Beulah the Bull, by C.C. Troy

BeulahI loved Beulah the Bull, by C.C. Troy.  I read it in one sitting with a great big, silly grin plastered on my face.  I even laughed out loud from time to time.

Susan Ann Jones considers her name unremarkable and applies that description to herself as well.  When she loses the only job she’s ever known, she does some truly remarkable things, although the first one was accidental. On a whim Susan bid on and purchased a 5 acre tract of land sight unseen.  Then, in a fit of rebellion over her too neat, too tidy, too structured, too ordinary life, Susan packs herself and her seven pound purse dog off to Northern Arizona for a bit of camping.  Their first night in their tent — sort of — was hysterical, and their first morning was even better because that’s when they met their new best-friend, a two thousand pound British White Bull named Beulah.  Beulah is an unlikely angel, but he befriends Brady the dog and opens Susan’s, mind to hope and new possibilities.

C.C. Troy’s story telling is smooth and her prose is flawless.  Her storytelling voice is so authentic that somewhere around chapter three I began doubting I was reading fiction and had to double check the credits.   Fiction it is, and her first book at that.  I certainly hope she has more in the wings.  This was a great read — fast, light-hearted, and “laugh-out-loud” funny, but with a message of hope in the midst of failure, and finding joy in unlikely circumstances

I highly recommend this book.

The Reluctant Assassin

Eoin Colfer is a master at creating complicated plots.  His tales twist and turn like a roller coaster ride and the tension ratchets higher with every paragraph.  Always, just when it looks as though his hero is utterly doomed, the plot will twist again and the reader is allowed to breathe — but only for an instant.

I was a great fan of the Artemis Fowl series.  I purchased multiple copies of every novel for my classroom and read the first one aloud to my students for three years running.  I approached W.A.R.P. Book 1 The Reluctant Assassin cautiously, fearing I would be disappointed.  I was certain there was no way Colfer could make another hero as complicated and compelling as Artemis Fowl, and in a way I was right.  The Reluctant Assassin doesn’t have a single compelling hero.  It has two: Chevron Savano and Riley — a couple of orphans with an assassin on their tails — and they have no one to rely on except each other.

The book blurb:

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.

In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie’s possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

If I had to list something I didn’t like about W.A.R.P. Book 1 The Reluctant Assassin, the only thing I can think of is that the story blurb is woefully inadequate. It doesn’t even begin to describe the multitude of layers in the story.  What truly amazes me about Colfer’s tangled tales, is the fact that they are remarkably easy to read and to follow, even though it is totally impossible to predict the next twist in the tale.

Alienation, by Jon Lewis

Attention parents of reluctant readers — this book is one you’ll want to put in your kid’s hands. It has all the draw of a comic book except the pictures.  No fear there, though, Jon Lewis’ writing is vivid enough that pictures seem to spring off the page in full living color.  As a certified reading teacher I have a good grasp of what kids will and won’t read.  Alienation, is a WILL READ in capital letters.  Don’t take my word for it though.  Read what other people are saying here.

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About the book:
After his parents were killed in a car accident, Colt McAllister was drawn into a world he thought only existed in comic books-one where mind control, jet packs, and flying motorcycles don’t even scratch the surface.

Along with his best friends Oz and Danielle, Colt is now training at the secret Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural academy. But strange accidents seem to follow him. . . even with the security of the school grounds. What first seems random soon turns deadly. But who is targeting Colt?

As the alien invasions increase in frequency and force, C.H.A.O.S resources are taxed to the limit and they’re forced to utilize the new recruits. In the midst of battle, Colt will discover some startling revelations . . . about himself, his friendship with Oz, and why he has been chosen to defeat this alien attack against earth.

About the author:
Jon S. Lewis is the coauthor of the Grey Griffins trilogy (over 500,000 books in print) and the upcoming Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles. He also writes for the DC COMICS family of publishers. He resides with his family in Arizona.

About the Giveaway:
Win an iPad from @JonSLewis and @NelsonFiction in the Alienation iPad2 Giveaway!

The invasion was only the beginning! Jon Lewis is celebrating the next adventure in his fast-paced C.H.A.O.S. series with an explosive giveaway!

One thrill-seeker will receive:

  • iPad2 with Wi-Fi
  • Copies of the C.H.A.O.S. novels, Invasion and Alienation

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on February 7th. Winner will be announced at the Alienation Facebook Party on 2/7. Jon will be hosting an Author Chat, giving away copies of the books and gift certificates to iTunes and Amazon.com! Don’t miss a second of the intrigue!

