Friday, June 29, 2012

The Amazing Action Alphabet by Esther Kehl

The See Hear Do Company!

The Amazing Action Alphabet series It is a simple combination of seeing + hearing + doing that = LEARNING! Researchers and educators have found that people retain 20% of what they hear, 50% of what they see and hear, and up to 90% of what they see, hear, say, and do. The system, called The Amazing Action Alphabet, offers a popular flip chart with alphabet characters and stories, a CD of each alphabet character, activity books, visual aids such as posters and placemats, and mini books. The Amazing Action Alphabet approach is based on a series of engaging alphabet characters, involves seeing, hearing, and ‘doing’ physical actions, making it possible for children to retain more of their learning. The success of the system lies in the combination of multi-sensory, hands on experiences that engage and involve young learners. Esther continually receives enthusiastic feedback from parents and educators who have remarked how fun, simple and effective the Amazing Action Alphabet books are.

I was sent the flip chart and CD to review.  This is a most awesome set for teaching children the phonic sounds of the letters of the alphabet.  The tunes are catchy you may listen to sample on the web site here.  Also view the clip chart and activity book pages.  The pictures are bright and cheery.  What I liked about the flip chart is that while the child is viewing the picture you can read the story for that picture from the back side of the chart; the set up is so neat.  A neat, fun, creative way to captivate your learner.  This is a very awesome teaching tool.  Good for any classroom, resource room, home school, or just a parent that wants to use it to teach your child or reinforce what they are learning. 

Watch Esther demo her products on Family Matters (KUTV- channel 2)  .... Click to watch

Esther Kehl established the SeeHearDoCompany LLC in 2006. She is a former elementary education teacher and reading specialist. While working in education, she saw the need for a comprehensive strategy to help students succeed in letter and sound acquisition. Not being able to find a comprehensive, user-friendly system on the market, she created her own system which she has continually been working on for 17 years. Her first book was published in 2004, and she continually works on new products that benefits the early learner.  Her books have been highlighted on television programs, preschools throughout the United States, blogs, and newspapers.

Visit The See Hear Do web site here

learn more about Esther Kehl with Media Guests here
A copy of the flip chart and cd was provided for this review by...


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Doctor's Devotion by Cheryl Wyatt

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Doctor's Devotion
Love Inspired (June 19, 2012)
Cheryl Wyatt


Born Valentine’s Day on a Navy base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers. Cheryl loves interacting with her readers and can be found almost daily on Facebook.

Word from the Author:
I do regular giveaways including a Kindle for every 250 people who join (aka "Like) my Facebook author page: and I'd LOVE for word to spread about that. We have a lot of fun there as I ask for frequent reader input on current books, with helpers being mentioned in the acknowledgements and fun stuff like that.


A Doctor’s Vow.

When he fled Eagle Point years ago, former air force trauma surgeon Mitch Wellington left only broken dreams behind. Now he’s back with a new dream—opening a trauma center in the rural area and saving lives. He hopes to hire the quick-thinking nurse who impressed him during an emergency. But Lauren Bates lost her faith and doesn’t believe she deserves to help anyone. Mitch knows firsthand what loss feels like. And it’ll take all his devotion to show Lauren that sometimes the best medicine is a combination of faith, community—and love.

Eagle Point Emergency: Saving lives—and losing their hearts—in a small Illinois town.

If you would like to read an excerpt of the first chapter of Doctor's Devotion, go HERE.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Search by Shelley Shepard Gray

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Search
Avon Inspire; Original edition (June 19, 2012)
Shelley Shepard Gray


Since 2000, Shelley Sabga has sold over thirty novels to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Harlequin, Abingdon Press, and Avon Inspire. She has been interviewed by NPR, and her books have been highlighted in numerous publications, including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Under the name Shelley Shepard Gray, Shelley writes Amish romances for HarperCollins’ inspirational line, Avon Inspire. Her recent novel, The Protector, the final book in her “Families of Honor” series, hit the New York Times List, and her previous novel in the same series, The Survivor, appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Shelley has won the prestigious Holt Medallion for her books, Forgiven and Grace, and her novels have been chosen as Alternate Selections for the Doubleday/Literary Guild Book Club. Her first novel with Avon Inspire, Hidden, was an Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist.

