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:
CreateSpace (January 18, 2011)***Special thanks to Karen Arnpriester for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Pagne encounters other broken people that become her family, friends and community. Her grace and compassion alter their destructive paths. She moves through her life unaware of the impact she creates, her purpose on Earth.
Her life is filled with tears, laughter, joy and heartbreak. She faces challenges that include ultimate betrayal, loss and shame. Challenges that are only bearable due to her trust and faith in heaven’s love and value for her. Love that is reinforced by her angel. She discovers the events that led to her mother’s indifference and neglect, and must decide how much grace she can extend to a woman she has hated for most of her life. The ultimate test of forgiveness.
When she faces her death, Pagne discovers the true value and power of forgiveness and love. She is shown how her life created ripples that spread into waves of glorious influence. She was not an accident, she was placed on Earth with divine intent.
List Price: $11.95
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 18, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
IN THE HEAVENS
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;”
Draken walked swiftly through the marble passageway, which was only lit by a warm, golden glow that’s source was undefinable. The excitement was building, as he weaved his way through the network of stone halls, intricate stained glass panels, and vines with incredible cobalt and purple blossoms. Each flower’s center had a spray of tendrils that shimmered and flickered with light. They pushed their way in through small openings and cracks, covering the ancient stone walls with their winding tendrils. He had the ability to instantly think himself to her, but instead he savored the journey through the tabernacle. As Draken entered the great hall, he sent groups of colorful butterflies
scattering. Some of the butterflies were tiny and flashed bright yellow and orange light, while others were massive and moved almost as in slow motion. Their deep-purple and metallic gold wings didn’t shine brightly like the others, but had a velvety luster that picked up the room’s light with each flutter. The spaces in between were filled with every size and color of these delicate creatures. This room never failed to take Draken’s breath away. There were sculptures in exquisite detail, cast or carved from every precious metal and stone, encrusted with jewels and pearls. Above him were strings of glowing orbs that didn’t appear to be connected in any way, glistening shades of pink, lavender, blue and green. Beautiful birds of every description dove and soared in the upper dome. Draken would spend hours in this room, simply appreciating its beauty.
As he came upon an area of comfortable chairs, he saw Anessia sitting on the hard floor in her usual position, both legs folded under her with feet twisted out to the sides. She would sit this way for hours.
“When will you ever discover the comfort of these lush chairs?” he teased her.
She just grinned and said, “Probably never.” Draken just shook his head. She liked the coolness of the stone floor on her skin.
Draken sat down in his favorite chair, a opulent purple satin with three times the stuffing most chairs would contain. He waited for her to speak, but silence. After a few anxious minutes, he could wait no longer.
“Well, Anessia. You summoned me here. You said you were ready.”
She hesitated, she seemed unsure for a moment and then handed him the delicate gold scroll. Draken, a regal man with long white hair and a full beard, took the scroll and fingered it gently, knowing the importance of its content. He took a deep breath and looked into Anessia’s eyes. He loved her eyes, so large, so engulfing.
“I am ready,” is all she said. Draken felt the contradiction of relief and dread. This would be a difficult quest, filled with many hardships and pain.
“You will have a lot of sadness to deal with, but you were selected with the
knowledge that you are capable. You have a strong sense of justice and love.”
“Oh, Draken, I want to make a difference, to be part of these miracles!”
“Once you leave, you realize you will not be able to change your mind. The quest will not be recalled,” he reminded her.
“I totally understand. I know that I can do this. I know I can make you and our Father proud. I believe I am the one to help fulfill the destiny described in the scroll.”
Draken truly adored Anessia and her tender heart, but she was fierce, one of the most committed wards he had responsibility for. He also knew that the quest was a journey filled with love, joy and an incredible outcome.
“I will make the arrangements. Prepare yourself, your time here is short.” They both came to a stand, and with a hug and a kiss on her head, Draken disappeared to carry out the necessary details.
Anessia stood alone and waited until she was sure Draken had left the chamber. She could contain herself no longer. She spun around, her hair flowing and gleaming in the light that was radiating down from above. It was wonderful to have a destiny. She giggled and hugged herself. Anessia then mentally willed her beautiful wings to engage, and she flew out of the windows near the top of the upper dome.
