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!
and the book:
Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregal Publications for sending me a review copy.***
Melanie Dobson is an author as well as the owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media. A former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, Melanie has worked in the fields of journalism and publicity for more than twelve years. Her first book is Together for Good. Melanie lives in Oregon with her husband, Jon, and their two adopted daughters, Karly and Kinzel.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The glass door was locked, but that didnâ€™t stop Camden Bristow from yanking on the handle. The imposing desk on the other side of the glass was vacant, and the receptionist who usually waved her inside had disappeared. Behind the desk, the Fount Magazine logo mocked her, whispering that the money she so desperately needed had disappeared as well.
She pounded on the glass one last time, but no one came to the door.
Turning, she moved to a row of windows on the far side of the elevator. Sixteen stories below, swarms of people bustled toward their next appointment. Someplace they needed to be. Not long ago, sheâ€™d been rushing too, up and down Park Avenue to attend meetings at ad agencies and various magazines . . . including the suite of offices behind her.
Human rights. Natural disasters. Labor disputes. Whenever the photo editor at Fount needed the most poignant pictures for news articles, he called her, and nothing had stopped her from capturing what he needed for the next edition. Sheâ€™d dedicated the past five years to responding to Grant Haussenâ€™s calls, but after she came back from Indonesia two months ago, he stopped calling her.
Sheâ€™d e-mailed him the pictures of the earthquakeâ€™s aftermath along with her regular invoice of fees and expenses. Heâ€™d used the pictures in the next issue, but apparently discarded the invoice. She never received a check, and he didnâ€™t return even one of her many calls.
A few years ago, she wouldnâ€™t have worried as much about the moneyâ€”those days her phone rang at all hours with freelance assignments to shoot pictures around the worldâ€”but her clients had slashed their budgets and were using stock photos or buying photographs from locals. The current results werenâ€™t as compelling as sending a professional, but keeping the lights onâ€”the rent paidâ€”trumped paying for the best photography.
Her clients may be making rent, but she hadnâ€™t been able to pay hers for two months. Her savings account was depleted. The income from her Indonesia shoot was supposed to appease her landlord and credit card company. Even though she hadnâ€™t heard from Grant Haussen, she held out hope that she might at least recoup the expenses for her trip so she could pay off the whopping flight and hotel charges on her credit card.
All hope shattered when she read the morningâ€™s headline.
Fount Magazine Declares Bankruptcy
Others may have skimmed past this article, but the news stunned her. Three hours ago, she left her studio apartment and started walking until she found herself in Midtown, in the lobby of the Reinhold Building. A few staff members might remain at the Fount office, packing things up. Or if there were some sort of bankruptcy proceedings . . . maybe she could collect a few thousand dollars. Just enough to pay a portion of her bills while she tried to find more work.
It appeared that no one had stuck around to say goodbye.
The elevator dinged behind her, and she turned away from the windows and watched a skinny man in overalls push a mop and bucket into the hallway. He was at least two inches shorter than her five foot six.
She forced herself to smile, but he didnâ€™t smile back. She pointed at the offices. â€œI need to find someone at the magazine.â€
He grunted as he dipped his mop into the gray water and wrung it out. Shoving her fists into the pockets of her long jacket, she stepped toward him. â€œThey owe me money.â€
â€œYou and half this dadgum town.â€
â€œThey ran outta here so fast last night that the rubber on their shoes was smokinâ€™.â€ He flopped the mop onto the tile floor and water spread toward his boots. â€œIâ€™d bet good money that they ainâ€™t cominâ€™ back.â€
Camden slumped against the window. Even if she were able to track down Grant, it wasnâ€™t like he would personally write her a check for money the magazine owed. He was probably out hunting for a job already, or maybe he was stretched out on his couch watching Oprah, enjoying the luxury of not having to report for duty. He could collect unemployment while he slowly perused for a new gig.
Unfortunately, there was no unemployment for freelancers.
The janitor swabbed the mop across the tile in straight brushstrokes like he was painting instead of cleaning it, taking pride in his work.
