BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

BK OF WEEK- A HEART REVEALED by JULIE LESSMAN



A HEART REVEALED (Winds of Change, Book 2) by Julie Lessman

BOOK COVER: I LOVE this book cover the colors jump out at you in a good way. The cover really sets the mood and time period for this novel so well. The model is lovely and so is the dress. This is a striking cover. I wish I could read this book right now because I enjoyed the first book in this series very much. Below is a book blurb and my review from Book 1 in the Winds of Change series by Julie. I personally think that A Hope Undaunted is Julie's best book so far, just saying!

We had the honor of listening to Julie share her testimony and passion for writing Christian fiction at the Finding Hope book club meeting a few years ago. She is a hoot! I just love her honesty and desire to write Christian Fiction. She's the real deal. If you get a chance to meet Julie at a book signing or have her speak at your book club via the telephone or Skype you should do it She's a person you just love to sit down and share with and hear her speak. She's so much fun!




Blurb from the publisher Revell.
A HEART REVEALED









Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston as a battered woman, escaping the husband who scarred her beautiful face. The physical and emotional wounds have faded with time, and her life is finally full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity’s husband and charming brother, Sean O’Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Could Sean an Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she’s ever known?

Filled with intense passion and longing, deception and revelation, A Heart Revealed will hold readers in its grip until the very last page.

Release date September 2011, Available now for Pre-order just click over.




A Hope Undaunted (Winds of Change, Book 1) by Julie Lessman
My REVIEW!! I LOVED this book. I think its Julie's best so far. I can't wait to read the sequel. If you haven't read this book or any of Julie Lessman's other books you should. She'll be your new favoriate author, especially of historical fiction! She will grab your heart and imagination from the first page till the last! Don't start reading her books too late because you'll be up all night! I'm not kidding!

A HOPE UNDAUNTED

By Julie Lessman
Published by Revell
ISBN# 978-0-8007-3451-2
505 Pages

Back Cover: The 1920's are drawing to a close and feisty Katie O'Connor, is the epitome of the new woman--smart and sassy, with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend, Jack, fits all of her criteria for a husband--good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and head-over-heels in love with her. But, when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Cluny McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?

Review: I was thrilled to receive a review copy of this moving, heart warming epic story. I had read all three books in her Daughters of Boston series and couldn’t wait to read this first book in the Winds of Change series. The author's character descriptions, with their reactions to each other and their situations, made me feel as if I were watching them on a big screen, taking in every detail, hook, line and sinker.

Katie O’Connor is the main character, and is the youngest and feistiest of the O’Connor sisters. It’s the roaring twenties and Katie has big plans to marry rich, go to law school and be the first woman to gain a seat in Congress. She wants to be in a position of influence to change the plight of women and children.

Jack, Katie’s boyfriend, adores her and fits all the criteria for her plan beautifully; that is, until Katie is forced to work with Luke McGee during the summer of 1929. Sparks start to fly between them on all fronts, even as they butt heads at work. They’d known each other as kids. Luke was mean then, and it didn’t appear he changed much. Why did Luke bother her so much now? Couldn’t she let her childhood memories go?

Luke says, “You know, Katie, you’ve always been a cold and callous little thing, but I actually believed it was just a front. You know, a thin coat of steel to protect your fragile little heart? But I was wrong. Seems that steel is as thick as that stubborn head of yours when it comes to making life decisions…You’re a cold, cold woman, Katie O’Connor…your ‘plan’ is your god, and God help anybody who gets in your way.”

“Katie couldn’t believe his words. …I want to be a lawyer, mother- to blaze the way for women who think they need a man to take care of them, women like Mrs. Rhodes at church—everyone knows that tyrant she lives with beats her. But will she leave? Not on her life. And in the end, it will probably cost her hers...Was it wrong to have a plan? She had her plan! God was some fairy tale for weak people, right?”

I thoroughly enjoyed every second I spent reading this novel. I got caught up in the characters and their drama. I couldn’t believe Katie and the lengths she would go to, to maintain the forward progression of her plan. And, the fight inside her heart to do what was right was a constant challenge. I got a kick out of the family gatherings, filled with games, conflict, resolve, love and great fun. I felt as if I were in the middle of it all. I smiled big at the satisfying ending and a book filled with an array of colorful characters and their situations. Julie included the entire O’Connor clan I got to know in her other books, with a few additions. Julie is a master story teller. I love how she naturally wove their struggle with God and His direction for their lives. It wasn’t preachy but realistic. Julie’s writing touches all the reader’s senses and pulls on your heart strings, as she makes you feel like you really know and care about this family. This book's a keeper. I’ll definitely be reading this book again, you will too!

Nora St. Laurent
The Book Club Network
http://www.bookfun.org/

ONE IN A BILLION by KRISTIN BILLERBECK - FIRST CHAPTER

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:

Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kristin Billerbeck was born in California to an Italian father and a strong Norwegian/German mother. Her mother tried to teach her to do things right, how to cook, clean, sew, and budget accordingly—all the things a proper girl should know in order to be a contributing member of society. Yet Billerbeck said she “failed miserably,” although her grandmother must still hold some hope since she gave her a cookie gun for her 40th birthday.

Billerbeck has authored more than 30 novels, including the Ashley Stockingdale series and the Spa Girls series. She is a leader in the Chick Lit movement, a Christy Award finalist, and a two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award. She has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

There are a billion reasons Kate should marry her current boyfriend.

Will she trade them all to be madly in love?

Katie McKenna leads a perfect life. Or so she thinks. She has a fulfilling job, a cute apartment, and a wedding to plan with her soon-to-be fiance, Dexter.

She can think of a billion reasons why she should marry Dexter…but nowhere on that list is love.

And then in walks Luc DeForges, her bold, breathtaking ex-boyfriend. Only now he's a millionaire. And he wants her to go home to New Orleans to sing for her childhood friend's wedding. As his date.

But Katie made up her mind about Luc eight years ago, when she fled their hometown after a very public breakup. Yet there's a magnetism between them she can't deny.

Katie thought her predictable relationship with Dexter would be the bedrock of a lasting, Christian marriage. But what if there's more? What if God's desire for her is a heart full of life? And what if that's what Luc has offered all along?


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595547916
ISBN-13: 978-1595547910

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


A Fine Romance


Katie McKenna had dreamed of this moment at least a thousand times. Luc would walk back into her life filled with remorse. He’d be wearing jeans, a worn T-shirt, and humility. He’d be dripping with humility.


That should have been her first clue that such a scenario had no bearing on reality.


“Katie,” a voice said.


The sound sent a surge of adrenaline through her frame. She’d forgotten the power and the warmth of his baritone. A quick glance around her classroom assured her that she must be imagining things. Everything was in order: the posters of colorful curriculum, the daily schedule of activities printed on the whiteboard, and, of course, the children. All six of them were mentally disabled, most of them on the severe side of the autism spectrum, but three had added handicaps that required sturdy, head-stabilizing wheelchairs. The bulk of the chairs overwhelmed the room and blocked much of the happy yellow walls and part of the large rainbow mural the kids had helped to paint. The room, with its cluttered order, comforted her and reminded her of all she’d accomplished. There was no need to think about the past. That was a waste of time and energy.


Her eyes stopped on her aides, Carrie and Selena. The two women, so boisterous in personality, were usually animated. But at the moment they stood huddled in the corner behind Austin’s wheelchair.


Carrie, the heavyset one in the Ed Hardy T-shirt, motioned at her.


“What?” Katie pulled at her white shirt with the delicate pink flowers embroidered along the hem and surveyed the stains. “I know, I’m a mess. But did you see how wonderfully the kids did on their art projects? It was worth it. Never thought of the oil on the dough staining. Next time I’ll wear an apron.”


Selena and Carrie looked as though there was something more they wanted.


“Maddie, you’re a born artist.” Katie smiled at the little girl sitting behind a mound of colorful clay. Then to the aides: “What is the matter with you two?”



Selena, a slight Latina woman, shook her head and pointed toward the door.


Katie rotated toward the front of the classroom and caught her breath. Luc, so tall and gorgeous, completely out of place in his fine European suit and a wristwatch probably worth more than her annual salary, stood in the doorway. He wore a fedora, his trademark since college, but hardly one he needed to stand out in a crowd.