Grab your copy of Alienation and join Jon on the evening of February 7th for an author chat, spy training (How much do you know about alien invaders?) and lots of giveaways. 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire

It only seems logical that M.C. Pearson would create a vivid and compelling novel.  As an experienced book reviewer she certainly knows what it takes to make a great story.  And in, F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire, Pearson has covered all of the bases: drama, peril, intrigue, humor, hope — and wonderfully fantastical beings that captured my heart and my imagination and pulled me into the story like the magical force-field that pulled Mellie into their realm.

I know this book is labeled YA, but don’t let that stop you from reading it.  Compelling stories don’t have age limits.  If you love adventure, worship The One, and wish to bring his kingdom to light on earth, this story will pull you in and bless you.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  The first chapter is below.  Check it out, you’ll be charmed and intrigued.

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

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

 

Today’s Wild Card author & illustrator is:

 

 

and the book:

 

F.A.I.R.I.E.S.: Baptism by Fire

FIRST Wild Card Press (December 5, 2011)

***Special thanks to M. C. Pearson of FIRST Wild Card Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 

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

FROM THE BACK COVER:

Here lies a most precious treasure,
Awaiting one Chosen to deliver.
Seek out the red cousins in the East,
For on this your greed mustn’t feast.
The wealth of a species now in your hands,
Do with it as the light demands.
Give them your gift to unite,
For it is the darkness we all must fight.

EDITORIAL REVIEWS:

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

 

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

 

F.A.I.R.I.E.S. will appeal to readers who love the interplay of fantasy and reality. A rich cast of eccentric characters and exotic settings make this a fun addition to the folklore of the battle between good and evil.”
–Mike Hamel, author of
YA fantasy series: MATTERHORN THE BRAVE

 

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

 

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

Product Details:

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

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Four thousand seasons shall pass while our swords grow rusty.

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

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

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

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

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

Dust off your swords.

Unite the realm.

Destroy the strongholds.
Foretelling of Didasko Gnome Digdeep

†

PART ONE


MANY ARE CALLED
BUT
FEW ARE CHOSEN
†
CHAPTER ONE

Off and Running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her sisters were nowhere in sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How far have I gone?

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

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

No people.

Where did everybody go?

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

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

Trees? So close to the beach?

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

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

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

Hmm…probably just a seagull.

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

There’s no way I’m going over there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mellie couldn’t answer.

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

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

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

She dropped open her mouth and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

“Umm…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

†

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stupid, pompous, magical Star Wars freak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mellie managed to squeak out, “Mellie Goodwin.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

Captain Jack’s Treasure by Max Elliot Anderson

Captain Jack’s Treasure by Max Elliot Anderson is a fun read! I smiled, I chuckled, I frowned, I worried — and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yes, it’s a kid’s book, but I am ever and always a kid at heart. I’m also a teacher so I spend a lot of time reviewing kid’s books. This one would thrill the heart of any adventure seeking boy or girl.

It was easy to tell that Max Elliot Anderson knows the hearts and minds of young boys. The characters, Sam, Tony and Tyler, were typical all-American, adventure-seeking, conclusion-leaping boys full of curiosity and impatience, yet each has his own distinct personality. I highly recommend this book to all adventure-loving (especially pirate-adventure loving) 8 to 11 year old boys or girls.

As an adult I appreciated the way Bible verse and Bible precepts were embedded in the story without being tract-like or preachy. Any kid could read this book and get the message without realizing s/he’d just sat through a Sunday School lesson. Everything fit and flowed and the story was paramount.

There is a prequel to this book which I hadn’t read. It did not impede my understanding of the story, but it might give some pause to younger, less experienced readers. The best way to avoid this is to buy Lost Island Smugglers as well.

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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:

 

Captain Jack’s Treasure

Port Yonder Press (August 15, 2011)

***Special thanks to Chila Woychik of Port Yonder Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sensed the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 and up, especially boys.

Mr. Anderson was a producer of the nationally televised PBS special, Gospel at the Symphony that was nominated for an Emmy, and won a Grammy for the double album soundtrack. He won a best cinematographer award for the film, Pilgrim’s Progress, which was the first feature film in which Liam Neeson had a staring role.

He has produced, directed, or shot over 500 national television commercials for True Value Hardware Stores. Mr. Anderson owns The Market Place, a client-based video production company for medical and industrial clients. His productions have taken him all over the world including India, New Guinea, Europe, Canada, and across the United States.

Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories.

Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot. Young readers have reported that reading one of Mr. Anderson’s books is like being in an exciting or scary movie.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sam Cooper lives right near the ocean, on the Treasure Coast of Florida. All he’s ever heard about since he moved here were the fabulous treasures that have been found, and those still waiting to be discovered.

