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:
B&H Books (June 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Laurel Teague for sending me a review copy.***
Melody Carlson has written around 200 books for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her books range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including the Rita and Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.
Visit the author’s website.
In this first book in the Dear Daphne series, Melody offers up a light, entertaining, easy read.
Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel is a fun novel about coming home again.Â A bit of craziness, a couple of family secrets, an inheritance with ridiculous stipulations and a touch of romantic interest are thrown into this to-be-continued story.Â On sale now for the Amazon Kindle at just $4.99.
With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it’s not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?
When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isnâ€™t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.
Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt’s very specific posthumous terms — personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Deeâ€™s cats.
And if Daphne thinks thatâ€™s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee’s life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God’s perfect timing.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (June 1, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
When Daphne Ballinger graduated top of her class with her degree in journalism, in the memorable year of 2000, she had promptly moved to the city to launch her illustrious career writing for The New York Times. And why not dream big? Because really, how many grads landed such an impressive job straight out of college?Her plan had been to work hard and quickly scale the ladder to success. By thirty she would have a corner office with a window overlooking the river as well as an apartment on the west side. By her midthirties, she would have published her first book. But similar to the plans of mice and men, Daphneâ€™s best-laid schemes had gone awry.She stuffed a worn pair of brown Prada pumps into her HermÃ¨s bag (splurges sheâ€™d indulged in back when she still believed you should dress for the job/life you wanted). Then she sat down to put on her comfy-yet-unfashionable white sneakers. After tying the first shoe, she sat up straight and looked around the messy apartment.
Daphne knew it was clichÃ© but, on gloomy days like today, it truly did feel like the walls were closing in on her. Most of the time, she could overlook the crowded space. She could walk right past piles of papers and miscellaneous pieces of clothing and empty take-out boxes . . . and not even notice. But this morning, the apartment actually seemed to stink. When was the last time theyâ€™d really cleaned this place?
She shared this three-bedroom apartment with Greta and Shelby. And in previous years Greta, the lease owner, had always proclaimed April as spring-cleaning month. But it was already mid-May and no one had lifted a finger. And Greta, obsessed with a new job promotion, hadnâ€™t complained once. Daphneâ€™s gaze skimmed over gritty windows, dingy curtains, dust-covered surfaces, piles of clutter, sun-faded carpet. . . . How had she stayed here so long?
â€œI canâ€™t promise to be here more than a year,â€ Daphne had informed Greta Phillips when she first moved to the city right after graduation.
A coworker at The Times had tipped off Daphne about a friend looking for a third roommate for an apartment in Brooklyn. And although the location was lackluster, it was near the subway and the rent was affordable. Besides, it would just be a temporary stopâ€”the bottom rung on her ladder to successâ€”or so she had naively believed.
â€œAnd after a year?â€ Greta had asked Daphne with a single arched brow.
Daphne simply smiled . . . perhaps a bit smugly upon reflection. â€œOh, I plan to move into my own place by then.â€
â€œYour own place?â€ Greta seemed humored by this declaration. â€œReally?â€
â€œOh yes. This is just the first step for me.â€
â€œWell, I still need you to sign a one-year lease. After that, weâ€™ll see.â€
Daphne had hesitantly signed that â€œconfiningâ€ lease, wondering how Greta would react if she was forced to break the contract before the year was up. Although numerous other roommates had come and gone during the next thirteen years, climbing their own ladders to success, Daphne had stayed . . . and stayed . . . and stayed. Remembering the arrogant assumptions of her youth was embarrassing.
â€œHey, Daphne,â€ Shelby called out cheerfully. Shelby was the most recent roommate, less than six months ago sheâ€™d moved here straight from her familyâ€™s Connecticut home. â€œIâ€™m heading out early this morning. So youâ€™ll have to put Oliver in the bathroom. Okay?â€
Daphne looked over to see Shelby looking sparkly and stylish as she opened a golden shoe box. After tossing the lid, tissue paper, and red shoe bags aside, Shelby extracted a dark-colored shoe with a sole that flashed like a stoplight. Shelby slipped on the first high-heeled pump, pointing her toe to admire the sleek black patent leather. â€œClassy, huh?â€
â€œAnother pair of Louboutins?â€ Daphne frowned, knowing she probably sounded like somebodyâ€™s mother. But really, Shelby couldnâ€™t afford such extravagances.
