Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just One Taste (Bonus Review)

Just One Taste (Recipe for Love)
Louisa Edwards
St. Martin's Paperbacks

I gave an extra copy of this book to a friend who loves romance novels.  She does not officially review books or have a blog so I am using her review as a guest post on my blog with her permission as a favor to the publicist.  Enjoy the extra review.  If you would like to read my review you can click here.

Review by Megan Bennett:
Wes is working towards his dream to run a restaurant in culinary school when he falls for a substitute chemistry professor. Rosemary, who only agreed to substitute teach so that she could utilize the schools high tech chemistry lab, finds herself involved in more than an experiment with Wes who has gone out of his way to chase her from her logical, scientific comfort zone. When Wes has to make tough decisions to maintain Rosemary’s integrity and leaves for New York to chase his dream at a well known restaurant Rosemary has to overcome what her brain is telling her is the logical thing to do. The young couple must learn to trust one another again and keep their past lives from interfering.

Just One Taste was an overall good, but tame romance. The story was written in a comical, detailed, and entertaining manner that kept my attention; however, I did not find myself falling head over heal for the main character Wes and I would have liked to have a few more steamy scenes in the book. Still, the book was clever in how it intertwined chemistry and culinary aspects. The style it was written in had me laughing to myself and really connecting to the characters and their emotions. I personally have an interest in food chemistry so the details in the book were interesting to me. I would recommend this book to a friend.

Thank you Megan!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Winner of 'Red Ink' by Kathy Macias

Thanks to all who entered the 'Red Ink' Giveaway!  Our winner was entry #41 of 69 as chosen by's number generator.  Congratulations to PRIDGE!  She has won a copy of 'Red Ink' and has 48 hours to confirm an address by email.  In the event the confirmation does not take place, I will choose another winner!  Thanks again to everyone! 

Friday, October 29, 2010

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…. Holiday Cards!!!

It is no secret that along with my love of books is a mutual love for paper! I love all paper products and stationary! Back to school shopping is one of the most exciting times of year! I can go crazy with personalized paper products, note cards, pens, memo pads… anything really!! So, naturally with my LOVE for the Holiday Season, excitement builds when I order my families Christmas Cards. The idea of photo Christmas cards was in my opinion one of the best! I love opening the mail during late November and all of December to find a card from friends or family with updated pictures! It is so personalized and special. I never throw them away like I do at the end of the season for stock mass market cards. I put each photo card that I receive in a special scrapbook! I love comparing them year after year, especially as the kids are growing. Naturally, I send out photo cards! I feel it is a better way to spend my money while still accomplishing the goal of wishing a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday’s to our family and friends!

Over the years I have used MANY different photo companies to achieve this highly anticipated goal each year. I have not found a better quality, selection or user friendly site than Shutterfly. I use Shutterfly for virtually all my photo needs because I love the quality product that comes back to me. The images are sharp and crisp. The cards and stationary are durable and well made with quality paper products. The site is very user friendly and makes editing my photo’s easy. They also have a photo sharing website program that is free to join! Of course I have done this…. Anyhow, I started looking for my Holiday Photo Cards this year and instantly went to Shutterfly. I was amazed to see another wonderful selection of over 500 card designs. They even have cards in Spanish! (Tarjetas de Navidad) Cards are offered in a flat or folded style with the option of no photo, single photo or multiple photos! Whether you want 2, 3 or a collage of photos, Shutterfly has something for you! It’s like the Mecca of photo card companies! The cards come in a variety of options including the greetings printed on the card. This is particularly handy if you want to send Happy Hanukkah instead of Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas etc. There are also many that have a religious Christmas card saying for those looking to send a reason for the season, joy, peace or love along with their family photo card. I think one of my favorite parts of Shutterfly’s many options is looking through this virtual gallery of cards! While I easily zero in on the style or designs I like, I am always impressed with the ideas that Shutterfly gives with their photo cards. While browsing designs you easy see that your photo card is customizable to help fit your year! Were your married? Had a baby? Went on a great trip? Graduated?? Shutterfly easily shows many different types of cards with all of these life events to help the user realize how they can utilize the photo Christmas card with their specific life events for the past year! Great right??