She understood. At one time she had been proud of her work too. There was nothing more exhilarating than flying off to a country rocked by tragedy and immersing herself into an event that most people only read about. She was onsite to see the trauma, feel the aftershocks, though she never allowed herself to get personally involved. It was her job to record the crisis so others could help with the recovery. All she needed to do her job was her camera equipment and laptop.
Because of all her travels, she hadnâ€™t accumulated much stuff over the years. Her landlord had furnished her flat before she moved in, but for almost five years, the apartment and everything in it had felt like hers. It was the longest sheâ€™d lived in one place her entire life.
But tonight, her landlord was changing the locks. Her home had been rented by someone else.
The man pushed his mop by her, ignoring her. She couldnâ€™t blame him for his indifference. This city was full of people who needed a jobâ€”he was probably trying as hard as he could to keep his.
She would mop floors if she had to. Or scrub toilets. It wouldnâ€™t pay enough for her to make rent, but maybe it would keep her from having to call her mom and beg for cash. If she called, her mother would pass the phone to her latest boyfriendâ€”a retired executive living outside Madrid. Camden would rather sleep in a shelter than grovel to him.
She hopped over the wet trail left by the mop and stepped into the elevator.
Her landlord said she had until five oâ€™clock to pack her stuff and vacate the building. The little credit she had left on her card wouldnâ€™t pay for a week in a Manhattan hotel. And the few friends sheâ€™d made when she wasnâ€™t traveling were struggling as much as she was. One of them might let her sleep on a couch, but sheâ€™d be expected to help with rent.
The elevator doors shut, and she punched the button for the lobby.
Where was she supposed to go from here?
The basement of the town hall smelled like burnt coffee and tobacco. The navy carpet had faded to a dull gray, and the dais at the front of the room was scuffed with shoe marks. Five men and two women sat behind a table on the platformâ€”the bimonthly summit of Ethertonâ€™s City Council.
As the town mayor, Louise Danner presided over the city council from the middle chair. Her hoop earrings jangled below the signature Bic pen she propped behind her left ear. Copper-colored bangs veiled her smudged eyebrows.
Three steps below Louiseâ€™s chair, Alex Yates drummed his fingers on a stack of proposals and tried to listen as Evan Harper begged the councilors to let him tear down the barn on his property and replace it with a guesthouse.
In the eight months since heâ€™d moved to Etherton, he learned that Louise Danner was almost as permanent a fixture in Etherton as the town hall. Within days of him taking this job, she told him exactly how she became mayor over the eleven thousand people in their town.
She had been born in a small house off Main Street and reigned as valedictorian over Etherton Highâ€™s Class of â€™67. Armed with a degree from Marietta, she returned home after graduation and worked in several businesses across town until she secured the job of hospital administrator. Louise served on almost every town committee for the next thirty years, from historical preservation to the garden club, but when she landed the mayorship almost eight years ago, she dropped anchor.
Sheâ€™d spent a boatload of money to retain her position during the last election, and with the state of the townâ€™s economy, she would be fighting to keep her job when voters went to the polls in five months.
Alex rechecked his watch. It was almost lunchtime, and Evan Harper was still pleading his case. Alex saw the dilapidated barn every morning on the short drive to his office. Guesthouse or no guesthouse, he agreed with Evanâ€”someone needed to put the structure out of its misery. A hearty gust of wind would end its life if the council wouldnâ€™t approve demolition.
Alex stifled a yawn as Evan named all the people who could stay in the guesthouse including his wifeâ€™s elderly parents and his daughterâ€™s college friends. Apparently, no one had told the man he couldnâ€™t filibuster city council. If the mayor didnâ€™t curtail Evanâ€™s speech, heâ€™d probably pull out the local phone book and read until the councilors adjourned for lunch. And once they walked out of the room, they may not reconvene in time.
Alex couldnâ€™t wait for approval. He needed an answer today.
For the past month, heâ€™d been quietly courting the owner of the ten-acre property at the edge of townâ€”part of the old Truman farm. If the council concurred, the owner was ready to sell the land and farmhouse for a pittance. The town could buy it and use the property to help with their plans to revitalize the local economy.
Alex caught the mayorâ€™s eye and tapped his watch.