As she stared across the space between them, suddenly the classroom she took such pride in appeared shabby and soiled. When she inhaled, it reeked of sour milk and baby food. Her muddled brain searched for words.


“Luc?” She blinked several times, as if his film-star good looks might evaporate into the annals of her mind. “What are you doing here?”


“Didn’t you get my brother’s wedding invitation?” he asked coolly, as if they’d only seen each other yesterday.


“I did. I sent my regrets.”


“That’s what I’m doing here. You can’t miss Ryan’s wedding. I thought the problem might be money.”


She watched as his blue eyes came to rest on her stained shirt. Instinctively she crossed her arms in front of her.


“I came to invite you to go back with me next week, on my plane.”


“Ah.” She nodded and waited for something intelligible to come out of her mouth. “It’s not money.”


“Come home with me, Katie.” He reached out his arms, and she moved to the countertop and shuffled some papers together.


If he touches me, I don’t stand a chance. She knew Luc well enough to know if he’d made the trip to her classroom, he didn’t intend to leave without what he came for. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.” She stacked the same papers again.


“Give me one reason.”


She faced him. “I could give you a billion reasons.”


Luc’s chiseled features didn’t wear humility well. The cross-shaped scar beneath his cheekbone added to his severity. If he weren’t so dreaded handsome, he’d make a good spy in a Bond movie. His looks belied his soft Uptown New Orleans upbringing, the kind filled with celebrations and warm family events with backyard tennis and long days in the swimming pool.


He pushed through the swiveled half door that separated them and strode toward her.


“That gate is there for a reason. The classroom is for teachers and students only.”


Luc opened his hand and beckoned to her, and despite herself, she took it. Her heart pounded in her throat, and its roar was so thunderous it blocked her thoughts. He pulled her into a clutch, then pushed her away with all the grace of Astaire. “Will you dance with me?” he asked.


He began to hum a Cole Porter tune clumsily in her ear, and instinctively she followed his lead until everything around them disappeared and they were alone in their personal ballroom. For a moment she dropped her head back and giggled from her stomach; a laugh so genuine and pure, it seemed completely foreign—as if it came from a place within that was no longer a part of her. Then the dance halted suddenly, and his cheek was against hers. She took in the roughness of his face, and the thought flitted through her mind that she could die a happy woman in those arms.


The sound of applause woke her from her reverie.


“You two are amazing!” Carrie said.


The children all murmured their approval, some with screams of delight and others with loud banging.

Luc’s hand clutched her own in the small space between them, and she laughed again.


“Not me,” Luc said. “I have the grace of a bull. It’s Katie. She’s like Ginger Rogers. She makes anybody she dances with look good.” He appealed to the two aides. “Which is why I’m here. She must go to my brother’s wedding with me.”


“I didn’t even know you danced, Katie,” Selena said. “Why don’t you ever come dancing with us on Friday nights?”


“What? Katie dances like a dream. She and my brother were partners onstage in college. They were like a mist, the way they moved together. It’s like her feet don’t touch the ground.”


“That was a long time ago.” She pulled away from him and showed him her shirt. “I’m a mess. I hope I didn’t ruin your suit.”


“It would be worth it,” Luc growled.


“Katie, where’d you learn to dance like that?” Carrie asked.


“Too many old movies, I suppose.” She shrugged.


“You could be on Dancing with the Stars with moves like that.”


“Except I’m not a star or a dancer, but other than that, I guess—” She giggled again. It kept bubbling out of her, and for one blissful moment she remembered what it felt like to be the old Katie McKenna. Not the current version, staid schoolmarm and church soloist in Northern California, but the Katie people in New Orleans knew, the one who danced and sang.


Luc interrupted her thoughts. “She’s being modest. She learned those moves from Ginger and Fred themselves, just by watching them over and over again. This was before YouTube, so she was dedicated.”


Katie shrugged. “I was a weird kid. Only child, you know?” But inside she swelled with pride that Luc remembered her devotion to a craft so woefully out-of-date and useless. “Anyway, I don’t have much use for swing dancing or forties torch songs now. Luc, meet Carrie and Selena. Carrie and Selena, Luc.”


“I don’t have any ‘use’ for salsa dancing,” Selena said. “I do it because it’s part of who I am.”


“Tell her she has to come with me, ladies. My brother is having a 1940s-themed wedding in New Orleans. He’d be crushed if Katie didn’t come, and I’ll look like a hopeless clod without her to dance with.”


Katie watched the two aides. She saw the way Luc’s powerful presence intoxicated them. Were they really naive enough to believe that Luc DeForges could ever appear like a clod, in any circumstance or setting? Luc, with his skilled charm and roguish good looks, made one believe whatever he wanted one to believe. The two women were putty in his hands.


“Katie, you have to go to this wedding!” Selena stepped toward her. “I can’t believe you can dance like that and never told us. You’d let this opportunity slip by? For what?” She looked around the room and frowned. “This place?”


The cacophony of pounding and low groans rose audibly, as if in agreement.


“This may be just a classroom to you, but to me, it’s the hope and future of these kids. I used to dance. I used to sing. It paid my way through college. Now I’m a teacher.”


“You can’t be a teacher and a dancer?” Selena pressed. “It’s like walking and chewing gum. You can do both. The question is, why don’t you?”


“Maybe I should bring more music and dancing into the classroom. Look how the kids are joining in the noise of our voices, not bothered by it. I have to think about ways we could make the most of this.”


But she hadn’t succeeded in changing the subject; everyone’s attention stayed focused on her.


“You should dance for the kids, Katie. You possess all the grace of an artist’s muse. Who knows how you might encourage them?”


Katie laughed. “That’s laying it on a bit thick, Luc, even for you. I do believe if there was a snake in that basket over there, it would be rising to the charmer’s voice at this very minute.”


Luc’s very presence brought her into another time. Maybe it was the fedora or the classic cut of his suit, but it ran deeper than how he looked. He possessed a sense of virility and take-no-prisoners attitude that couldn’t be further from his blue-blood upbringing. He made her, in a word, feel safe . . . but there was nothing safe about Luc and there never had been. She straightened and walked over to her open folder to check her schedule for the day.


Tapping a pencil on the binder, she focused on getting the day back on track. The students were involved in free playtime at the moment. While they were all situated in a circle, they played individually, their own favorite tasks in front of them.


“Carrie, would you get Austin and Maddie ready for lunch?”


“I’ll do it,” Selena said. “And, Katie . . . you really should go to the wedding.”


“I can’t go to the wedding because it’s right in the middle of summer school.”


“You could get a substitute,” Carrie said. “What would you be gone for, a week at most? Jenna could probably fill in. She took the summer off this year.”


“Thanks for the suggestions, ladies,” Katie said through clenched teeth. “But I’ve already told the groom I can’t attend the wedding for professional reasons.”


The women laughed. “I’m sorry, what reasons?” Carrie asked, raising a bedpan to imply that anyone could do Katie’s job.


It was no use. The two women were thoroughly under Luc’s spell, and who could blame them?


“Maybe we should talk privately,” Luc said. He clasped her wrist and led her to the glass doors at the front of the classroom. “It’s beautiful out here. The way you’re nestled in the hills, you’d never know there’s a city nearby.”


She nodded. “That’s Crystal Springs Reservoir on the other side of the freeway. It’s protected property, the drinking water for this entire area, so it’s stayed pristine.”


“I’m not going back to New Orleans without you,” he said.


Apparently the small talk had ended.


“My mother would have a fit if I brought one of the women I’d take to a Hollywood event to a family wedding.”


Katie felt a twinge of jealousy, then a stab of anger for her own weakness. Of course he dated beautiful women. He was a billionaire. A billionaire who looked like Luc DeForges! Granted, he was actually a multimillionaire, but it had been a long-standing joke between the two of them. Did it matter, once you made your first ten million, how much came after that? He may as well be called a gazillionaire. His finances were too foreign for her to contemplate.


“And who you date is my problem, how?”


“If my date tries to swing dance and kicks one of my mother’s friends in the teeth, I’ll be disinherited.”


“So what, would that make you the fifth richest man in the United States, instead of the fourth?”