So, I’m browsing and seeing what I like this year. There is “Peppermint Bliss”, “Mod Snowflakes”, “Modern Merry Squares” “Vintage Noel”, “Snow Flurries Cocoa”, "Love 2010" and “Framed with Love”. So many options that I love! I arrive a few pages in to find TOP TEN MOMENTS OF 2010! Whoa, slow down, you mean to tell me I don’t have to type a big long newsletter to include with my photo card? I can just list the top 10 moments and summarize?? UM, YES PLEASE!! I loved this card! It was new, fresh, original…. All those words! I have not honestly seen one like this in the past and if I missed it, shame on me! This would be a new and different type of card for our year, and now I am excited! I decide that this will have to be how I utilize Shutterfly’s services this year. I can easily cut down my time spent in preparing the photo cards & letters by combining them all into one! Phew, thanks Santa!! : )

Okay so you know I love paper, you know I love Shutterfly and you have probably guessed I love photo’s seeing I mentioned scrapbooking! Take my advice and visit Shutterfly this year…. You can make Christmas Party Invitations or Christmas gift tags as well! It will be worth the effort!  : )

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Friday! Let's Blog Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

I created a special page just for Blog Hop Friday!  I would love for you to look over my reviews and my blog but if you want to find my blog hop page (where my answer to this weeks question is safe and sound.....) Click HereDon't forget to stop by my giveaways!  There is a convenient link on the top right hand side of my blog above the followers!  Did you miss anything this week?!?  Below are this weeks links to my reviews and post please visit one and leave me a comment so I can visit you back!

Georgia’s Kitchen

Georgia's Kitchen

Author: Jenny Nelson
ISBN: 978-1-4391-7333-6
Publisher: Gallery Books (A division of Simon and Schuster)
*To purchase click the image to the left*

Georgia’s life seems to be right on track. She is the head chef of Marco, a popular hit restaurant in New York City, which is about to receive a three fork review that will set Georgia on the path of her dreams. Her upcoming nuptials are only weeks away and soon she will have almost everything she has planned, aside from the children. Unfortunately for Georgia, plans change, life throws curve balls and people are finicky. All in one fateful day Georgia’s life changes setting her on course to rebuild and rediscover herself. Georgia finds herself in the heart of Italy opening up a restaurant for a friend while learning and healing. What Georgia once found to me the most disastrous day of her life, ends up to be the best thing that could ever have happened to her. With determination and hard work, Georgia leaves Italy to make her dreams come true, finding happiness in the process.

Georgia’s Kitchen was a delightful read for me. I really enjoyed how the story starts and end in New York City while stopping off in romantic Italy for a spell. The chef topic and culinary aspects were wonderful and well researched. The author was authentic and seemed to know her way around the biz. I really enjoyed the characters in this novel. They were all well developed and understood. Each brought a little something different to the story and I can’t imagine the novel without each of them. This novel encompassed a lot of topics and I felt each was explored adequately. Georgia’s fateful day almost makes the reader happy for her, even though you know you’d be devastated at the time. The character has obvious talent and charm that ensures the reader she will be okay no matter where she plants her feet.

The writing style of this novel was my least favorite part. While most of it was easy to read, some parts were a little difficult for me to move though as they bored me with too much detail. These sections had detail that was not pertinent to the storyline. I understood them because of the culinary references but didn’t really feel they were quite needed in the book. They seemed to take away from the book rather than add to it for me. Overall, I read this novel fairly quickly and enjoyed it! It is worth the time and effort to read, especially if you love culinary novels or a good chick lit. The novel is very up to date in its terms and internet media references. I enjoyed many aspects of this novel despite the very few counterparts. I would recommend it to a friend and I look foward to reading another novel from this debut author.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Magic Violin

The Magic Violin
Author: Mayra Calvani
Illustrated by K.C. Snider
ISBN: 978-1-933090-49-8
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing Inc.
*To purchase click the image to the left*

Melina has been taking violin lessons and desperately wants to learn to play “winter” by heart! Her teacher believes she is capable of doing so with practice. When Melina wants to quit her teacher refuses to let her give up, claiming all she needs is self-trust. When Melina meets a violinist in the town square who plays “Winter” beautifully she is given the advice to wish on the magical Christmas star. After her wish Melina thinks she can play “Winter” on her own due to a magical violin. When her teacher asks what she wished for, Melina soon discovers the value of practice and the magic of believing in yourself.