Before writing romances, Shelley lived in Texas and Colorado, where she taught school and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. She now lives in southern Ohio and writes full time. Shelley is married, the mother of two children in college, and is an active member of her church. She serves on committees, volunteers in the church office, and currently leads a Bible study group, and she looks forward to the opportunity to continue to write novels that showcase her Christian ideals.

When she’s not writing, Shelley often attends conferences and reader retreats in order to give workshops and publicize her work. She’s attended RWA’s national conference six times, the ACFW conference and Romantic Times Magazine’s annual conference as well as traveled to New Jersey, Birmingham, and Tennessee to attend local conferences.

Check out Shelley's Facebook Fan page


In the second book in her Secrets of Crittenden County series, New York Times bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray delivers another page-turning romance set in Amish country

The serenity of the quiet Amish community of Crittenden, Kentucky is disrupted when Abby Anderson discovers the body of Perry Borntrager in an abandoned well. Perry had been missing for months. Everyone figured he had left the order during his rumspringa. As friends and family reel from this news, and are faced with the first death by mysterious circumstance to occur in their small town in over 20 years, a homicide detective arrives to help solve the crime

Before Perry disappeared, Frannie Eicher and Perry had been secretly courting. Now that it’s common knowledge that he was murdered, it’s up to Fannie to decide whether or not to tell everyone about the secrets he told her.

After much deliberation, she decides to tell Luke Reynolds, the visiting police officer, what she knows. At first, the two meet only on the context of discussing Perry’s death. Then, Luke begins to feel more and more at home, both with Frannie, and in Marion. The only problem is that he feels a romantic pull toward Frannie. Frannie feels that same attraction toward Luke, but is afraid to give her heart to him. After all, she doesn’t want to leave her faith.

As Luke uncovers more secrets about Perry and the case draws out, his time in Marion runs out. He has to decide whether to go back to his job with the Cincinnati Police Department…or stay in Marion.

If you would like to read the Prologue of The Search, go HERE.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

meet author: Laura Smith

Please share your bio with us and anything else you would like readers to know. 

author Laura Smith
I was raised on a dairy farm in Northeast Minnesota. I was married two weeks after I graduated high school. Four years later, I was facing divorce and single parenting. Fast forward 5 years and I re-married. We were looking forward to an amazing life together, another child or two only to be faced with disappointment, loss and heartbreak. Through it though we somehow managed to grow and strengthen our relationship and our faith. Now, aside from my full time job, I do wedding, senior, and family photography and am involved with our area Bethel Sozo healing and deliverance Ministry which was birthed out of Bill Johnson’s church in Redding California. It is amazing!

 What are some jobs you've had in your life? Have they influenced/inspired your writing? 
I have had numerous working experiences from night auditing, nursing assistant, Medical record technician, medical receptionist, cashier supervisor, and now as a medical coding specialist. Every one of those places I encountered hurting people and that always made me want to write inspiring things to help them dig out of the dark pits they had fallen into.

Can you share some writing experiences with us? 
When I was very young, (too young to even know how to write my own name) I would sit on the kitchen floor at my grand parents’ house and “write” stories and then read them out loud while my grandparents played cards with their friends. It was all gibberish but I knew it was very inspiring! I also started writing inspiring articles for a previous employer’s monthly newsletter. I have had one poem published many years ago that won an award and currently I write regular medical coding articles for my employer’s quarterly provider newsletter. I also do presentations for our local coding chapter.

Tell us briefly about your book and what you feel is the most important topic/sub-message you share.
In All Things; Giving Thanks When Hope Seems Lost is my spiritual journey through, divorce, single parenting, raising a bipolar child, desiring a baby so desperately and then after being told it wasn’t possible, becoming pregnant and then losing our miracle through miscarriage. I share the most intimate and painful moments through those experiences and the amazing vision the Lord gave me when I was at the deepest part of despair that instantly healed my broken heart and gave me hope and a purpose to live again. It’s about a faith so strong that it caused instant healing and allowed me to be hopeful in all things life throws at me, knowing that He has a plan and we just need to see things through His eyes to see the gold in these life issues; because there is ALWAYS gold.