“Katie, how many times do I have to explain to you I’m nowhere near those kinds of numbers?” He grinned. “Yet.” He touched his finger to her nose lightly. “My fate is much worse than losing status if you don’t come. My mother might set me up to ensure I have a proper date. A chorus line of Southern belles. And I guarantee you at least one will have the proverbial glass slipper and think her idea is so utterly unique, I’ll succumb to the fantasy.”


“Wow! What a terrible life you must lead.” She pulled a Keds slide from her foot and emptied sand out of her shoe. A few grains landed on Luc’s shiny black loafer. “To think, with courtship skills like that, that any woman wouldn’t be swept off her feet—it’s unfathomable.” She patted his arm. “I wish you luck, Luc. I’m sure your mother will have some very nice choices for you, so go enjoy yourself. Perk up, there’re billions

more to be made when you get back.”


“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Katie.”


e was right, but she didn’t trust herself around him. She’d taken leave of her senses too many times in that weakened state. Since moving to California, she’d made it her goal to live life logically and for the Lord. She hadn’t fallen victim to her emotions since leaving New Orleans, and she’d invested too much to give into them now.


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I only meant that I’m sure there are other nice girls willing to go home and pretend for your mother. I’ve already done that, only you forgot to tell me we were pretending. Remember?”


He flinched. “Below the belt.”


A pencil fell from behind her ear, and she stooped to pick it up, careful not to meet his glance as she rose. “I’m sorry, but I’m busy here. Maybe we could catch up another time? I’d like that and won’t be so sidetracked.” She looked across the room toward Austin, an angelic but severely autistic child in a wheelchair. He pounded against his tray. “The kids are getting hungry. It’s lunchtime.” She pointed to the schedule.


Luc scooped a hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. “Where else am I going to find a gorgeous redhead who knows who Glenn Miller is?”


“Don’t, Luc. Don’t charm me. It’s beneath you. Buy one of your bubble-headed blondes a box of dye and send her to iTunes to do research. Problem solved.”


He didn’t let go. “Ryan wants you to sing at the wedding, Katie. He sent me personally to make sure you’d be there and sing ‘Someone to Watch Over Me.’ I’m not a man who quits because something’s difficult.”


“Anyone worth her salt on Bourbon Street can sing that. Excuse me—”


“Katie-bug.”


“Luc, I asked you kindly. Don’t. I’m not one of your sophisticated girls who knows how to play games. I’m not going to the wedding. That part of my life is over.”


“That part of your life? What about that part of you? Where is she?”


She ignored his question. “I cannot be the only woman you know capable of being your date. You’re not familiar with anyone else who isn’t an actress-slash-waitress?” She cupped his hand in her own and allowed herself to experience the surge of energy. “I have to go.” She dropped his hands and pushed back through the half door. “I’m sure you have a meeting to get to. Am I right?”


“It’s true,” he admitted. “I had business in San Francisco today, a merger. We bought a small chain of health food stores to expand the brand. But I was planning the trip to see you anyway and ask you personally.”


“Uh-huh.”


“We’ll be doing specialty outlets in smaller locations where real estate prices are too high for a full grocery outlet. Having the natural concept already in these locations makes my job that much easier.”



“To take over the free world with organics, you mean?”


That made him smile, and she warmed at the sparkle in his eye. When Luc was in his element, there was nothing like it. His excitement was contagious and spread like a classroom virus, infecting those around him with a false sense of security. She inhaled deeply and reminded herself that the man sold inspiration by the pound. His power over her was universal. It did not make her special.


“Name your price,” he said. “I’m here to end this rift between us, whatever it is, and I’ll do the time. Tell me what it is you want.”


“There is no price, Luc. I don’t want anything from you. I’m not going to Ryan’s wedding. My life is here.”


“Day and night . . . night and day,” he crooned and then his voice was beside her ear. “One last swing dance at my brother’s wedding. One last song and I’ll leave you alone. I promise.”


She crossed the room to the sink against the far wall, but she felt him follow. She hated how he could make every nerve in her body come to life, while he seemingly felt nothing in return. She closed her eyes and searched for inner strength. He didn’t want me. Not in a way that mattered. He wanted her when it suited him to have her at his side.


“Even if I were able to get the time off work, Luc, it wouldn’t be right to go to your brother’s wedding as your date. I’m about to get engaged.”


“Engaged?” He stepped away.


She squeezed hand sanitizer onto her hands and rubbed thoroughly.


“I’ll give a call to your fiancé and let him know the benefits.” He pulled a small leather pad of paper from his coat pocket. “I’ll arrange everything. You get a free trip home, I get a Christian date my mother is proud to know, and then your life goes back to normal. Everyone’s happy.” He took off his fedora as though to plead his case in true gentlemanly fashion. “My mother is still very proud to have led you from

your . . .” He choked back a word. “From your previous life and to Jesus.”


The announcement of her engagement seemed to have had little effect on Luc, and Katie felt as if her heart shattered all over again. “My previous life was you. She was proud to lead me away from her son’s life.” She leaned on the countertop, trying to remember why she’d come to the kitchen area.


“You know what I meant.”


“I wasn’t exactly a streetwalker, Luc. I was a late-night bar singer in the Central District, and the only one who ever led my reputation into question was you. So I’m failing to see the mutual benefit here. Your mother. Your date. And I get a free trip to a place I worked my tail off to get out of.”


She struggled with a giant jar of applesauce, which Luc took from her and opened easily. He passed the jar back to her and let his fingers brush hers.


“My mother would be out of her head to see you. And the entire town could see what they lost when they let their prettiest belle go. Come help me remind them. Don’t you want to show them that you’re thriving? That you didn’t curl up and die after that awful night?”


“I really don’t need to prove anything, Luc.” She pulled her apron, with its child-size handprints in primary colors, over her head. “I’m not your fallback, and I really don’t care if people continue to see me that way. They don’t know me.”


“Which you? The one who lives a colorless existence and calls it holy? Or the one who danced on air and inspired an entire theater troupe to rediscover swing and raise money for a new stage?” Luc bent down, took her out at the knees, and hoisted her up over his shoulder.


“What are you doing? Do you think you’re Tarzan? Put me down.” She pounded on his back, and she could hear the chaos he’d created in the classroom. “These kids need structure. What do you think you’re doing? I demand you put me down!”



NOTE: This book looks good. I'd just put this on my TBR Wish list!
Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org

FREE EBOOKS OF WEEK - KINDLE & NOOK


Hey Everyone;

Here are a few of the good deals this week for your Nook or Kindle ebook reader.

HAPPY READING!

Nora :
The Book Club Network
http://www.bookfun.org/

Free on Nook

English Standard Version Bible
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Holy-Bible-English-Standard-Version/Crossway-Bibles/e/9781433521539/?cds2Pid=29905



Free on Nook
Medical Error
By Richard L. Mabry M.D.
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Medical-Error/Richard-MD-Mabry/e/9781426715495/?itm=1&USRI=medical+error

Free on Kindle
Medical Error
By Richard L. Mabry M.D.
http://www.amazon.com/Medical-Error-ebook/dp/B004A8ZWOC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1298679238&sr=8-2

CFBA TOUR - OPERATION BONNET by KIMBERLY STUART - REVIEWED








This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Operation Bonnet
David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2011)
by
Kimberly Stuart


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kimberly says:

I am a writer of comedic fiction, and would like to suggest that you laugh regularly when reading my books. Let’s also try for one to two teary moments. If you are crying more than that, you don’t understand my sense of humor and should move on to another author.


I grew up in a book-loving home. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. My mom loves books. My dad loves to read the first chapters of books and then make us all listen as he recites his favorite passages. I, however, enjoy reading books in their entirety and came into writing as a result of book-love. After earning two fancy degrees in education and Spanish, I promptly let the thinking part of my brain take a breather and instead became pregnant. (I’m sure a lot of other things happened between early literacy and pregnancy but I don’t really remember any of that. If you also have shared your uterus with another human, you understand.)

In an effort to author a book that would entertain my sassy, irreverent, breast-feeding/drooping friends, I wrote my first novel, Balancing Act. People were so nice to me after that, I decided to continue with writing. Also, I can’t craft, knit, or scrapbook, so what else was a nice, Christian girl to do?