This book has a cute story that teaches children the value of believing in yourself, confidence, patience and practice. The story line was simple and imaginative. I wasn’t thrilled with the illustrations in this book. The colors were muted and the images were not always sharply defined. They did not catch my eye or excite me in regards to the story.

Overall the story has a good message that is relatable to children taking any kind of lesson or classes. Everyone learns new things and belief in yourself is one of the keys to the success of learning. I would suggest this book for children ages 4-8. The author also has another book entitle Crash which talks about the responsibilities or owning a puppy that I would like to check out.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wipe Clean Activity Book 1

Wipe Clean Activity Book

Juliet David & Marie Allen
ISBN: 978-1-85985-843-1
Publisher: Lion Hudson/Candle Books/Kregel Publications

*To purchase click the image to the left*

The Wipe Clean Activity Book consist of 14 different activities based on a Bible story. Each activity has 1-2 sentences which states a fact about the biblical character and then gives instructions for the child on what to do with the activity page. The activities include coloring, connect the dots, draw the picture, find the right path, what’s missing/wrong and tracing. The book is made to use with high quality crayons or felt tip pens for best results in wiping the activities clean. It is sure to provide entertainment to young children ages 3-6.

Madison’s Thoughts:
I want to use it now! I am so happy. I love it. My favorites are Moses leading his people, David’s harp-connect the dots, and Noah’s ark -join the animals. Did you see mommy! I did it!

Mom’s Thoughts:
This activity book was wonderful fun for my daughter. She loves this type of stuff and gets sad when her pages are used and she can’t do the puzzles again. When we started using the book for the first time she was ready and armed with the tools she needed to use this book. Each time thereafter she would go get the items herself and sit down to use the book. On average she spends 30 -45 minutes using this activity book.

The book states that most good quality felt-tip pens and crayons can be used on the laminated pages…to remove simply wipe clean with a soft damp cloth. It then gives a spot for you to test your marker, pen or crayon. I tried Crayola washable crayons, and markers which are the best I have found in regards to cleaning. While they did come off they did not “wipe off” I had to apply pressure and rub the crayon and marker off. It was not something that Madison could do on her own easily. I highly suggest using dry erase markers for this activity book. They show up easily and wipe off easily.

Overall, this is a great activity book and my daughter really enjoyed using it! I was very pleased with the results for the cost. I would recommend this to family and friends who have children ages 3-6 years of age. It is not meant for children younger than 3 and is below the intelligence of children ages 7 and older who might enjoy more challenging activities.

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Reviewed for Reader Views

Monday, October 25, 2010

Princess and Missy’s Magical Adventures: The Crystal Heart

Princess and Missy's Magical Adventures: The Crystal Heart
Michelle Nicole Martin
ISBN 978-1-4327-4954-5
Outskirts Press

Princess wanders from her family at Lake Wizotopia and soon finds that they have disappeared and she is all alone. When Princess is kicked out by her landlord Bull Dog because she has no money, she is left on her own with no home of her own. Princess sleeps in the alleys and eats scraps from the garbage until one night when she meets a girl named Nicole. Nicole is lost. Princess helps Nicole find her way home and from here a series of events take place that mark Princess as a wonderful dog. Soon Princess wanders into a magical forest and meets Missy, a multi colored butterfly, who has watched Missy perform her helpful stunts. She decides Missy deserves a reward, a pink crystal heart that has magical powers! Princess begins to experience many magical and wonderful surprises along with obstacles and a job to do. Will she be able to complete her task? Only the story will tell.