Like all authors, you have had your fair share of rejection letters. You obviously did not let the letters deter you. How did you keep your determination without getting discouraged?
It’s funny you should bring that up. I think this was truly the hand of God protecting me from all of those rejections. A dear friend of mine had a book published and shared with me about her publisher Halo Publishing who was so wonderful to work with. I hesitated for about two weeks before I contacted them and submitted my manuscript which by the way had been sitting on the shelf for about 4 years for fear of rejection. The screener called me the very next day and was very excited to publish my book. The owner of Halo, Lisa Umina called me personally one day while I was at the hair salon and told me she had never done this before but she sat down to read my book and closed her office door so she could finish it without being interrupted! She said she was so inspired by it that she had to set it down numerous times just to absorb the messages. Wow, she had me in tears and of course I had to explain to my stylist why.

It has been my experience, some things come quite easily (like creating the setting) and other things aren’t so easy (like deciding on a title). What comes easily to you and what do you find more difficult? 
I find writing to come easily to me. It has always been a heart’s desire and I feel that when something is your heart’s desire that God put it there for a reason and makes that task easy. After I have finished a project either writing or photography job which I also do on the side, I always doubt myself and hesitate before presenting it to my customer or in this case publisher.

Please describe to us your relationship between you and your editor. What makes an author/editor relationship a success? 
The best thing about Halo’s editor is that she allowed my story to be in my own words. She didn’t attempt to change anything in order to appear to others to be something different. A previous editor I had look at my manuscript wanted me to sugar coat certain aspects in order to sound more “holy” I guess. I did not agree with her. I am a Christian absolutely without a doubt and I long to see people find peace and healing and freedom but not at the expense of selling myself out to become pretentious. I’m a real person and I feel that other real people need to see that.

What inspired you to write? 
I used to write short stories when I was in 4th grade. But later, it was my grandfather who inspired me to want to pursue writing. He used to write articles for a local newspaper about his journeys through life and had such an amazing gift. I just had to wait until God wrote my story.

Do you consider yourself a born writer? 
Well since I’m just getting going in my 40’s I’m not so sure about that but I do know it has always been a very deep desire within me to write.

Helen Steiner Rice
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read? 
My favorite poet is Helen Steiner Rice, as far as books there are numerous favorites; Bill Johnson, Francis Frangipane, Danny Silk, Kris Vallotton, John Bevere are at all the top of my list.

When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your books and writing?  What do you hope they will say about you?
Her inspiring books helped so many find healing through so many of life’s struggles. She allowed herself to be used mightily and by God at any cost to help others find peace, forgiveness, and healing. She was not a pretentious person but valued her purpose on this earth to help others. She dearly loved her family and if you were her friend, you were a lifelong friend. She just couldn’t shake that Northern Minnesota accent though.

Where you have lived and what you have experienced can influence your writing in many ways. Are there any specific locations or experiences that have popped up in your books? 
Oh sure, I write a little about the dairy farm I grew up on and the area we live in now. We live in a very redneck community in the country. I can say that because they are all relatives. But I wouldn’t trade one of them. They would give you their last cup of sugar or the shirt off their back to help you out. It’s nothing to come home from work and find half a dozen family members on their 4-wheelers riding back and forth through mud hole they found alongside the road after a rain. I LOVE it! If I was in my play clothes, I would jump out and join them.

Is there any particular book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"? 
Yes! John Bevere’s “The Bait of Satan” Amazing book!

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it? 
Not really because I am so busy with my regular job and family, photography etc. I write when I’m inspired. I don’t have the luxury (yet) to just sit at a desk write but I hope someday that will come to me. Plus I write from my life experiences so those are memories not created in my mind.

Have you had any training to become a writer? 
Just a creative writing class I took in high school, and one English class I took in college that was so stringent on proper everything that it took the fun and excitement out of it. I found it very odd that a writer would be expected to write with exactly the same set of “rules” when each of us are created so differently and we all receive information differently.

What type of books do you mostly write?
Non-fiction inspirational. Although one day I would like to write children’s’ books. There are so many children facing so many difficult life events such as parents splitting, parents or grandparents dying of cancer, that I want to help them somehow make it a little easier to get through those things.

Does your family and friends inspire any of your books, characters, or plots? 
It’s all about my family and our experiences so absolutely yes.

