One 2 One network to review Norah Jones latest CD . . . Featuring.  This CD spans her entire career and includes performances with The Foo Fighters, Ryan Adams and Dolly Parton - just to name a few.  I loved it!  It has a very laid back - bluesy appeal.  The kind of CD you want to slip in on a cold Sunday afternoon and sit in front of the fire with your sweetheart. I must say though, that my favorite was probably Blue Bayou followed closely by Baby, It's Cold Outside.  This would be a great stocking stuffer for the music lover in your life!

(~I received a complimentary copy of this CD from One 2 One Network in exchange for my unbiased review. I am entered to win a giftcard for participating.~)






TRACK LISTING:
1. Love Me – The Little Willies
2. Virginia Moon – The Foo Fighters featuring Norah Jones
3. Turn Them – Sean Bones featuring Norah Jones
4. Baby It's Cold Outside – Willie Nelson featuring Norah Jones
5. Bull Rider – Norah Jones and Sasha Dobson
6. Ruler Of My Heart – Dirty Dozen Brass Band featuring Norah Jones
7. The Best Part – El Madmo
8. Take Off Your Cool – OutKast featuring Norah Jones
9. Life Is Better – Q-Tip featuring Norah Jones
10. Soon The New Day – Talib Kweli featuring Norah Jones
11. Little Lou, Prophet Jack, Ugly John – Belle & Sebastian featuring Norah Jones
12. Here We Go Again – Ray Charles featuring Norah Jones
13. Loretta – Norah Jones featuring Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
14. Dear John – Ryan Adams featuring Norah Jones
15. Creepin' In – Norah Jones featuring Dolly Parton
16. Court & Spark – Herbie Hancock featuring Norah Jones
17. More Than This – Charlie Hunter featuring Norah Jones
18. Blue Bayou – Norah Jones featuring M. Ward




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Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson (Book Review)

Title: Christmas at Harrington's
Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Revell/Baker Publishing Group


My synopsis:  Lena Markham had just gotten out of prison after serving an 8 year sentence for a crime that she didn't commit.  She had been convicted of embezzling from her church's missionary fund - where she was the accountant and the pastor's wife. After being arrested, she listened to her husband when he told her that he was handling it and that she would be released soon - she even signed over her grandmother's inheritance when he said he needed it to set up the real embezzlers.  Turns out he was the real embezzler and he let her take the fall - and then ran off with the church's money AND her inheritance.

Not wanting to return to her hometown - where she no longer had any family or friends, her social worker arranges for her a place to stay in New Haven, Minnesota - as well as a job at Harrington's - the local department store.  Upon arriving at Harrington's, she is told there are no jobs and that people have actually been laid off.  But she seems to be having some luck, as Ms. Harrington and her daughter Cassidy are just leaving.  When Cassidy sees her, she thinks Lena would make a perfect Mrs. Santa - an idea she dreamed about just a few weeks before.

Things go well for about a week, and then a woman from Lena's hometown comes in with her daughter to see Mrs. Santa.  She recognizes Lena and it isn't long before she has spread the word that Lena is a convicted felon and shouldn't be allowed to work with children. Ms. Harrington has no choice but to fire her, or risk loss of business due to bad publicity. 

My thoughts:  This is a great story for Christmastime!  It is also a great story about forgiveness when someone has done something wrong - and how Jesus will forgive us also, as well as telling the truth - even if it hurts.  It is a very quick read at only 167 pages, and it truly is a feel-good story.  It made me so angry when people immediately were against Lena when they found out that she was an ex-con.  Made me wonder how I treated people if I knew something negative about their past. I really liked the way that Lena wove together Jesus' birth with Santa during a storytime she was asked to do at the library.  It was also a good lesson to not gloss over the real reason of Christmas, even for young children - that they CAN understand about Jesus' birth and that He is the reason for the season!

~I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Donna at Baker Publishing.~

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon. Visit Melody's website at www.melodycarlson.com.

“Available November 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”




Christmas at Harrington's
Publisher/Publication Date: Revell, Nov 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8007-1925-8
167 pages

Winners!

 

Somewhere Along the Way - won by Laura H.