The Crystal Heart is a delightful fantasy story about a dog names Princess and her animal friends. The animals are all kind hearted and do good deeds to help better the lives of others. Along with everything good comes something evil and in this story it is a woman named Jaith who tries to do whatever possible to steal the joy the magical animals give to others through their good deeds. Of course good always trumps evil right?

I thought this was a cute and imaginative story with a good moral. The book has a few pictures that are black and white and consist of nine chapters and forty-seven pages. I would suggest this book for children 6-10 years of age. The book comes complete with a game in the last chapter where readers decide which places in the story were real and which were fantasy. It provides the answers with descriptions and gives the author and illustrators contact information too! It is a cute book for early readers just starting on their own or middle readers that fly solo but still like to see a few pictures.

Reviewed for Review The Book

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spooktacular Book Blog Giveaway Hop

The Spooktacular Book Blog Giveaway Hop is scheduled to begin on October 25th at 12:01 am EST and end on October 31st at 11:59 pm EST.  Winners will be notified by email on November 1st.  Winners have 48 hours to confirm before I will pick another winner.

I have 2 books up for grabs this time around!  I am excited to have 2 winners!
I am giving away......
Dreams by Brittany Glynn
Forgive Yourself by Allie Sager

Due to the fact that I do not enjoy reading "scary" titles, I have picked the two books which I found eerie, suspenseful, odd, creepy or disturbing in some way.  Both books are review copies that I have read once for the purpose of the review.  Both are still in Brand New condition.  You can read my review by clicking on each title.  There are NO spoilers in these reviews.
Ready to enter??
Click Here
*Contest open to US and Canada addresses only*
Make sure to stop by all the other wonderful blogs participating!  Use the Linky Form below!

Amy Goes Surfing

Amy Goes SurfingJulie Labossiere
Illustrated by Dwayne Brown
ISBN: 978-1452842783

Amy has been learning to surf for weeks now and today is her first performance! Even though the performance is just for Amy’s family and friends, Amy is nervous and unconfident to be surfing on her own without her instructor Kirk. Kirk believes in Amy’s practice and determination. He is sure she will do great. Amy’s confidence is boosted by Kirk’s pep talk as she sets off to “catch” her debut wave. With practice, patience, confidence and determination Amy Goes Surfing!

Amy Goes Surfing is a cute book that helps teach the simple lesson of practice makes perfect. Amy learns that patience most often helps her remember what she has learned with lots of practice. The story is enjoyable though slightly repetitive at parts, due to Amy being nervous about surfing without Kirk. The book appears to be self published as I could not find a publishing company listed. On the back cover where it should say ISBN it says “IS N” which I felt needed to be included in this review for the author more than the reader.

Overall this book was fun and easy to read. The illustrations were very “surfer” like and interesting to look at. I enjoyed the color and appeal the pictures offered to the text. I haven’t seen many children’s books about surfing, making this one a pleasure to read with my daughter. I would suggest this book for children 4-8 years of age. It teaches a wonderful lesson hidden in a fun story about a girl who feels much like children do when they have to do something on their own for the first time. They are sure to enjoy all it has to offer.

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Reviewed for Review the Book

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Red Ink 3 Day Tour: Day 3 Author's Guest Post

This whole experience has been wonderful for me. As I conclude my time with Kathi and Red Ink (until my review of course...) I feel sad. I have really enjoyed getting to know Kathi and today's feature, The Guest Post, is my favorite! I can identify with the author on many levels. When I read the first paragraph of the post below I felt as if I wrote it myself. Every word is true! In fact, I may have eyeglasses because of the truth in the night, deep under the covers, hidden with just a flashlight! You'll see....

I wanted to say a quick thank you to Dee for hosting this tour and for giving me the opportunity to be part of it! It has been so much fun! I also want to thank Kathi for being such a wonderful sport during this process! She did not have much time to answer my many questions or write her guest post due to my late join on this tour. I look forward to reading Red Ink when it arrives and I hope many of my readers will also read it! Remember, if you did not see day 1 or 2 you can still view them. Day 1 hosted an excerpt of Red Ink along with the giveaway information. Day 2 hosted my interview with Kathi. Today I am pleased to have Kathi as a guest on my blog. Please welcome Kathi Macias, author of "Red Ink"!