Can you share with us a little about your current book? 
I am currently working on book #2 in the In All Things series called “Expect a Miracle!” It is about my dad’s two year journey through cancer. Through his entire life, he was a very bitter and angry man with no relationship to speak of with his immediate family, siblings, and even his own children. I will share how God worked in all of our hearts during that time and beyond

What do you like most about writing? 
The picture I get in my mind of how the reader will be blessed or how the lord may use my experiences to help heal someone facing the same things I have gone through.

 Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?
Yes, it is very difficult at times. I have to steal away time on rainy weekends or in the winter when our activities are not so busy.

Tell us about your writing space?
Kitchen table, recliner, park bench… It’s whenever and wherever I can find the time and place.

Is there anything you'd go back and do differently now that you have been published, in regards to your writing career?
Not really, I believe everything happens in God’s perfect timing. If we move in our own timing things don’t always turn out how He wants them to.

How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?
I feel that traditional publishing is in severe trouble. P.O.D. is okay for family and friends who like signed copies or would like a keepsake but I see the world as such an instant gratification culture that e-books are going to be the norm.

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I do a lot of praying and then I get a mental picture of how I see the order of the book unfolding. Then I create a list of chapter titles to follow that order. It may not be the way other writers do things but it works very well for me with my very busy life.

Do you do a lot of research for your books? 
With this first one, it was all based on my own personal experiences so other than putting together notes from my journals, there wasn’t any research. My current book however requires all of my dad’s medical records in order to create a timeline and specific events. This all took time and money to gather.

Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
 I have not yet but it is in my future plans.

Do you do first drafts on a computer or by hand? 
I find that my writing hand can’t keep up with my brain so the computer is much more efficient.

What advice would you give to a new writer? 
Don’t rush your project. My first manuscript sat on my shelf for 4 years until I felt it was the right time. And when it was, God worked out all the details.

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where?
I am in the middle of a virtual book tour and working on scheduling a few speaking engagements at some local Women’s Aglow meetings. Use this space to tell us more about who you are.

Anything you want your readers to know. Include information on where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing. 
I would just like to add that along with all of the issues I have shared in my book, the most impactful message is for anyone, men and women who have been touched by miscarriage or abortion there is a very special message just for you within this book. I strongly encourage you to read it because the Lord wants you to know, there is healing.

You can find my book at Halo Publishing: As well as all major online book sellers such as, Barnes & etc.; they can purchase either the paperback copy or as an e-book. Of course if you purchase the paperback through Halo, you will receive an autographed copy.

You can follow my virtual book tour as well as any other events and upcoming books on my Facebook and Twitter pages which I regularly update.!/LauraMStorrs

I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being an author. 

Learn more about this book and author at the Spotlight post here.

Leave a comment telling me something you learned about the author today and I'll add you to a drawing for this book.  US residents only please. Want a second entry visit yesterday's post and comment there.  Follow the blog hop icon below and get third chance to win there too.  Drawing will be held July 2nd. Be sure to leave a way of contact.

This interview and a copy of this book was provided for the giveaway by the author and A World of Ink Network.


Teaser Tuesday ~ Enough

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along, so I thought I would play for fun! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

In the increasingly gray area between wants and needs, finding enough can prove to be very elusive. 

~ taken from p. 24 of Enough:  Finding More by Living with Less by Will Davis Jr.


Monday, June 25, 2012

In All Things by Laura Smith

Chance to win a copy of this book read to end of Post. 

 Halo Publishing and the World of Ink Network will be touring author Laura Smith’s, In All Things: Giving Thanks When Hope Seems Lost published by Halo Publishing Int.

In her debut book, In All Things: Giving Thanks When Hope Seems Lost is Smith’s spiritual journey through, divorce, single parenting, raising a bipolar child, desiring a baby so desperately and then after being told it wasn’t possible, becoming pregnant and then losing the miracle through miscarriage. “I share the most intimate and painful moments through those experiences, and the amazing vision the Lord gave me when I was at the deepest part of despair that instantly healed my broken heart, gave me hope and a purpose to live again,” shared Smith. (credits to: Blogcitics)

Her book is touching and Smith opening shares about a faith so strong it caused instant healing and allowed her to be hopeful in all things life throws at her. Smith shared, “Knowing that He has a plan and we just need to see things through His eyes, to see the gold in these life issues; because there is ALWAYS gold.” (credits to: Blogcitics)