She didn’t have to fly very far; there, by the glimmering pools, was Ennett. She slowly dropped down behind him, so quietly that he didn’t know she was there. Anessia crept slowly behind him and jumped back as Ennett whirled around. But not quick enough, his folded wings smacked her in the face. “Oh Ennett, I thought I got you this time,” she said, as she rubbed her cheek.
“Do you forget that I can read your thoughts? You need to work on shutting down that brain of yours when you plan to attack,” he pouted at her, while touching her tender cheek. They both laughed and sat down on the cool grass next to the pools of crystal clear water. They slipped their feet in and giggled loudly, as the fish nibbled their toes. Anessia loved the landscape outside the main tabernacle. It had sumptuous gardens, streams, and trees that bore delicious fruits. Flowers of every size, color and scent. Some were deep shades that were fuzzy and glimmered, while others were tucked under the shade of the trees with transparent petals that glowed with pulsing light. The aromas were so delicious.
She couldn’t count the different species of animals that roamed through the gardens. Every visit was a new discovery. These unique and exotic creatures would wander the gardens and come when beckoned, allowing her to pet and love on them.
“Well, I am assuming that it is time?”
“Yes, it is,” she acknowledged.
“Anessia, it is a different realm there,” he warned. “There is darkness,
despair and pain.”
“I know, I can do this. Draken and our Father do not send me to fail.”
“I have faith in you, but please be careful!”
They both sat quietly for a short time. “I need to go prepare,” whispered Anessia.
“I love you Anessia, I will be here for you always.” They held each other for what felt like an eternity but it was only moments in another time.
Leah thought she could bear it no longer … why didn’t this baby come out? She had been pushing and writhing here for hours, hurting so bad that she wanted to die. Finally, the nurse came in and said she was ready to have the baby. Leah knew that she would have feelings for this kid eventually, but right now, she almost hated it. They wheeled her into delivery, and after thirty more minutes, the miracle of birth happened. A little, white skinned, red-haired girl with blue eyes. She looked at her and felt numb. She may have connected better if the baby had looked like her. If she had gotten her golden skin, dark, curly hair and chestnut brown eyes. This baby looked like a stray, not her kid.
Leah had endured a difficult life and tried to bury it with alcohol, drugs and sex. During her drunken months of pregnancy, she thought it would be funny to name her baby girl Champagne, after her favorite beverage. Champagne Marie Crenshaw. Champagne would carry her mother’s last name since Leah didn’t know which John was the proud papa. Leah had considered having another abortion, but this time was different. This baby would change her life, she just knew it. Leah wanted to be loved and wanted someone to love. She convinced herself that she could be a mom. When Leah was in her seventh month, she had stopped hooking and left Los Angeles. She moved north for
a fresh start. Champagne was to find out quickly that her mom would fail miserably at being a mother. She also would find out that there was someone watching over her, protecting her.
When the hospital determined that Leah was ready to be released, she was indignant and annoyed. Three days was not nearly long enough if you asked Leah. She figured she deserved and could use at least another week of leisure and strong pain meds while the nurses cared for Champagne. Upon leaving the hospital, she brought the baby back to the disgusting motel room that Leah managed to rent with her assistance checks. Leah figured they would do okay since the amount written on those checks would increase with the birth of Champagne. She might have been able to afford a nicer place, but the majority of her money went for her alcohol and drugs. How was she going to take care of a baby all by herself?, she thought. Looking around the room, Leah realized that she should have prepared a little more for the baby. She pulled out a drawer, dumped it, and laid Champagne in it. The strong pain meds were wearing off, and they had only prescribed glorified aspirin as far as Leah was concerned. Luckily she had stopped on the way home to pick up a big bottle of cheap wine.
“Well brat, guess the closest I’ll come to champagne for awhile is changing your crappy diapers.” She laughed to herself, “That was a good one Leah … you haven’t lost your dazzling wit yet.”
Several years crawled by, and somehow, Champagne had survived her mother’s indifference. On one summer evening, Leah finally could not take it any longer, the pounding on the door was killing her head. What a hang-over she had. When she jerked the door open, she looked into the chest of a police officer. Behind him stood her neighbor, Miss Nose Up My Butt. She could tell this wasn’t good by the smirk on Miss Butt’s face.