The very name “Cozy Reader” evokes so many good memories for me! I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was ill quite a bit and couldn’t go out to play with my friends very often. As a result, books became my friends. We spent a lot of time together! I was well known at the local library, and was constantly getting scolded by my mom for reading under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. But stories fascinated me! Once I got started, I couldn’t stop until I found out what happened. And that’s the way I want my readers to feel about the stories I write.

I’ve taught a lot of writing classes and spoken at a lot of writers’ conferences over the years, and one of the questions I hear most often is, “What do you think is the most important requirement for becoming a successful writer?” My answer? Be an avid reader! If you aren’t in love with words and what they can do, why spend your life trying to make a living with them?

I am so blessed to get paid for doing something I love so much that I’d do it for free (and did for quite a while in the early days!). When those deadlines are looming and it’s a nice day outside and I’d rather go play than chip away at my word count, I remind myself that God has answered the cry of my heart and allowed me to write for Him. It keeps me writing on task, on target, and on time—and rejoicing all the way!

Remember to check out the Excerpt, Giveaway & Author Interview

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Friday! Let's Blog Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

I created a special page just for Blog Hop Friday!  I would love for you to look over my reviews and my blog but if you want to find my blog hop page (where my answer to this weeks question is safe and sound.....) Click HereDon't forget to stop by my giveaways!  There is a convenient link on the top right hand side of my blog above the followers!  Did you miss anything this week?!?  Below are this weeks links to my reviews and post please visit one and leave me a comment so I can visit you back!

Red Ink 3 Day Tour: Day 2: Interview with Author Kathi Macias

Red Ink (Extreme Devotion Series, Book 3)
Red Ink (Extreme Devotion Series: China #3)
Author: Kathi Macias
Publisher: New Hope Publishers
Release Date: October 4, 2010
ISBN-10: 1596692790
ISBN-13: 978-1596692794
Paperback: 320 pages
List Price: $14.99
Sale Price: $10.19

Today is day 2 in my part of the Red Ink Blog Tour!  If you missed the excerpt from day 1 make sure to check it out!  I am also hosting a giveaway for one copy of this book which you can enter by clicking HERE.  I would like to introduce the author before getting started, so here we go!
About the Author:
Award-winning author Kathi Macias has written more than 20 books, including the award-winning devotional A Moment a Day, and the popular “Matthews” mystery novels. One of her recent novels, Emma Jean Reborn, is being put into script form by playwright Barry Scott. Kathi has won many awards, including the Angel Award from Excellence in Media, fiction awards from the San Diego Christian Writers Guild, and the grand prize in an international writing contest. With women’s ministry as her primary interest, Kathi is a popular speaker for women’s retreats, conferences, and churches. A mother and grandmother, Kathi and her husband, Al, call California home.
The Interview
 TIFFANY: What is Red Ink about?
KATHI: Red Ink is about a young Chinese woman named Zhen-Li, raised to observe the party line, including its one-child-per-family doctrine, who falls in love with and marries a Christian and adopts his faith. Though the couple downplays their Christianity in an effort to survive, Zhen-Li’s family is appalled, and she and her husband are ostracized. When she becomes pregnant for the second time and refuses to have an abortion, the persecution begins in earnest.

Zhen-Li’s parents, under pressure from the government, pay to have Zhen-Li kidnapped and the baby aborted. It is then Zhen-Li decides she must live up to her name—"Truth"—and take a firm stand for her faith, regardless of the consequences, and so she begins to regularly teach children about Zhu Yesu ("Lord Jesus") and to distribute Christian literature every chance she gets. Based loosely on the life of Christian magazine editor Li Ying, currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in China , the story of Yang Zhen-Li tells the desperate tale of her incarceration and separation from her family, as she continues to minister to other prisoners, and even to her guards.

A parallel story takes place in Southern California, where two women in a senior care home feel called to pray for someone in China. They also pray for the granddaughter of one of the other residents, who they sense is in danger. This proves to be true, as the impressionable young girl is being lured into the human trafficking scene by an older boyfriend. The stories dovetail as God intervenes at a level of grace and mercy that is nearly unfathomable.