 

Oogy - won by Michele and rubynreba




Simply Irresistible - won by Sandy Jay, mbreakfield, and donnas (already won) so new winner is Shaiha





Two Lethal Lies - won by Cheryl F. {The Lucky Ladybug}; Leslie @ Under My Apple Tree, and ossmcalc/Christine





Katie Up and Down the Hall - won by headlessfowl, Benita, and Karen



All winners have been emailed and have 48 hours to respond to claim their books.  A new winner will be chosen at that time.  Thanks!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick (Book Review)


Title: The Forever Queen
Author: Helen Hollick
Publisher: Sourcebooks

About the Book: Married to a king incompetent both on the throne and in bed, Emma does not love her husband. But she does love England. Even as her husband fails, Emma vows to protect her people-no matter what. For five decades, through love and loss, prosperity and exile, Emma fights for England, becoming the only woman to have been anointed, crowned, and reigning queen to two different kings, the mother of two more, and the great aunt of William the Conqueror.  (from Shelfari)


My thoughts:  I have been trying to read more historical fiction as I feel grossly ignorant of history - especially English history.  I realize this is fiction - but Ms. Hollick has always done a wonderful job of sticking very closely to the facts and weaving a wonderfully rich story around them. 

I had never heard of Emma (or Aethelred or Cnut) so was really interested to learn  more about his young Queen.  At the age of 13 she was given by her brother in marriage to Aethelred - who was 34.  (and to think it upsets me when my 16 year old wants to date an 18 year old. . . )  I was very impressed by her bravery in facing this situation with her head held high.  She married this man, and was not even able to speak his language!  Within that first year of marriage, she lost her innocence, two close friends, suffered a lingering illness, and began to fall in love with England.  It wasn't long before she had fully embraced the role of Queen and wasn't afraid to speak her mind.

At the end of the book I read how Ms. Hollick had actually left out some of the characters as the roles they played in history were small ones.  Whew!  Am I ever thankful for that.  Though I do enjoy her writing very much - as she writes about history in such a way that my non-history brain can understand it, following the people, with their often similar names, can be challenging.  She does provide a family tree in the beginning and a list of pronunciations, but it wasn't after I was in the story that I was able to follow the tree.  As for the pronunciations, they usually come over time.

This book is not for the light-hearted, as it is filled with political shenanigans, treachery, not-so-pleasant deaths, but a proud and fiercely loyal Queen emerges.  This book is a must for historical fiction fans!  Please visit some of the other stops on the tour for other reviews and some great interviews with the author!

The Forever Queen Book Club Schedule
November 1
http://www.bibliophilicbookblog.com/
http://calicocritic.blogspot.com/

November 2
http://www.passagestothepast.com/
http://lifeinthethumb.blogspot.com/

November 3
http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/
http://www.luxuryreading.com/

November 4
http://yankeeromancereviewers.blogspot.com/
http://historicallyobsessed.blogspot.com/

November 5
http://booksbythewillowtree.blogspot.com/
http://www.historyandwomen.com/

November 8
http://www.rundpinne.blogspot.com/
http://www.bookwormsdinner.blogspot.com/

November 9
http://debsbookbag.blogspot.com/
http://startingfresh-gaby317.blogspot.com/

November 10
http://literatehousewife.com/
http://carpelibrisreviews.com/

November 11
http://web.me.com/quirion/Bookaddict/Welcome.html
http://bibliophile23.wordpress.com/

November 12
http://www.brokenteepee.blogspot.com/
http://www.read-all-over.net

November 15
http://writesthoughts.blogspot.com/
http://celticladysramblings.blogspot.com/

November 16
http://www.jennylovestoread.blogspot.com/
http://booksandneedlepoint.blogspot.com/

November 17
http://bookalicio.us/
http://themaidenscourt.blogspot.com/

November 18
http://pushersink.blogspot.com/
http://marthasbookshelf.blogspot.com/

November 19
http://theroyalreviews.blogspot.com/
http://thetometraveller.blogspot.com/

November 22
Book Club Chat on http://www.bibliophilicbookblog.com/
7pm-9pm EST



The Forever Queen
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks, Nov 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4022-4068-3
656 pages

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Wild Card Tour: A Season of Miracles by Rusty Whitener

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!