 Experience an incredible journey that will make you laugh out loud and cry tears of joy and sorrow. Learn how one miraculous encounter with God created an unshakeable faith that would later give Laura Smith the strength to face the near death of her oldest daughter.

purchase book here
book is also available at all major online book sellers

Laura Smith works as a medical coding and reimbursement specialist in Northern Minnesota. She spent her youth on a small dairy farm in Northeast Minnesota. She was married two weeks after her high school graduation. Three years and two children later, she was facing divorce and single parenthood. She moved to a college town in north central MN where she hoped to earn a degree and make a life for her and her two young daughters. There she met and married the love of her life. Together they embarked on a life together as a ready-made family facing all the challenges that comes with it. They had no idea that the life experiences they walked through early on and one life altering event would prepare them for the ultimate challenge, the possible death of their daughter.

You can find out more about Laura Smiths’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at 

Visit interview with author Laura Smith and another chance to win copy of book here

The author has graciously sent me a copy of this book to post for a giveaway.  read to end of post to see how you may enter to win a copy of this book.  Also got to the blog hop page and enter for the book lovers blog hop giveaway.  click icon below for details. 

Now for your chance to win a copy of In All Things.  Leave a comment telling me what intrigues you most about this author or book?  Please I must limit this to US residents only.  Be sure to leave a way of contact.  Thanks.  I'll leave this open through the end of the blog tour.  I'll draw a winner on July 2nd. Visit the author interview and a bonus entry for the book here.

You may find the author on:

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit
A copy of this book was provided for the giveaway by the author and A World of Ink Network.


Mailbox Monday ~ June 25, 2012

 Join Mailbox Monday meme
June's host is: 
Burton Book Review
(I will be hosting sometime in 2013 she is that far booked ahead)


Friday, June 22, 2012

Praying God's Word for your Husband by Kathi Lipp

Prayer isn't something that comes to most people.  It takes time to develop a prayer life.  In Lipp's book Praying God's Word for you Husband she takes you step-by-step through how to develop that special time.  The first part of the book Lipp takes the reader through the preparing steps, then in the second part helps the read develop your own prayers through praying scriptures.  The author hopes to take her readers into a new experience and level of depth and richness in their relationship with God.  You'll discover ways that you never thought of praying for your husband. 

For more information about this book visit here.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for my honest review by... 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

wrapping it up

Spring Challenge is over at Callapidder Days 
original list found here

  • Did you finish reading all the books on your spring reading list? If not, why not?
 here is my statistics. 
17 book titles on my list
11 were completed
6 not completed
  • Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?
here are books that weren't on original list but were read and reported on:

Baby Jaimie gets Stage Fright by Jaimie Hope  (children's)
Teach Children to Read Faster by Dennis Brooks (nonfiction)
A Boy called Duct Tape by Christopher Cloud (children's)
Super Luke Faces His Bully by Dr. Jackie C. Cogswell (children's)
I Couldn't Love You More by Jason Ingram & Matt Hammitt (children's)
The Unhappy Little Dragon: Lessons Learned by Carolyn Wolfe (children's)
Hurry Less Worry Less for Moms by Judy Christie (nonfiction)
Mom Connection by Tracey Bianchi (nonfiction)
A Rose in the Desert by Chi Emerole (children's)
Forever Hilltop by Judy Baer (2-in-1 book) (fiction)
 Always There, edited by Susan Besze Wallace (short stories/lot like Chicken soup books)
Making Life Matter by Shane Stanford (nonfiction)
I Remember Mommy's Smile by Dina Wolfman Baker (children's)
 Katrina and Winter by Nancy Stewart (children's)
Help Wanted: Moms raising daughters by Darlene Brock  (nonfiction) started long time back not on original list to finish but I did get it finished
Children of Angels by Kathryn Dahlstrom (children's)
A Quest for Good Manners by Karin Lefranc (children's)
Celtic Run by Sean Vogel (children's)
Praying God's Word for your Husband by Kathi Lipp (nonfiction) finished but haven't posted review as of yet

Porcupine’s Seeds by Viji K. Chary (check out the giveaway going on right NOW for this cute book click here)

So that is 20 more books than the original post

Totaling 31 books read during the SR challenge.