TIFFANY: Did you have any specific inspiration that contributed to writing Red Ink?
KATHI: Yes. I am a longtime supporter of Voice of the Martyrs, and I regularly read their updates on persecuted Christians. When I read of Li Ying, a young Chinese woman who is serving a ten-year prison sentence for printing and distributing Christian literature, I decided to base Red Ink on her story.

TIFFANY: Who was your main support system when writing this book? Did you have anyone who specifically gave you strength, courage or advice while writing Red Ink?
KATHI: As in all my international books, I like to work closely with people who either live in the country/culture I’m writing about or who have done so extensively at some time. My editor on Red Ink, Randy Bishop, was that person. He has served on the mission field in China and was a huge help to me in bringing realism to the story.

TIFFANY: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
KATHI: My primary purpose for Red Ink, as well as for the entire Extreme Devotion series, is to help the Church (particularly in America ) realize how many of our brothers and sisters in other countries are suffering for their faith—and to call them to prayer and to help them any way possible.

Second, in Red Ink, I want people to realize how powerful their prayers are. When God calls us to pray, even if we don’t have details and don’t understand, we need to be faithful and respond!

TIFFANY: What is your favorite memory in regards to writing Red Ink?
KATHI: My favorite memory is when I first heard of Li Ying, the woman whose story birthed the book, and all she was enduring for her faith. I saw her picture in the VOM Magazine, and I have never forgotten her face. Her image has kept me going as I wrote the books in this series.

TIFFANY: Red Ink is loosely based on a true story. Can you give us an overview of that story?
KATHI: As I mentioned earlier, Red Ink, like all four stories in the Extreme Devotion series, is based on true events. The life and imprisonment of Yang Zhen-Li in the book is very loosely based on the life of Li Ying, who is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence on similar charges.

TIFFANY: Do you have a specific creative process when it comes to writing?
KATHI: My training is in journalism, so I tend to do research first, gathering the basic facts I need for my story. I’m not much of an outliner, though I know many writers use outlines quite effectively. I basically have a starting point and a planned ending, and I just let my characters unfold the story in between. I do write on a very tight deadline, though, setting word-count goals for myself weekly, sometimes daily. That seems to work best for me.

TIFFANY: You have written other novels besides Red Ink, which is your favorite so far?
KATHI: That’s a tough one, as I usually think whichever one I’m working on at the moment is my favorite, but I suppose I’d have to say my favorite besides Red Ink is book one of the Extreme Devotion series, No Greater Love, which is set in South Africa in 1989, just prior to the fall of Apartheid. It opens with a forbidden interracial romance, and the action never stops!

However, book two of the series, More Than Conquerors, is also a favorite. It takes place primarily along the Tijuana/San Diego border, but also in the Mayan stronghold of San Juan Chamula, where outsiders—particularly “evangelicos”—are not welcome and have been known to disappear.

Thank you very much Kathi!  I enjoyed getting to know a little more about you and your novel Red Ink!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Red Ink 3 Day Tour: Day 1: An Excerpt & Giveaway

Red Ink (Extreme Devotion Series, Book 3)
*To Purchase Click the Image Above*

Yang Zhen-Li was nearing thirty but at times felt twice that old. Her back was becoming permanently bent forward from the heavy pails she carried daily, one attached on each end of the thick bamboo rod that stretched across her shoulders, mirroring the heaviness of her heart. There had been a time when she’d been acclaimed as a beauty, but she could scarcely remember why…or imagine that it would matter.