â€œYes. Can you believe it?â€ Shelby giggled. â€œI think Iâ€™m going to need a twelve-step program before long.â€
â€œOr a raise.â€
Shelby waved a hand, hopping on one foot as she tugged on the other shoe. â€œIâ€™d rather settle for a nice, big diamond.â€ Shelby was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, and sometimes Daphne worried that the pretty young woman had seen How to Marry a Millionaire one time too many.
â€œSo how is that working for you?â€ Daphne knew Shelby had been flirting with her bossâ€™s son for the past several weeks. She also knew the bossâ€™s son had recently divorced his second wife.
Shelby stood up straight, pushing her short, sassy blond hair back into place with a confident-looking grin. â€œAs it turns out, John Junior is taking me to Club 21.â€
â€œ21?â€ Daphne was impressed. The whole time sheâ€™d been in New York, sheâ€™d only been there once. And here Shelby was going after just a few months. This girl worked fast.
â€œYes. I told John Junior that Iâ€™d been dying to go there ever since I moved to the city. And weâ€™re going there tonight. Can you believe it?â€
â€œCan you believe itâ€ was Shelbyâ€™s favorite expression and sometimes, after hearing it a few dozen times in the course of an evening, Daphne sometimes wanted to gag the girl. â€œThatâ€™s wonderful, Shelby.â€ She stood and smiled. â€œI hope you and John Junior have a lovely time.â€ Did Shelby really call him John Juniorâ€”to his face?
â€œOh, we will.â€ Shelby reached for her hot pink umbrella, holding it in front of her like a scepter. â€œThe weatherman predicted showers this morning. So donâ€™t forget your umbrella.â€
â€œI hope the rain doesnâ€™t ruin your pretty new shoes.â€
â€œNo worries.â€ Shelby shrugged. â€œJohn Junior is picking me up in his car this morning.â€
â€œHeâ€™s driving you into Manhattan at this time of day?â€
â€œNo, silly, that would be insane. Heâ€™s giving me a ride out to his parentsâ€™ home in the Hamptons. John Senior is working at home today, so Iâ€™ll be working there too.â€
â€œOh . . .â€ Daphne nodded. That explained the new shoes, stylish suit, perfect hair. Shelby was out to impress Mrs. John Senior. â€œWell, have a good day.â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™m sure I will.â€ Shelby opened the door to peek out. â€œThere he is nowâ€”right on time. You should see his car, Daphne.â€ She stepped outside, then looked back in. â€œDonâ€™t forget to put Oliver in the bathroom.â€
Daphne went over to the front window, watching as Shelby skipped down the cement stairs in her new shoes, swinging her bright umbrella in time with each step. Sometimes it was as if Shelby were starring in her own movie. She paused midway down the steps, waving to the man who was just getting out of the silver Jaguar in front of their building. From her vantage point, Daphne could see the balding patch on the top of the manâ€™s dark hair, and for some pathetic reason this comforted her.
Still, as she stepped away from her voyeurism, she didnâ€™t wish ill for young Shelby. If John Junior was truly a nice guy, she hoped he would produce a diamond . . . in due time. Daphne hadnâ€™t known Shelby long, but she knew the old-fashioned girl dreamed of a big white wedding and a houseful of kids. It was sweet, really.
â€œOliver,â€ Daphne called out as she grabbed a yogurt carton from the fridge. â€œHere, kitty-kitty.â€ She reached into Gretaâ€™s bag of kitty treats, singing out enticingly. â€œHereâ€™s a treat for you, Oliver. Here, kitty-kitty.â€
She was not fond of Gretaâ€™s fat gray cat and, unfortunately, Oliver seemed to sense this. Still, she kept her voice sugary as she walked around calling for him, â€œCome on, Oliver, come get your yummy-yummy kitty treat.â€
She eventually found him hunkered down in Gretaâ€™s bedroom with a guilty expression, but if he was doing something he shouldnâ€™t, Daphne did not want to know. She had learned the hard way to keep her own bedroom door closed. For some twisted reason Oliver sometimes preferred a nice soft bed to his smelly litter box in the bathroom.