For his birthday, he received the gift of his dreams. It’s the latest, top-of-the-line, metal detector. Along with his friends, Tony, and Tyler, all are convinced that they will be the ones to dig up the next great find.

They meet a crusty sea captain named Jack. He’s fixing up an impossible looking old tub. The boys believe it’s going to be used to search for treasure at sea. They get permission from their parents to help with the restoration job in the hopes that Captain Jack will share his wealth.

When Sam’s father nearly dies, from a heart attack, the true values of life take on new importance and meaning.

What is Captain Jack’s mysterious secret? And what is he really planning to do with that boat?

Readers will gain a new appreciation for family, they will learn about the dangers of greed, and oh the stories Captain Jack can tell.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.95
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 178 pages
Publisher: Port Yonder Press (August 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935600141
ISBN-13: 978-1935600145

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Catching the smugglers out on Lost Island was all that people around Harper’s Inlet could talk about for weeks. Everyone wanted to know which three brave boys had been involved. Sam, Tony, and Tyler weren’t allowed to tell anyone about the mystery. The FBI told them to keep it to themselves for their safety. They had become heroes, yet no one knew their names.

After going scuba diving, getting caught up in a terrible storm, and being stranded on Lost Island, it might seem that Sam Cooper and his friends, Tony and Tyler, would have had all the adventure any three boys could want for a summer, a year, or an entire lifetime. Only that’s not how it worked out. But then, that’s the way it is with boys. Boys are made for danger, adventure, excitement, and conquering things. And that’s exactly what these guys looked for all the time.

Chapter 1

Captain Jack’s Hopeless Boat

The storm Sam and his friends had survived wasn’t something any one of them could soon forget. Maybe they never would. So you might want to excuse Sam for what he thought one night, a couple of weeks later.

Lightning knifed across the night sky and thunder roared so loudly that Sam was sure his windows would shatter into a million pieces any second. It didn’t help much that his bedroom faced directly toward the ocean. And those silly stories about lightning coming from angels taking flash pictures, or thunder from them moving their furniture around up in heaven didn’t do him any good either. When he pulled the covers over his head his dark comforter still couldn’t keep out the bright flashes of light.

Sure glad I’m not out there on the ocean again tonight, Sam thought. Man, that’d be terrible.

Suddenly, as if he’d pushed the start button on a DVD player in his head, violent images of the storm he, Tony, and Tyler had survived, came crashing in. With each flash of light, he remembered how the mast had broken like a twig and the boat split in half while he and his friends held on to what was left.

Sam grabbed the extra pillow on his bed and held onto it for a few minutes with his eyes shut tight.

A little later, when he couldn’t sleep, Sam slipped out from the safety of his covers to get a better look at the angry storm. A huge surf crashed against the beach. He watched white caps on the pounding waves with each giant lightning bolt. The weather forecast this summer called for heavy storms in and around where he lived. The big one he and his friends had been caught out in was the first of the season.

Great, he thought. Another storm. Now we’ll have to forget our plans to go fishing in the morning.

Sam lived in Harper’s Inlet, Florida, not far from an area people call the “Treasure Coast.” “Treasure” should have been Sam’s middle name.

He and his friends had often seen people line the pier with their fishing poles dangling over the water below. Most of their time had been spent in the scuba course. Then, after the accident, their parents made them stay home. Part of the reason was to keep them away from each other, and because they’d done something so dangerous.

Sam and his friends had talked many times about how much fun it would be to go down to the pier, sit around, and do nothing all day. During all the time that Sam had to stay at home, just the idea of going outside again seemed like getting out of prison. Well, today was supposed to be their day. They had permission, Tony’s father bought the fishing licenses, and everything was set. Except now, the storm would probably change their plans. Sam climbed into bed again and somehow, even with all that racket, fell back to sleep.

“Sam, Sam, your friends are here!” his mother called from down the hall.

He sort of heard it, but the sound seemed to be coming from another world. And from the wild dreams he often had, he couldn’t be too sure. The next thing Sam knew, he became the jelly in a jam-pile sandwich on his bed. From out of nowhere Tony and Tyler jumped on top of him. Everybody knew, if Tony pounced on you, a guy wouldn’t forget it. They rolled Sam up in his covers and pushed him onto the floor.

Tyler was small for his age, but he still did his best to keep up with Sam and Tony. Tony could stand to skip a meal or two and he was never at a loss for something to say.

“Hey, you guys, cut it out!” Sam said.