“We got a call that you have a toddler playing unattended on the landing,” said the officer.
“Well, I don’t see no kid out here, do you?” shot back Leah.
“Not at the moment, but your neighbor called quite concerned. She said that it is not unusual to see your front door wide open and your small daughter playing out here by the stairs. Do you understand how dangerous that is?”
“Well yes, Officer, I do. I’m not an idiot. I am always just inside the door, watching her every move. The kid has gotta have some fresh air and sunshine right?”
“Ma’am, unless you use better judgment and find a safer place for your daughter to play, we will be back out with Child Services,” threatened the Officer.
“Okay. I will figure out something.”
The officer filled out his paperwork and handed Leah her copy. “This call will be documented.” He held the paper for a delayed moment, while making eye contact with Leah.
“Thank you Officer,” Leah said sarcastically as she snatched it from his hand.
As the officer moved down the stairs, Leah looked over at Miss Butt as she was turning to head back to her door. Leah smiled a big smile at her and then flipped her off with both hands, followed by slamming the door as loud as possible.
“Thanks Pagne, just what I needed.” She glared at her sweet face and grumbled, “Worthless brat.” Leah had decided that when Champagne was a year old, she did not deserve the name Champagne. She hadn’t improved Leah’s life, but complicated it. Leah called her Pagne, which was pronounced as “Pain.” The fact that she was showing signs of freckles to go with the red hair from her nameless father didn’t help either. Leah hated freckles with a passion. Leah plopped down on the ratty couch that folded out to their bed, and turned on the TV as she filled a tumbler with wine.
Leah’s lust for drinking would not allow her to survive on the meager assistance she received, so she began hooking again shortly after Pagne was born. Pagne’s childhood was a whirlwind of her mother’s customers, late nights, and the consequences of being the child of an alcoholic. One thing was consistent, an anchor that Pagne could rely on, her mother’s total disregard for her. Pagne was forced to be self-sufficient. She kept herself clean, got herself ready for school, and made sure the trash in the room didn’t pile up too high.
When Pagne was eight years old, Adam Williams was her mother’s new flavor of the month … good looking, funny and he actually had a job. Nice change for Leah. Adam always brought a bottle of quality champagne for her and Jack Daniels for him. A few drinks, some laughs and then …. “Good lovin’,” as her mother would say. Leah considered him a boyfriend, so she didn’t charge him for her company. Pagne learned to keep out of the way when Adam or other men were there. The close quarters of the motel room made it difficult, but Pagne would lock the bathroom door and climb into the tub, pretending she was in a boat heading to a strange new land.
Pagne would also read with a passion. She loved stories about fairies, far away places, or brave characters who saved the day. She read whatever she could bring home from school. Her mom certainly wouldn’t take the time to take her to the library or buy a book. When the tub was too disgusting to get into, Pagne would pile up any dirty laundry on the floor and make a nest. The width of the floor space fit her and the nest perfectly. She wished the walls were more sound proof though. The loud laughing and the noises they made when her mother had sex with the men made it hard for her to read, pretend or sleep. Pagne wasn’t sure what they were doing, but she felt uncomfortable hearing them. Sometimes, the men that Leah brought home would hit her. Pagne knew to stay very quiet. She didn’t want them to know she was there. Some mornings, Leah’s face would be swollen and bruised. When Pagne would look at her with concern, Leah would shrug and say, “Comes with the territory.”
Adam never hit her mom. He would always bring Pagne a toy or candy when he came over. He was nice enough but something made her uneasy about him. He didn’t do anything bad, but he always wanted Pagne to sit on his lap. She didn’t like it, and she wasn’t sure why. Even her mom didn’t like it. Leah would jerk Pagne up off of him and plop herself down on his lap, while giving Pagne the evil eye. Leah didn’t realize how grateful Pagne was for removing her from the awkward situation.