â€œThank you.â€ Louise interrupted Evan before he finished listing off every construction supply heâ€™d purchased for the guesthouse. â€œI think that is all the information we need to make a decision.â€
Evan plucked another piece of paper from his stack. â€œBut I havenâ€™t read the neighborhood petition.â€
â€œWe appreciate all the time and thought youâ€™ve put into this, Evan.â€ Louise propped her chin up with her knuckles. â€œWeâ€™ll let you know if we have any other questions.â€
Evan sat down on the wooden folding chair at the end of the row, and Alex leaned back as the council began discussing the hot issue of preservation versus progress.
Most of the councilors were successful business leaders and attorneys, passionate in either their pro-growth or anti-development stance. Today he needed to convince them that voting â€œyesâ€ on his proposal would commemorate the townâ€™s history and lay the foundation for their legacy while generating new revenue and development for the town.
Alex glanced at his watch and sighed. If it took the councilors forty minutes to decide the fate of a rickety barn, how long would it take them to make a decision on his proposal?
When he parted ways with corporate mania last year, he thought heâ€™d left behind the constricting strands of red tape that kept him from doing his job, but heâ€™d learned that Ethertonâ€™s residents, along with the city council, rode the high of debate until they were forced to vote. Sometimes the debate lasted weeks, or even months.
Edward Paxton led the charge against development. He didnâ€™t want his town to change nor did he want Alex involved with any of the townâ€™s business. Rumor had it that he wanted his grandson, Jake, to take the economic development position that Louise had created last spring to solicit new business. The only problem was that no one else on the council wanted Jake Paxton to be involved. Edward seemed to hold a personal vendetta against Alex for stealing his grandsonâ€™s job.
At least the mayor was on his team. Sheâ€™d gambled when she hired him, but he assured her and the council that heâ€™d deliver. On their terms.
After almost an hour of discussion, Louise called for a vote, and Evan smacked his knees when they approved his guesthouse with a 4â€“3 vote. He saluted the row of councilors as he rushed out, probably on his way to rent an excavator. Alex guessed the barn would be in a heap when he drove home tonight.
He sighed. If only getting the council to approve a project was always this easy . . .
Etherton needed the tax revenue from new businesses to fix its brick streets, increase the police force, and build a high school. The cityâ€™s officials expected Alex to find a way to merge their small town charm with big city business.
Blending these two ideals was no small feat. Not long after he moved to Etherton, he worked a deal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a piece of farm property at the edge of town. Some towns didnâ€™t want a Wal-Mart, but since their local economy had tanked, he thought most of the locals would welcome the store. After all, most of them drove forty-five minutes each week to visit the Wal-Mart in Mansfield, and this would bring discount clothes, groceries, car care, andâ€”most importantlyâ€”jobs to their back door.
He was wrong.
When the council voted last December, residents of Etherton packed City Hall, a chorus of dissension over why their town couldnâ€™t bear the weight of a conglomerate. The icy room turned hot as tempers flared. Small business owners threatened to overthrow the seats of every council member who supported the proposal.
In the end, the council rejected his plan. The town desperately needed the revenue and the jobs, but apparently not enough to put out the welcome mat for a mega store. A local farmer bought the field to plant corn, and Etherton missed out on the much-needed sales tax that would flood into Fredericktown when Wal-Mart opened its doors there this fall.
The council told him they wanted new business, but they wanted something quaint that would fit the townâ€™s celebration of all things old. It was a hard taskâ€”but heâ€™d found the perfect solution. If the residents were willing to risk a little, he was ready to deliver both quaint and classy . . . wrapped up in a pretty package and tied together with a sound financial bow.
Louise slid the pen out from behind her ear and tapped it on the table. She dismissed the few people in the audience, explaining that the rest of the meeting was a closed session, and then she pointed at him. â€œYouâ€™re up, Alex.â€
He straightened his tie and stood to face the councilors. It was about to get hot again.
This story lost me because of the writing style. It is remarkably unsophisticated. I spent so much time editing sentences that I couldn’t get into the story. I cannot give it a fair review. Please follow the link above to the First Wild Card website and check out what the other readers had to say. This did seem to be a favorite book.