â€œThere you are, you darling little scoundrel,â€ she said in a saccharine tone. As he looked up, she curled her arm around his hefty midsection. â€œGot you.â€ Then she quickly packed him off to the bathroom, tossing in the treat with him behind it. â€œHave a good day, you spoiled fat cat.â€ Daphne closed the door firmly. It wasnâ€™t that she disliked cats in general. She just didnâ€™t care much for Oliver.
By the time Daphne locked up the apartment and was on her way to the subway, it was already starting to rain. And despite Shelbyâ€™s reminder, Daphne had set off without her umbrella and there wasnâ€™t time to run back and get it now. Consequently, as the clouds opened up and let loose, she got thoroughly drenched in the short distance to the subway. Waiting with the other dampened commuters, she tried to shake off some of the moisture before the train arrived, then she hurried in with the crowd, finding a spot in the back of the car where the air was smelly and muggy and close.
Firmly planting her feet, Daphne held tightly to a pole and, shutting her eyes, attempted to imagine herself in a happier, cleaner, dryer place. Like the Grand Canyon where her dad had taken her as child one summer. She breathed deeply as she recalled the beautiful painted mountains changing hues of golds, reds, and russets at sunset.
This was a trick sheâ€™d taught herself years ago, her way to combat the claustrophobia that she sometimes suffered in the city. One would think sheâ€™d be over her dislike of tight spaces by now, but on days like today the anxiety seemed to lurk just below the surface. She remembered when she had been in love with New York. Some called it the Big Apple Honeymoon Phase, but it had lasted several years for her. However, like so many other things in her life, it had gotten a little tarnished and dull over the years. And as she emerged from the subway, back into the drizzling rain and noisy traffic, she didnâ€™t much like the city.
By the time Daphne reached her cubicle at The Times and peeled off her soggy jacket and slushy sneakers and stashed them in a sodden pile in the corner, her long auburn hair, which sheâ€™d spent thirty minutes straightening this morning, now resembled Bozo the Clown. Not that anyone would particularly notice or care since most of her day was spent on her own.
Daphne was a wedding writerâ€”one of severalâ€”and she had been doing the same thing for more than ten years. She could write one of these pieces in her sleep. In fact, sometimes she did. Oh, not for the paper, but she would lie in bed writing another piece. They ran about 250 words, five or six paragraphs, all meant to impress the bride and the groom and their family and friends.
She turned on her computer and perused her e-mail, sifting through junk and flagging some, and then on to read todayâ€™s assignments. This time of year was usually fairly busy, but to her surprise there was only one happy couple waiting for the spotlight, and she managed to spend two whole hours on making them seem larger than life. Hopefully they would appreciate her efforts.
Then with still an hour until lunch, she imagined what sheâ€™d write for Shelbyâ€™s wedding announcement, and because she was bored and didnâ€™t like to appear idle or get caught playing Spider Solitaire, she decided to hack a phony baloney announcement for her romantic roommate.
Miss Shelby M. Monroe and John Junior Millionaire were married on Friday night in May at Club 21 in downtown Manhattan. Family friend and celebrity entrepreneur Donald Trump, who became an ordained minister for this monumental occasion, officiated the extravagant
event where no expenses were spared.
The beautiful bride, twenty-three, and the prematurely balding bridegroom, of undetermined age, met at the brideâ€™s place of employment, which is also the bridegroomâ€™s fatherâ€™s multimillion-dollar investment corporation.
Miss Monroe, who will not be keeping her name since itâ€™s not really her name, will give up her career, which wasnâ€™t really a career, in order to raise a houseful of boisterous children. She is the daughter of a once-prestigious family who resided in Westport, Connecticut, until her fatherâ€™s investment corporation was dissolved in a scandal involving insider trading. Now, despite some diminished wealth, the brideâ€™s parents are enjoying an early retirement abroad.
Mr. Millionaire, who goes by John Junior, holds some mysterious position in his fatherâ€™s corporation, where not much actual work is required of him. John Junior graduated from some Ivy League school,
where his family probably had some really good connections.
Following an over-the-top honeymoon, which probably involved
a beach in an exotic locale, the happy newlyweds will reside
in a penthouse apartment on the upper west side.
The bridegroomâ€™s first two marriages ended in divorce.
Hopefully the third time will be the charm.