Read my review of A Season of Miracles.


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Kregel Publications; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Rusty Whitener is a novelist, screenwriter, and actor. His first screenplay, Touched, won second place at the 2009 Kairos Prize at the Los Angeles Movieguide Awards and first place at the Gideon film festival. That screenplay soon became A Season of Miracles. The movie version of this book is now in production with Elevating Entertainment.

Find out more at http://www.aseasonofmiraclesmovie.com/.

Read more about the book, get discussion questions, and see Rusty’s chapter videos at http://www.aseasonofmiraclesbook.com/.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825441919
ISBN-13: 978-0825441912

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I didn’t set out to believe in miracles. Nobody does. That’s what makes them miracles.

The events of 1971 would pick me up in a tornado of changes and set me down in an amazing place of grace. As with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it would be a kind of homecoming, except that I would be coming home for the first time.

Around the middle of March, about the time my hometown of Silas started to escape the gray Alabama winter, Little League baseball would crowd out everything else for my attention.

I wasn’t alone. Those days, Little League in our county was akin to a small-town parade down Main Street. Everybody went, not really expecting to see the remarkable so much as the familiar. Pretty near every boy in town played the game. And most every player’s parents went to watch, clap, groan, and cheer.

Little League is a game played by Charlie Browns and Joe DiMaggios. Most children that age are Charlie Browns, still struggling with how to handle an oversized pencil, let alone how to grip a baseball and hurl it a particular direction. They are likely to throw the ball farther from their target than it was when they retrieved it. They even look like you imagine Charlie Brown would, running in preadolescent distress to recover the ball they just threw in the wrong direction. On the weaker Little League teams, Charlie Browns mosey around the outfield, and DiMaggios man the infield. Players who hit the ball over the infielders’ heads usually have an easy double. Stronger teams have a DiMaggio anchoring center field, or maybe left. If anyone better than Charlie is in right, then either the team is stacked with talent or something magical is going on. Maybe both.

I don’t remember ever not being able to hit the ball into the outfield. I didn’t think much about it, really, except for the basics: relax, breathe, don’t swing so hard, don’t pull your head. Bring the bat to the ball and drive it on a line. I was a little tall for my twelve years, but I also had something much better than size. Confidence. I knew I could hit the ball, and hit it hard. Not every time, but most of the time. And batting over .500 with power will scorch any league.

I was the best hitter I had ever seen. Until 1971.

It was a cool Saturday in mid March. I called my best friend, Donnie White, and he called Batman Boatwright and Jimmy Yarnell. I really didn’t spend a lot of time with Batman and Jimmy throughout the rest of the year. Just spring and early summer. When Little League season came into focus, so did Batman and Jimmy.

I always took the back way to the old field, cutting through woods so thick and dark it was like traveling and hiding at the same time. My wicked cool Sting-Ray, with butterfly handlebars and a fat banana seat covered in leopard spots, gave me an edge in races with the guys. But in woods that thick, I’d just get to pumping the pedals hard before I’d have to dismount and negotiate the bramble bushes and low hanging, cobwebbed pines that duped nature by growing with so little sun.

Sawdust wasn’t real keen on those woods. A hound-collie mix, he had followed me home two summers before and decided I needed him. Through these woods, along the rough path of moss and bracken, he got nervous when I had to stop the bike and walk. He looked back and forth and around, seemingly wary that something might sneak up on us. He barked his approval when we climbed the last ridge and tumbled out of the sun-spun shadows crisscrossing our wooded trek and into the sun’s soaring shine over the ancient baseball field behind Mill Creek Fire Station.

It wasn’t a real baseball diamond anymore, just a big space of worn-down grass. But it was enough of a practice field for us. There was even an outfield fence of sorts, a lot of chain no longer linked. A backstop someone put up years before helped us out. If the ball got by the hitter, it caromed off the chain links and dribbled in the general direction of the pitcher. If it didn’t get a good enough carom to send it close to the mound, the batter picked it up and tossed it back to the pitcher. Who needed a catcher?