She tried to fight the encroaching darkness, tried to hold fast to what she knew was true, but the constant lies and propaganda were taking a greater toll even than the physical labor and abuse or the burning, gnawing hunger. If her situation didn’t change soon, she knew she would never live long enough to see her husband or son again. And with nearly eight years of her ten-year sentence left to serve, the possibilities of her emerging from prison alive grew dimmer by the day.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. She forced herself to focus on one of the many scripture verses she’d had opportunity to memorize between the time she accepted Zhu Yesu as her Savior and her arrest by members of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) on charges of teaching religion to children, including giving them papers containing religious writings. Even before her arrest, her parents had written to her—warned her, begged her, threatened her—and finally had her kidnapped in an attempt to convince her to go along with the government rules, especially the one limiting each family to one child. After all, she already had a healthy son. Why would she want another baby when they could scarcely afford to feed the first one? But though her abductors had forcibly aborted her second child, they had not succeeded in convincing Yang Zhen-Li to abandon the faith she had adopted before marrying her Christian husband. If anything, the ordeal had only strengthened her resolve to take a stand for the meaning of her name—Zhen-Li, “Truth,”—and spurred her to begin actively sharing the Good News of Yesu every chance she got. As a trained teacher, that quite naturally included talking with children about the gospel, a practice expressly forbidden by the government.

And now she was paying the price. Separated from her family and sentenced to ten years of hard labor and “re-education,” Zhen-Li struggled to survive against pain, exhaustion, and bitter loneliness. Worst of all were the times she felt God had abandoned her. It wasn’t enough to know in her mind that He promised never to leave or forsake her. She needed a visible reminder—soon—if she was to continue to remain faithful behind these prison walls.
Chapter 1

Zhou Chi, affectionately known by fellow members of their modest house church as Brother Zhou, struggled within himself each time he left his four-year-old son, Zhou Chan, with his older sister, Zhou Ming. Yet he was grateful for her loving care of the boy. Chi had no choice but to go to work in the fields and try to earn enough money each day to feed himself, his sister, and his only child, but it had been so much easier when Yang Zhen-Li was still there to run the tiny household.

Yang Zhen-Li. Chi’s heart squeezed with pain as he mounted his beat-up bicycle with the bent frame and nearly tireless rims to make his way to the nearby farm where he had found temporary employment. Though the morning light was just beginning to pierce the darkness, Chi had been up for more than an hour, praying for his family, particularly his beloved wife who was enduring the unimaginable for her faith. How he continued to beg Yesu to allow him to take her place in the prison camp, but God had not granted his petition. And why should He? Chi knew he had not been a faithful follower of Yesu, though he’d had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home. His halfhearted, lukewarm acceptance of his parents’ faith had broken their heart, though they had been encouraged when their soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Yang Zhen-Li, joined their Christian faith so she and Zhou Chi could establish a godly home of their own. But Chi had continued in his mediocre commitment, careful to maintain a low profile and not arouse the suspicions of the government. He would even have been willing to register as a member of the state-approved TSPM—Three-Self Patriotic Movement—the only Christian churches approved by the government. But Zhen-Li had resisted, convincing him to remain in their little house church, though it was technically illegal to do so. Now, his faithful wife behind bars, the brokenhearted husband and father, who wished only to trade places with his beloved Zhen-Li, instead continued to labor in the fields and to care for his son as best he could, even as he pleaded with God to protect Zhen-Li long enough for her to return to them.

His sister’s arrival on the scene, just days after Zhen-Li’s arrest, had compounded Chi’s pain but had also eased his concern over what to do with little Chan during the workday, particularly now that Chi’s parents were no longer alive. Chi had despaired over how to care for Chan, and then Zhou Ming’s husband had been caught in the melee of a raid on a nearby house church and accidentally killed. The terrified widow had fled to her brother’s home, not knowing that he too had just suffered a tragedy of his own. And so the two siblings had banded together to help raise Zhou Chan as best they could, even as they prayed fervently for Zhen-Li’s release.

Bumping down the muddy, rutted road, Zhou Chi continued to pray as he tried to ignore the rumbling in his stomach. As a peasant farm worker, Chi was among the poorest of the poor, and as such, there was often not enough food to go around. That had been the case this morning, and so Chi had left what little there was for his sister and little Chan. God would just have to give him the strength to do his work so at the end of the day he could bring home sufficient food for an evening meal for all three of them.