    Celtic Run by Sean Vogel

    Jake, a 14-year-old gadget whiz, didn’t plan on a summer full of treasure, thieves, and danger. He just got lucky. 

    While in Ireland on a class trip, Jake stumbles upon the first clue to a treasure missing from the Spanish Armada. Jake sees the riches as his chance to buy back the family sailboat and restore a piece of the life he enjoyed before his father was critically injured in an accident. Desperate to find the treasure, Jake teams up with Zach, his nemesis and class bully, and two girls in a clue-hunting chase across the Dingle Peninsula.

    Dodging would-be thieves, exchanging wisecracks with Zach, and concocting ingenious devices to get them out of scrapes, Jake leads the team as they connect piece after piece to the 400-year-old mystery.

    This was a fun exciting mystery treasure hunt chase; Not to mention the scrapes and injuries that come with the territory.  The twists and turns add new excitment to each turn of the page.  One minute every thing is honky dory the next they are in over their heads in more ways than one.  Quite the adventure in the land of Ireland. 

    Celtic Run 
    © Sean Vogel

    Chapter 1

    Jake clenched his fists. Zach was sauntering down the airplane aisle as if he were the best thing since the iPod. Everyone has an archenemy, Jake thought. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. Harry Potter has Voldemort. Me? I have Zach.

    Zach plopped into the seat in front of Jake and poked his head around to talk.

    “Hey, twerp, having a good flight?”

    Just my luck. Five and a half hours to Ireland behind the goon of the eighth grade. “I’d be having a better flight if you’d test the emergency exit.”

    Zach’s eyes narrowed. “Okay, Spanky, you’ll pay for that with your leg room.” He stuffed his duffle under his own seat until it infringed on Jake’s space. “Oh, wait, you’re only three feet tall, so my bag won’t bother you.” Zach chuckled and turned back around to watch a movie on his LCD television screen.

    Instinctively, Jake stretched his legs to see if he could reach the duffle with his feet. Shorter than the average student, he felt like a dwarf compared to Zach’s football-player physique. He glanced at Zach’s seatmate, Julie. Why doesn’t she ever see this?

    Jake’s heart pinched as Julie adjusted her position to rest her head on Zach’s shoulder. Her blonde hair lay draped between the seats, its strong berry scent sending a slight tingle through Jake’s body.

    Jake and Julie had grown up together. They’d been friends from hide-and-seek to Guitar Hero, which made it the ultimate blow when she started going out with Zach. Why can’t she see him for the jerk he is? Jake kicked Zach’s bag out of anger. Good thing no one’s sitting next to me. Then, grinning, he bent forward and slowly opened the zipper.

    The first thing he found was a stack of papers. A cover sheet said “The Visitors, by Zachary Maguire.” Laughing inwardly at his good fortune, Jake tucked the manuscript into the seat pocket in front of him for future retrieval. Never pass up good blackmail material.

    Next, he found Zach’s security-compliant bag of liquids. Jackpot! All that bragging about being the only eighth grader to shave is going to haunt him. He pulled out the travel-sized can of shaving cream and some dental floss and then pried the tab off his empty soda can.

    He knew Julie wouldn’t approve of what he was about to do. Like a referee who flags the guy returning a punch, she had a knack for seeing only Jake’s retaliations and not Zach’s instigating offenses.

    After jamming the metal tab into the tight gap behind the button, he gingerly pulled forward on the makeshift lever. Mint-scented goo dribbled out. Perfect. Next, he strategically placed a couple of airline blankets inside the duffle to hold the shaving cream can up toward the opening of the bag. He zipped it closed as far as he could, leaving just a little access for his fingers. Using a fisherman’s knot, he tied the floss to the metal tab, pulled the slack out, and tied the other end to the zipper.

    He bit his lower lip as he pulled the knot tight. Probably the last time I’ll tie that knot since we no longer have a boat. The feeling of loss that he experienced on the day his dad sold their sailboat to pay the medical bills had been monumental. He slid the duffle back under the seat and glanced up at the movie. Seen it. With his dad laid up, watching movies was about all they could do together now.