Donnie, Batman, and Jimmy were already there, tossing the ball in a triangular game of catch.

“It’s about time, Pardner!” Donnie raised his arms in a “what’s the deal?” gesture. “We’re startin’ to take root here.” He dropped his arms and threw the ball too high in Jimmy’s direction. Jimmy threw his glove after the ball, and then turned to look at Donnie like he couldn’t believe he put up with a friend who threw that poorly.

“Sorry,” said Donnie with a big smile. “Too high, I guess.”

“Zack,” Jimmy said, turning to me, “can you tell this guy about cool?”

“What do I know about cool?” I said, not really asking.

Sawdust barked at Jimmy and Batman, darting between the two. He made quick little circles around Jimmy, like they were old friends. They weren’t.

“Whaddya always have to bring the mutt for?” Jimmy sounded seriously miffed.

“Sawdust likes chasing the balls,” I said.

“I know that,” said Jimmy. “He gets ’em all slimy.”

Batman drawled, “He’s got your glove now, Hoss.”

Jimmy gave a squawk and bounded after Sawdust, who was running in large circles back and forth across the field.

“I’ll make a glove outta you, ya mutt!” Jimmy’s threat broke us up, and I laughed pretty hard until I saw the new kid. At first, I thought something was seriously wrong he was so still. He sat at the base of a tree, his back ramrod straight against the trunk, his legs straight out from his body, arms at his sides. He looked almost unreal, not moving his head, stock-still, eyes frozen. Not moving anything.

“Whatcha looking at, Pardner?” Donnie gave nicknames to people he really liked, and people he struggled to like. Come to think of it, that’s just about everybody. He once told me it was hard to call someone by a good nickname and still not like them. Donnie wanted to like everybody.

“That boy,” I said, “over there.”

“Oh man, he don’t look so good.” Donnie stared. “He even . . . is he alive?”

“What kind of a question is that?” I said, still staring at the kid under the tree, who still had not moved. “Of course he’s alive. I mean . . . don’t you think?”

Batman jogged up to us. “Are we gonna play or what?”

“Look at that kid over there.” Donnie pointed with his gloved hand.

“I see him,” Batman said. “So what?”

“Is he alive?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“I mean he doesn’t look alive.” Donnie said the words slowly, as if he were announcing something important, like the moral at the end of a story.

“Well he’s not dead,” said Batman.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because he sits there like that all the time. I’ve seen him before, when we come here to play.”

“Really?”

“Lots of times,” Batman said. “I think he’s a retard.”

“Come off it.” Donnie looked at Batman and shook his head, like he was disappointed in him.

“It’s the Forrester kid,” Batman said. “Everybody knows he’s touched.” Batman was blowing massive bubbles and struggling to move the gum to the side of his mouth so he could talk. “Don’t tell me ya’ll haven’t seen him at school.”

“I seen him,” said Donnie.

“I don’t think I have,” I said. “How come, you reckon?”

“Maybe ’cause you’re always looking at Rebecca Carson,” Batman joshed. “Anyway, he’s touched.”

“Okay, he’s got some problems . . . ,” Donnie started.

Batman decided to pluck the wad of gum out of his mouth and hold it in his free hand, a rare move he reserved for emergencies. “Serious problems,” said Batman.

“Okay,” said Donnie, “serious problems, but we don’t have to call him—”

“Hey guys,” I said. “Guys, I think he’s coming over here.”

The Forrester kid was on his feet, walking toward us.

“Holy metropolis,” Batman whistled. “Look alert, Batfans.”

Jimmy ran up, holding his glove away from his body, between a thumb and forefinger, the leather shiny with Sawdust drool.

“This is so foul, ya’ll. I can’t play with this nasty thing. Do ya’ll . . . do ya’ll know that fella is coming over here?”

“Yeah Jimmy, we know,” I said.

“Do ya’ll . . . do ya’ll know he’s a retard?”

“He’s not a retard. He has some problems, that’s all,” said Donnie, loudly.

“His problem is he’s a retard—and his dad’s a drunk, ’cording to my folks.”

I really don’t think Jimmy meant to say anything mean. That’s just the way he was. Shoot from the lip and take no prisoners.