In addition to writing books to make my friends laugh and cry, I observe the chaos at the home I share with my unfailingly supportive husband and three offspring. We’re doing our best and so far, no one’s been to prison.
ABOUT THE BOOK

Twenty-year-old Nellie Monroe has a restless brilliance that makes her a bit of an odd duck. She wants to be a private investigator, even though her tiny hometown offers no hope of clients. Until she meets Amos Shetler, an Amish dropout carrying a torch for the girl he left behind.


So Nellie straps on her bonnet and goes undercover to get the dish. But though she’s brainy, Nellie is clueless when it comes to real life and real relationships. Soon she’s alienated her best friend, angered her college professor, and botched her case.

Operation Bonnet is a comedy of errors, a surprising take on love, and a story of grace.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Operation Bonnet, go HERE.

Watch the book video trailer:



REVIEW:
OPERATION BONNET

By Kimberley Stuart
Published by David C. Cook
ISBN#978-0-7814-4891-8
266 Pages

Back Cover: Twenty-year-old Nellie Monroe has a restless brilliance that makes her a bit of an odd duck. She wants to be a private investigator, even though her tiny hometown offers no hope of clients.

Until she meets Amos Shetler, an Amish dropout carrying a torch for the girl he left behind. So Nellie straps on her bonnet and goes undercover to get the dish.

But though she’s brainy, Nellie is clueless when it comes to real life and real relationships. Soon she’s alienated her best friend, angered her college professor, and botched her case. Operation Bonnet is a comedy of errors, a surprising take on love, and a story of grace.

Review: The sight of this cover stopped me in my tracks as I tried to make sense of what this book might be about. Was this an Amish book? Not like any I’ve ever seen. I was thankful for the review copy of this book so I could find out what Kimberly Stuart was up to inside this new novel.

Operation Bonnet is the most hilarious P.I. detective story I’ve read in quite a while. The fact that Nellie Monroe’s first case involves her going undercover to gather information from inside an Amish community is a hoot and very clever, tongue and cheek writing on Kim’s part.

Nellie says, “I’ll go every week to the pastry shop and help bake. I’m not a cook and don’t care to be, but if I have to roll out pastry dough for three hours to get a woman to talk about what it’s like to be Amish and female in the twenty first century, doggone it, I will.”

Nellie is a twenty something gal who definitely walks to the beat of her own drum, works hard, is serious about being the best PI possible, is loyal and caring to her friends and family. She ponders why her grandmother loves God so much. She asks her why she paints, “…first to honor God who paints the sunsets and oceans and human hearts. And second so I don’t get cranky like so many of the old people in this world.”

Matt, Nellie’s friend since elementary school supports her in her career choice but has been acting kind of weird lately. Nellie has noticed his muscles, how Matt looks all manly all of a sudden and how her stomach has started to flip when he looks at her a certain way. What was going on there? She didn’t have time to figure out that right now she was in the middle of her first case. Her client was a shunned Amish boy named Amos and he needed her help.

Kimberly Stuart is not a new comer to Christian fiction but Operation Bonnet is the fist book I’ve read by this author. I love Kimberly’s humor and how real and honest Nellie is. I enjoyed Nellie’s friend Matt and how Amos seeks her for insider information from a certain Amish Community. Kimberly has a gift of making the reader laugh out-loud yet at the same time pens a spiritual thread that is sincere and natural. Kimberly reminded me of another author that makes me laugh out loud Jenny B. Jones. I’ll definitely be looking for Kimberly Stuart’s other books. I can’t wait for her next book to hit the shelf; you’ll anxiously be waiting for it too.

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
http://www.bookfun.org/

CFBL TOUR - SAVE THE DATE by JENNY JONES - REVIEWED





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Save The Date
Thomas Nelson (February 1, 2011)
by
Jenny B. Jones

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series and So Not Happening. I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.

My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Some facts that are true include:

I've always been refined!

A. I got my camera confiscated by big boys with guns at the American Embassy in Europe this past summer. O la la!

B. I once worked in a seed mill office and cleaned out mice on a regular basis. Ew.

C. I’m a former drama teacher.

D. I didn’t pass my drivers test the first time. Or the second…

E. I attract stray animals like a magnet.

F. I used to assemble and test paint ball guns for a local factory...

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:

-watching E!

-updating my status on Facebook

-catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and

-writing my name in the dust on my furniture

I’d love to hear about you, so drop me a note. Or check me out on Facebook.

ABOUT THE BOOK

You’re invited to the engagement of the most unlikely couple of the year.

When the funding for Lucy’s non-profit job is pulled, she is determined to find out why. Enter Alex Sinclair, former professional football star and heir of Sinclair Enterprises—the primary donor to Lucy’s Saving Grace organization. Alex Sinclair has it all . . . except for the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Both Lucy and Alex have something the other wants. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancée in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn’t quite what he seems, Lucy finds her heart – and her future – on the line.

Save the Date is a spunky romance that will have readers laughing out loud as this dubious pair try to save their careers, their dreams . . . and maybe even a date.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Save The Date, go HERE

REVIEW:
SAVE THE DATE
By Jenny B Jones
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN# 978-1-59554-539-8
311 Pages

Back Cover: When Alex and Lucy pick out wedding invitations, they wonder if they can be printed in vanishing ink.

Former NFL star Alex Sinclair is a man who has it all--except the votes he needs to win his bid for Congress. Despite their mutual dislike, Alex makes Lucy a proposition: pose as his fiancée in return for the money she desperately needs. Bound to a man who isn't quite what he seems, Lucy will find her heart on the line--and maybe even her life. When God asks Alex and Lucy to scrap their playbook and follow his rules, will they finally say, "I do"?

Review: Main Character Lucy's best friend Morgan says, “Is this a private mental break down or can anyone join in?”

I choose to join in the fun and you will too when it comes to reading this and any one of Jenny B. Jones’s books. She has a gift of drawing the reader quickly into a world she’s created and has you sympathizing with her characters while learning a thing or two. I was so thankful for the review copy of such a brilliant book.

Lucy is the director of Saving Grace home for girls. Donations were down and time was running out on her lease. Alex is in the middle of a heated campaign and needed Lucy’s help with the election process. Alex saw Lucy had a passion for Saving Grace and had the potential to help him win the election.

“Alex, do you know what Saving Grace is? Did you know in our country wards of the state are considered adults at eighteen? As soon as they graduate high school, many of them are forced to leave the foster care system. They become instantly homeless. With little help, no life skills. The girls at the home have real hopes and dreams just like the rest of us if given a chance. Saving Grace is their chance."

Alex has a plan and a marriage proposition for Lucy. They could help each other. It would be strictly a business deal. It reminded me of The Princess Diaries, where Anne Hathaway learns she is next in line to the throne and starts Princess Lessons. Lucy is not studying to be a princess but she has to learn about political matters and who’s who to get along at social functions she attends without Alex. How would the doors stay open for her girls at the home? Could she even entertain Alex’s proposal? That was the question. Could she pull off what he was requesting? She’s despised Alex since high school. He knew what she thought about him. That he was one of those rich kids that could fix anything with money. She didn’t mingle with his kind. Alex had to convince her this could work, that he could do. There was a lot of work ahead and they both knew how much after Alex’s questioning, that went something like this:

“Lucy do you know anything about football?”

“You toss a ball around and throw people to the ground. What else is there to know?”

“….if we’re going to do this I think I should know everything about each other. Don’t you agree?

"I’ll send you a memo."

"No we’re going to have to get to know each other the old fashioned way. Talking . Spending time together. Texting.”

Oh, God help her, let the games begin! Alex seeks the help of Clare in educating Lucy in political matters and manners so she does well at campaign dinners and events. This reminded me of Julie Andrews trying to teach Anne Hathaway manners and policies of running a country. Hysterical!

No one can describe situations like Jenny or create characters you can totally relate to. Make sure you set aside time to enjoy every minute of this book. I think Save the Date is Jenny’s best novel she’s written so far. Not only will you laugh out-loud, have your heart hurt at certain parts, but the important message in the book will remind you that the only things worth living for are faith, family and friends. I highly recommend this book and will be doing just that to my book club.