“You cut it out!” Tony shouted. “We had to wake up early, get our stuff, and come over here, only to find you, king of the sleeping slugs, still in bed. Now get up.”

“But the storm.”

“What storm? Haven’t you looked outside? The sun is shining, there’s a nice breeze, and we already saw people fishing off the pier on our way over here.”

“Yeah,” Tyler said, “and they’re catching our fish.”

“So get moving before we drag you down there in your P J’s,” Tony threatened.

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“Oh wouldn’t we?”

With that, Sam broke away, ran to the bathroom, and locked the door so he could get ready. “Go on to the kitchen. My Mom will give you something to eat. I’ll be out in a minute,” he yelled from inside the room. Tony and Tyler did as he said—and before long he joined them.

Sam’s mother had packed a delicious lunch for each of them the night before. It included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit punch, potato chips, chocolate cake, and a few surprises. Soon Sam and his friends were on their way, walking toward the pier, for a long lazy day.

Sam took a deep breath. “Sure is great to get out again.”

“I know,” Tony said. “I thought my dad would never get over us losing that catamaran.”

“Us?” Sam asked.

Tony just looked back at him.

“What are we going to use for bait?” Tyler asked.

“Nothin’, ” Sam said.

“What do you mean, nothin’?” Tony asked. “You just gonna whistle, and call ‘Here fishy, fishy, fishy’?”

“We’ll use lures that my dad gave me. They’ll look just like little fish to the big fish we’re after. I have a bunch in my tackle box. You guys can use any of them you want.”

Sam’s tackle box clanked and rattled as he walked toward the pier. Its green paint had plenty of scratches and rust from years of use. His grandfather had used the old thing first. Then he’d given it to Sam’s father. But his job as a research biologist didn’t leave much time for fishing. So he’d given the tackle box, and three rods and reels, to Sam.

The box had a black, metal handle on top, and a nearly scratched off sticker with a largemouth bass jumping out of the water on the end of a fishing line. Sam’s tackle box held extra reels, fishing line, several different lures, red and white plastic bobbers, lead weights—everything he’d need for fishing.

“Whatcha got in that box?” Tony asked.

Sam winked and said, “All I can tell you is, when it comes to fishing, if I don’t have it, we don’t need it.”

“Did I ever tell you about the last time I went fishing with my dad,” Tyler asked, “before we got divorced?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re about to,” Tony said.

“It was the funniest thing you ever saw. Well, I thought it was funny.” He blinked and jerked his head. “Anyway, we went out in this big boat with a bunch of other people. I hadn’t ever been fishing before.”

“So how’d you do?” Sam asked.

“That’s the funny part. I caught my dad…three times.”

“Ha! You must have thrown him back then ’cause I just saw him when we got rescued from Lost Island,” Tony said.

“It gets worse. I didn’t just catch him three times, but, call it beginners luck if you want to, I caught the most fish on the whole boat too!”

“How in the world did you do that?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know. All I did was drop my line in the water and bam, a fish hit my hook. I finally had to quit because I was getting so tired from pulling in all those fish.”

“You’re lyin’,” Tony said.

“Am not.”

Sam put his pole up on one shoulder. “I’ll bet that made the rest of the people feel better, you leaving a few more fish for them.”

He shook his head. “Not really. They still didn’t catch very many.”

“I can’t think of anything worse than catching your dad and the most fish,” Sam said.

“Well, it gets worse.”

“Not possible.”

“Yeah, because I got sick and threw up all over the deck.”

“Boy, I hate it when that happens,” Tony said.

“My dad hated it too. He kept on apologizing to all the people and the captain.”

“So what happened?” Sam asked.

“What happened is my dad has never invited me to go fishing again. I used to think that was one of the reasons he left us. Today is my first time fishing since that all happened.”

Sam smiled. “Promise me you aren’t going to catch any of us today, Tyler.”

“And no throwing up on the pier either,” Tony warned.

“I’ll try not to.”

By this time they were walking along the beach. They noticed several people searching in the sand with metal detectors.

“There’s a bunch of them out today. Wonder why?” Tyler asked.

“I read that it’s best to search for stuff right after a big storm like we had last night,” Sam said.

“How come?”

“Because all that wind and the waves tear up the sand and move it around so it’s easier to find things.”

“That must be right because I don’t remember seeing this many people most days.”

Sam let out a deep sigh. “Yeah, I really wish I had a metal detector.”

Tony added, “Think of all the money we could make with one of those babies.”

“We?” Sam asked.

“Well, you’d let us in on it, right?”

“I might.”

“You’d better.”

“Your dad could buy each of us one if he wanted to,” Tyler told Tony.