“Shut up, Jimmy,” Donnie’s voice was a sharp whisper now. “There’s nothing wrong with his ears.”

Rafer Forrester walked straight up to me, stepping up close, his face no more than a foot from mine. The other kids instinctively took half-steps back, clumsily trying to give me more space. Sawdust sauntered into the picture, sat down razor close to Rafer and put a paw on the boy’s shoe. Without looking, Rafer put his hand on the dog’s head and stroked it.

“Hey,” I said quietly. “How’s it going?”

I guess I hadn’t really expected an answer. But I did expect him to say something. After some long seconds he did.

“Hit.”

“You wanna hit?” I asked.

Silence.

“You wanna hit?” I said again.

“Hit. Rafer hit.” His face was still devoid of expression.

I heard Jimmy’s voice behind me. “I think the fella wants to try to hit the baseball.”

“You mean the ball?” I held it up in front of me, about six inches from his eyes.

“I don’t think he’s blind, Zack-man,” Batman said, his voice joining Jimmy’s in a nervous flutter of laughs.

“All right, guys,” said Donnie. “Hey, Pardner, why don’t you let him try?”

“Oh, come on, Donnie,” Batman said. “Jimmy and me gotta go in about thirty minutes. We don’t have time.”

“Let him try, Pardner. Just a couple of tosses.” Donnie was already walking toward home plate. “I’ll catch so we don’t have to keep fetching the balls.”

I looked right in Rafer’s eyes. “You want to hit the baseball a little?”

“Rafer hit.”

“Okay, Rafer. Do you wanna take the ball yourself”—I pressed the ball gently in his hand—“and just toss it up in the air and hit it?” I figured he could do that. Hitting a pitched ball didn’t seem plausible, no matter how slow I tossed it.

“Rafer hit.” He pushed the ball back at me.

Batman moaned and sat down on the ground. “C’mon guys, we’re wasting time.”

“Okay, I can pitch it,” I said.

Rafer walked slowly toward home plate and picked up the bat. Donnie was already crouched behind the plate calling to me. “Okay, Pardner. Toss it in, and Rafe here is gonna knock the cover off the ball. Here we go, Pardner.”

Rafer stopped in front of Donnie and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Zack pitch. No Pardner.”

Behind me I heard Jimmy’s chuckle. Batman, sitting on the ground behind the pitcher’s mound, laughed so hard his gum started slipping down the back of his throat. “Oh . . . oh, my gosh. I almost swallowed it, ya’ll,” he managed to say.

Donnie just smiled real big at Rafer. “That’s right, Rafer, my buddy. He is Zack.” Then, rocking back and forth in a low catcher’s crouch, he called to me. “Okay, Zack, just toss it in gentle-like.”

So I did. I tossed the ball underhand, as slow as I could, across the plate. As fat a pitch as I could make it.

Rafer didn’t swing. He watched the pitch the whole way and the bat never left his shoulder. Donnie threw the ball back to me, and I tossed it again. Again, no swing.

From his spot now reclining on the ground, his head resting on his glove, Batman’s groans were like a sick boy’s. “Oh, guys. We’re gonna be here all day. And we gotta go home soon.”

“Batman,” said Jimmy, “if we gotta go home soon, then we can’t be here all day.”

Jimmy crashed on the ground next to Batman, resting his head on his glove. Then an odd expression invaded his face. He bolted upright, frantically wiping dog spit from the back of his head. “Oh, that’s stinking! Oh, that’s so raw!”

Batman just groaned again.

Donnie called to me, “Maybe you need to get closer, Pardner . . . I mean Zack. You know, toss it from a shorter distance.”

As I started to step off the mound, Rafer bellowed, “No!”

I froze.

“No!” he said again. “Zack pitch. Rafer hit.”

“Okay, okay.” I got back on the mound. I tossed it again, underhanded, only this time as the ball was crossing home plate, Rafer caught it with his right hand. He dropped the bat. For several seconds he did not move. “Zack pitch,” he said again as he started moving through an elaborate windup, turning his body like Tom Seaver and kicking his leg high like Juan Marichal, coming down with his throwing hand over the top. The ball rocketed from his hand to my glove, which I reflexively raised to protect my face.