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network http://www.bookfun.org/

LADY IN THE MIST REVELL BLOG TOUR - & REVIEW


A Whole Town’s Secrets Held by One Woman…
Could anyone get beyond the secrets of her past?

As a midwife, Tabitha Eckles, the woman at the center of Laurie Alice Eakes’ new book, Lady in the Mist, (ISBN: 978-0-8007-3452-7, February 2011, $14.99) knows the most intimate secrets of the women and families she cares for. While the women in town are drawn to her warmth and caring ways, the men are wary at best.

In the little town of Seabourne, Virginia where Tabitha Eckles lives, another standoff is brewing. It is 1809 and relations between America and England rest on the edge of a knife, when Tabitha crosses paths on the beach one morning with a man named Dominick Cherrett. He seems to have his own secrets to keep, including why he, a British aristocrat, is on American soil working as an indentured servant.
One chance meeting leads these two secret keepers through a twisted path of kidnappings, death threats, and public disgrace. Can Tabitha trust Dominick? What might he be hiding? And can either of them find true love in a world that seems set against them?

"Featuring a charming hero with a mysterious past and mission, Lady in the Mist brims with tension, intrigue, and romance."--Julie Klassen, bestselling author of The Silent Governess and The Girl in the Gatehouse

Laurie Alice Eakes began to be fascinated by the role of midwives in history during graduate school and she knew that someday she wanted to write novels with midwife heroines. Ten years later, after several published novels and a National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency, the midwives idea returned, and Lady in the Mist was born. Laurie Alice has a master degree in creative writing and writes full time from her home in Texas, where she lives with her husband and sundry dogs and cats.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

REVIEW:
LADY IN THE MIST
By Laurie Alice Eakes
Published by Revell
ISBN#978-0-8007-3452-7
400 Pages


Review: I hadn't read anything by this author and was thankful to receive a review copy of Lady in the Mist. I'm not a history buff so reading about midwives in 1809 was quite interesting. Laurie depicts Tabitha as a strong women determined to do her job well in Seaborne, Virginia. I couldn't believe all that was expected of a midwife when a regular doctor was not in town.

I loved the way Laurie brought history to life by showing a scary time in American history when the British boats were stealing American men off the shoreline at night and forcing onto their ships. Tabitha walked the shore line at night unescorted all the time. Duty called all hours of the day and night. She kept her eyes and ears alert as she made the walk on the beach to her home, until one night she physically runs into an unexpected visitor. Dominick Cherrett, a British aristocrat, on American soil working as an indentured servant. Tabitha’s world is never the same. Dominick is just as shocked as she is and fears she’ll turn him in to the Mayor (his employer) because he’s out at night. She says he’s British, and not to be trusted and after all they were the ones stealing American men. She was in a quandary about what to do.

Dominick is charming, a man on a mission with a mysterious past. Could she trust him? He was a bit of a flirt it wouldn’t hurt to be his friend and see what he was up to. Both Dominick and Tabitha have something in common, each are trying do their best in working for their Redemption with God, to be good enough for him to love them. They found it hard to accept the free gift God gives. Each event in their lives has had them running from God and living life on their own terms.

Dominick and Tabitha uncover deadly secrets as they try to find out who the spy was in their town. The drama heats up when Tabitha has two men fighting for her affections, neither of them she can trust with her heart and her life. But she had to learn to trust someone this mission required help to get to the bottom of it all.

I hadn’t expected a murder mystery and all the suspense and drama. I loved how this author wove this mystifying web and had the reader guessing who done it all the way till the end. I did find myself anxious for Tabitha as I really did want her to find true love, trust God like she once did and accept the love God offered her as a free gift. I love books that help me learn about history, what life was like back then and the part midwives played. This was one fascinating, suspenseful, charming, fun and satisfying read I most definitely recommend. I’ll certainly be looking for the next book in this midwife series.

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org

KINDLE GIVEAWAY - UNLIKELY BLESSING - REVIEWED

Prolific author of over 75 novels, Judy Baer, is launching her new Guideposts series, Forever Hilltop, with a KINDLE giveaway! The first book in the series, An Unlikely Blessing is available now wherever fine books are sold.


Read the reviews here.


In celebration of the release of An Unlikely Blessing, Judy is giving away a KINDLE prize package worth over $175.




One lucky winner will receive:


  • Brand New KINDLE with Wi-Fi
  • A $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com
TO ENTER just click on one the icons below and then tell your friends! Winner will be announced on February 21st on Judy's blog, http://www.judykbaer.com/wordpress



Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


For more information please visit the Litfuse website, http://www.litfusegroup.com/ and click {HERE}!

ABOUT THE BOOK:
AN UNLIKELY BLESSING
By Judy Baer
Book 1 in the Forever Hilltop Series


A new pastor tries to shepherd his flock in North Dakota


An Unlikely Blessing is a heartfelt story about a new pastor and life-long city dweller Alex Armstrong, who reluctantly accepts his first assignment, a two-point parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose-lovely and prickly all at once, much like the people who live there.

Alex quickly finds that this lovely place is in quiet peril. Farmers are struggling to make ends meet: Jonas Owens, a faithful member of Hilltop parish, is on the brink of losing the farm. Alex believes that part of why God called him to Hilltop was to help turn things around, and steps in with ideas for saving the Owens' land. But can even God's minister help save this rural community?

There are a lot of firsts for the new pastor-the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), King Oscar's fish balls, and the melody of the musical saw. And the new, single pastor creates remarkable excitement among the unmarried women in the community. If you could die of hot dish overdose, Alex would be a dead man. Whether performing weddings, counseling his flock, or herding cattle by snowmobile, Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him as he will teach them. Day by day, he falls more in love with the people of Hilltop Church. People may leave Hilltop, but Hilltop never leaves them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Judy was born and grew up on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. An only child, she spent most of her days with imaginary people-either those she read about or those she made up in her head. Her most ambitious conjuring did not succeed, however. She kept a clean stall with hay and oats for the horse she imagined would come but unfortunately, it never did. As an adult, however, she managed to make that dream come true and raised foundation quarter horses and buffalo for some years. A voracious reader, Judy learned to read with comic books, anything from Little Lulu and Superman to the Rawhide Kid. She sold her first story for $10.00 to a farm magazine. She still has the $10.00.

She graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota with a major in English and education and a minor in religion. At the time, she was simply studying what interested her, but now realizes that she was educating herself for her future career as an inspirational christian romance writer.

Judy wanted to write for Harlequin even in high school but it wasn't until her youngest child learned to say "No" that she realized that she'd better consider a second career to fall back on when mothering was done. Her first book was written with her little girl on her lap. Judy would type a few words, say "Now, Jennifer," at which time her daughter would hit the space bar before Judy continued typing. It wasn't the fastest way to work, but it offered a lot of mother-daughter time together. An over-achiever, she's written 75 books for various publishers. The mother of two and step-mother of three, she now has lots of family to enjoy.

In 2001, she went back to school and became a certified professional life coach. Currently she is working on her Master's in Human Development in the areas of writing, coaching and spirituality and writing inspirational Chick Lit which, she says, is the most fun she's ever had writing. For more about Judy and her other books, visit www.judykbaer.com.


To learn more about author, visit her website at www.judykbaer.com


REVIEW:

An Unlikely Blessing
By Judy Bear
Published by Guideposts
ISBN#978-0-8249-4814-6
263 Pages

Back Cover: Meet Alex Armstrong, new pastor and lifelong city dweller, who has just accepted his first parish assignment, a small parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose lovely and prickly, much like the quirky residents. Pastor Alex quickly learns that this lovely place is in peril; many of the farmers are struggling to make ends meet. As he settles into life on the prairie, he begins to experience a lot of new things like the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), and King Oscar's fish balls. Not to mention the excitement the single pastor creates among the unmarried women in the community! Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him and he will teach them, providing all with An Unlikely Blessing!

Review: “Uncle Alex! Look out for that pig!” Love the first line. Alex, the new minister in town has to navigate more than pigs in this small town; there’s cows, chickens, single women and things he can’t see and/or know to look for. This was Alex’s first ministering job at the age of forty-two...it’s scary! Having lived in the city all of his life and only seeing farms in movies and on TV was one thing, but actually living on the land and with the animals is quite another story.