    * * * 

    Hours later, the pilot announced their descent into Ireland. Jake finished scanning the “Trace Your Heritage” homework instructions and folded them into his backpack. He hadn’t wanted to leave New York for the entire summer, but his dad had urged him to go on this school trip, saying it would be good for him to see where their family came from.

    Jake tossed his backpack onto the empty seat next to him and peered between the seats as Zach wrapped up the cords of his expensive headphones. Showtime. Pretending to sleep, Jake watched through slits in his eyes as Zach pulled out his bag.

    Zach tugged at the zipper. It didn’t budge. He grunted, tightened his grip, and yanked again. A greenish geyser of minty foam erupted from the bag, lathering Zach from head to waist.

    “Argh!” Zach’s arms flailed as he struggled to wipe the slime from his face. He stopped and blinked several times. Then he stood up, turned, and fixated on Jake.

    Uh-oh. At ten thousand feet, options for escape were slim.

    An attendant spoke into the intercom. “Sir, please sit down. We’re making our descent.”

    Temporarily thwarted, Zach pointed at Jake before making a fist and smacking it into his other palm.

    “Zach!” Julie scolded.

    “But look at what he did!” Zach removed the cream from his face with the last dry part of his shirt.

    “Well, what did you think he’d do if you put your bag there? You know he can’t resist a practical joke!”

    Jake’s heart pounded. She noticed. There is hope.

    “And Jake, you’ve got to stop with the pranks.” Jake looked down, not wanting to gaze into her disapproving blue eyes. She’d once confided to Jake that Zach had some insecurities and issues with his dad, but Jake didn’t think that gave him the right to be a bully.

    Once the plane landed in Shannon, the group of ten students made their way through customs and baggage claim. They purchased some cookies and drinks at the café and then walked outside into the mid-morning sun to eagerly await their sponsors. Although most of the students would be going to different villages, such as Ballyferriter and Castlegregory, Jake knew that Zach, Julie, and he would be staying in the town of Dingle.

    He remembered the glint in Julie’s eyes when she talked about her dad pulling strings to keep them all close to each other. She wants me to be friends with her boyfriend? No way.

    Jake’s name was called. He turned to see a man in faded pants and a colorful sweater bounding toward him. The powerful energy in his trim frame was clearly evident.

    “Dia daoibh, Jake. Mo ainm Gerald O’Connell,” he said, warmly extending his hand.

    Zach stopped dabbing the shaving cream from his clothes. “Whoa, I thought they spoke English here.”

    “We do.” A girl with long red curls and a china-white complexion stepped out from behind the man. “Hello. My name is Maggie O’Connell, and this is my ‘da,’” she said with a charming brogue.

    Jake recognized her from the photo she’d sent when they exchanged introductory e-mails. He remembered she was fifteen, only a year older than he was.

    Mr. O’Connell inclined his head. “Welcome to Ireland.”

    Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to upstage Zach, Jake said to Maggie, “That was Irish that your dad—uh, da—was speaking, right?”

    Maggie beamed. “That’s impressive. Most Americans would have called it Gaelic.”

    “My dad drilled me on Irish knowledge. He didn’t want me to bring shame on the McGreevy name.”

    Maggie smiled in appreciation. “Speaking of names, remember you wrote to ask if there were any McGreevys listed in our area? Well, I was able to find a few near Killorglin—just about an hour away.”

    “Go raibh mile maith agat.” Jake hoped he’d pronounced the Irish translation for “thank you” correctly.


    “’Fraid that’s all I’ve learned so far,” Jake grinned.

    When Julie’s and Zach’s names were called, two well-dressed couples approached them. Jake noticed that as each person shook Zach’s hand, his or her nose twitched, probably trying to figure out where the minty smell was coming from. Jake snickered and Zach mouthed a threat at him.

    In the parking lot, the O’Connells led Jake to a beat-up hatchback. Mr. O’Connell pounded on the latch to open it and began loading Jake’s bags. As Zach’s and Julie’s sponsors packed their luggage into their respective luxury cars, Zach called to Jake, “Hey, twerp. Want me to upgrade you to a donkey cart?”

    Maggie squinted at Zach, as if to better understand what he’d just said.

    Jake turned to her. “What’s Irish for caveman?”

    She giggled, mischief sparkling in her eyes. “Try fear pluaise.”