Julia hoisted herself to her feet, thankful for the added support of her familiar walker. She felt rested and refreshed after her afternoon nap, brief though it had been, since she’d spent most of the time in prayer. The routine at the senior home had become second nature to her during the five years she’d lived there, and she looked forward to the quiet time in her room each day following the noon meal. Though a couple of the home’s ten residents refused to go to their rooms to take naps, Julia had heard from the caretakers that those who stubbornly stayed in the family room after lunch nearly always fell asleep in their chairs.

Julia smiled. Not only did she not mind the solitude of her room in the early afternoons, she rather looked forward to it. It gave her a chance to recharge her physical batteries for the rest of day, and it also gave her the peace and quiet she needed to spend time alone with God. Though she had once considered herself a morning person who always had her prayer and Bible study before breakfast, her routine had changed drastically when she broke her hip nearly six years earlier. Until then she’d had no problem living alone, though she had often wondered if the old two-story clapboard home she and Joe had bought soon after they were married was a lot more house than one old lady needed. Still, the extra room had been nice when the children and grandchildren came to visit.

The thought of Joe and her former life turned her mood melancholy, as it always did. Her beloved husband had been dead for nearly twenty years now, killed in a car accident just when he and Julia thought they were finally going to be able to enjoy their retirement years together and possibly make that long dreamed-of missions trip to China. Now even the dreams of traveling together had long since faded away, while the memory of Joe’s face or the sound of his name flitting through her mind continued to bring back the pain of his death as if it had been yesterday.

Sighing, she pulled herself back from the edge of depression that always seemed to beckon at the reminder of Joe and the life they’d once shared. Instead of allowing herself to peek over the side and risk falling off into an abyss of sadness, she consciously switched her focus to the many undeserved blessings God had given her over the years. Though her marriage to Joe had been cut short by the accident, they’d shared more than forty years of being lovers and best friends, raising four children in their small, pleasant California beach town of Carpinteria and having the joy of seeing all of them make the choice to serve God in their individual lives as well as in their own families. It was more than many people ever experienced or could hope for, so how could she dare feel cheated because she had to live her final years on earth alone?

Her smile was back, as she glanced in the mirror above her dressing table. “You silly old woman,” she said aloud. “Have you ever really been alone? Of course not! God is your Husband now, and He’s never left you, not even for a moment. Your kids and grandkids visit when they can, and you’ve got this new family here at River View Manor —wonderful cooks and caretakers, a dear prayer partner, and a whole crowd of lost souls who need Jesus.” She laughed and shook her head. “What a mission field! You’ve got your work cut out for you, Julia Crockett! And from the looks of some of those old folks out there, you haven’t much time to get it done. So what are you doing standing here, talking to yourself? Let’s get busy!”

With another chuckle, Julia pushed her walker toward her private bathroom a few steps across the room. There was just enough time to wash her face and pat a few short gray curls into place before heading out to greet her fellow residents and see what God had in store for her this afternoon.


The guard named Tai Tong was only in his late twenties, but his dedication to the party and efficiency at carrying out his orders had quickly gained the approval of his superiors, practically assuring him of a successful career with multiple promotions. His rock-hard muscles and persuasive tactics hadn’t hurt either. Most of the prisoners, and even many of the other guards, feared him. Even his wife and son cowered when he entered the room, though they obeyed him without question.

Tong smiled at the thought. Respect was important to him, even more than to most Chinese. He would rather die a slow and agonizing death than to be publicly shamed. And so he followed every rule, excelled at every undertaking, and tolerated nothing less than complete compliance from those beneath him—whether prisoner or family member. It was a lifestyle that had served him well so far, and he saw no reason to change it. Compromise was simply not an option. If anyone under his authority failed to grasp that fact, he would do whatever was necessary to re-educate them.

The prisoner named Yang Zhen-Li seemed poised to become his next student. He had heard that despite their efforts to punish her crimes and correct her thinking, she continued to pray and to speak of Yesu to any who would listen, including the prisoner who had told Tong of Zhen-Li’s indiscretion. As a result, Tong would watch Yang Zhen-Li more closely than the others. If the report was true, she would pay dearly.

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