Jared, Alex’s nephew, screams as he looks at the church, “It’s like a photograph…or a movie set! It doesn’t even look real…Uncle Alex it’s like we’re on another planet.”

Alex had to agree as they drove around town. He felt as if they were “driving thru a Norman Rockwell painting". He likes what he sees and hopes he’s heard God correctly in accepting this position. He prays, “Here I am Lord. You’ve taken me a long way from home in so many ways. It is like another universe. What had he signed up for?”

Alex learns about a new twist to his ministry. He would be the pastor of two churches; neither one could afford a full-time pastor of their own, so they shared in the expense of bringing Alex here. The board expected him to preach at both churches every Sunday morning. He soon discovers that these two churches are polar opposites of each other. He felt warmth and welcome from the people at Hilltop. Alex is overjoyed by the warm welcome and love shown to him by the members of Hilltop church and all the food they bring over is amazing. But things were a little chilly at All Saints; everything was done by the book. A book Alex hadn’t read and didn’t know the rules. Oh, God help him.

A sign said, “Welcome to Grassy Valley, North Dakota, City Population 1,254. A Place Like Home!” Alex wanted the sign to be true for his life. He loved what he saw in the land and community of Grassy Valley. He just had to learn how to warm up the members of the All Saints church.

His secretary at Hilltop says, “People tend to meddle in each other’s business around here. You’ll get used to it. Why, sometimes word gets out about what I’ve done before I’ve even gotten around to doing it!”

Alex is soon convinced that God has called him to this place and set the mission of helping these two churches be united in love. Alex is also compelled to help the farmers in any way he can, so that they can keep their farms. This wasn’t ordinary land; these were farms that have been in the family business for generations.

Judy Baer paints a town much like Mayberry on the 'Andy Griffith' show. Alex is single and new to town, which makes him a target for the single girls. That’s why Alex was getting all the food; young ladies were hoping he’d notice them and their cooking. This makes for fun times in the book. Alex learns about farming from a whole new angle. There is more to fruit and veggies than buying them in the grocery store.

I felt the town itself was as much a character in the book as well as the loveable, quirky cast Judy has put together. You only learn a little bit about each one in this book, since this is the beginning of the Forever Hilltop series. This is a lighthearted story filled with laughter, fun, adventure and truth learned along the way. I can’t wait to read the next one.


Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org

10 LESSONGS FROM A FORMER FAT GIRL by AMY PARHAM - FIRST CHAPTER

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Christianne Debysingh, Senior Publicist, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Amy Parham co-authored with her husband, Phil, The 90-Day Fitness Challenge and The 90-Day Fitness Challenge DVD. She and Phil were contestants on Season 6 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Over a seven-month period, they recorded the highest percentage of weight loss of any couple in the program’s history. Married for more than 20 years, they live in South Carolina with their three boys, Austin, Pearson, and Rhett.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Former fat girl Amy Parham offers a practical, proven plan for changing not only the fat-girl body but also the fat-girl mentality. Focusing on the mental ,emotional, and spiritual aspects of our relationship with food and exercise, Amy shows how readers can make this a healthy partnership that brings permanent change.





Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736938656
ISBN-13: 978-0736938655

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



We All Have an Empty Place

We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. Some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. A lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. She had over two-hundred pairs. But it’s all the same thing, really. People, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.

—  Tiffanie DeBartolo, God-Shaped Hole



My earliest memories were such happy ones. Mom had dinner on the table when Dad came home from work, and my two sisters and I laughed and talked about our day with our parents. It was the best feeling. Everything about our family felt so right and secure. I remember Mom walking me to kindergarten every day at a church around the corner from my house. In that same church parking lot, my dad taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. He also taught me to fly a kite, and with his help, I won a blue ribbon in a kite-flying competition at my school.

I had my own bedroom with a yellow gingham canopy bed and a playhouse in the backyard. There was also a dogwood tree that I climbed all the time. My best friend, Teresa, lived across the street, and my grandparents lived nearby. Life was good and felt normal, but when I turned eight years old, my seemingly perfect life changed forever.

A Growing Hole

Dad quit his longtime job at a local radio station in South Carolina to pursue a job at another radio station in West Palm Beach, Florida. We had to sell our house immediately and move to what seemed to me to be a different planet. I will never forget the image of Teresa and me standing by the “For Sale” sign in our front yard. We bawled our eyes out and held each other so tight because we knew we might not ever see each other again.

When we got to Florida, the five of us moved into a tiny apartment. There was nothing wrong with the apartment, but I was uncomfortable because I was used to living in a larger space and having a big yard to play in. My sisters and I barely had enough room to squeeze past each other on the way to the bathroom. My new school was huge compared to the one I attended in South Carolina. But the worst thing was that while everyone knew and loved me at my old school, I was now the new girl at school, and I got ridiculed for it. I felt insecure, unsure of myself, and alone. I wanted to go back to my happy, carefree life.

This was the first time I remember being unhappy and having no control over my circumstances. I was deeply sad, and it felt like I had an empty hole in my soul. Thankfully, we only stayed in Florida for one year, but things would never go back to how they were before. I would never regain the sense of normalcy I had so desperately craved.

When we came back to South Carolina, we moved to a different city, and my parents bought a restaurant and ice-cream parlor. It was hard work building a new business, and the stress took a toll on Mom and Dad. They began to fight all the time about money and other issues. It got so bad that they divorced.

When my parental situation turned upside down, I found myself in a world that lacked security and stability. Suddenly, I was being raised by a single mother, and as the oldest daughter at ten years old, there was a lot of pressure on me to help my mom care for my two sisters. She worked very hard (sometimes up to 18 hours a day), and I know she did her best to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. She usually had no time to tuck us in at night and tell us bedtime stories because she worked such long hours.

My sisters (who were four and six years old) and I spent a lot of time at home alone. As much as we tried to pick up after ourselves, you can imagine how messy three kids can be. I felt terrible when my mother would come home, tired from working so much, and be cranky because the house was such a disaster. I never felt like I could do enough to make Mom happy or fix our broken home life.

Many mornings she had to get to work at the crack of dawn and woke us up at three in the morning to take us to the restaurant. She made us a makeshift bed on the concrete floor in the back room and let us sleep there while she worked. This was not an ideal environment for kids, but she was doing the best she could.

It wasn’t her fault. The problem was me. I felt the hole inside my heart growing bigger and bigger, and I desperately needed something to fill it.

Enter the Banana Split

I remember one particular day when I was playing outside the restaurant and decided to go visit the couple who worked at the dry cleaners next door. The owners were in their late twenties and had no children of their own. They were kind enough to let me hang out with them sometimes, and it made me feel good.

In my mind, I felt “less than” because my life had changed so drastically in only two years. I was nothing like the other kids at school and always felt out of place. This couple welcomed, accepted, and loved me just the way I was. They talked to me like I was one of their peers, and I appreciated the kindness and warmth they showed me.

This day was like any other day that I would drop by for a visit. I had been sitting at the counter and talking to the wife for about 20 minutes when her husband walked in. He abruptly told me that it was time for me to go. He said that their business was no place for children and that I shouldn’t hang out there so much.

I was hurt to my core and very embarrassed. I thought they were my friends, but they were abandoning me. I tried my best to maintain my composure and make myself believe that it didn’t matter. I reassured myself that I didn’t need them and was fine on my own. I remember announcing to them that I was leaving, anyway, to go to make a banana split for myself.

I guess in my own childlike way, I was trying to hold on to my self-respect by pointing out that I could have a banana split anytime I wanted one. Maybe it seems silly, but for me that moment was a turning point because it concerned food. I ended up making myself that banana split and hoping it would fill some of the rejection and the emptiness I had been feeling for so long. It was the first time I used food for comfort, but it would definitely not be the last time.

Bigger and Bigger

As I got older, I gained weight and came under the attack of my grandmother who constantly told me I was chubby. My two sisters were in this weight battle with me. What else would anyone expect from kids who ate fast food and ice cream every day for years? Being overweight compounded our problems in school. Not only were we still the new kids on the block, but we had also become the fat kids.