Even at the age of eight, Pagne was independent. She could get her own breakfast and lunch, toaster pastries or cold cereal. It wasn’t so bad when the milk hadn’t soured, but usually she ate the cereal dry. She did get free hot lunches at school when she started first grade. Leah wasn’t hungry until late evening, since she drank her meals during the day. She would throw something together for dinner, but in her drunken stupor, usually burnt it. Pagne didn’t eat much. She didn’t talk much either, and doctors thought it was because of Leah’s frequent drinking during her pregnancy. But, according to Pagne, she just didn’t have anything much to say.
One hot summer evening, Leah had drank herself into a stupor and passed out on the bathroom floor, leaving Pagne alone with Adam. He grinned at her and turned on cartoons. Their TV only had three channels. Luckily, one was cartoons ... most of the time. Pagne loved cartoons. She could watch them all day and just pretend she lived in the TV with them where she could fly like a super hero. Adam sat down in the old recliner and motioned for Pagne to come over to him. When she came close, he reached out and grabbed her by the waist and pulled her up on his lap.
“Your mommy is outta service, so maybe Adam and Pagne will have some fun? You wanna play with me, sweetheart?” Her instincts told her that this was not good. Adam’s breath stunk so bad from the liquor. She felt his arms tighten around her. Pagne began to whimper and tried to pull away. Adam was whispering and sputtering spit into her ear.
“Be quiet. I’m not going to hurt you. Trust me, you’ll like it ... well, I will.” She felt one hand slipping between her thighs and the other sliding up her belly, lifting up her t-shirt. Pagne brought her leg up and slammed down hard, kicking him in the shin with her heel. He grabbed onto her even tighter, squeezing her painfully. She kicked his shin again, and this time he let go. As he grabbed at his leg, Pagne was able to slip off his lap and headed to the front door. Adam came up out of the chair and lunged at her, screaming out with anger and pain. He was behind her and grabbed onto her arms. It hurt terribly. She was kicking and screaming. Pagne’s screams woke up Leah, and she came stumbling into the room, yelling for Adam to shut the brat up. She was confused when she saw Adam and Pagne struggling by the door.
“What the hell is going on?” She bellowed.
Adam released Pagne and spun around to Leah. “Nuthin, kid just went nuts on me, she tried to run away.” It took a few minutes for Leah’s drunken brain to absorb the situation. “So my little Pagne didn’t wanna play with you huh?” Leah showed no reaction while she tried to remain standing. She managed to focus on Pagne’s face and gave her the most hateful glare Pagne had seen her manage. Pagne pulled open the front door and ran out, tears filling her eyes and clouding her vision. Through her tears, Pagne thought she saw white wings fluttering around her. Then black.
When Pagne woke up, she hurt all over. Every part of her was bruised and sore. Her head was pounding with pain. She could hear voices but she didn’t want to open her eyes. She would hear a sweet lady’s voice speaking to her at times. She was curious about the woman, but decided it was better to pretend that she was somewhere else. Sleep, she just wanted to sleep. It didn’t hurt so bad when she slept. In her dreams she could fly with wonderful white wings, as others flew around her. Laughing, dipping, gliding ...
Pagne woke up to her mother’s voice close to her ear. “You gotta wake up. What am I going to do with a brain-dead kid? I can’t deal with this Pagne. Wake up now!” Pagne opened her eyes and looked at her mother. Her face was not haggard and worn from worry, but the familiar face of someone hung over. Leah’s breath reeked of wine. “Well it’s about time. What took you so long ... sweetheart?” Sweetheart was thrown in for the benefit of the nurse who just walked in. “Me and Adam have been worried sick. You scared your mama something awful.” As the nurse finished her duties and left the room, Leah moved in really close, so only Pagne could hear. “Pagne, they think Adam hurt you. We both know that’s a big fat lie, right? The police are going to talk to you. Mommy can’t lose Adam, baby. You gotta fix this.”
Later that day, several officers and a very nervous skinny woman named Miss Lament, came into Pagne’s room. The officers tried to be friendly and had a teddy bear with them. It was very cute, and Pagne found it oddly comforting to hug. Miss Lament, who didn’t smile and had very tiny, beady eyes was trying to ask Pagne what happened with Adam. Pagne decided she didn’t have anything to say. She knew that Adam was a bad man, but even at her tender age, Pagne intuitively understood that it was her mother’s truth. Leah needed him.