    “Catch you later, fear pluaise!”

    All the sponsors laughed. And when Zach’s face deepened to a dark shade of red, Jake could barely conceal his pleasure. I am definitely going to like it here.

    The car’s exterior may have been dilapidated, but its engine fired right up. Jake struggled to keep his stomach steady as Mr. O’Connell sped along the highway for the two-and-a-half-hour trip south. Their lively conversation made the time fly. It didn’t take long for Jake to get used to their accents, but much to his embarrassment, a few times he found himself unconsciously mimicking their inflections.

    “When we get home, you can call your mum and da and tell them you’re here,” Maggie said.

    Jake stared out the passenger window. “Just my dad. My mom died when I was young.”

    Maggie twisted in her seat to reach out and touch his arm, hesitated, and then put her hand back by her side. “Tá brón orainn. I mean, I’m so sorry.”

    “So this is your first time in Ireland, right, Jake?” Mr. O’Connell said, gently changing the subject.

    “Yes. My dad and I have sailed to a few places on our schooner, but we’ve never made it this far.”

    “Where have you been?” Maggie asked.

    “Caribbean mostly. The sea down there is amazing.”

    “I’ll bet. Well, my da and the other sponsors thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of scenery before settling in. We’re now on Slea Head Drive. Very soon you’ll be able to get your first glimpse of Blasket Sound, okay?”

    “Of course.” Jake inched forward in his seat for a better view.

    As they rounded the next corner, Maggie stretched her arm out the window and said, “Welcome to Dingle.”

    Jake’s jaw dropped as the infinite ocean unfolded before him. Soaring cliffs hugged the coastline to stand guard over white-capped waves racing toward the shore like wild horses.

    “It’s awesome,” Jake said, hoping he didn’t sound too corny.

    “The National Geographic Traveller guidebook proclaimed it ‘the most beautiful place on earth,’” Maggie added with pride.

    “I can see why.”

    Thankfully, Mr. O’Connell slowed down a bit to make the curvy ride more enjoyable. Jake glanced back and saw that Zach’s and Julie’s sponsors were managing to keep pace with Mr. O’Connell. After twenty minutes, everyone pulled into a small parking lot on the western tip of the peninsula.

    Several families were gathered at the overlook, all taking pictures of the breathtaking view. The sight of the water overwhelmed Jake, and he swallowed hard, suppressing memories of his father’s sailboat and better days. Maggie guided the group to the best vantage point. Unlike some of the spectacular cliffs they had passed on the way, this section of the peninsula was only fifteen feet above the ocean. The water appeared calm, but Jake recalled his dad’s many lectures on strong currents and sudden waves.

    He looked around at the other tourists and caught sight of a toddler dressed in a thick pink sweater and matching pants. She tottered after a butterfly, swinging her arms in an attempt to catch it. The insect fluttered away from the throngs of people, toward the edge of the cliff, with the child still in pursuit.

    Jake swiveled his head around. Nobody is paying attention to her. He took off toward the girl, screaming for somebody to stop her, but before anyone could move, the child vanished over the edge. At full speed, Jake shed his shoes and plunged off the cliff.

    Growing up in a small town in Michigan during the 1980s, Sean was provided with an excellent garden for cultivating his writing career. With only a few simplistic video games and three television channels, he became an accomplished daydreamer and a creative outside adventurer.

    A son of a garbage truck driver, Sean often received “gently used” items from his father’s route. With a bit of imagination and a little tinkering, these items were reborn as tools for battles against backyard bandits. These childhood experiences would later serve as the foundation and inspiration for Jake McGreevy’s gadgetry expertise.

    Seeking his own adventures, Sean joined the Army via an ROTC scholarship at Colorado State University. Living in Germany for several years gave him the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe. During his time in the Army, he served in the Field Artillery and Signal Corp, rising to the rank of Captain and receiving the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Iraq.

    Sean started drafting novels out of boredom during long deployments in the military; a pen is easier to carry than a guitar. But he soon fell in love with the frustrating, yet satisfying science called writing and has been hard at work ever since.

    When he’s not helping his main character Jake get out of tangles, Sean is a department manager for a large aerospace company. He lives in Denver with his wife and their two dachshunds.

    A copy of this book was provided for  this review by Pump up your Book tours