My youngest sister had an especially hard time with children teasing her. To this day, she talks about the negative memories — one of which was having to shop for clothes in the husky department at Sears — that have haunted her through the years. Not only did she suffer from a kidney problem that made her gain even more weight, she also had an eye condition and had to wear coke-bottle glasses. She felt like such an outcast, and it broke my heart. At this point, I had taken on the role of surrogate mother for my sisters. I felt responsible for them and believed it was my job to protect them. I hated to see them suffer so much.

I don’t say all of this to blame my parents. I know they both loved us girls very much and did their best at the time, but the fact was I felt very alone and abandoned. While my mom worked long hours to support us, my father took up a new life. He started dating a woman soon after the divorce. We didn’t realize how serious the relationship was until we found out they had gotten married. My sisters and I weren’t even invited to the wedding.

Yet again, I felt I was left behind as he started a whole new life without my sisters and me. This feeling was further reinforced when he purchased a two-seater sports car. I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough room for my sisters and me. Where were we going to fit in? To me, the car was a symbol of how we weren’t a part of Dad’s life anymore.

My void grew deeper with each passing day. As I shoved more food into my mouth to soothe the pain that wouldn’t go away, my weight crept up.

When I was eleven years old, my friend Beth invited me to attend her church youth group one night. My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher, and church was a big part of our lives. We visited many churches through the years and spent many weeks during the summers at different vacation Bible schools, which were hosted by local congregations. I had even accepted Christ into my heart at a young age.

Since moving back to South Carolina, however, our family had stopped going to church. I missed it. The thought of visiting one with my friend absolutely thrilled me. When I arrived at the service, I immediately felt as if I belonged. I was in a wonderful place where people loved and cared about each other. It felt like I was home again. Church became my refuge. I especially felt drawn to the youth pastor, Sam. He quickly became a father figure to me, and I felt like I could tell him anything.

This reconnection with church sparked the beginning of a deepening relationship with God. Every Tuesday night, the church bus would drive to my house and take me to church. It was there that I experienced overwhelming love from others, and I discovered that God wanted to fill up the empty hole inside of my heart.

My faith commitment didn’t mean that my problems were suddenly solved. I didn’t ride off into the sunset of my new, happily-ever-after future. It just meant that for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a lifeline. I had hope. My heart had a chance to become whole.

By learning about God’s love for me, I realized that because we are all human, we all carry with us a certain measure of hurt and pain. This is a part of the sin nature of humankind. But that was not all. I also discovered that God created us with a space that only He can fill. He wanted to be the one to fill my voids and heal my hurts. The pain I was trying to mask with ice cream was a pain that only He could mend.

The Fat Girl Thinks She Is in Control

I want you to know that emptiness is normal. If you feel as if you need to numb the pain or soothe your soul with something outside of yourself, you are not alone. We all endure suffering from time to time. It’s a normal process of living in a sinful world.

While emptiness is normal, it is how you fill the emptiness that will determine whether you are a fat girl or a fit girl. These two chicks cope with problems in different ways. The fit girl chooses God. The fat girl chooses unhealthy addictions. The fat girl can use many different ways to try to heal the hurt on the inside. Some abuse food, drugs, or alcohol or become addicted to work, hobbies, or unhealthy relationships. It might be hard to believe, but some folks can even abuse exercise to an addictive level.

Let me tell you something. The hole that is formed inside of us is not shaped like an ice-cream cone, a vodka bottle, a cigarette, or a good-looking guy. The hole is shaped like the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He is the one who is meant to fill our empty places and heal our hurts.

I like to think about it this way. We have been created like puzzles with a missing piece. That piece is a relationship with God. He wants us to invite Him into our hearts. The closer we walk with God, the less we will search for other things to fill the hole. This is something the fit girl knows and understands.

I will be honest with you. There have been many times in my life, especially as a fat girl, when I have drifted away from my relationship with the Lord. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I believe that because of the instability I felt as a result of my parent’s divorce, I made a decision as a little girl that when I became an adult, I would be self-sufficient. I would take care of myself so that bad things would never happen to me again.

As most of us know, life usually doesn’t turn out as smooth as we hope it will. Bad things happen to everyone. Here’s a reality check. In life, people will disappoint us one way or another. If you have never been hurt or offended by someone, then you just might be an alien from outer space. The fact is none of us can measure up to perfection, and since we can’t, then certainly life will never be perfect.

My sense of independence severely impaired me when it came to trusting God with my life. I voiced my commitment to Him, but when things got tough or trials came my way, I wanted to take back my commitment. I wanted to do things my way instead of His way. When I turned away from God, that original hole in my heart would reappear, and I temporarily filled it with something. My choices were usually food, of course, and sometimes alcohol or the attention of the opposite sex. None of those things ever gave me true contentment because nothing outside of God could fulfill me.

A significant time I pulled away from God was when my son Rhett was diagnosed with autism. I was 35 at the time, and Rhett was 3. Autism is a spectrum disorder that presents different social and psychological abnormalities in some children. The main challenges we had with Rhett were that he screamed nonstop and was very sensitive to certain sounds. He also had a high threshold for pain. If he was hurting, he didn’t know how to tell us, and so my husband and I were always afraid that he might be sick and we would never know.

We faced other obstacles with our son. Rhett acted as if he had no fear. He was always jumping off the top of the sliding board, and one time he even climbed out of his bedroom window and onto the roof. He exhibited destructive behaviors, colored on the walls, overfilled the bathroom sink or tub with water, and broke things around the house at random. Because he couldn’t communicate in a normal manner, he was easily frustrated.

It was a very sad and dark time in our lives. I was utterly exhausted. I couldn’t believe that God would allow my child to be this way, especially because I tried to live a good Christian life. For goodness sake, I even served Him in ministry at church! Why me? This was the question I constantly asked myself whenever I threw a pity party, which was quite often. This should not happen to someone like me, I thought.

I determined that if my son could suffer from autism when God was supposed to be in control, then maybe I should take back the reins of my life and chart my own course. I would figure out how to fix Rhett. I would find a way to make him better by myself. Who needed God? I was pretty sure I could handle things on my own.

As I focused on being in control, guess what happened? That’s right. The hole that formed when my family fell apart grew bigger. And that’s when the fat girl came out in full force. When it came time for bed, I was so exhausted from trying to do everything on my own that I would fall into a heap on the sofa. I spent many nights with my new comforters—a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips. Oh, I still had conversations with God, but they were more like yelling matches. I would demand that He fix Rhett in the spirit of “You got me into this mess, God, so You’d better get me out of it.”

One day as I was driving down the road and screaming at God yet again, He gently put me in my place. A still, small voice spoke quietly to my heart and said, “Amy, you aren’t perfect, and I love you. Why does Rhett have to be perfect for you to love him?” Talk about getting hit right between the eyes! I knew that God was absolutely right. I was definitely not perfect, and instead of loving Rhett for who he was and dealing with the situation at hand, I had been focusing on making him normal (whatever that even means). At that moment I shifted my focus and asked God to forgive me. I asked Him to help me trust Him with Rhett and the other challenges in my life.

I quickly came to the realization that when I controlled my life, I only made more of a mess of it. It was a lesson I would continue to learn even after I lost the weight and transformed into a fit girl. (By the way, you’ll quickly find out that the fit girl is always learning!)

A week later, I was at church, and as I listened to the sermon, the pastor stopped in the middle of what he was saying and told the congregation that he felt led to say something specific. He said that there was someone in the service who didn’t know how much longer they could hang on, and that they should be encouraged because God was about to perform a miracle in their life.

I was stunned. Only a few days earlier, I mumbled something to myself about not being able to take these problems anymore. Not only was I dealing with my weight  —  I was 230 pounds at that point  —  and Rhett’s autism diagnosis, but my husband, Phillip, and I had also lost a business right after we had purchased a home that needed thousands of dollars worth of renovations. I was emotionally drained by these problems. It seemed I couldn’t get a break.

I felt as if the pastor was talking to me. It was the encouragement I needed to hear. Maybe my life would get better! Within days, the miracles started happening. First, we found out about a therapy called “audio integration” that proved to be a miracle cure for Rhett. It stopped his sensitivity to sound and his constant screaming. We were able to catch and keep his attention for a long period of time, and for the first time, I felt he could actually begin to learn. Second, our financial situation started to turn around as we found new careers in real estate.