The officers and Miss Lament left very frustrated. Her mother had been waiting in the hall and slipped in. “Good girl. Now we just have to convince the judge. We’re going to move in with Adam once this whole mess is cleared up. He’s going to take care of both of us. Won’t that be nice. We’ll be a family real soon!” Pagne didn’t respond. “We hit the jackpot, baby,” cooed Leah.
That evening, the sweet-talking nurse was on duty. She was taking Pagne’s temperature and adjusted her tubing. While she worked, she talked softly to Pagne, assuring her that she would be fine. As she turned to leave, Pagne grabbed her hand, squeezing it tight. The nurse, who’s nametag said “Mrs. Greenly,” looked into Pagne’s eyes. She saw fear and worry in them. She asked, “What’s wrong, hon? You in pain?” Pagne took a deep breath and spoke in a whisper for the first time since waking up.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Oh honey, no one has told you what’s going on? Well, I’m not sure why, but you ran out your front door, and then you fell down three flights of cement stairs. You broke your leg, your arm, cracked your head, and have lots of bumps and bruises. You are very lucky that you didn’t hurt yourself even worse. I believe you have a guardian angel, dear. Yep, an angel that cushioned your fall. We all have an angel, you know. Talk to mine sometimes, when I’m sad or scared. You should thank your angel for protecting you. They have a thankless job!”
Pagne managed to ask when she would be going home. “You should be able to go home in a few days,” the nurse answered. With that news, Pagne began to weep softly. “Oh sweetheart, that’s not that far away.” She looked into Pagne’s face and realized this was something different. “Don’t you want to go home?” Pagne just closed her eyes and let go of the sweet nurses hand.
After she left, Pagne whispered quietly, “Thank you.” She did see wings, she was sure of it.
Pagne laid in her bed, a cast on right arm, a cast on her left leg, bandages here and there, and a dull headache. Her mom was filling out all the paperwork for her release. Leah looked at the prescriptions for Pagne and was grumbling that nothing was strong enough to do her much good. “The least they could do is give us Valium.” Several nurses entered the room and helped Pagne into a wheelchair, Pagne’s doctor and a police officer walked into the room. “Now Miss Crenshaw, there are some requirements you must meet to have your daughter home with you,” said the officer. “This Adam Williams is not to be within 300 yards of your daughter or your residence.”
“But he didn’t do anything,” Leah insisted.
“That might be, but until the judge makes his determination, the restraining order is in effect,” the officer responded.
“Yes, of course,” Leah said with attitude.
Pagne’s doctor stepped toward Leah and began speaking. “Here is the treatment plan for Champagne’s after care. Her therapy is crucial if she is to have a full recovery. I also want to stress that she will need a balanced, healthy diet and a safe, clean environment. Obviously the stairs will present a safety issue, have you made arrangements for assistance?”
“Yes, I have taken care of everything necessary,” lied Leah.
“Mrs. Crenshaw, a child services worker will be checking in,” reminded the officer.
“Yes, I know, another person up my butt. Can we leave now?”
“Yes, you may. But remember, your court appearance is at three o’clock today. We will remove Champagne from your care if you fail to appear.”
“Yes, I know, I know,” replied Leah with total disrespect to the officer.
The nurses put Pagne into a cab for the ride home while Leah had a cigarette. Once her nicotine fix was complete, she climbed into the cab next to Pagne. She shot the nurses a hard glare when their faces revealed their disapproval of her indifference. Pagne quietly sat while her mom went on and on about their new life with Adam. Leah talked about how Adam really cared about them, how happy they would all be together, and how Adam would bring money into the house. She could quit hooking, she thought to herself. Leah finally shut up and drifted into her fantasy of a wonderful future with Adam.
Pagne considered telling her mother what Adam had done, but she was a smart girl. She knew there was no point, her mother already knew. When they got to the hotel, Leah struggled to get Pagne upstairs, cursing with each step. Once inside the room, Pagne looked around and wasn’t surprised to see that everything the doctor had listed was not done. Pagne hopped over to the couch and sat in silence.
“Wanna toaster pastry doll? Know how much you love them.” Pagne shook her head and turned on the TV.