Feeling a bit juvenile, not to mention catty, Daphne hit the select all and delete buttons. Best not to leave something like that lying around for too long. She was about to shut down and go to lunch when her cell phone rang. She got up and grabbed her bag. After digging for her elusive phone and expecting it to be Beverly since they were meeting for lunch today, she was surprised to discover it was actually her father. He rarely called her in the middle of the day. Not unless something was wrong.
â€œDad?â€ she said with concern. â€œWhatâ€™s up?â€
â€œHello, Daphne. Iâ€™m afraid itâ€™s bad news.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Her throat tightened. Heâ€™d had some health issues last winter. Hopefully it wasnâ€™t worse. Sheâ€™d lost her mother as a small child. Dad was all she had left of her immediate family.
â€œItâ€™s Aunt Dee . . . she passed away this morning. Her lawyer just called to inform me, and I thought youâ€™d want to know.â€
â€œAunt Dee.â€ Daphne sank back down in her chair. â€œOh, Iâ€™m so sorry to hear that, Dad. I know how much you loved her. I loved her too. And Iâ€™d been hoping to get out there to visit you and her this summer. I canâ€™t believe sheâ€™s gone.â€
Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly recalled the summers sheâ€™d spent at Aunt Deeâ€™s house as a child when Dad was busy with work. Aunt Dee had tried to make up for Daphne losing her mother. Daphne and Aunt Dee had always enjoyed a special connection and a shared name.
â€œIf itâ€™s any consolation, she died peacefully. In her sleep.â€
â€œHow old was she?â€ For some reason, Daphne couldnâ€™t recall her auntâ€™s age. She knew she was older than Dad, but in a way Aunt Dee had seemed timeless. Maybe it was her youthful spirit.
â€œShe wouldâ€™ve been ninety-one in July.â€
â€œNinety-one? Wow, I had no idea she was that old.â€
â€œYes. She never really told anyone her real age. But she enjoyed a good, full life.â€ He sighed. â€œEven though she never married or had children, she seemed to have a good time in whatever she did. She traveled. Had lots of friends. Dee lived life on her own terms. And she always seemed happy.â€
â€œShe didâ€”didnâ€™t she?â€ Daphne let out a choked sob as she reached for a Kleenex, wiping the tears now streaming down her cheeks.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, honey. I hate to be the bearer of sad news. But I knew youâ€™d want to know.â€
â€œYes. I appreciate that. I donâ€™t know why Iâ€™m taking this so hard.â€ She blew her nose.
â€œWill you be able to make it out here for her memorial service?â€
â€œYes, of course, Dad.â€ She reached for another tissue.
â€œOh, good. Iâ€™m in charge of everything. And I could really use your help with the arrangements. I mean, if you can come out here soon enough . . . Iâ€™ll understand if you canâ€™t drop everything.â€ His voice sounded tired and weak, but maybe it was just sadness.
â€œHow are you feeling? I mean, with your heart and cholesterol and everything. Are you okay?â€
â€œOh, sure, honey. Iâ€™m fine. Donâ€™t worry about me.â€ He sighed. â€œWhen do you think you can get away?â€
â€œIâ€™ll find out as soon as we hang up. And Iâ€™ll get right back to you,â€ she promised.
â€œThanks, Daph. I canâ€™t wait to see you.â€
They said good-bye, then she grabbed her purse and hurried up to her bossâ€™s office, feeling sheâ€™d get better results if she asked in person. Hopefully Amelia wouldnâ€™t have left for lunch yet. However, when she got up there, Daphne could tell by the darkened office that Amelia was already gone.
â€œAmelia left early for a lunch meeting,â€ her assistant told Daphne. â€œWant me to leave her a message for you?â€
â€œNo. Iâ€™ll come after lunch. When do you expect her back?â€
Fiona shrugged. â€œWell, you know how those working lunches can drag on forever. I wouldnâ€™t expect her until three or maybe even four.â€
â€œThanks. Iâ€™ll stop by later.â€ Daphne headed out to meet Beverly, calling her as she walked toward their favorite dining spot. She left a message saying she was running late. Then she called Dad and explained that her boss was out. â€œAs soon as I know, Iâ€™ll call,â€ she assured him.
Fortunately, the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared and the city, now scrubbed fresh and clean, should be shimmering in the sunshine. And yet, as Daphne hurried down the street, everything around her still felt dull and gray and dismal.