When things started changing for the better, Phil and I specifically realized we had been feeding our physical bodies instead of filling our spiritual bodies. In the process, we had become morbidly obese. It was time to begin the journey to lose the weight. For me, it was time to say good-bye to the fat girl and hello to the fit girl.

What about you? What’s your story? I have met people all over the country who have stories that make mine seem like a walk in the park. One such lady that I met recently told me that her problems with her weight began right after her husband committed suicide. That in itself is a horrifying traumatic event, and now this woman is left to pick up the pieces of a family torn apart by tragedy. This affected her and her family emotionally, mentally, and financially. Five years later this lady is obese, depressed, and struggling to support her family. My heart goes out to people like this because I see the magnitude of their holes and how they are desperately trying to fill them.

Pascal wrote, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” In this he describes the search that is familiar to the fat girl. So many people are on this journey to fill that hole in their hearts.

Another time I met a beautiful young woman with an incredible singing talent. She is tall and blonde and beautiful in spite of the more than 100 pounds she wants to lose. She shared with me that when she was in high school, her stepfather was murdered. Before that she had never had a weight problem, but that event threw her into such a depression that she could hardly get out of bed in the morning. Her grades suffered, and she had to drop out of school for a while. She began eating to comfort herself in her grief.

These people suffered a pain that pierced their hearts like a bullet and left a hole that couldn’t be healed. They needed the Comforter to heal them, but instead they turned to food. Does this sound familiar? Have your fat-girl tendencies to heal yourself left you more depressed and burdened with extra weight? Have you suffered in a way that you feel no one can understand? Do you feel that there is no way out of the pain that plagues you day and night? It’s time to become the fit girl.

What a Fit Girl Knows

Fit girls know that making the right nutrition choices and getting regular exercise are only half the battle. The real key to losing weight and keeping it off is in fighting a spiritual and mental battle. When I lost all the weight while on The Biggest Loser, I found that many issues from my past reappeared. When it was time for the fit girl to deal with her internal fears and let go of the crutches the fat girl held on to for dear life, I felt like a scared kid curled up in a corner in a fetal position. I had to give that scared little girl permission to rise up and be strong. Why? Because fit girls are strong and are not afraid to face challenges, obstacles, or their fears. I had to show the fat girl what a fit girl is capable of.

As a fat girl, I focused on naming things I couldn’t do. After I started losing weight, I was on a mission to prove the fat girl wrong. I climbed mountains, kayaked rivers, hiked the Grand Canyon, and endured physical challenges that I never thought I could face. Being able to witness my own strength for the first time in my life and overcome the impossible was just the beginning of my fit-girl transformation. Healing my heart on the inside would prove to be a bigger challenge than climbing the biggest mountain I could find, but it was only when my heart healed that I was able to find the fit girl.

You may be asking, “Who is the fit girl?” The fit girl is you when you discover that the hole on the inside of you is designed to be filled by God, your heavenly Father and the Creator of the universe. The fit girl is you when you realize that the compulsion to fill an internal void with food, alcohol, or other stuff is futile because only God can fill that place. The fit girl is you when you realize that you don’t need to comfort yourself with anything but God because you know He loves you very much and wants nothing but the best for your life.

The Bible says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (see Hebrews 11:1 nkjv). Faith in God is the belief that He is the substance you need for the life you dream of but have yet to see. For the fit girl, a life worth dreaming about is one where she doesn’t have to fill the empty places in her life with things outside of God when pressures get to her.

Remember how I said I would continue to learn this lesson? Well, when I was going through the process of losing weight, I faced different kinds of temptations to fill the void. My new alternatives to filling the void were worse than the food addiction.

For instance, as I got thinner, I was getting attention from men other than my husband. I hadn’t experienced that kind of attention in years, and to be honest, I liked it. In fact, I liked it so much that I realized that even though I was a happily married woman, I still sought after male attention to prove that I was attractive. I liked it when other men thought I was pretty, and so I didn’t discourage harmless flirtations. As you can imagine, my husband didn’t find this behavior an acceptable replacement for my food cravings.

Before I knew it, I found myself switching from one addiction to another. I stopped caring about welcoming glances from men and started drinking red wine. That occasional one glass of wine quickly turned into two or three glasses a few nights a week. Obviously the fat girl wasn’t just an outside issue but an issue of the heart. I had a heart problem, and I needed a healer.

So once again I turned to the Lord and asked Him to heal me and be my guide. I asked Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit and show me how to change my heart. I asked Him to reveal to me the keys to change my reactions to life and its challenges and pressures. It was then that God, once again, asked me to have faith in Him and trust Him with my life. He didn’t want to be my acquaintance. He wanted to be my Lord. Thankfully, I said yes to that process. I haven’t looked back since.

What about you? Have you noticed that your struggles are similar to mine? Do you have a hole in your heart that you are trying to fill up with addictive behaviors like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, or smoking cigarettes? Have you lost weight and found yourself holding on to things that have replaced a food addiction? What’s your new drug of choice?

Often weight can be a security blanket to keep from having to deal with sensitive things going on in the heart, and uncovering those hurts can be a painful process. Know this: God loves you and wants you to be whole and fit. He wants to build a relationship with you so that you can allow Him to fill every part of your life. It’s not enough to occasionally chat with Him through a prayer. God wants to be your partner and your friend. He wants to transform you from the inside out! He wants you to be a fit girl.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.  — Ralph Waldo Emerson



Transformation Tips

I want you to do something for me. Find a really quiet place and go there by yourself.     I know this might be hard if you have little kids or a busy schedule, but carve out some time to sit in the quiet and set your daily routine aside for a while.     This is important. (By the way, finding a few minutes alone to meditate and pray is a great thing to do at the end of each of these lessons.)

During this quiet time, pray and ask God to reveal some things that may be holding you back from being the fit girl He made you to be. He may bring things to your mind that you haven’t thought about in years. You may have buried feelings, situations, or experiences you didn’t want to deal with back then — things God wants you to uncover today.     God can show you these things through dreams or even nightmares. Identify whatever comes to your mind and write them down in a journal.

Here is a list of questions that will help you with this process and show you some things that may be keeping the fit girl at bay.     Take some time to meditate on these questions and pray about your answers.     Ask God to speak into your heart.

What are my earliest childhood memories? Are they happy ones? Sad ones?
How have these memories shaped my life?
Are there people from my past who I need to forgive or ask to forgive me?
What role does God have in my life? Can I draw closer to Him?
In my relationships with others, does the way I act cause hurt feelings? Concerning myself, does my behavior cause harm or is it self-destructive?
These might be hard questions for you to think about, but it’s what you have to do if you want to transform yourself into a fit girl.     Finally, I want you to pray about each revelation and ask God to show you how to make changes in the areas that need some work.     Trust that He will give you the strategies to heal the places that need healing.

Commit to having a closer relationship with God and listening more closely when He speaks to your heart. He may ask you to call someone and ask them to forgive you for being angry with them. He may tell you that you are going to have to end relationships in your life that are unhealthy.     Whatever it is you feel He is leading you to do, do it.     This is the beginning of the healing journey and finding the fit girl in you!



Your Prayer

Father, please help me realize that only You can fulfill me, and that I need only You to fill the empty spaces inside me. Help me turn away from the temptation to fill my empty spaces with anything else. I pray that You would give me the strength to continually make the choice to relinquish control of my life to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.




NOTE: I'm almost done writting the full review. But I have to say I've enjoyed this refreshhing book and insightful book. This is not another diet book on what to eat and what not to eat. In God's word he says to renew your mind daily. Amy talkes about what the Fat Girl (her former self) thinks and what the Fit Girl thinks. This is helpful. Emotional eating starts in our mind. The things we tell ourselves helps us stay on track or make us eat more.

Amy Parham does have questions she asks at the end of each chapter that helps you reflect on what she's just talked about. Help you get deeper into why you eat what you do. She does have helpful tips on helping you stay on the healthy course. I loved her honesty and the fact that she breaks down her journey to being healthy in an easy way. She talks about lots of things she battled on the way to getting healthy (loosing about 100 pounds) and struggles she has now that she is at a healthy weight things she faces that surprised her.

Amy Parham and her husband Phillip were contestants on the Big Loser show. This was an inspirational and helpful read. I highly recommend it.

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org