A few minutes later, there was a tap on the door. Leah opened it and Adam’s head popped in.
“Hey, my two favorite girls. Just wanted to stop by and bring Pagne a get well gift.” It was a tin of mints from the liquor store down the street and a car air freshener in the shape of a rose.
“What did you bring mama?” asked Leah with a little girl voice and giggle. Adam slipped a big bottle of champagne around the door.
“Can I come in for awhile?” he asked.
“No baby, not till the court says it’s okay. My neighbor next door has big ears and eyes. This should all be resolved this afternoon, you gotta be patient.” Leah laughed as Adam tried to grope her through the opening. “We’ll all be together soon,” assured Leah. Adam looked over at Pagne and winked with a disgusting lick of his lips.
“Okay, but I miss you guys. Good to have you back with us, Pagne.” Pagne turned the TV volume up and turned away to look at the screen.
“She’ll warm up to ya, baby, just give her some time. I’ll call when I get out of court.” Leah closed the door giggling. She looked over at Pagne, wanting to share the joy. Pagne could feel her eyes on her, but she didn’t respond.
Pagne was very nervous sitting in the courtroom, waiting to find out what was expected of her. Everyone was so serious, except her mother. She was whispering insulting comments about everyone. Sticks up their you know what’s … and other such childish remarks. When it was their turn to appear before the judge, Leah bounced up, flicking her hair. Once she was at the front, she realized that Pagne was still struggling to get out of her seat. She smiled and loudly proclaimed … “It’s okay baby, Mommy is here.” She went back, and very graciously, helped Pagne into the aisle. Pagne was impressed by her performance. Once she made it to the front, Pagne sat at the table facing the judge.
Leah began by explaining that this whole thing was a misunderstanding. She said that Pagne had been throwing a temper-tantrum, and Adam was trying to keep her from running out of the room. When the judge asked if she had been in the room at the time, she admitted that she had not because she was suffering from one of her migraines and was laying on the bathroom floor for relief. “The cool tile is soothing,” she explained.
Pagne’s doctor was called forward, and he described the extensive bruising on Pagne’s thighs, chest and arms. Obviously, a large man’s handprints could clearly be seen in the photos they were showing. Leah did not have any explanation for the bruises. The judge looked at Pagne and asked if she had anything she wanted to say. Pagne just looked out the windows at the beautiful blue sky, wishing she could fly away.
The lawyer, representing Pagne’s interests, made a good case that the events before her fall were clearly assault and possibly molestation. The judge agreed, and the restraining order was to stand pending further investigation. Adam had been picked up and interviewed after Pagne was admitted into the hospital. He wasn’t arrested, but did have a court date.
Leah went into a rage. “This is ridiculous, you are punishing a good man, my man, for something that was very innocent. This isn’t fair,” she yelled.
“Well, Miss Crenshaw, if you want to have your daughter in your home, you must honor the restraining order. If you disregard the order, Champagne will be placed in the care of the state until this case is resolved,” responded the judge with obvious distain.
“Well, I don’t think me and Adam should suffer because of this brat. We have a life to start. You guys can deal with her,” Leah said as she looked at Pagne in disgust. Leah then turned and walked out of the courtroom.
Everyone stood there in shock, not knowing what to say or do. Pagne
hobbled over to the window and allowed one tear to roll down her face, just one. Then she looked to the skies and flew far away.
WOW! I am at a loss for how to review this book. For me, this novel was an emotional roller coaster ride. I had so many feelings - strong feelings that surfaced as I read. The characters were amazing and so very, very real. The main character, Champagne, or Pagne as her mother referred to her, lived such a sad start in life of abuse and neglect. I had become so very attached to her character and everything in me wanted to save her. She was such an amazing child that grew up into an even more amazing person.
This story of neglect, abuse, loss, redemption, faith, and healing is marketed to the Christian audience, but honestly, I see it being enjoyed by everyone who loves a heart-touching story. It carries a real and personal quality to it that totally captivates the reader and is impossible to put down. (Note: Make sure to keep tissues handy)
Karen Arnpriester penned a truly amazing story and I can't wait to read more by this author! She is on my watch list, as I expect to see many more great books written by her.