“Not after we lost his boat and all that scuba gear.”

Sam looked at him again. “We?”

Tony reached the pier and stepped onto its worn boards. Sam thought their footsteps sounded like the hollow booms of big base drums.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people fishing before either,” Sam said. “Wonder if the storm stirs up the fish, too?”

“Hey, Tyler,” Tony said. “Watch out for all these people. You wouldn’t want any of them to catch you.”

Sam and his friends had to walk way out near the end of the pier until they found an open spot where all three could set up. They began the long, lazy day of fishing they’d dreamed about for so long. space The hours crept by, the shadows grew longer, and each boy caught at least one fish.

“We didn’t do so well today,” Tyler complained. “Nothing like my last time.”

“It’s okay. That’s why they call it fishin’ and not catchin’,” Sam said.

It had been a fun day, but now it was time to pack up and head for home. Living by the ocean, Sam loved the water. He knew that Tony and Tyler loved it, too. The smells from the sea, the pelicans swooping down to gobble up a fish in their big scoop-of-a-mouth, the gentle breezes, all helped Sam and his friends to relax. They saw dolphins jumping far out in the water.

They came to the end of the pier, walked along the beach for a stretch, and turned toward Dodds’ Marina. Tony pointed to an old boat near the marina that they hadn’t really thought much about before.

“Hey, you guys,” Tony said. “Have you seen that sorry excuse for a boat? Man, he’s got to be kidding. You put that thing out in the water and it’d sink for sure.”

“I saw it when we came back from Lost Island,” Sam said.

They walked over to the dock for a closer look. The boat was in bad shape and needed more than a simple coat of paint. Some of the windows were broken, and the railings were either rusted or missing. Just then, a short, heavy-set man climbed up from below. He looked almost as worn out as the deck he stood on. His tired eyes searched around as he stretched, rubbed his back, and then saw something on the dock near where the Sam and his friends stood.

In a loud voice the man called out, “Ahoy, you boys. Could one of you toss me that rope by your feet?”

Sam looked down to see a large coil of rope. “You want the whole thing or just one end?”

“The end will do.”

Sam grabbed it and walked toward the side of the boat. He handed the rope up to the man and as he did, Sam stared at his dry, cracked hands. Some of the cracks were bleeding a little.

He didn’t know what to say, so he asked, “This your boat?”

“Naw, I found it bobbing around out there in the ocean, pulled her in, and claimed her for my own.”

“Really, you did that? Whose was it?”

“Probably belonged to pirates or smugglers, I expect.”

“How could that be? I mean, it’s in pretty bad shape,” Sam said.

“I’m just kidding you, matey. I bought her off a guy that was about to sell her for scrap. I’m fixin’ her up. She’s all mine.”

“Mister,” Tyler asked, “why isn’t your boat in the water?”

“They got me in this thing called a dry dock. That’s because she needs a lot of work on the topside, and the bottom.”

“I’ll say,” Tony whispered.

“Looks like you’re all by yourself. Isn’t anyone helping you?” Sam asked.

The old man shook his head. “Nope, just me, that’s all. You wouldn’t be looking for a job, now would ya?”

“A job? What kind of a job?”

“Helping me fix up this old tub. I could use the lot of ya.”

“I don’t know,” Sam answered. “I’d have to ask my dad.”

“That’s a good idea. Why don’t you do that? If your parents say it’s okay, come on back and I’ll put you to work. I’ll pay you for your trouble too.”

“We’ll tell you tomorrow if we get permission.”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll be right here. This pile of boards isn’t going any place unless a hurricane comes along. Right now that’s about the only thing that could move her from this spot,” he said, letting out a loud, long laugh. The boys could still hear it as they walked away.

“I think it’d be a great idea to work on that old boat. We could make some money, too,” Tyler said. “I wonder what he’s fixing it up for?”

“Probably to search for treasure. One look at him and anybody knows he could use the money,” Tony said.

“Is there any treasure around here?” Sam asked. “I read about the Treasure Coast before we moved.”

Tony laughed. “I can tell you aren’t from around here. The Treasure Coast is farther north.”

Sam stopped walking. “Oh, and I suppose boats can’t go up and down the coast?”

“Sure they do,” Tyler said.

“A treasure hunting boat. Yeah, I’ll bet that’s it,” Sam whispered.

“I think we should help him,” Tyler said. “Then he’ll feel like he has to invite us to go out and search for treasure with him. I mean, he’d have to share it with us like partners.”

Sam thought for a moment, “A treasure hunting ship. Wouldn’t that be something? Just think of all the gold and stuff we could find with a boat like that.”