Dead silence.

Then Jimmy drawled, “Well, good night, ya’ll.”

Donnie, barely audible, said, “He wants you to pitch it fast, I guess. God help us.” I wasn’t sure what to do. I had a strong arm from playing third base.

“Come on, Zack. Fire it in here.” Donnie was suddenly confident about the situation.

“Can you catch it?” I asked him.

“Oh, come on, of course I can catch it. You’re not that fast, you know.”

That was all my adolescent ears needed to hear. I wound up and released, letting the ball spring naturally out of my grip. The ball crossed the heart of the plate in a white blur.

At least it would have.

Rafer dropped the head of the bat, quick like a cat, just in front of the ball. Coaches tell hitters to focus on getting the barrel of the bat on the ball, and let the pitched ball do all the real work, ricocheting off the bat. That’s what Rafer did. And my perfect strike was now a perfect line drive, streaking into the gap in left center field. It had just started to drop when it banged off the old outfield fence.

“Throw him another one, Pardner!” yelled Donnie.

“He Zack,” said Rafer.

“I know, I know, he Zack! I mean, he’s Zack. Throw him another one, Pardner! And put some real zip on it this time.”

I wound up and put everything I had into the pitch. Again, Rafer swung as if he were simply dropping the bat onto the ball in one quick, measured motion. The ball left his bat and left no doubt. It cleared the fence in left field, disappearing in trees ten or fifteen feet past the fence. We had never seen a ball travel that far off this field. Not even when Jimmy’s brother, a starter on the high school JV team, had tossed a few in the air and socked them as far as he could.

“Don’t throw him any more,” Jimmy hollered, climbing over the fence with Batman after the ball. “These are my brother’s balls, and he’ll kill me if I don’t bring ’em all back.”

Donnie ran out to me at the mound. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We can get him. I bet he ain’t on a team . . . I bet my silver dollar he ain’t. We can get him.”

I walked up to Rafer, still standing in the batter’s box, expressionless. “Rafer, how old are you?”

“Rafer twelve.”

Donnie went into a silent victory dance, a kind of jump and twirl.

“Do you wanna play on our team, on our Little League team, the Robins?”

“Yeah. I play.”

“Great,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Great, Rafer. We’re going to have tryouts, right across the street, at McInerney Elementary School. I pointed in the direction. Right on that field, this coming Monday after school. Can you be there?”

He didn’t seem to get what I said. Just when I thought he wasn’t going to say any words, he said three.

“Mack . . . and Ernie.”

“Who are they?” said Donnie. “No, no, you tell him we just want him.”

Donnie was standing right next to both of us. I didn’t know why he thought I was Rafer’s interpreter, except that I kind of felt that way too. Like I was a bridge between Rafer and Donnie and whomever.

“Who are Mack and Ernie, Rafer?” I asked.

“Mack and Ernie School.”

“Oh.” I smiled. “I get it. Hey, that’s pretty funny, Rafer.”

Only Rafer wasn’t smiling, and I worried about him not showing up for the tryouts.

“Rafer, can you be here”—I pointed to the ground—“next Saturday?” I figured I could walk across the street with him to the actual tryouts.

“Mack and Ernie,” he said without expression.

Donnie started to laugh and I gave him a sharp look. I was trying to get something important done.

“Rafer, I will meet you right here, next Saturday, by your tree.” I pointed. “Then you and me will go to tryouts . . . I mean, play some baseball together. All right? Saturday morning. Is that okay?”

“Rafer hit.”

“That’s right. Saturday morning, you’ll hit.”

“I hit Saturday.” I probably imagined it, but it looked like his mouth was turning at the corners in a small smile. Then he turned and started to walk. He passed his tree.

Watching Rafer disappear into the woods, I heard Donnie’s anxious voice. “We can’t let the other coaches see him bat. We gotta find a way to make him a Robin without, you know, without the others seeing him bat.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ll think of something.”

From a long ways off we heard Jimmy, sounding like someone you hear hollering when you’re in your house with the windows closed.

“I found it. Hey guys, I . . . found . . . it.”

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